Cover image: Portrait of Joseph Smith by Walter Rane.

In a time when we all struggle with questions on government, it is noteworthy that Joseph Smith also struggled with it.  He visited Washington DC, many senators and congressmen, and interviewed with the president of the United States.  After Missouri, where the state government seemed to be fully invested in the problems forcing the Saints from their homes and lands contrary to the expectations and rights of U.S. citizenship, it isn’t surprising to find the prophet working with the Lord to understand government’s role as a vessel for the restoration of the global Kingdom of God on earth.  From his reading of the Book of Mormon came even a deeper understanding of the role of this nation in the gathering of Israel and the winding up scenes surrounding Christ’s Zion.

As early as Kirtland, Joseph was given a view of God’s government.  The restoration of the priesthood after the order of the Son of God, was its beginning but without Joseph’s vision of God’s government, priesthood would remain simply as a delegation of tasks rather than the majestic preparation and puzzling of an eternity of interdependent authority, vision, and channel of divine power.

In the school of the prophets, Orson Hyde reported the following sublimities from the prophet:

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“The above diagram shows the order and unity of the kingdom of god.  The eternal Father sits at the head, crowned King of kings and Lord of lords.  Wherever the other lines meet, there sits a king and a priest unto God, bearing rule, authority, and dominion under the Father.  He is one with the Father, because his kingdom is joined to his Father’s and becomes part of it…

  …These kingdoms, which are one kingdom are designed to extend till they not only embrace this world, but every other planet that rolls into the blue vault of heaven.  Thus will all things be gathered in one during the dispensation of the fullness of times, and the saints will not only possess the earth, but all things else, for, says Paul, ‘All things are yours…ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s’”  Orson Hyde, “A Diagram of the Kingdom of God,” by Joseph Smith Millennial Star 9: 23-24 (Jan 15, 1847

Today, we recognize the fractal nature of the diagram, the kingdom.  Each kingdom is an interdependent entity with all others under The Son’s which is included in the Father’s.  There is no true interdependence without true independence which grows from pure dependent obedience.  In an editorial three years after his Liberty Jail experience with the state of Missouri, the Prophet Joseph compares this divine government with that which man creates:

“The government of the Almighty has always been very dissimilar to the governments of men, whether we refer to His religious government, or to the government of nations. The government of God has always tended to promote peace, unity, harmony, strength, and happiness[1]; while that of man has been productive of confusion, disorder, weakness, and misery.

The greatest acts of the mighty men have been to depopulate nations and to overthrow kingdoms; and whilst they have exalted themselves and become glorious, it has been at the expense of the lives of the innocent, the blood of the oppressed, the moans of the widow, and the tears of the orphan.

Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Persia, Carthage, Rome-each was raised to dignity amidst the clash of arms and the din of war; and whilst their triumphant leaders led forth their victorious armies to glory and victory, their ears were saluted with the groans of the dying and the misery and distress of the human family; before them the earth was a paradise, and the behind them a desolate wilderness; their kingdoms were founded in carnage and bloodshed, and sustained by oppression, tyranny, and despotism.

The designs of God, on the other hand, have been to promote the universal good of the universal world; to establish peace and good will among men; to promote the principles of eternal truth; to bring about a state of things that shall unite man to his fellow man; cause the world to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” make the nations of the earth dwell in peace, and to bring about the millennial glory, when “the earth shall yield its increase, resume its paradisean glory, and become as the garden of the Lord.”    TPJS p248

“Have we increased in knowledge or intelligence? Where is there a man that can step forth and alter the destiny of nations and promote the happiness of the world? Or where is there a kingdom or nation that can promote the universal happiness of its own subjects, or even their general well-being? Our nation, which possesses greater resources than any other, is rent, from center to circumference, with party strife, political intrigues, and sectional interest; our counselors are panic-stricken, our legislators are astonished, and our senators are confounded, our merchants are paralyzed, our tradesmen are disheartened, our mechanics out of employ, our farmers distressed, and our poor crying for bread, our banks are broken, our credit ruined, and our states overwhelmed in debt, yet we are, and have been in peace.” TPJS p249

Earlier, in Liberty the Lord had explained to Joseph that “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” DC 121:39

So, he concludes what we have come to expect in our day as well, “All, all, speak with a voice of thunder, that man is not able to govern himself, to legislate for himself, to protect himself, to promote his own good, nor the good of the world.” TPJS p250

An aberration of this same theme is used by deconstructionists to claim that they and only they can guide the incapable masses in a one world government.  But history shows the futility of this claim and corroborates the D&C 121:39 that unrighteous dominion has repeatedly destroyed culture after culture making it evident that without God’s intervention and man’s submissive willingness a continually working government is not possible.

In the book AMERICAN SPIRIT, VISIONS OF A NEW CORPORATE CULTURE[2], author Lawrence M. Miller shares evident patterns of the rise and fall of twenty-one world cultures compared to seasons of the year. 

SPRING: New life and abundant growth

Each culture began with a compelling vision and sense of mission led by a visionary leader.  People were filled with a sense of purpose that provided a big “WHY” to all their actions and decisions.  Their organization was simple, requiring more sacrifice than reward but happiness abounded.  They knew little to no leisure activities or comforts as they struggled to both survive and fulfill their personal part of a shared mission.

SUMMER: Maturing, enjoying

With effort, dedication, and time the cultures became refocused on the “HOW”- management and efficiency.  The visionary leader was replaced by professional managers and efficiency became the purpose.  Each culture increased in organizational complexity including the addition of schools.  Citizens were hard working and prosperous, enjoying the fruits including the multiplication of many comforts.

FALL: Ripening

Acquisition of “things” can become addictive.  The overriding yet unmentioned purpose of the ripening society became the accumulation of goods and control of people and things.  Top leaders were the wealthy as the society became layered in class divisions.  Class were marked either by wealth or learning.  Sophistication grew out of this layering until everyone expected all available rewards.  More and more time was spent on entertainment and leisure activities which became organized including sports and the arts.

WINTER: Decay and death

Leaders with control grew in power and corruption.  The citizens were vulnerable pawns demanding rights without responsibility as promised by the corrupt leadership, easily trading liberty and freedom for security and safety.  The purpose of the society revolved around pleasure in any fashion acquirable.  The worker classes found security in unions striking for more…masses demonstrated often violently, under the guise of independent thought but in reality, were reacting to careful stimuli provided by the self-seeking leadership who provided socialistic governmental solutions to the very problems they were stimulating.  The pleasure-seeking masses found relief through addictive stimulants such as alcohol, drugs, and whoredoms, which decayed into human trafficking for the addicted pleasure hungry.


Summarizing and customizing his data in a table shows us today’s shivering reality.

As the time of the restoration in these latter days approached, it was evident that some divine intervention would be necessary, since man demonstrated throughout time their inability to govern.  In the general conference of 1880, it was noted:

“…the men who laid the foundation of this American government, and signed the Declaration of Independence, were the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for that purpose were inspired of the Lord.” General Conference Reports 1880, 1897-1970.

One such was Samuel Adams, cousin to the later president John Adams, who stated it clearly, “While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”[3]  We know that by the end of the nineteenth century President Wilford Woodruff discovered how chosen they were.  He spoke of his personal visionary encounter, later recorded by scribe James Godson Bleak:

“I will here say that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.”

   These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights.

Woodruff, Wilford. The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff. Edited by G. Homer Durham. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1946. p160

Later he would also be visited by their wives and other noble women of that period seeking the same blessings.[4]  All in all he had the work done for 100 men and 70 women of that period who had given their lives to the establishment of this nation where the gospel could be restored and thrive.

Not only were there an unusual concentration of talented and faithful people in the fledgling nation but the legal template they produced and nurtured stood as evidence of the divine intervention needed to both establish this country and preserve it from the power-hunger that characterized the fall of all twenty-one preceding sovereignties.  Note God’s instructions to the Prophet Joseph:

5 And that law of the land, which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.  DC 98:

77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. DC 101

Following instructions, the prophet Joseph organized the most constitution centered body in the nation called the council of 50 which:

  • …was the political Kingdom of God, whose governing body had been organized on March 11, 1844, as the Council of Fifty by the Prophet Joseph Smith himself.
  • …was “the Municipal department of the Kingdom of God set up on the Earth, and from which all Law emanates, for the rule, government & control of all Nations Kingdoms & toungs and People under the whole Heavens.”
  • …met regularly in Nauvoo to discuss principles of government and political theory under the leadership of Joseph Smith.
  • Was the basic law of this world-government, received through Revelation, resembling the constitution of the United States. [5]
  • Had as the primary role …to symbolize the otherworldly world order that would be established during the millennial reign of Christ on earth.
  • Aside from its symbolic value, the singular importance of the Council of Fifty is that it reveals Joseph Smith, Jr., as Mormonism’s greatest Constitutionalist.
  • The 1844 minutes of the Council contain hundreds of pages of the Prophet’s teachings about the meaning of the U.S. Constitution and the application of that document to the Latter-day saints in the world and during the Millennium.[6]

In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple Joseph wrote:

… may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever. DC 109:54

If I understand, this inspired document will serve as a sort of preamble to the millennial constitution of the world government of Jesus Christ.  Much has been written about the opposition to it, including prophecies of it “hanging by a single thread,”[7] or a “brittle thread.”[8]  No wonder the opposition would love to “modernize” it or replace it all together.[9]

To the Prophet, the role of the federal government is outlined in principles, not specifics, by the Lord:

  • maintaining rights and privileges. D&C 98:5
    • whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. D&C 98:7[10]
  • renounce war / proclaim peace D&C 98:16
  • benefit of man:
    • for the good and safety of society.
    • To secure to each individual
      • the free exercise of conscience,
      • the right and control of property,
      • the protection of life. D&C 134:1-2
  • That every man may act … according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. DC 101:78
  • I… make you free…; and the law also maketh you free. DC 98:8-10

But then He warns:

Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. DC 98:9

So, He encourages us as responsible citizens:

Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold… D&C 98:10

To this end goes out the call, where are honest, wise people that we can uphold?  To this end should be the basis of our evaluation of our candidates:

  1. Are they honest?
  2. What have been their decisions in the past – is wisdom evident in applying principles?

Principles (the constitution) are applicable to many specific situations.  They don’t define what to do but rather why to do.  They are visionary but to apply them to varied specifics takes wisdom and connection with the visionary source that inspired them.  Those are the people that God is raising up so that we can uphold them in this most dangerous and needy of times.  With divine encouragement those humble[11], righteous, and inspired people must step forth lest the opposition continue to prevail.

“All flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven—Which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained…” DC 38:11-13

In this on-going war over the agency of man, the divine solution is a proximal caring for each other that will lead to a Zion society:

“And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment…let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me…I say unto you, be one…” DC 38:16, 24, 27

[1] See Moses 7:17-18 The Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish. And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

[2] p27-30



[5] Klaus Hansen, BYU Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2, p.244

[6] BYU Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2, p.163

[7] Discourses of Brigham Young p361

[8] 6 May 1843, Joseph Smith, Words of Joseph Smith, Ehat and Cook p279

[9] See this historical analysis of the four constitutional battles and their outcomes and modern implications.

[10] The clamor for more rights while ignoring responsibility “cometh of evil.”  The demand for more responsibility or control while ignoring the associated rights and privileges also “cometh of evil.”

[11] DC 52:14-19

14 And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—

15 Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.

16 He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.

17 And again, he that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you.

18 And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me.

19 Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens.