Thursday, April 22, 2021

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on personal political involvement

President Dallin H. Oaks (born August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also 1st Counselor in the First Presidency in January 2018.

"Our belief in divine inspiration gives Latter-day Saints a unique responsibility to uphold and defend the United States Constitution and principles of constitutionalism wherever we live. We should trust in the Lord and be positive about this nation’s future.

"What else are faithful Latter-day Saints to do? We must pray for the Lord to guide and bless all nations and their leaders. This is part of our article of faith. Being subject to presidents or rulers of course poses no obstacle to our opposing individual laws or policies. It does require that we exercise our influence civilly and peacefully within the framework of our constitutions and applicable laws. On contested issues, we should seek to moderate and unify.

"There are other duties that are part of upholding the inspired Constitution. We should learn and advocate the inspired principles of the Constitution. We should seek out and support wise and good persons who will support those principles in their public actions. We should be knowledgeable citizens who are active in making our influence felt in civic affairs....

"There are many political issues, and no party, platform, or individual candidate can satisfy all personal preferences. Each citizen must therefore decide which issues are most important to him or her at any particular time. Then members should seek inspiration on how to exercise their influence according to their individual priorities. This process will not be easy. It may require changing party support or candidate choices, even from election to election.

"Such independent actions will sometimes require voters to support candidates or political parties or platforms whose other positions they cannot approve. That is one reason we encourage our members to refrain from judging one another in political matters. We should never assert that a faithful Latter-day Saint cannot belong to a particular party or vote for a particular candidate. We teach correct principles and leave our members to choose how to prioritize and apply those principles on the issues presented from time to time."

- Dallin H. Oaks, "Defending Our Divinely Inspired Constitution," General Conference April 2021 Sunday afternoon

President Oaks is uniquely qualified to prepare and deliver this kind of discourse. His background in legal training and experience are remarkable, along with his apostolic calling. He spoke about the United States Constitution as a foundational document for countries throughout the world, and described the inspired moral principles it lays out to help define our associations and interactions.  President Oaks, in these remarks, built upon some of his previous writings (see for example "The Divinely Inspired Constitution," Ensign February 1992)

I thought President Oaks' counsel on our political opportunities and obligations was so appropriate and timely. We must be educated and aware of the Constitution's principles, and use that understanding to guide our selections and participation. It was especially gratifying to hear his counsel about our choices and involvement in politics, based on that understanding. It is impossible to have a party, or even an individual, that will fully agree with all of our priorities. We regulary have to "pick and choose" based on what we personally feel is most important. But we must never judge or criticize others who choose otherwise! We should seek inspiration on how best to use our agency and influence. Very wise counsel.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)

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