A few weeks ago I became aware of Elder Oaks speech to the Second Annual Sacramento Court/Clergy Conference in Sacramento, California on October 20, 2015. I was baffled by his talk; I was so surprised that a proclaimed Apostle of Lord would take such a stance. The address seems to be a direct response to Kentucky Clerk Kim Davies who denied a marriage license for a same Sex couple. In the speech he says:
“I speak first to my fellow believers—those advocating the maximum free exercise of religion. I begin with the reminder that for believers there are two different systems of law: divine and civil. While all believers revere divine law, most also acknowledge that civil law is also ordained of God. The Lord Jesus Christ directed, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). So taught, we must, to the extent possible, obey both systems of law. When there are apparent conflicts, we must seek to harmonize them. When they are truly irreconcilable, we should join with others of like mind in striving to change the civil law to accommodate the divine. In all events, we must be very measured before ever deciding—in the rarest of circumstances—to disregard one in favor of the other. (Italics and emphasis Added)
The idea that civil law (especially America’s) is ordained of God is outrageous where abortion and gay marriage are legal. Never the less, I digress, that is for a post a different day. We will talk about Mathew 22:21 in just a bit, but let’s continue to see what else Elder Oaks said.
“In that context, I say to my fellow believers that we should not assert the free exercise of religion to override every law and government action that could possibly be interpreted to infringe on institutional or personal religious freedom. As I have often said, the free exercise of religion obviously involves both the right to choose religious beliefs and affiliations and the right to exercise or practice those beliefs. But in a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs, the right of some to act upon their religious principles must be circumscribed by the government’s responsibility to protect the health and safety of all. Otherwise, for example, the government could not protect its citizens’ person or property from neighbors whose intentions include taking human life or stealing in circumstances purportedly rationalized by their religious beliefs.” (Italics Added)
This sounds reasonable, but we will shortly see the error in this.
“Office holders remain free to draw upon their personal beliefs and motivations and advocate their positions in the public square. But when acting as public officials they are not free to apply personal convictions—religious or other—in place of the defined responsibilities of their public offices. All government officers should exercise their civil authority according to the principles and within the limits of civil government. A county clerk’s recent invoking of religious reasons to justify refusal by her office and staff to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates this principle. Far more significant violations of the rule of law and democratic self-government occur when governors or attorneys general refuse to enforce or defend a law they oppose on personal grounds—secular or religious” (Italics Added)
When I read this talk, I was deeply saddened. Elder Oaks has essentially cast a shadow on the age-old question; should you follow man or God? The answer is easy enough, GOD…right? Well apparently not, Elder Oaks in this speech is making it clear that we should withhold our religious beliefs, in order to conform to the laws and rules of man. I COULD NOT DISAGREE MORE. From a very worldly perspective, I get it. But this is not what God would have us do, let me prove it in the scriptures. But first we must address the scripture Elder Oaks used.
Mathew 22:21: “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way.”
It is true we should render unto Ceasar that which is his, but what is his? Every law, in order to be enforceable brings with it a consequence. THAT IS WHAT BELONGS TO CEASER. The Punishment, the tax, the jail time, the fine, the penalty, that is Ceaser’s. We owe complete fidelity to God and his laws. If Man’s laws contradict God’s Laws, we must render to Ceaser that which is his, even unto the giving of our jobs, our money or even our lives. But all this will be counted to us as good. How do I know this, well of course God’s Holy words. Let’s first turn to Acts chapter 5:27-32, 40-42.
To give some context, Peter and the Apostles are going throughout Jerusalem teaching the doctrine of Christ. They have been told by the High Priest explicitly not to do this. They continue to disobey the law of man and preach. They are then brought before the council again. The following is the account:
“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him… and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Acts 5:27-32, 40-42 (Italics and emphasis added)
Here the account is very clear, WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THEN MEN. So what about this render to Ceaser business. Notice here, in the account they did render to Ceaser that which was his. They subjected themselves to the council peacefully. Additionally they we beaten for their doings. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. They rendered to Ceaser (man) themselves, because they followed God not man.
If this isn’t enough, we have more. You may recall one of the most famous stories of all time, Daniel and the Lions den. Daniel was subjected to a law that no one should pray. Daniel would not comply, and prayed. What did he render to Ceaser (King Darius), subjection to the consequence. He was cast into the Lions den. But because he followed God’s law, the mouths of Lions were shut.
If this isn’t enough there is more. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused to follow man’s law and bow to a false God. For these, they rendered to Ceaser (King Nebuchadnezzar) that which was his. Suffering the consequence of the law, they were cast into the fire. You know the story, they were protected.
There is much more. I am sure a sincere study of the Bible and Book of Mormon would reveal two truths. Yes, we do subject ourselves to governments, and seek to obey their laws. However, we obey God’s laws at all costs. Should Man’s Law and God’s Law contradict each other, so be it, we shall render to Ceaser that which is his. We shall stand firm; stand tall; arms raised praising our God as we accept any beating given to us by Ceaser. We shall add our voice to the TRUE Apostles of Christ, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
I dream of a day when Kim Davis can refuse to issue a marriage certificate to a same sex couple, because God hath not ordained marriage as such, willing to give unto Ceaser what it would demand for such a action, her job. Then when her supervisor is called upon to fire her, he will say: “I will do no such thing” submitting himself to Ceaser as well. Then when the police officer is called to remove them, he will say: “I will do no such thing” submitting himself to Ceaser as well. Then the Police chief, when told to fire the officer, will say: “I will do no such thing”. Soon the wave of righteous, God-fearing people will bear testimony of Him and His truth. For with God nothing is impossible.