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Principles of Ethical Government

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MWEG’s Principles of Ethical Government are organized around three basic concepts:

  1. the government’s duty to adhere to the rule of law; 
  2. the human and civil rights of all people; and 
  3. the civic duties and mutual accountability of people one toward another.

Rule of Law

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(1) Every government official and institution has a duty to respect the rule of law, including accepted processes for how the law is to be established, executed, and interpreted (see Mosiah 29:25, 28-29).

(a) People in positions of power should not lightly violate or discard long-standing political norms, especially norms that serve to limit the abuse of power (see D&C 121:39).
(b) Government officials and institutions should be honest and transparent, insofar as possible without harming national security and individual rights (see D&C 123:13Alma 37:25).
(c) Elected and appointed officials and government employees alike must eschew conflicts of interest and avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest in fidelity to the public trust. Appointees to specialized government roles should be well-qualified to serve in those roles (see Mosiah 29:35-36 and D&C 134:3).
(d) A free press is essential to ensuring governmental transparency and accountability. Government officials have a special duty to respect the independence of journalistic organizations (see Luke 12:2-3).
(e) Government institutions and political norms that promote deliberation, reduce polarization, and stimulate compromise among competing perspectives should be safeguarded and, where lacking, adopted (see 3 Nephi 7:1-6 and 4 Nephi 1:15-17).
(f) Governments have an ethical obligation to abide by international agreements and honor their nation’s treaty commitments (see Numbers 30:2).
(g) Nations must observe domestic and international law governing both the initiation and conduct of war, using war only as a last resort and for defensive purposes (see D&C 98:23-32Alma 48:14, and Mormon 4:4).

 

Rights

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(2) Every human being is endowed with rights that governments are obligated to protect and not violate. These include both universal human rights such as the rights to life and liberty, as well as civil rights such as the rights to equitable political representation and equal protection under the law (see D&C 134:1-2). 

(a) Political structures and electoral systems should be designed to maximize participation of and provide equitable access to all citizens in a society (see Mosiah 29:32).
(b) Special care should be taken to protect the rights of the minority from undue infringement by the majority (see Exodus 23:2 and Proverbs 31:8-9).
(c) All people are entitled to equal protection and due process under the law and to be free from arbitrary deprivation of their life, liberty, property, and privacy. Criminal justice and national security institutions must be designed in ways that preserve and uphold those rights for all people equally (see D&C 101:77).
(d) Freedom of conscience, religion, speech, and assembly are among the most inalienable of rights. In order to protect these rights for all people, governments should not favor or discriminate against people on the basis of their identity or beliefs (see D&C 134:4, 7, 9 and Alma 30:11).
(e) The family is the fundamental group unit of society and also has the right to respect and protection under the law [1].
(f) Governments and members of society have an obligation to exercise responsible stewardship of the earth, thereby protecting not only the wellbeing of their citizens, but also that of both future generations and other citizens of the planet (see D&C 59:18-21 and D&C 104:13-15) [2].
(g) War inherently involves the destruction of life, and suffering in war disproportionately afflicts the most vulnerable, including women and children. Disputes among and within nations should be resolved peacefully through diplomacy and negotiation (see D&C 98:16) [3].

 

Responsibilities

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(3) All human beings are mutually accountable to their fellow human beings in their local communities, their countries, and the world (see Matthew 22:37-40).

(a) All individuals have a duty to educate themselves about the actions of government officials and current events in the world, taking care to ascertain facts from reliable sources of information (see D&C 88:78-81, 118).
(b) Citizens have a duty to participate in representative government by casting an informed vote and seeking to engage with elected officials. As circumstances permit, they should consider participating in electoral politics as volunteers, candidates, or elected officials (see D&C 58:27) [4].
(c) Healthy societies depend upon citizens engaging with their fellow citizens in good faith in civil discourse on public affairs, without resorting to vitriol and with a commitment to fairly understanding one another’s perspectives (see Philippians 2:3-4).
(d) People have moral responsibilities to provide succor and relief to their fellow human beings fleeing war, violence, persecution, and natural disasters, regardless of their race, nationality, or religion (see Leviticus 19:33-34Matthew 25:31-40, and Alma 27:21-24).
(e) Economic and social inequity damages the moral fabric of societies and weakens democratic governments. People should act freely to implement measures that promote equality of opportunity for their fellow human beings (see Alma 4:12-133 Nephi 6:9-16; and D&C 49:20).
(f) All people have a duty to obey the law (see D&C 134:6 and Article of Faith 12). This duty does not, however, preclude the possibility of peaceful protest against and civil disobedience to unjust laws (see Exodus 1:15-17).
(g) When laws are unjust—especially when they violate the human and civil rights of vulnerable or marginalized groups—all citizens have an obligation to work toward reformation of those laws, whether or not they are directly harmed by those unjust laws (see Alma 30:7).

[1]  See The Family: A Proclamation to the World, First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”
[2] See “Environmental Stewardship and Conservation,” Gospel Topic essay, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
[3] See Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” address in the October 2002 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
[4]  See First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Letter on “Political Participation, Voting, and the Political Neutrality of the Church,” October 5, 2016; President M. Russell Ballard, “Precious Gifts from God,” address in the April 2018 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

MWEG Members and Friends of MWEG receive access to additional materials that dive deeper into these principles.

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