FOUNDERS’ IDEAS OF A KING
The Founders of the nation, when debating the ideas of the U.S. Constitution, used the King of England as an example of what they did not want this country to become. In Federalist #69, Alexander Hamilton explained that the president’s authority
would be nominally the same with that of the King of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which by the constitution under consideration would appertain to the Legislature.
Others echoed the same sentiment about the President’s powers. He was not to be the consolidated source of power they saw in so many other kingdoms; hence the system of checks and balances. They did not want any one person, like the King did inEngland, to have the power to jump into war with others. They specifically assigned this decision to Congress. They used the nation they just split from as a negative example of what kind of system they wanted here. James Wilson said the following when persuading the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention:
This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large: this declaration must be made with the concurrence of the House of Representatives: from this circumstance we may draw a certain conclusion that nothing but our interest can draw us into war.”
“Our interest” meant the interest of the people, not the interest of the executive, or inEngland– the King.
In this setting, Benjamin Franklin stated the introductory quote about the “natural inclination” to “kingly government.” He feared that despite the constitutional safeguards against it, it would still all end in a monarchy.
During the Civil War, General Ambrose Burnside, in command overOhio, issued General Order 38, which stated that those who declare “sympathies for the enemy” “will be tried as spies or traitors.” Clement Vallandigham was an Ohio Congressman in from 1958 to 1862. Vallandigham challenged the order, and denounced ‘King Lincoln’ for sacrificing American liberty. He was arrested, tried by a military court, and was convicted of “uttering disloyal sentiments” and attempting to hinder the prosecution of the war.
This one example of what happened to a congressman in Ohiowho criticized the sitting president proves Benjamin Franklin’s point about a monarchy in less than a hundred years. President Lincoln was seen by many to be acting like a king, rejecting the protections of the U.S. Constitution. He refused to allow the Southern States, who voluntarily joined a union that they helped create, to voluntarily leave that union. Lincolnfollowed through with what Rehoboam wanted to do when the Kingdomof Israelsplit up. And over half a million died.
The Lord’s Way
The Lord revealed the whole key to how the principles involved in the war in heaven can be implemented personally. Ultimately, His goal is to mold us and to have us choose to be like Him. Benjamin Franklin’s prophecy touched on the matter, but the Lord put this truth into its eternal context. This is what the Lord said, in Doctrine & Covenants 121:39, 41–46:
[I]t is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion …. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile …. [A]nd let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; … and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
This is how God governs, and expects His servants to govern their stewardships. Consider your ‘dominion.’ Where are you on the spectrum – persuasion or compulsion? The above scripture states that if you follow the right pattern, your dominion will flow unto you “without compulsory means.” That’s the real crux of it. One cannot be forced to be good. God can’t force someone into heaven. Men cannot be forced to be free, or take responsibility, or live well.
“We live in an age of entitlement” said Robert D. Hales, one of the current Twelve Apostles of the Church, in his special message about “Basic Principles of Welfare and Self-Reliance.” Recall those imploring Samuel for a king – they didn’t want to fight their battles any longer, but would rather have a king do it for them. Even with the warning that they would have to live under ‘big government.’ Well – they got it! And unfortunately now so do we!
So how do we implement and maximize our ability to use these principles? The answer lies in relying on God and yourself; everything else we rely on can fail. Ultimately, the only thing one can truly rely on is God and the Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ – the source of true freedom – freedom to act and freedom from sin through repentance. Once we align ourselves with God and repent, we can change our natures to utilize this tool in our life, and all else will begin to fall into place. We will naturally take responsibility for all areas of our life. We begin to apply principles of provident living: avoiding debt, saving money, storing food, planning for emergencies, getting healthier, and self-discipline in every area of our life. We expect no one else to bail us out of trouble, and naturally move out of the age of entitlement. We too, as a result, start to become like God – ruling through persuasion and love, rather than like Satan – ruling through compulsion. And the side of the spectrum we employ will ultimately determine our destination.
By utilizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ, living providently, and supporting causes that result in freedom of choice and individual responsibility, we thereby choose correctly: agency and liberty. Earthly kings are almost always antithetical to both. Only The One True King can teach and persuade His children to obey through love and the free-exercise of their agency and liberty to choose good. For such principles are vital to the plan God has for us, to choose for ourselves a God-like life, and, without compulsory means, inherit an everlasting dominion.
Image: LDS Media Library