Is it OK to Choose the Lesser of Two Evils? (The Parable of the Two Giants and Their Slaves)

Many of my friends are surprised when they learn that I often vote for a third candidate in a “two party race” election.  They inform me that I “threw away my vote” because there is no chance my candidate will win, and they believe it is better to choose the lesser of two evils. Hyrum Smith said:

“We engage in the election the same as in any other principle; you are to vote for good men, and if you do not do this it is a sin; to vote for wicked men, it would be sin. Choose the good and refuse the evil. Men of false principles have preyed upon us like wolves upon helpless lambs. Damn the rod of tyranny; curse it. Let every man use his liberties according to the constitution. Don’t fear man or devil; electioneer with all people, male and female, and exhort them to do the thing that is right. We want a President of the U.S., not a party President, but a President of the whole people; for a party President disfranchises the opposite party. Have a President who will maintain every man in his rights.” [History of the Church, Vol.6, Ch.15, p.323]

We have far too few political candidates that really understand the correct principles of our constitutional, representative democracy. I feel sick when I consider voting for a candidate that makes me compromise too far because they would further threaten our liberty and promote using the force of government in unjustified, immoral ways. A “third party” or independent candidate generally knows they have almost no chance of winning, but they stay in the race because by doing so they help educate the public on correct government principles. I support that! The fact that we have to choose one of two bad options tells me that we need to be much more concerned about educating the public on morality and the proper role of government.

After discussion with my friends about fundamental principles of government, they often find that they mostly agree with me on principle. Upon further consideration, however, they make the rash assumption that the candidate I voted for would make these changes overnight, and they worry about voting for them because such sudden changes might cause chaos. I explain that the candidate isn’t saying that we should change everything overnight, they’re just telling us which direction to start moving towards rather than encouraging us to keep moving in the wrong direction, no matter how fast or slow.  The candidate’s positions may appear extreme, but this is usually because they are one of the few that actually want to move us in the right direction while the others support certain forms of socialism.

These conversations have caused me to ponder about how awesome it would be if we were faced with the dilemma of choosing between the greater of two goods on Election Day. Instead of having to choose between two final candidates who are debating over which rights to chip away at, so that we can move closer to socialism without infringing upon too many rights too fast, we would get to choose between two final candidates who are debating over which rights to restore in what order, and how fast to proceed, so that we can move closer to liberty while maintaining order.

To those who are faced with the dilemma of having to choose between the lesser of two evils, I present the following:


The Parable of the Two Giants and Their Slaves

Two giants captured two human slaves and each became a master to one slave. One day both giants became hungry. While discussing how to best obtain a meal, they couldn’t decide whether it would be better to steal some neighbors’ cows, which would cause pain to their neighbors, or to just kill and eat the neighbors. Each decided to let his own slave determine his action.

The first slave realized that his master would refuse any other option, so he told his master to steal a cow, for he knew stealing was less evil than murder and didn’t want the greater evil to be chosen. The second slave refused to support any evil so he suggested a third option: to spend time hunting a wild beast and eat that. The second master mocked his slave and went and ate a neighbor.

Afterwards, the first slave just went about his master’s duties, while the second slave began to teach his master about morality as he went about his duties.

After a long while the masters became hungry again. The first master, who hadn’t progressed at all, presented his slave with the same options as before. However, the second master, who now had a basic understanding of self-reliance, asked his slave whether he should spend time hunting beasts or developing a farm which would produce both meat and produce. The second slave pondered about his master’s capabilities and what his master could reasonably do without giving in to frustration, and made his decision. He was then promoted from slave to advisor.

Moral of the story: when forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, the greater evil is to do nothing until your next choice.

“We are involved in an intense battle. It is a battle between right and wrong, between truth and error, between the design of the Almighty on the one hand and that of Lucifer on the other. For that reason, we desperately need moral men and women who stand on principle, to be involved in the political process. Otherwise, we abdicate power to those whose designs are almost entirely selfish.” [Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand a little Taller, pg. 15, July 2001]


Appendix: Interpretation of the Parable


Giants = Constitutional, representative democracies that had degenerated into immoral, direct democracies

Slaves = Us

Slaves decision on their masters’ meal = Voting booth

1st slave’s vote = He who votes for the lesser of two evils, reasoning that not voting for either may result in the worst outcome

2nd slave’s vote = He who votes for a third option, refusing to encourage any evil but realizing that in the short-term this may result in the worst outcome

1st slave just doing duties = He who is frustrated with two bad options, and zones out politics until the next election

2nd slave teaching morality = He who realizes that he must help educate society on correct government principles

A long while = Many elections passing

Later vote for 1st slave = Same perpetual moral dilemma: which is the lesser of two evils?

Later vote for 2nd slave = Better moral dilemma: which is the greater of two goods? Should the option with the most protection of rights be chosen, or do we need to proceed a little slower to make sure that we don’t run faster than we are able?

2nd slave’s promotion to advisor = When society is educated enough to put forth two principled candidates that support liberty, we will feel more like an advisor than a slave to our government system



  1. The flaw I see in your reasoning is that voting for third parties will eventually lead to having only principled candidates that support liberty to choose between at the voting booth. I see no reason to assume that educating others will automatically and without question lead to this outcome. I agree that education is a worth while endeavor but I don’t agree that this necessarily lead to only principled candidates. Individuals still have there agency and no matter how much we educate others a majority still might reject liberty. In short there is no evidence that voting for third parties will accomplish your goals.

    1. Kevin,

      You misunderstand my parable. The message is not that voting itself will lead to having a principled candidate. The message is that educating others on the principles of liberty is how we will move in this direction, and voting for a principled candidate is a way to educate as you will have opportunities to explain to others why you voted that way plus you are directly supporting an educator.

      There are areas where educating is putting principled leaders in place–a district in Texas continues to vote in Ron Paul; Kentucky has voted in Rand Paul. Although these representatives aren’t perfect, I think they for the most part want to move government the right direction. Are you familiar with the Free State Project (JC can tell you all about that). I think there are promising national trends, as some polls show Ron Paul would have a fighting chance against Obama if he was the Republican nominee. There is a growing population of libertarians and tea party members.

      I also believe that during the second coming, there will be a whole lot of education on properly understanding rights–and it will come to a point where if there was a vote, people would put in a principled candidate at a head of a nation.

  2. A further flaw in the argument is that you explicitly accept slavery and you legitimate the presumed authority of the giant (direct democracy) in contrast to the divine and absolute law of God which demands that all men are individually free and sovereign. Your parable is materialist and amoral, being concerned only with how to achieve your personal goals as opposed to living by God’s commandments. The moral course of action would be to reject slavery and resist the tyrannical giants, even if it means your death, trusting in faithful adherence to God’s commandments.

    It’s more than a little disconcerting to see a blog called “LDS Liberty” accepting (if not condoning) slavery and suggesting temporal solutions to problems of social morality more properly entrusted to Providence.

    1. “You explicitly accept slavery and you legitimate the presumed authority of the giant (direct democracy)”

      No I don’t–where do I say slavery is acceptable? If I “explicitly” say these things, show me the exact quote!

      Even though the US was built on correct principles, we have degraded closer to a “control of majority vote”. In a sense, this is the state we are currently in. Do you disagree? I don’t know anywhere you currently could move on earth (except maybe Antartica or uninhabitable desserts) where you wouldn’t be subjected (and therefore a “slave” so to speak) to a “rule of the majority” or an even worse tyranny.

      Under what current earthly government can you escape this? Seriously, let me know–I want to move there! (assuming it’s inhabitable…)

    2. @CHEVALIERDEJOHNSTONE – your logic is completely flawed. Under your logic, God also condones slavery: “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.” D&C 58:21

      You have completely missed the paradigm shift you needed to make in order to understand this parable, which, by the way, is a correct parable.

      1. There are different kinds of slavery. If you look at our situation in our country today, we are slaves to a corrupt government. I believe that’s what the author is referring to.

  3. Totally agree with your article. In essence it will be an exercise of faith. This concept (your article), has enlightened me immensely. I want to thank you so much.

  4. Another good paradigm-shifting article that our nation, especially LDS members, need. This article brought to mind a quote by Joseph Smith Jr. in my mind. He stated:

    “…we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we have acted conscientiously, and have used our best judgement. And if we have to throw away our votes, we had better do so upon a worthy rather than an unworthy individual who might make use of the weapon we put in his hand to destroy us.” (Times and Seasons, Nauvoo, IV, 441. Cited also in Roberts, Comprehensive History, II, 208-209.)

    I’d like to add that “the powers that be” in this nation, the very ones that have been slowly turning our hinges to steer this nation into a communist nation, and who have greatly succeeded in their efforts thus far, have indoctrinated four generations of Americans really well into believing that we MUST vote for one of the two parties only, and that voting for anything else is throwing away our vote, or “giving our vote to [the candidate we don’t want]”. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    What this line of thinking has caused is for four generation of Americans to vote out of fear. And that is what the majority of the 1/3 of Americans that actually vote do! What a shame! What a profound, sad shame! NEVER is out vote thrown away or wasted. Because we are not voting FOR president. We are voting as a sign to God that we are doing our duty. It’s like “raising your arm to the square”. What does it matter whether you raise it or not during your Stake Conference? Doesn’t matter at all….here on earth. No one will know, no one will care, nothing will come of it. However, it matters to God. He sees, and you WILL be held accountable for that “vote” at the Judgement Bar.

    The same is true for voting for our elected leaders. We WILL be held accountable. We are COMMANDED by God to vote for GOOD and WISE mean. Now you tell me what God considers “good and wise”? You already know, don’t you? Men of integrity, honesty, morality, who honor and uphold the Constitution and liberties of mankind, who know and revere the Founders as inspired men who wrote the God-inspired Constitution and Bill of Rights, men of the highest character. That is who we are to vote for and anything less than this comes of evil and is sin. D&C 98:10–11 says so:

    “10 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.

    11 And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.”

    Let us not forget also that then-Elder Ezra Taft Benson (who was one of the most personal-experience-politically savvy prophets) stated to a friend:

    “If you vote for the lesser of two evils you are still voting for evil and you will be judged for it. You should always vote for the best possible candidate, WHETHER THEY HAVE A CHANCE OF WINNING OR NOT, and then, EVEN IF THE WORST POSSIBLE CANDIDATE WINS, the Lord WILL BLESS our country MORE because more people were WILLING to STAND UP for what is right.”

    I happen to be friends with this gentleman who ETB said this to, and yes, he actually said it. Yes, it was stated in a private conversation – but so what? It perfectly aligns with all ETB, McKay, Clark, JFSmith, Hyrum and Joseph Smith, and many others have said, as well as what the scriptures say.

    We would be wise to listen to God’s counsel and the counsel of wise men like ETB and other prophets and NEVER vote for the lesser of two evils.

    We would be wise to do what little we can to help push our nation forward in terms of education others and our elected leaders in the Constitution, the Founders, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Our government schools and universities, even BYU and BYUI, are teaching falsehoods when it comes to these topics. They are all teaching revised and re-written history and we must not allow that to continue without offering up the real and true history. (And no, I don’t necessarily think it’s the teachers’ fault. I think they are simply the product of government schools, or what I call government robot factories, and they don’t know any better.) Until we have that paradigm shift, we will continue to be sheeple.

    I am hopeful though, because more and more people are waking up and having that paradigm shift! Just in the past 5 years I’ve seen it happen. There is yet hope!! (plz forgive any typos…I have to run and can’t read over….)

  5. My question on choosing a third party candidate in this particular election is this: How does one justify a third party vote when they have looked at the candidates and feel that voting for any of them (by ‘them’ I am referring to Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein, Johnson, Castle, AND McMullin) would be a lesser evil? Do you simply do a write-in of a complete unknown simply as a ‘protest’ vote purely for the intent of not voting for the ‘lesser evil’? I have researched each candidate INCLUDING McMullin and this, then, is what I would have to do. What purpose does that serve? When such things like the Supreme Court and Constitution are at stake, how does one even justify that?

    1. Well, it looks like my question isn’t one that will get posted so I am no longer interested in what this site has to say, given their chose topic. Thanks.

    2. Wendy, interesting question, and sorry it took a while to post. I’m not an admin, but I think your first post has to be approved (to block spam), but now it should post immediately for you unless you add a website link in the text of your post.

      Honestly, I’m quite surprised you didn’t agree at least 60-75% with one of the candidates above, as they did have a wide spectrum of positions. Makes me curious what some of your positions are, and which issues you weigh the highest. Do you think you have to agree with a candidate 95% to consider them a “good” instead of an “evil”?

      Also, hopefully you understand the difference between a good compromise and a bad one. For example, if the tax rate is 50% and you want it 0%, a good compromise is to vote for a plan that drops it to 25%. It’s a compromise because it’s not everything you want, but still a step in the right direction. A bad compromise is one that raises the rate. My point is that, even if you disagree a bit with the final end goal of a candidate, you should still consider which direction they are moving relative to where government is today.

      Assuming you’ve already taken all of this into account, and you still determine you don’t agree with any of the candidates at least half the time, I suppose my advice is to write-in or don’t vote for that specific position. I’ve had to do that for some local positions this year because of limited options (some only had 2 candidates on the ballot for me, and I disagreed with both).

      However, remember that just because you can’t find a presidential candidate you agree with half the time, you should sitll vote, as there are many other propositions and positions on the ballot, and hopefully you find a good option for at least some of those. Actually, in many ways your local elections are more important than the federal ones, beause the relative weight of your vote is higher. Your vote is 1 amongst hundreds or thousands instead of millions.

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