Responsible Unity & Personal Sovereignty

“But America must remain united.”  And so goes the knee jerk response to any declarations of state sovereignty, nullification, or independence.  Few understand that the “United States of America” was established on the foundation that people are “entitled” to separate themselves from their government when that government no longer fulfills its proper role.  So states Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

After stating the purpose and proper role of government and how Britain had violated them repeatedly Jefferson continues to lay the cause of secession:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…(W)hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Source of Governmental Power—In answering questions of sovereignty it is important to recognize the source of man’s rights as well as the source of governmental power.  No one explained this more simply than Ezra Taft Benson in The Proper Role of Government:

Since God created man with certain unalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard those rights, it follows that man is superior to the creature which he created. Man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around.

Leaving aside, for a moment, the question of the divine origin of rights, it is obvious that a government is nothing more or less than a relatively small group of citizens who have been hired, in a sense, by the rest of us to perform certain functions and discharge certain responsibilities which have been authorized. It stands to reason that the government itself has no innate power or privilege to do anything. Its only source of authority and power is from the people who have created it. This is made clear in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, which reads: “WE THE PEOPLE… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government.

The fact that “man is superior to government” and should therefore remain “master over it” seems like an anachronistic idea to some.  Surely this idea has flipped since the creation of the Constitution.  The status-quo now teaches that government is the master and that our rights are derived from it.  Those who believe in state and personal sovereignty over the federal government are not in line with the status-quo.  They are often labeled as extreme, seditious rebels causing disunity.

Benson’s question, “What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of government?” applies to state and personal sovereignty.  In the absence of government, does the power, or authority, for one party to force another party to remain under the same bands exist?  No!

Responsible Unity—An example of personal sovereignty could be illustrated by a marital contract.  Should the urge for unity supersede the right for others to separate themselves when they are being abused?  Should a woman continue an abusive marriage where the husband coerces her to abide under his drunken dominion…for the cause of unity?  Should she continue to support him and be loyal to him when he has repeatedly maxed out every credit card, betrayed her trust, broken his vows, and violated his side of the marital contract?  Common sense would require a person to answer these three questions, irrevocably—No!  How is this different in the national sense?  Since the states have entered into a contract with each other, aka the Constitution, shouldn’t either side have a right to divorce itself once the contract has been repeatedly violated?  Unity is ideal when all parties are being respected but to exalt unity at the expense of sovereignty is to rob people of their inalienable rights.  While giving his speech, Stand Up for Freedom, Ezra Taft Benson spoke of “irresponsible unity”.

Another recent development has been the call for national unity. I believe there needs to be a unity in our land. But it must not be blind, senseless, irresponsible unity. It should not be a unity just for the sake of unity. It needs to be a unity built on sound principles.

Speaking of the increasing political trend towards socialism Benson said:

If this has lead to disunity then by all means let us return to a program of sound Constitutional principles on which we can unite.

History has repeatedly taught us that our government continues to give little to no regard to uniting under Constitutional principles.  One might argue that the federal government has already seceded from the Constitution and therefore the people who wish to continue a Constitutional form of government aren’t actually advocating leaving the Republic but in restoring it.  From this perspective—who are the rebels?  Who are the law breakers?  Who are the extremists?  Who has caused disunity?

Joseph Smith recognized the importance of unity:

Unity is power; and when I reflect on the importance of it to the stability of all governments, I am astounded at the silly moves of persons and parties to foment discord in order to ride into power on the current of popular excitement. (Joseph Smith, Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States, 1844.)

But Joseph also recognized that obedience to unconstitutional laws is foolish after which he cites the 10th amendment (which specifically claims sovereignty to the states and people):

Shall we be such fools as to be governed by its laws, which are unconstitutional? No!…The Constitution acknowledges that the people have all power not reserved to itself.” (Joseph Smith, Latter-day Prophets and the United States Constitution)

Obeying, Honoring, and Sustaining the Law—Many Latter Day Saints will detest the notion of separation based on an isolated reading of their 12th Article of Faith:

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Few members are familiar with another scripture of theirs (D&C 134) which sheds light on the subject of the role and relationship of government with its people.  In the 5th verse we read:

We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected

It is apparent that latter day saints believe “all men” are to uphold their governments only IF their governments are fulfilling their duty of protecting its people’s inalienable rights.

After studying the 12th Article of Faith and D&C 98 together, Latter Day Saint Americans should believe in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law—the “Constitutional law of the land”:

And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. (D&C 98:5-7)

The idea that our national government has repeatedly overstepped its Constitutional bounds should be accepted by millions of LDS American citizens.  Every President of the Church since Joseph Smith has warned of or pointed out violations of that sacred document.  What if elected officials at the national level are no longer obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law which they have sworn an oath to do?  Based on the above principles and scriptures—are LDS citizens required to remain subject to such a long train of abuses and usurpations?

Hypocrisy and Tyranny or Liberty and Sovereignty—Many Americans, both LDS and not, have accepted a hypocritical policy of pushing for foreign states to separate themselves from their oppressive central governments (i.e.- Georgia Vs Soviet Union) but have long-since attacked the same policy when it applies at home.  ‘Independence abroad but blind-unity at home’ is the motto of the pseudo-liberty-lover.  What was once a moral principle of sovereignty, which laid the foundation of this country, has been replaced by an idea that oppression must be permissible for the sake of unity.  Only the power-driven would spread such a lie and only an unprincipled ignoramus would accept it.

We the people are sovereign.  People are, or ought to be, masters over their government.  People have the responsibility to sustain their government when the government is protecting their inalienable rights; but when governments become destructive to those ends it is their right and it is their duty to separate themselves from such oppression.

These questions apply now: is your government fulfilling its role of protecting your inherent and inalienable rights?  If not, for how much longer will this be tolerable?