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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Integrity -- A Czechoslovakian Challenge

An article published Thursday, September 23 in Mormon Times (Deseret News) entitled, "Church members in Czechoslovakia worked hard to survive Cold War" by Scott Taylor contains this intriguing comment:
The Communist government wrote letters to all Czech church members, citing their own 12th Article of Faith in honoring and obeying the law of the land.
"We were asked to promise to give up all religious activities," said Gad Vojkuvka, 66, a third-generation Latter-day Saint. "All church members had to sign it and return it. I believe my parents were the only ones who didn't sign it — I still have the letter at home."
The full article is well worth reading in its own right, but this is an obvious example of governing authorities trying to prohibit private religious behavior, using the Church's own teachings against it. There are scriptural examples such as Darius condemning Daniel to the lions' den for worshiping the Lord in defiance of a kingly decree (See Daniel 6) or Amulon decreeing death for any of Alma's people caught praying. (See Mosiah 24)

Vojkuvka's father organized a number of Church activities. The article states:
Sometimes members responded bravely rather than recoil in fear. Gad Vojkuvka of Brno recalled how his father, Otokar, helped organize a large-scale church conference in a local stadium, dropping promotional leaflets from an airplane. Some 1,800 attended, but the elder Vojkuvka was arrested on trumped-up charges, had his factory seized and was imprisoned in a work camp.
Vojkuvka paid a high price but he probably knew what the price would be and was prepared to risk it. He did not compromise his integrity by saying he would abandon his religious activities when he obviously had no intention of doing so. His son confirms he never signed the agreement. Obviously, others did.

I think it interesting that Vojkuvka was NOT sanctioned for NOT signing the paper. His other activities brought on his punishment. Perhaps the paper was simply a government manipulation tool. Perhaps they had no intention of really enforcing it. They wanted people to compromise themselves and then stand by the agreement they made by giving up their religious actions themselves without overt force from government sources.

D&C 58: 21 is often quoted:
21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
But, if you read the verse in context you have to wonder if it was time and land specific.
19 For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land.
20 Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, according to the counsel of his own will, or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat.
21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
22 Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.
23 Behold, the laws which ye have received from my hand are the laws of the church, and in this light ye shall hold them forth. Behold, here is wisdom.
What would Heavenly Father have us do? He has told us to obey our legitimate legal governing authority. What should we do when obeying God's commandments puts us at odds with our earthly governing entity? Daniel willingly went to the lion's den and Alma's people prayed in their minds and in their hearts.

We can retain our integrity even if we are subject to unjust laws.

I don't think we should promise to do something when we know we have no intention of keeping our promise.

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