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living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Worship to be genuine, to be what the word implies, must be voluntary, willing, soulful homage. It is typified by actual praying as contrasted with the formality of saying one's prayers.
Worship is no matter of mere form; it consists not of posture nor gesture, neither of ritual nor of creed-any more than prayer consists of words. Under compulsion, or for the hypocritical purposes of effect, one may mechanically perform all the outward ceremonies of an established style of adoration, yet, without sincerity his effort is but a mockery of worship.
Worship, then, is a matter of conscience, and as such its observance is one of man's inalienable rights. Freedom in worship is part of the Divine birthright of the race; and, as a natural consequence, no earthly power can justly interfere therewith so long as its exercise involves no trespass upon individual or community rights.
The Latter-day Saints accept as divinely inspired the constitutional provision by which religious liberty is professedly guarded—that no law shall ever be made "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"; and we confidently believe that with the spread of enlightenment throughout the world, a similar guaranty will be established in every nation.
Religious intolerance is inconsistent with democratic government; yet this species of prejudice is manifest even amongst the most progressive nations of the age. Zeal ofttimes breeds indiscretion and injustice. It is easy for one who believes that he has the truth to become uncharitable toward those who will not or cannot see as he sees. We find simple explanation of the fact that the early followers of Christ, zealous for the new faith into which they
had been baptized, should look with disdain upon their fellows still groping in spiritual darkness. Even John, who has come to be known as the Apostle of Love, became on more than one occasion intolerant and resentful toward unbelievers. He and his brother were incensed at the Samaritans' rejection of the Lord, and would fain have called fire from heaven to consume the offenders; but this vengeful desire was met by Jesus with incisive rebuke, as thus expressed:
"Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke 9:51-56; see also Mark 9:38-41; compare John 3:17).
Intolerance is unscriptural and un-Christian. Our Lord's teachings are imbued with the spirit of forbearance and love even toward enemies and persecutors.
But let us not forget that there is a vital difference between toleration and acceptance. To assume that because I have respect for my neighbor's belief I must believe and act as he does would be to surrender my own rights. To regard all religious systems, all sects and churches, as essentially of equal worth and worthiness, is to make of religious profession a matter of mere convenience and conventionality.
I verily believe, with the full force of my soul's conviction, that there is and can be but one Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth, possessing the blessings and powers of the Holy Priesthood, with the authority to administer the ordinances requisite to salvation. Nevertheless, I can and do admit freely and without reservation the right of any man to believe that I am wrong; and I hold that neither of us is justified in assailing the other except by means of persuasion, demonstration, and testimony.
To preach the doctrines of men as the precepts of Christ, to supplant the eternal principles of the Gospel by the dogmas of human conception, is to commit grievous sin and incur fearful culpability. Christ and His apostles gave solemn and repeated warning against the heresies of false teachers. Thus wrote Paul to the Galatians:
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:8-9).
Some have thought to find in this and cognate Scriptures an excuse for intolerance, and even for persecution. But is it otherwise than consistent with justice and reason to hold that any man who preaches his own doctrines or those of other men under the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ stands convicted of blasphemy, and deserving of the curse of God? The Apostle cited above left no doubt as to the genuineness of the Gospel he so vigorously defended, as witness the following:
"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Each of us may accept or reject the message of eternal life, the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and by all reason and consistency each shall garner the fruitage of his choice.
Should We Submit to It?
E believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. (Articles of Faith, 12).
Religion is essentially a matter of every-day life. It has as much to do with the adjustment of the individual to his material environment as with his abstract belief in matters spiritual. A man's religion should be a concrete demonstration of his conceptions concerning God and the Divine purposes respecting himself and his fellows. Anything less lacks both the form of godliness and the power thereof.
The Master associated love for God with love for fellowman; and surely love comprises duty, and duty means effort and action. See Matt. 22:35-40. A very large part of the course of education provided in the school of mortality is attained through association with our kind and the righteous observance of duty in community life. We are not here to be recluses nor to hold ourselves aloof from public service, but to live in a state of mutual helpfulness and effective cooperation.
It is a fundamental necessity that laws shall be established among men for general governance; and obedience to law is the obvious duty of every member of organized society. Violation of the law, therefore, is not only a secular offense but a transgression of the principles of true religion. This world would be a happier one if men carried more religion into their daily affairs-into business,
politics, and statesmanship. Mark you, I say religion, not church. Under existing conditions it is imperative that State and Church be kept separate; and this segregation must be maintained until the inauguration of Christ's personal reign.
Loyal citizenship is at once a characteristic and a test of a man's religion; and as to the incumbent duties of citizenship, the voice of the people, as expressed through the established channels of government, must determine.
Obedience to secular authority is enjoined by Scripture; and the Lord Christ exemplified the principle in His own life, even to the extent of meeting a demand that could have been legally challenged. When the tax collector called for tribute money, the following instructive colloquy occurred between Jesus and Peter: "What thinkest thou, Simon, of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee." (Matt. 17:25-27. For a discussion of this incident and lessons associated therewith see the writer's work "Jesus the Christ").
On another occasion a treacherous snare was laid to make Christ appear as an offender against the Roman power. Certain wicked Pharisees sought to entangle Him by the question: "What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" The Lord's reply was a telling lesson in the matter of submission to the law. "Shew me the tribute money," said He, "And they brought unto Him a penny. And He saith unto them, Whose is