Donald Trump, the Rule of Law, and the Arm of Flesh

Members of the Church often voice outrage when the Prophet or one of the apostles speaks out on a political issue or offers his thinking regarding the qualities necessary for political office. But nevertheless supporting righteous leaders and opposing wicked ones is a religious as well as a civic duty. In Utah, the First Presidency recently released a statement urging members to participate in our caucuses coming up on the 22nd. I don’t believe similar statements were read over the pulpit in other states, but general statements encouraging civic participation have also been common.

This is not surprising since Latter Day-Saints are commanded, “Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.”

In the April 1972 conference (a few months before a Presidential election) President Benson spoke of civic standards that we as latter day saints should follow  when selecting leaders. Aside from references to communism, most of this sermon could comfortably be delivered next month in conference and be just as timely and topical.

Much of the advice is familiar but still highly relevant. In particular, President Benson lists four standard to rely on when choosing who to vote for: 1) Constitution and its principles 2) The scriptures and especially the Book of Mormon 3) The inspired words of the prophets–particularly the living president and 4) The promptings of the Holy Spirit. Much could be written about these standards. I particularly found the order in which he lists them to be fascinating and contrary to what I might have expected (I would expect to see the scriptures listed before the Constitution for instance, but this is consistent with Ezra Taft Benson’s view that the Constitution or at least its principles was an inspired document). I would highly recommend reading the whole talk.

But today in this post I want to focus on one aspect of President Benson’s talk that immediately resonated with me and felt particularly timely.

President Benson spoke about the great genius of the Founding Fathers in understanding that “[i]t is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority … they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D&C 121:39.) They therefore designed a system where elected leaders “should be bound by certain fixed principles.” Most significantly, a written constitution served both to limit power and to create allegiance to the rule of law rather than to “the arm of flesh.”

President Benson extensively quoted President J. Reuben Clark Jr., who wrote ““God provided that in this land of liberty, our political allegiance shall run not to individuals, that is, to government officials, no matter how great or how small they may be. Under His plan our allegiance and the only allegiance we owe as citizens or denizens of the United States, runs to our inspired Constitution which God himself set up. So runs the oath of office of those who participate in government. A certain loyalty we do owe to the office which a man holds, but even here we owe just by reason of our citizenship, no loyalty to the man himself. In other countries it is to the individual that allegiance runs. This principle of allegiance to the Constitution is basic to our freedom. It is one of the great principles that distinguishes this ‘land of liberty’ from other countries.” (Improvement Era, July 1940, p. 444.)

As I read these remarks, I reflected on the state of affairs in the Republican primary. We have a frontrunner who has taken to asking his supporters to pledge their personal loyalty to him. We have a frontrunner who never speaks about Constitutional restraint, but instead focuses on his own power to get things done through force of will. We have a candidate who is urging people to rely on the arm of flesh rather than on the inspired word of God. Such an individual is frightening and extremely dangerous.

I first read this talk earlier in the week. Then on Thursday night, something that Senator Ted Cruz said at the Republican Debate in Miami last week reminded me of President Benson’s word’s that I had read earlier in the week.

“And we need to nominate and elects a president who remembers, he works for the people. You know, at Donald’s rallies recently, he’s taken to asking people in the crowd to raise their hand and pledge their support to him. Now, I got to say to me, I think that’s exactly backwards. This is a job interview. We are here pledging our support to you, not the other way around. And the only hand raising I’m interested in doing is on January 20, 2017 raising my hand with my left hand on the… bible and pledging to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of United States.”

On another occasion, Cruz similarly criticized Trump’s efforts to get his supporters to pledge to him by comparing his actions to a king asking his subjects “to pledge loyalty to him like subject to a king.” Cruz continued noting that “[a]nyone who thinks you’re making a loyalty oath to some candidate fundamentally misunderstands this process. Listen, no political candidate is going to make America great again. It’s not going to be Donald Trump, it’s not going to be me. It’s not going to be any candidate. The only power strong enough to restore this nation is We the People. It’s not about us, it’s about the people.

This past weekend, Marco Rubio echoed similar sentiment comparing trump to a third-world strongman and arguing that  “[m]ost countries around the world that are failures are because they deposit their hopes in a person, a strong leader who comes forward and says ‘Put me in power. And I will make the country better. That’s exactly what he’s doing.”

Senator’s Cruz and Rubio are exactly right. Our rulers are meant to serve the people rather than the other way around. Failure to understand that basic premise is utterly disqualifying for one seeking leadership of this nation. It is a dangerous path which has led other nations to ruin or dictatorship.

Fortunately, it seems to me that members of our Church have been doing our part to reject Donald Trump and his narcissistic cult of personality. In Idaho which voted this past week, Trump was soundly beaten by Ted Cruz. But in the Mormon heavy counties of eastern Idaho he was not just beaten, he was trounced. In Rexburg (Home of BYU Idaho) he got less than 8 percent of the vote. Polls show Trump doing very poorly in Utah as well. I am heartened  to see members of the Church realizing that one who believes solely in his power of persuasion will not be an advocate for religious freedom or other constitutional rights. And that one who routinely bad mouths minorities will not be a friend to religious minorities.

I fear though that as a nation we have become so used to the notion that might makes right that we will elect an individual who asks for fealty to him rather than to the principles of this nation. I fear greatly for this country because we have forgotten the great principles of civic virtue spoken of by President Benson.

To be clear, the Church has not taken a position against Donald Trump and voting for him is not a violation of any commandment. But to any readers seriously considering him, I hope that you will prayerfully consider this talk by President Benson and ask yourself whether he is consistent with the type of leader that President Benson said we should support. Because as President Benson said (quoting Hyrum Smith): ““… to vote for wicked men, it would be sin.”


I read through this session of conference as part of the General Conference  Odyssey. For more information on this project and to read other posts from this session and others go here.

28 thoughts on “Donald Trump, the Rule of Law, and the Arm of Flesh

  1. If we were living in a nation that had actual leadership then what you say is great to remember. We are not living in such a nation since Obama, who is no worse than the accusations against Trump, was nominated twice. Unless a miracle happens, and there can always be that, then Trump or Hillary will be the President. Those who abstain from voting or vote third party/write in will assure that Hillary wins. Maybe you think “it won’t matter.” So be it, but be prepared to accept that statement.

    Maybe Cruz will win after all, and you can hang your hat on that if you wish. Just don’t be surprised if everything you fear ends up happening. The trajectory of this nation started a long time ago before any of us were born. We had Pres. Reagan, but he was an anomaly more than a change of course. Most elected officials, even the ones who claimed to be conservative that you voted for, made sure of that. THAT is your enemy and not Trump. He is a symptom of the disease of corrupt, weak, lying, pandering, and compromising Republicans. Those who support Trump do so more than out of unfocused anger. They are saying, “I tried it the official, acceptable, and civil way and all I got was my lousy T-shirt stolen from me.” They see how successful Democrats are (even when losing) by not playing by the rules and have become tired of losers. For them the nation is already dead, gone, abandoned, and nearly worthless. They want a fighter who is on their side. If Trump ends up not really on their side? So what, nothing different from all the other times.

  2. killing babys Before they are born,, who takes the right to do so, and what president is favor of this, and for unmorality,,which leaders accept drugs, terror and the whole World becoming an islamic state,?? Think and ponder, look what is happening it is no good, who are usa supporting, right now and what is the answer to isis, or other extremists,,?? I am not satisfied with the leaders in us, therefore trump is having a Point, there must be a change, to much speaking to the ears not taking responsibility for actions,

  3. Sorry but they are ALL bad choices. Look at the voting records of the other candidates while they were in office and compare them with the communist manifesto and you will find no deviation. Thats why the church dropped the issue of communism. The mormon people accepted the planks in one form or another and it was dividing the church apart. All the candidates are BIG-GOVERNMENT. Trumps proposals are just as bad too.

    Time for america to eat humble pie. We put too much power into the hands of government officials and now everyone is complaining about Trump using all that power. Shame on us mormons and nonmormons for supporting the status quo (george bush father-and-son wars and the phony mitt romney-implementer of massachusets single payer healthcare…obamacare of Massachusetts) Welcome to pre-WW2 germany. Wether its a democrat or republican We’re gonna get a hitler because thats what we deserve. Gods judgement is inescapable if you keep looking for Lucifers versions of zion to provide salvation.

    Dont worry it wont be physically violent at first, just a lot of economic death and destruction until all the wealth is gone then it will get phisical.

    Time to repent. Zion or bust!

  4. time for all countries to take responsibility for their own country and people, help them helpthemselves,,and piece to everyone, and more help to be unindependent for everyone,

  5. Trump’s popularity is an expression of the public’s frustration with the Founding Father’s system of checks and balances which ensures that politics will forever be mired in compromise and pluralism. What we really want is a king to cut through the politics and “make America great” with a magic wand. But President Trump will find it much more difficult to pass legislation in DC than build skyscrapers, and the public will soon turn on him.

  6. I doubt you have even read the Communist Manifesto, Ron. If so please show what the current candidates’ platforms have in common.

  7. North correa, for example, totaly crazy, prison for nothing in many years starwing people and much more , no good communists, or islam jihadists totaly evil nothing can compare with that,,

  8. I’m in a very tough situation in this election if the choices come down to Trump and Hillary. I don’t know that I can stomach voting for either, just the thought of it makes me sick. I believe that choosing the less of two evils still leaves us with evil, so voting for Hillary to oppose Trump is wrong from point of view. I cannot believe that American has sunk this low in the morals scale.

  9. “I cannot believe that American has sunk this low in the morals scale.”

    After two terms of Clinton, what was done during the second term of Bush, two terms of Obama, and you cannot believe America has sunk so low in the moral scale? I am tying to wrap my head around what evidence exists that there is still a moral scale left outside of a few small enclaves.

  10. Jettboy you’re right we are below zero on that scale. I guess what really amaze me is that it keeps getting worse by the day, and there is no stopping!

  11. Great article regarding fundamental principles. Poor decision in singling out Trump as the villain. Donald Trump, with all his personal shortcomings is the only candidate now rallying people in what I would call a patriotic groundswell of support for the principles of America first, elimination of ties with known Globalist takeover artists and protection of our borders. He would overturn secret trade deals now having the force of law in eliminating US sovereignty and bring jobs back to America, he would guard our borders with reasonable rules and he would help make an attempt to stop involving us in unwinnable foreign wars.
    Candidates like Cruz and Rubio display their silver tongues and their so-call knowledge of The US Constitution while at the same time using their strong ties with the enemies of freedom to continue the march to A ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT AND THE INTENDED ENSLAVEMENT OF HUMANITY.

    If I mention The Constitution and proceed to violate it does that make me a better candidate than one who actually takes meaningful stands to help insure the very framework of our government against a GLOBAL TAKEOVER?. No, that makes me a hypocrite, a liar and a deceiver.
    It is very difficult today to cast a just vote and we certainly cannot without first obtaining the truth about the candidates from trusted sources unlike the MAJOR CONTROLLED MEDIA WHICH IS A CONTROLLED ARM OF THE GLOBALISTS WHO HAVE ALL GANGED UP ON DONALD TRUMP IN AN ATTEMPT TO STEAL THE UPCOMING GOP CONVENTION. They are afraid
    of Trump because he isn’t one of them and will do anything they can including
    character assassination to reach their goal.
    For excellent articles supporting the views here expressed I suggest watching and The Dave Hodges Show

  12. I know it isn’t going to happen, but for once I’d like to have a president who says “I’m the chief executor — Congress makes the laws. I’m just here to execute whatever laws they pass and handle foreign affairs.” The president does have a lot of power, but if he only exercised the basic powers laid out in the constitution, we’d be much better off. I’ve always thought our representatives and senators bear most of the blame for the economic mess we’re in. They control the purse strings, not the president. There isn’t anything a unified congress couldn’t do.

  13. I’m with you there, IDIAT. A president who put Congress forward as the head of government and limited himself to the Constitution would be an exciting change.

  14. Daniel, good, well thought out article. Thanks for your insight.

    I am praying for Utah and Arizona on Tuesday.

    We’ve already decided that if Trump is the nominee, we will be leaving the President’s choice on our ballots blank. I encourage others to do the same.

  15. I remember hearing an account of an individual who was running for President as a constitutionalist candidate. Ezra Taft Benson told this person that he could count on his vote. The candidate responded that he didn’t have much chance of winning, to which Elder Benson responded that he would rather face the Lord knowing that he voted for a losing candidate on principle instead of voting for a winning candidate out of expediency.

    I think that’s the choice we’re facing now. Some may say that by not voting for Trump we’re essentially voting for Hillary (the presumed Democratic nominee). Hogwash. Only those actually voting for Hillary are voting for Hillary; that’s on them. The time has come for us to live up to our principles and vote according to our consciences, even if it means writing in the name of somebody who has no chance of winning or who isn’t even running. The world can go its merry way, but at the end of the day we have to live with ourselves.

  16. If you decide to leave the President line blank if Trump is the nominee, then you are no better than the evangelicals who didn’t vote for Romney because he is a Mormon. The outcome will be the same, another Democrat for president.

  17. SamIAm, I see no difference between Trump and Hillary, so voting for him would be the same to me as voting for Hillary. And maybe, just maybe, some day if the GOP keeps losing, they will realize that people are tired of the crap sandwiches they keep serving up their constituents. I’m done with the crap sandwiches. As teela has just so excellently quoted Pres. Benson, I’d rather vote my principles and lose, than vote for expediency. And yes, not voting is part of that. If people want to vote for Trump or Hillary, that is their choice, but I just cannot affirmatively check the box for either. And really, don’t you find it ridiculous those same evangelicals would not vote for Romney who was a decent man, but will vote for Trump, who is about as vile and vulgar as they get?

  18. Great article. I totally agree with it. Those who vote for Trump or Clinton are voting for a cult of personality. I vote for the Constitution, which James Madison stated binds the Fed’s hands. Because of our wars on drugs and Islam, among other ‘wars’, we have grown the Fed into a monster. Islam kills fewer Americans each year than lightning strikes. Shall we declare war on nature? Or is that part of the war on climate change?

    What we need is freedom with personal responsibility. Trump is not offering that. He is offering to be a savior and Big Brother. I fear one who asks for loyalty oaths. I do not like it in the Republican party debates, and I do not like it from Frump supporters. It will backfire eventually.

    I will vote third party, rather than vote for either demagogue Trump or Clinton.

    And someone needs to learn what communism really is. Clinton and Trump are fascists, not communists.

  19. “And really, don’t you find it ridiculous those same evangelicals would not vote for Romney who was a decent man, but will vote for Trump, who is about as vile and vulgar as they get?”

    This isn’t entirely true. There is a split in the evangelical community over Trump and Cruz. Preliminary studies have concluded this is more of a class division than a religious one. Setting that aside, many believe that it is more important to have a powerful individual run against a powerful institution. They don’t care to have a righteous, but ultimately weak and worthless, individual who will roll over and take a beating rather than give it back. He is considered a Cyrus the Great figure who will restore order even though not of the faith.

  20. Thanks J. Max–very interesting view regarding Trump being a fascist.
    Could you please for the rest of this enlightened group define
    what a fascist is and then outline how just how Donald Trump fits into that category.
    This may require that you do some research if you haven’t already on him and specifically what he has actually outlined as his policies.
    I hope that we can all agree here that unsubstantiated labels do not illuminate or advance us into further light. Also, Christ teaches us that it would be sinful to judge unrighteously.
    If we don’t like a candidate because of his looks or because of his demeanor
    or for any other reason that is our privilege. I was always taught that in determining any important matter that we should first through investigation come
    to our own conclusions and then through heartfelt prayer ask our Heavenly Father for a confirmation.

  21. Trump is an adulterer. Fact
    Trump curses and is vulgar. Fact
    Trump has said unkind things about Mormonism. Fact
    Trump is pompous. Fact
    Trump has threatened the First Amendment by threatening to end the Freedom of the Press. Fact
    Therefore, Trump is an enemy to the Constitution. Fact

    As for being a Fascist, here is the dictionary definition:
    “Fascism /ˈfæʃɪzəm/ is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism[1][2] that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. Influenced by national syndicalism, fascism originated in Italy during World War I, in opposition to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism. Fascism is usually placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.”
    Trump is radical, authoritarian and promotes nationalism (not patriotism). He did not ask his followers to swear to defend the Constitution or America (patriotism), but to vote for him (nationalism based on hero worship). Therefore, Trump is a fascist. Fact.

  22. Joyce. I applaud you and the principles you adhere to. I have principles too and I agree with President Benson. But here’s the problem, because people like you didn’t vote for Trump out of principle, President Hillary Clinton will then be nominating Supreme Court justices like Ruth Bader-Ginsberg as her husband did. The Supreme Court will be unchecked for two generations. You may then see our principles violated in ways we can’t imagine. I have a hope that Trump will be more sensible, regarding his nominations but I know Hillary won’t. As a fellow American I support your decision if you choose not to vote for President, but I don’t agree with your logic. God please bless America!!!

  23. Very little substance to your reply. Basic unsupported assertions and judgment. Today I watched Trump at one of his rallies relate to the people there in the spirit of love and affection for their freedom plight.
    Did you ever swear or commit other sins? Did you ask for forgiveness? I hope so . Trump has sinned and I have heard him so state and admit of his errors publicly.
    Have you provided thousands of people well paying jobs and engaged enemies
    of freedom like Trump has? Have you even read his agenda for MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN? Would you risk your life for what you believe in
    and spend your own funds?
    “Any fool can criticize and most fools do.”

  24. The chapter summary of 3 Nephi 21 is instructive. Although I believe the constitution to be inspired and a democratic republic to be a great form of government for our time, there have been other forms of inspired government in the Americas. (I’m thinking reign of judges Mosiah 29). I don’t know that our present form of government is what will necessarily carry us into the Millennium, especially if the general populace chooses evil over good.

  25. warning, don´t go to North correa, I saw a man judget 15 years in hard prison in that Place for doing nothing, he was craying, he was miserable and 21 years of old, trump is not the best on Earth to rule , but has some Points, but he is lika a kind lamb comparable to isis and communism, horror terror no thanks , i live in sweden what a joke, crazy and very sick people ruling our country, disaster, i am worried for my Children in future, some people Think that is just going to other country and do drugs, horror rape murder, womenhater, it is so sick, and people who can not see this is also sick,,this is a fact, what country do you have to escape from , yes very good, from countries islamic and communist countries, yes that is a fact and why can t there be a normal nonhater of not borned Children ruling, Obama and partiel abortion, that you can speak of and learn about, this is terror ann anmorality,

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