When I was young and had my father still with me, we often discussed and debated the issues of the day. At the dinner table, in the car and on the sofa, my brothers and sisters and I learned from our father the wondrous gifts and responsibilities that come with living in a free land. He treasured our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and taught us to do so likewise, along with the importance of electing good people to lead our country and communities, protecting by their empowerment our freedom to choose. Dad cautioned us always that if we as a people were to select unrighteous leaders, men and women who would assume too much power and control over our lives, we would lose our liberty. My father was right then, and those principles still stand true today.
In the whole of human history it has been the same. When a man, or woman for that matter, obtains a little bit of power, the risk of corruption and abuse of that power is always of concern. The natural man needs to fight the urge to use authority assumed in a manner that deprives he or his fellows, future generations, the inherent liberties belonging to any son or daughter of God. We as followers of leaders need to resist the weakness of electing those who with a promise of making our lives easier would deprive us of the very freedoms that we have of empowering righteous leadership. Any person, whether elected, a seizer of authority, or granted power over lives by some popular culture persuasion, should be appropriately resisted if their support would lead to loss of agency.
To this matter my father was fond of quoting Lord Acton. In a letter Acton penned to Bishop Creighton, he wrote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A prophet of God, Samuel, may have expressed those same sentiments to the Israelites of long ago who sought after a king.
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
In ancient times, the people of Israel became tired of the responsibilities and liberties that came with following God by the mouth of his prophets, and therefore sought Samuel to appoint them a king. They declared, “…make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (Samuel 8:5). This concerned Samuel greatly and he took his worries to the Lord. And God declared, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (Samuel 8:7).
Nevertheless the Lord commanded Samuel to warn the people of what would come because of their desire to have a king, not withstanding he should anoint one anyhow, a man of God’s choosing, by the will of the people. And Samuel did caution all Israel of the corruption that would come because of their desire to have kings rule over them. A king once empowered would make servants of their sons and daughters, soldiers and handmaids all, taxing the people for his benefit. It is not good to concentrate power in the hands of one man or group of men. Unrighteous dominion will nearly always prevail.
In the Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-40 it is written, “We have learned by sad experience 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. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.”
In the case of the first king of Israel, Saul, and those who followed, David and Solomon, they were all good men called of the Lord, but power corrupted, and their absolute power corrupted absolutely, until they were no longer chosen. Even so it is today. Earthly power, power over men, tends to corrupt.
“…for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”The Lord God to Samuel the Prophet
When too much power is concentrated in the hands of those who would think it better for them to control our lives, make our choices, than to preserve our freedoms and agency, we have surrendered the very God given gifts of liberty that provide us our agency to choose. Surrendering to unrighteous dominion and rejecting the God whose gift it is to provide freedom, is indeed a rejection of God Himself, even as Israel rejected the Lord before Samuel.
If you are tempted in anyway to read into any of this a particular political agenda on my part, be tempted no further, for although I have my own thoughts and feelings on these matters, no endorsement or encouragement of any particular political leaning should be taken from the words I have written. There is plenty of unrighteous dominion and corruption being exercised by most of those elected to or assumers of power. I would only encourage prayerful study and consideration of the issues of the day, and of those who would seek representation in the bodies of government around the world, in making our decisions regarding how we should vote. We should also be active in promoting the values which would preserve our freedoms and provide continually the agency with which we have been gifted to choose whom we should follow.
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
It was in the beginning that Lucifer sought after robbing us of our agency, his evil plans were set in motion, and men yielded to kings and others of unrighteous dominion, giving up liberty for security’s sake and ending up with neither. As Benjamin Franklin once declared, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” To yield our freedoms to anyone of unrighteous intent, or any intent at all, is to put at risk our liberty to choose, and therefore our freedom to follow God. We dare not abandon our agency to any would-be king, a people who would sacrifice the same for comfort or security, nor idols in sports or entertainment who would use their privilege or popularity to co-opt agency, leaving minions groping blindly.
I am grateful to Dad for these ideals taught to me in my youth that I might pass them on to my own children and to all who have ears to hear and willingness to receive. He set my eyes on what the Lord would have me do, providing clarifying judgment, not absolute, but at least helpful in determining my paths.
May we seek after only that which would provide and preserve the freedoms that our Father in Heaven would have for us. It is not enough for us, weak and ill-informed as we may be, to set our freedoms aside so as to empower those who promise to make our lives more simple, less complicated. Let us not follow the schemes of darkness and earthly kings. May we instead embrace the great plan of happiness and agency provided by our loving Savior, who by no compulsion would have us choose to follow Him, a King of heavenly dominion, absolutely by choice, but absolutely still. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.