According to a 1838 document from the Joseph Smith papers, the motto is:
The Constitution of our country formed by the Fathers of liberty. Peace and good order in society. Love to God, and good will to man. All good and wholesome laws, virtue and truth above all things, and aristarchy, live forever! But woe to tyrants, mobs, aristocracy, anarchy, and toryism, and all those who invent or seek out unrighteous and vexatious law suits, under the pretext and color of law, or office, either religious or political. Exalt the standard of Democracy! Down with that of priestcraft, and let all the people say Amen! that the blood of our fathers may not cry from the ground against us. Sacred is the memory of that blood which bought for us our liberty.
JOSEPH SMITH, JUN.,
THOMAS B. MARSH,
DAVID W. PATTEN,
SAMUEL H. SMITH,
GEORGE M. HINKLE,
GEORGE W. ROBINSON
Note 1: “aristarchy” means “government by good people.”
Note 2: I am unable to find context for this quotation. M* welcomes input from anybody who may provide insights regarding the Church’s motto.
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If I’m honest, it’s a bit of a mouthful as far as mottoes go.
It is a bit strange as a “motto.” I was thinking you were going to mention, “Mind your own business,” which is the Mormon Creed, or was.
I’m being nit-picky here a bit, but these are my initial reactions:
1. Since such a motto never shows up in the D&C, and it is never mentioned by current Church leaders I don’t think this is “the Church’s” motto.
2. It seems very country and time era dependent.
3. The Three Fold Mission of the Church or the Four Areas of Emphasis seem much more like the Church’s current “motto” to me.
4. Finally, it does not seem to be a statement about what the Church should be doing or stand for; rather it is a statement about what society at large ought to be doing.
As I say, it would be great to have some historical perspective on this.
Here speaks the true spirit of Jacksonian democracy! But what does this have to do with the Church?
For additional context, see the annotations for the motto in the “Scriptory Book” (JS’s Missouri journal) at the JSPP website: http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/journal-march-september-1838#!/paperSummary/journal-march-september-1838&p=2
Thanks David G!!!
Here are the crucial paragraphs:
“George W. Robinson, who was appointed the church’s general clerk and recorder in Ohio in September 1837, arrived in Far West on 28 March 1838, two weeks after JS, and was immediately pressed into service. Within a day or two of arriving, he began writing what would become the present journal. Robinson made his initial inscriptions in a general church record book that already included a roster of Latter-day Saints living in Caldwell County. He began writing on the first blank page following the previously inscribed roster. The journal Robinson kept for JS documents critical developments in the struggle of JS and the presidency to maintain leadership of the church and to fulfill ambitious plans for Zion in Missouri. It records their efforts to found settlements outside their headquarters and gathering center in Caldwell County during spring and summer 1838, as well as the first signs of the deterioration of that effort. The journal is primarily a documentary record. Several key developments are depicted only by documents copied into the record without narrative ligatures.
The journal entries only occasionally provide insights into intentions, perceptions, evaluations, and feelings. When they do so, Robinson’s perspective is usually represented. In the journal entries, Robinson refers to JS in the third person and to himself in the first. Thus references to “I” or “myself” in the journal entries usually indicate Robinson rather than JS.
The journal opens with a brief retrospective account, apparently dictated by JS, of his arrival in Far West on 14 March 1838. Then follows a copy of a motto recently composed by JS and signed by JS, Robinson, and a half-dozen prominent Latter-day Saints. The motto reflected JS’s experiences with dissent and persecution in Kirtland and signaled his determination to vigorously assert the Latter-day Saints’ right to establish themselves in Missouri and to pursue their goals without harassment. JS’s letter of 29 March 1838, copied on pages 23–26 of the journal, indicates that the motto was already inscribed in the journal by that date.
Following the motto are two sets of questions and answers about the book of Isaiah. A series of transcripts or summaries of eight documents follows. These materials relate to a seven-month series of events that culminated in the 12–13 April 1838 excommunications of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. As indicated by the date on the title page of the journal, 12 April 1838, Robinson apparently began transcribing these documents and entries on the same day that Cowdery was excommunicated. Cowdery’s trial seems to have been the motivating factor for transcribing this set of documents and creating an ongoing record with its own identity. These documents include minutes, instructions, and revelations originally written in Ohio as early as 3 September 1837; minutes of a conference in which Brigham Young joined Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten as “Presidents Pro. Tem” of the church in Missouri; and terse synopses of the excommunication proceedings. In stark contrast to the frank evaluations of key leaders that JS dictated for his earliest journal, the present journal’s businesslike documentary treatment yields little insight into the interpersonal dynamics of their estrangement or the impact that severing ties to former close associates had on JS. Robinson also copied a letter from a Missouri landholder offering property at De Witt, Carroll County, to JS as a strategic site for control of commerce in the region. A purchase was eventually consummated, and Latter-day Saints settled there, angering those Missourians who objected to Mormon settlement outside Caldwell County.
Following copies of brief personal revelations that JS dictated for apostles David W. Patten and Brigham Young in mid-April 1838, Robinson recorded JS’s 26 April 1838 revelation mandating the continued growth of Far West, the construction of a temple there, and the establishment of Latter-day Saint settlements in that vicinity. The revelation sanctioned the name for the church that JS and others had recently begun to use: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”
For me, the Motto of the Church is “Come Unto Christ and Be Perfected in Him”.