What the Doctrine and Covenants says about gay marriage, the judicial system, and the role of religion in government

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There has been a lot of discussion online and offline about gay marriage. People on both sides of the divide have been hurling scripture and quotes from prophets back and forth. One of the most intriguing to me was the mention of Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 134: 9. The verse seems to state religion and government shouldn’t be mixed. I decided to read through the section to make sure it hadn’t been taken out of context, and what I found was even more interesting to me than just that one verse.

Of great importance is the use of “conscience” as opposed to “religion” throughout the section.

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On the role of government (it’s important to note that numerous states and countries have already legalized gay marriage and their societies are still “good and safe”)

1 We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

On how peace can be maintained in America

2 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of CONSCIENCE, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

On the importance of judges (before you jump on “voice of the people”, see verse 11)

We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.

On religious followers being allowed the free exercise of religion “unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe on the rights and liberties of others”

4 We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the CONSCIENCES of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control CONSCIENCE; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

On laws and the executive branch of government

We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of CONSCIENCE.

On honoring judges, and keeping religion and government separate

We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.

On governments being “bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief”

7 We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy.

(8 is on punishment of typical crimes — not relevant here)

On keeping religion and government separate

We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

On the limited power religious authorities should have

10 We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.

On the importance of the judicial system (note the use of “character infringed”)

11 We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.

(12 is on preaching to and baptizing servants — not relevant here)

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It appears, to me, that this bit of Mormon doctrine is a great guideline for a secular government — and I greatly admire the tenets espoused throughout the section — the need for a judicial system to redress grievances, the need to keep religion and government separate, but most importantly: The need to let everyone live according to the dictates of their conscience, so that you can be free to do the same.

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