Governing Through Principles

“I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”

Joseph Smith.

This statement was given by Joseph Smith as an answer to a question about how he governed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think it is very applicable to a secular “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I have reflected on this statement as I have become very concerned about what is happening in our country during this time of crisis.

Founding Principles

The principles which should guide all actions by our government are outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Correct principles also include principles such as those in the 10 Commandments. People should treat others with respect and kindness, as they would want to be treated. Life is sacred and should be protected. Self-direction and self-reliance are sound and valued principles.
At times of crisis like this we see situations where some needs become urgent and some principles take precedence over others. The challenge of meeting urgent needs while maintaining rights according to those principles is a role of government.

Principles in the constitution affirm individual rights of liberty, exhibited in the opportunity to travel, to engage in business, to participate in activities of our choice. The Bill of Rights specifically spell out rights to assemble and to practice religion. People need to be able to work and provide for themselves and their families. They have need of goods and services to preserve life. Generally, government should not interfere with these rights. This is a basic principle of the Constitution.

Yet, government has responsibility to keep its citizens safe, to provide defense against that which would cause harm and endanger life. There may be times when the suspension of individual rights may be necessary in order to protect us, but those situations should be very rare and action taken with great caution. The reason for caution is human nature and the tendency among those with power to exercise “unrighteous dominion.” When people in power seek more power, they put themselves and their wisdom above others and use power to order actions and suspend individual rights. If successful in a crisis, there is not much to stop this from occurring without a crisis, with orders being self-serving, rather than for public good.

Maintaining Balance Through Mutual Trust

Maintaining a balance between preserving inherent and constitutional rights and providing protection can be complicated. Mutual trust is vital, yet sadly lacking today.

Allowing citizens to “govern themselves” requires that government trusts them to do the right things. It includes an assumption that the majority of citizens are morally upright, good people, who want to do good. When good, intelligent people are given accurate and sound information they generally will make choices to benefit all, even when those choices might limit their own freedom to do what they want.

If government trusts their citizens, they need only provide clear, accurate information and make recommendations for action. Then citizens can freely, with their own agency intact, act to make things better or at least not worse.Sure, there will always be those who are not trustworthy, who will selfishly do stupid things that endanger others. They are the ones laws are written for anyway. But to impose orders and threaten penalties upon law abiding citizens shows a dangerous lack of trust.

Trust of the government by the people is also necessary. Governments are mandated to educate their citizens, and that education should include the teaching of correct principles–not only the principles underlying our government, but correct principles about science, history, and human nature.

Teach Correct Principles

Besides being well educated, citizens need to be well informed about current situations in order to be able to use their agency to make wise decisions. This is where a thorough and impartial media is critical. We should be able to trust the media to give us accurate and unbiased information. I see a lack of trust today in both directions.

Public education has been influenced by those who would promote certain agendas over teaching truth. Education about the history of this country is no longer a priority, so we are lacking in understanding about those founding principles and the sacrifices made by those in the past to secure the freedoms we enjoy. Moral education, which early in this country was a significant part of education, has been dismissed as unfairly promoting religion. The ability to regurgitate facts through tests is now preferred to teaching students how to think and reason. What we have now are many citizens blindly following the teachings and direction of whatever factions they trust and suspicious of all other sources.

Back to Trust

Which leads back to trust in the other direction. By creating an educational system which lacks moral training, we have citizens lacking in moral judgment, and a government which does not trust them to make wise choices in a crisis. Add to that people in government more concerned about power than the welfare of citizens issuing orders that restrict individual freedom, which increases distrust of government.

I hope we come out of this crisis with our freedom intact and a greater appreciation of that liberty.

The Sky is Not Falling

I am reminded these days about a little story I was told as a child. Maybe children of later generations missed it? It was about a chicken – Chicken Little – who ran around in a panic saying “the sky is falling”. Now we have little chickens running around in a panic saying the world will come to an end in 12 years if we don’t radically change our whole way of life.

I have a few things to say to those panicking young people. I was young once too. I believed things I was told, especially by knowledgeable professors. However, through time, more learning and life experience, I have come to see many of those things as erroneous, misguided or even deceptive.

Some Perspective from the Dark Ages – the 1970’s

I was a College student back in the 1970’s – almost the dark ages. Actually it was kind of the dark ages. I remember going to school in the dark. Someone, I think wise politicians, decided that perpetual daylight savings time would save great amounts of energy. So we went to school in the dark during the winter. I even recall the Bell Tower on campus playing “Oh, what a Beautiful Morning” as we found our way to class in the dark. I never really understood how that was supposed to work.

I also dutifully car-pooled to campus. There were seven in our car-pool who drove from across town. I had a Volkswagen bug. Yes, we crammed seven bodies into that and drove to school. Why? Because we were told that we would run out of fossil fuel, likely by the end of the century. Yes, we were told there would be no more. It would be all gone. And these predictions were based on “science.”

Me and my VW in 1974

I also have recalled lately my Senior research project. It was titled “Attitudes of Weber County, Utah Residents Toward Government Intervention in Limiting Family Size.” I pulled it out the other day and read the summary of literature we studied at that time. It included lots of doomsday predictions. The world and its resources just would not be able to sustain increasing populations. We would all starve if something wasn’t done. And yes, there was discussion about forced – that means “anti-choice” – family planning measures.

I’ll share a little quote from the time defining Natalism as:

“The belief that individual couples have the right to have as many children as they please despite the scientific conviction that unchecked population expansion is by far the most potentially disastrous problem facing mankind in the middle of the Twentieth Century.”


(Silverman, Anna and Arnold. The Case Against Having Children. New York: David McKay Company, Inc.,1971 italics added)

What Has Happened Since

Somehow the disastrous problems facing mankind in the Twentieth Century did not destroy us. Overpopulation didn’t turn out to be the nightmare predicted. We haven’t all starved. Scientists were wrong, or at least not right. Maybe there was a reason we were deceived? Possibly it has more to do with politics than science?

The population hasn’t grown out of control without government intervention. Population growth rates have gone down. In fact, fertility rates in some countries have dropped below replacement levels.

The United States didn’t take steps to restrict family size. Legalizing abortion and changing attitudes accomplished that. Now we have young people too scared to have children because we are all going to die.

China did adopt and enforce – being communist made it easy to do the forcing – a one-child policy. Now four decades later, even they are seeing that it was not such a good idea. Not only did it destroy the family structure which took care of older parents, but the whole system is unbalanced, without sufficient young workers to sustain growing older populations.

We are not all starving to death. In fact, in the US we have a huge obesity problem. Yes, there are hungry people in the US and actual starvation in some countries. But that is not because we cannot produce enough food. This also, has more to do with politics. People are starving in Venezuela, while humanitarian aid is blocked from reaching them.

We have not run out of fossil fuels, but they are still the villain. It makes me wonder if this is just another attempt to shift power and wealth, because earlier attempts didn’t produce lasting results.

Power to Control Weather

I recently re-read the bible story of Jesus calming the seas. I recommend studying that one. (Matthew 8:22-27; Luke 8:22-25) My thought was this: Yes, there is one who can control the weather. He is the Creator. He has knowledge and power over the elements of this earth. He has power to change the climate. But He works according to laws and principles which may be foreign to scientific man. Those principles include faith and obedience. The elements obey Him. People don’t always.

The world mocks God and faith. Some laugh at the mere idea of appealing to God to temper the elements, as something primitive, uncivilized people would do.

The Choice to Believe

People, especially today, have made science and man their god. They willingly put their faith in scientists. The same kinds of scientists who misled us 40-50 years ago with their dire predictions. The same science that was used to convince us that tobacco was safe and that repeated concussions wouldn’t cause permanent damage.

People are willing to obey government over God. As if government really has our best interest in mind.

Why is it easier for some to believe the word of scientists and politicians than prophets of God? The world mocks prophets, but now people are paying attention to very similar “doomsday prophesies” from men in the name of science.

How consistent is it to believe that our world came into existence through totally random forces, yet we, puny humans, who randomly evolved from lower life forms, somehow have the power to control those random forces, change the course of nature and save ourselves?

I would not recommend totally disregarding science or attempts to be better stewards of this planet. We should use knowledge to make better choices and improve our environment. But why give in to fear-mongering and put blind trust in those who would ultimately cause more damage to our freedom and way of life?

Is there really a need to panic and rush forward with radical proposals that have not been well thought out? Some scientists have actually predicted that the proposed solutions may be more disastrous than the problems they supposedly address.

It seems reasonable to me that all things are in the hands of an omnipotent creator with a plan. Why then not appeal to Him? Why then not act consistently with His plan and laws? How could that possibly put us in a worse position?

The End

Yes, the world as we know it will come to an end. Not necessarily in the manner or the timing now being pushed by the hysterical chickens. The end has been prophesied since the beginning. It has always been part of the plan. The result will not just be an end, but also a beginning of a better world. Whether you are around to enjoy the better depends upon individual choice – whether to believe and obey God or man.

As the end of the world approaches, I don’t think we will be saved by solar panels. I believe our salvation will come as we individually choose to turn to the power of The Son.