This has been a very interesting election, for all of us I’d imagine. We can safely say that one theme of this election has been: "Must we vote for ‘the lesser of two evils’?" Most say "Yes, in order to prevent the worse of the two evils from gaining an office of immeasurable power", and some simply say "Never".
This morning while mowing the lawn, instead of considering the candidates and the issues, I considered how people on either side of this theme have presented their arguments. Many people I’ve spoken with have expressed their confidence that they could gladly give an accounting of their vote to God at His judgment bar. That general statement has been on my mind a lot, and I have some feelings I’d like to share on what a comment like that means to me.
Accountability to God
First of all, I do believe we will give an accounting of whether and how we used our vote. Very few people in the history of the world have ever had the opportunity to elect their own leaders, and even now, many people in the world are not free. Click here to view an interactive map of the "free", "partly free", "not free", and "worse of the worst" countries in the world in 2015 (research contribution by Freedom House). In fact, the number of countries experiencing an increase in freedom has significantly decreased in the past 10 years. In other words, the world is not becoming "more free".
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declare the following:
We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
The lds.org topic "Citizenship" gives a great overview of how members of this church feel about our duties as citizens. I also recommend the book "Many Are Called but Few Are Chosen" by H. Verlan Andersen, the absolute best book I’ve found on eternal accountability in voting and citizenship.
The opportunity to vote is a sacred stewardship. It’s sacred because our actions affect the freedoms and agency of others, which "must be guarded continually as something more precious than life itself" (Ezra Taft Benson, "Paramount Issue Today", 13, www.latterdayconservative.com). So yes, I do also believe we will be held accountable. I’ll create another post in the future to dive further into this subject.
Confidence as a Poor Yardstick
Now, to bring us to the point that occurred to me while I was landscaping this morning….
The test of a good citizenship is not how good you feel about your decision or how confident you are, it is about if your actions are in line with God’s will. Good citizenship is about the "right–ness" or righteousness of the decision. Confidence will usually be a by-product of righteous decisions, but confidence is not an accurate yardstick of wisdom. I believe there are many who are confident in ignorance, and in some cases, corruption. That is ultimately what the founding fathers feared most about democracies. People would vote with conviction and confidence to their own detriment. John Adams wisely said:
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
(Letter from John Adams to John Taylor, 17 December, 1814, web link)
Confidence is a strange thing. People can be captivated, even convinced, by a speaker who argues with confidence. Among some audiences, confidence is even more convincing than substance, reason, or logic. But confidence is only helpful when the foundational principles and primary assumptions of an argument are correct, and when a correct conclusion has been drawn. In these instances, confidence helps propel the message past critics into the hearts of the seekers of truth.
My point, in summary, is that just because you feel confident enough to stand before God and defend your vote, that doesn’t make you justified or correct in your ultimate decision.