What is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints belief in the Separation of Church and State?

Doctrine and Covenants 134:9. 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.


The Church disapproves of those who would impose their religious beliefs on others through the force of law, in defiance of the principle of freedom. Unfortunately, some religious organizations around the world seek to do just that. Even among Latter-day Saints, there’s a tendency to blur the line between “religious influence” and “civil government,” mingling their political party with the Church in their minds.


We must be especially careful about the “mingling” reflex. “We regret that more than anything—that there would become a church party and a non-church party. That would be the last thing that we would want to have happen,” according to Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the First Quorum of the Seventy.


Latter-day Saints are not to be politically contentious. That would be contrary to “just and holy principles.” The Lord has said that “sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen.” While rebellion is war against the government, sedition, according to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, is “a factious commotion of the people, a tumultuous assembly of men rising in opposition to law or the administration of justice, and in disturbance of the public peace.”


True Saints are not seditious. We have no part in “factious commotion” or “tumultuous assemblies” or disturbing the public peace. Much of what we hear in the political arena today borders on sedition— it is not only angry and childish but dangerous to the peace.




President Dieter F. Uchtdorf warns the Saints against those who “vilify and demonize their rivals. They look for any flaw and magnify it. They justify their hatred with broad generalizations. . . . When ill fortune afflicts their rival, they rejoice. . . . My beloved fellow disciples of the gentle Christ, should we not hold ourselves to a higher standard?” That higher standard is the spirit of Christ, which is the spirit of pure love and charity and unity. President Stephen L Richards said, “A threat to our unity derives from unseemly personal antagonisms developed in partisan political controversy.”


Elder Russell M. Nelson decries “the burden of bickering in election campaigns. Contention is all about us. . . . Serious separation results when offensive labels are utilized with the intent to demean. Even worse, such terms camouflage our true identity as sons and daughters of God.”


Another violation of that “higher standard” is to identify our personal political views with the gospel. Hugh Nibley wrote, “Nothing is easier than to identify one’s own favorite political, economic, historical, and moral convictions with the gospel. That gives one a neat, convenient, but altogether too easy advantage over one’s fellows. If my ideas are the true ones—and I certainly will not entertain them if I  suspect for a moment that they are false!—then, all truth being one, they are also the gospel, and to oppose them is to play the role of Satan.


This is simply insisting that our way is God’s way, and therefore the only way. It is the height of impertinence.” This behavior is common in the religious world, where people wrest the scriptures to “prove” that their political views are also God’s views. I heard a bizarre example on the radio one day when a religious leader used Jesus’s parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1–16) to “prove” that God is against labor unions.


In my own experience, there’s no shortage of our own church members who will virtually bear testimony of the gospel and their party in the same breath, or insist that no one can be “a good member of the Church” who belongs to this or that political party. Yet prophets and apostles counsel that “principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of the various political parties” and hold the Church itself strictly neutral among political partisans.


Doctrine and Covenants 134:5. 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.


As long as the freedom of conscience is held sacred, this revelation allows governments considerable freedom of action in determining what is in the “public interest.” That interest is expressed in terms of “the good and safety of society,” which are of course large areas for  discussion. Working through governments toward the good and safety of society is part of our duty and our training here on earth.


What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!


** The following was taken from Dews of Heaven, The: Answers to Life's Questions from the Doctrine and CovenantsThe opinions and views expressed herein belong solely to Breck England and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of Cedar Fort, Inc.