Quote Category: ‘Oath of Office’
Another standard I use in determining what law is good and what is bad is the Constitution of the United States. I regard this inspired document as a solemn agreement between the citizens of this nation which every officer of government is under a sacred duty to obey.
Today it is becoming an increasing handicap, it seems, to one’s career in government for a man or woman to take seriously his pledge of allegiance to our Constitution.
The attitude of the members of the Church towards the Constitution of the United States and the fundamental principles of our Government has always been one of loyalty. Even in the days of our greatest tribulation, the Latter-day Saints have defended and sustained these sacred principles. Never have they lifted their hands or their voices against the fundamental principles upon which our nation with its liberty and freedom is based. It is well understood by all that the Constitution was given by inspiration of the Almighty to honorable and wise men raised up for this purpose. The character of our government has always been defended and sustained. The Prophet Joseph Smith, while suffering unjustly at the hands of officials who had sworn to uphold and defend the sacred principles of the Constitution, and who had violated their oath in the vilest manner, and who heaped upon him and his companions in tribulation cruelties which only fiends could inflict, wrote to the Saints to defend and sustain the constitutional law of the land and to be loyal to the fundamental principles of our government.
We are told . . . that no man need break the laws of the land who will keep the laws of God. . . . The law of the land, which all have no need to break, is that law which is the Constitutional law of the land, and that is as God himself has defined it. And whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil. Now it seems to me that this makes this matter so clear that it is not possible for any man who professes to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make any mistake, or to be in doubt as to the course he should pursue under the command of God in relation to the observance of the laws of the land. I maintain that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has ever been faithful to the constitutional laws of our country. . . .
I ask myself, What law have you broken? What constitutional law have you not observed? I am bound not only by allegiance to the government of the United States, but by the actual command of God Almighty, to observe and obey every constitutional law of the land, and without hesitancy I declare to this congregation that I have never violated, nor transgressed any law, I am not amenable to any penalties of the law, because I have endeavored from my youth up to be a law-abiding citizen, and not only so, but to be a peacemaker, a preacher of righteousness, and not only to preach righteousness by word, but by example. . . . If lawmakers have a mind to violate their oath, break their covenants and their faith with the people, and depart from the provisions of the Constitution where is the law human or divine, which binds me, as an individual, to outwardly and openly proclaim my acceptance of their acts?
The Lord . . . has spoken concerning our Government and Constitution, and he has said — “Ye are justified in maintaining the Constitution and laws of the land, for they make you free, and the Gospel maketh you free; and you shall seek to sustain good and wise men for rulers, and whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil.” . . . The laws of Heaven command us not to uphold and sustain men, except they are good men, who will sustain the Constitution of our country; and we are fulfilling the revelations in this respect as in many others, and we are carrying out the requirements of the Constitution of the United States.
In our government, whether in a National, State, or Territorial form, all officers, of every grade, are requested to take a solemn oath to sustain and maintain the constitution of the United States, and of the State, or if a Territory, the organic act of the Territory as the case may be. If these things are not a fiction all these officers and authorities throughout the land in every department of Nation, State or Territorial government, are as much bound by their obligations and oaths as the people are bound to be subject to all constitutional laws, and the people are not one whit more bound to the observance of the law than these men are bound to the observance of the sacred and solemn covenants which they have entered into. And if the people have given up to governors, legislatures, the judiciary and to the officers of the law certain powers, rights and privileges, this authority coming of or from the people, it is expected that they shall act for and in the interests of the people; and furthermore, that while they possess those rights ceded to them by the people, whatever is not thus ceded and placed in the hands of their rulers is emphatically stated to be reserved to the several States or to the people. . . . But it must be understood here in matters pertaining to our government, that no charters or grants of any kind can be given by any parties, in excess of the rights which they themselves possess, and that the same obligations which vest in regard to constitutional rights and guarantees must be observed in all those municipal regulations by the recipients as of the grantees of those charters.
These rights and privileges in our government are formulated upon the idea that our government is “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Our counsel, then, is to the Latter-day Saints who can truthfully take this oath, there is no reason that we know of in the Gospel, or in any of the revelations of God, which prevents you from doing so. You owe it to yourselves; you owe it to your posterity; you owe it to those of your co-religionists who, by this law, are robbed worse than even many of yourselves, of their rights under the Constitution; you owe it to humanity everywhere; you owe it to that free and constitutional form of government, which has been bequeathed to you through the precious sacrifices of many of your forefathers — to do all in your power to maintain religious liberty and free, republican government in these mountains, and to preserve every constitutional right intact, and not to allow, either through supineness or indifference, or any feeling of resentment or indignation because of wrongs inflicted upon you, any right or privilege to be wrested from you. . . . Then having done this, and everything else in your power to preserve constitutional government and full religious freedom in the land, you can safely trust the Lord for the rest. He has promised to fight your battles. . . .
Let us guard well our franchise, and in one unbroken phalanx, maintain and sustain our political status, and, as patriots and the freemen, operate together, in the defence of what few liberties are left us, in the defence of the Constitution, and in the defence of the inalienable rights of man; which rights always exist and are before and above all constitutions, and thus perpetuate to posterity the inestimable blessings of freedom, including the right to live, the right to be free, and the right to pursue happiness, unmolested by any influence, power, or combination.
Well, but do you not hold allegiance to the government of the United States also? Do you not believe in the laws and institutions thereof? Yes, we have always sustained and upheld them; and although we have had many very heavy provocations to make us feel rebellious and opposed to that government, yet we have always sustained it under all circumstances and in every position. When they tried to cut our throats, we rather objected to that, you know. We had some slight objection to have our heads cut off and be trampled under foot; we did not think it was either constitutional or legal. But when they took their swords away from our necks and said that we might enjoy the rights of American citizens, that was all we wanted.
There is, however, a kind of political heresy that we have always adopted. We have always maintained that we had a right to worship God as we thought proper under the constitution of the United States, and that we would vote as we pleased. But some people took a notion to say “they would be damned if we should.” We told them, however, that was a matter of their own taste; that we would seek to be saved and yet we would do it. It has always been a principle with us, and in fact is given in one of our revelations, “that he who will observe the laws of God need not transgress the laws of the land” [D&C 58:21]. . . . I am prepared to say that, as a population, as a people, as a Territory, we have always been loyal to the institutions of our government, and I am at the defiance of the world to prove anything to the contrary. When we left—I was going to say the United States—what did we leave for? Why did we leave that country? Was it because its institutions were not good? No. Was it because its constitution was not one of the best that was ever framed? No. Was it because the laws of the United States, or of the States where we sojourned, were not good? No. Why was it? It was because there was not sufficient virtue found in the Executive to sustain their own laws. That was the reason, gentlemen. Is this anything to be proud of? It is a thing that should make every honorable American hide his head in shame; and all reflecting, intelligent, and honorable men feel thus. . . .
But did we rebel? No, we did not act as the Southern States have done. We came here; and, in the absence of any other government, we organized a provisional state government, just the same as Oregon did before us. Thus, in the midst of this abuse heaped upon us, we showed our adherence to the institutions and constitution of our country. If bad men bore rule, if corrupt men held sway — men who had neither the virtue nor the fortitude to maintain the right and protect the institutions and constitution of this, shall I say, our once glorious country — if men could not be found who possessed sufficient integrity to maintain their oaths and their own institutions, there was a people here found of sufficient integrity to the constitution and institutions of the United States not to abandon them. . . . Still we have been true to our trust, to our integrity, and to the institutions and constitution of our country all the time in the midst of these things.
. . . Sometimes people think we are acting almost hypocritically when we talk of loyalty to the constitution of the United States. We will stand by that constitution and uphold the flag of our country when everybody else forsakes it. We cannot shut our eyes to things transpiring around us. We have our reason, and God has revealed unto us many things; but never has he revealed anything in opposition to those institutions and that Constitution, no, never; and, another thing, he never will.
There is no statute law in the United States, in neither the constitution nor the statutes at large, but what allows the Latter-day Saints every prerogative they could ask for. There is no right or privilege that we could ask to enjoy — none that any other people could reasonably ask to enjoy, but what is guaranteed unto us by the constitution and laws of the United States. Officials who feel to traduce the name and character of the Latter-day Saints, whether they be judges, marshals, Indian agents, or holding any other office under the United States’ Government in this Territory, have to violate and trample under their feet their oaths to be loyal to the Government and laws by which they profess to be governed, in order to intrude in the least on the rights of this or any other peaceful, law-abiding community. To the honour of a few of those officials that have come here, we can say that they have honoured the law under which they came, while others have trampled it under their feet. . . . If men will only observe the laws of the United States — will only honour the laws they are sworn to honour, we are safe.
To accuse us of being unfriendly to the Government, is to accuse us of hostility to our religion, for no item of inspiration is held more sacred with us than the Constitution under which she acts. As a religious society, we, in common with all other denominations, claim its protection; whether our people are located in the other states or territories, as thousands of them are, or in this territory, it is held as a shield to protect the dearest boon of which man is susceptible—his religious views and sentiments.
. . . She [the government] has calmly looked on and permitted one of the fundamental and dearest provisions of the Constitution to be broken; she has permitted us to be driven and trampled under foot with impunity. Under these circumstances what course is left for us to pursue? I answer that, instead of seeking to destroy the very best government in the world, as seems to be the fears of some, we, like all other good citizens, should seek to place these men in power who will feel the obligations and responsibilities they are under to a mighty people; who would feel, and realize the important trusts reposed in them by the voice of the people who call them to administer law under the solemn sanction of an oath of fidelity to that heaven inspired instrument, to the inviolate preservation of which we look for the perpetuity of our free institutions.
[Governor Ford] is sworn to support the Constitution of the United States and also of this State [Illinois], and these constitutions guarantee religious as well as civil liberty to all religious societies whatever.
The Mayor, Aldermen and Councilors [of the City of Nauvoo, IL], before entering upon the duties of their office, shall take and subscribe an oath or affirmation that they will support the Constitution of the United States, and of this State and that they will well and truly perform the duties of their offices to the best of their skill and abilities.