The twelfth article of faith declares, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12). On its face, this statement seems to be an unqualified acceptance of legal authority, one that would suggest that Latter-day Saints ought to shun civil disobedience. However, a closer look at Restoration scripture, teachings, and experience reveals a more complicated picture. To be sure, law-abidingness has long been central to the Saints’ identity, particularly in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and like the New Testament, Restoration scripture generally accepts the need to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17) and affirms the legitimacy of the “powers that be” (Rom. 13:1). However, there has never been a clear consensus among Latter-day Saint authorities on the precise extent to which the Saints owe deference to secular law. From the beginning, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have insisted that there are limits on the duty of obedience that Latter-day Saints owe to Caesar.

This abstract has been adapted from the author's introduction.

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60 BYU Studies Quarterly, no. 3, at 229-240 (2021)


Written for the Special Issue Yet To Be Revealed: Open Questions in Latter-day Saint Theology (Eric A. Eliason and Terryl L. Givens, eds.).