[This essay is not yet finished, but it will likely be an ongoing project for many more weeks. Enjoy what is available so far!]


I’m writing this article in an attempt to clear up a prominent misunderstanding regarding the kingdom of God seen in dream by King Nebuchadnezzar and in vision by the young prophet Daniel (see Daniel 2).  Verses 44 and 45 report:

44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

It seems that the interpretation of this dream is falsely interpreted by a vast majority of the members of my Church. A correct understanding of this dream really matters because it affects how we prepare for the return of Jesus Christ and his Millennium of peace. I will use scriptures and statements made by church authorities to illuminate the truth of this "kingdom of God."

The Church and Kingdom of God

Here is a statement made by a prophet that generally represents how we [most members of the LDS church] talk about the kingdom of God. Joseph Fielding Smith said:

We announce that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on earth, the only place where men may come to learn the true doctrines of salvation and find the authority of the holy priesthood.

(President Joseph Fielding Smith, "Out of the Darkness," General Conference, April 3, 1971)

I believe this and other similar statements are calling attention to the priesthood authority that the LDS Church has which sets it apart from other churches, placing emphasis on the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and are not intended to be formal interpretations of the scripture in Daniel. To date, I have found no statements by church authorities that repeal the distinction between the spiritual and political kingdoms articulated by Joseph Smith and others.  Here is a revealing statement made by Joseph Smith during one of the Council of Fifty meetings in 1844:

There is a distinction between the Church of God and the kingdom of God. The laws of the kingdom are not designed to effect our salvation hereafter. It is an entire, distinct and separate government. The church is a spiritual matter and a spiritual kingdom; but the kingdom which Daniel saw was not a spiritual kingdom, but was designed to be got up for the safety and salvation of the saints by protecting them in their religious rights and worship. Any thing that would tolerate man in the worship of his God under his own vine and fig-tree would be tolerated of God. The literal kingdom of God, and the church of God are two distinct things. The gifts of prophets, evangelists &c never were designed to govern men in civil matters. The kingdom of God has nothing to do with giving commandments to damn a man spiritually. It only has power to make a man amenable to his fellow man. God gave commandments that if a man killed &c he should be killed himself, but it did not damn him.

(Joseph Smith Papers: Council of Fifty Minutes, pages 128-129)

This quote was extracted from one of the most recent volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers–The Council of Fifty Minutes (I’ll discuss the Council of Fifty later in this article). Throughout the volume it is made clear that there is an institutional distinction between the Church of God as a spiritual kingdom and the kingdom of God as a political system that is designed to protect the freedoms of all mankind, particularly those freedoms religious in nature. Here is another statement from the Council of Fifty Minutes:

The final organization created under Joseph Smith’s direction was the Council of Fifty, a group chaired by Joseph Smith with the purpose of laying the foundation for a theocracy in preparation for the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. This "literal kingdom of God" would "govern men in civil matters," making it distinct from the church.

(Joseph Smith Papers: Council of Fifty Minutes Series Introduction, page xx)

I will also address the concept of millennial theocracy later in this article. In case the distinction has not been made clearly enough, I’ll provide additional quotes here and throughout the article. The Joseph Smith Papers website explains:

The Council of Fifty was intended to establish the political kingdom of God on earth and to protect the Latter-day Saints in their religious rights and worship.

The Council of Fifty, a temporal or political body, was distinguished from the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other quorums and councils, the purpose of which was to administer the ecclesiastical affairs of the Church.

Let’s review Daniel 2:44-45 again:

44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

Although we talk about the Church being the kingdom of God, it’s readily apparent that the Church doesn’t break in pieces and replace other nations. The purpose of the church is not to consume worldly governments. This political system or kingdom will roll forth "without hands," as opposed to the Church in which all callings are made and authority is transferred through the laying on of hands. "Without hands" means that this work of freedom is accomplished by both men and women, inside and outside the church. With reference to the Council of Fifty, the Joseph Smith Papers website explains:

Three men who were not members of the Church were included “to make the point that in political matters, a man’s religion should not come into play,” said Brother Grow, one of the editors of the new Joseph Smith Papers volume, which is entitled Administrative Records, Council of Fifty Minutes, March 1844–January 1846.

George Q. Cannon explained:

It was to the effect that men might be chosen to officiate as members of the Kingdom of God [in its political department] who had no standing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Kingdom of God when established will not be for the protection of the Church of Jesus Christ alone, but for the protection of all men, whatever their religious views or opinions may be.

 

The Joseph Smith Papers further explains:

Joseph Smith invited three men who were not church members to join the council in order "to show that in the organization of this kingdom men are not consulted as to their religious opinions or notions in any shape or form whatever and that we act upon the broad and liberal principle that all men have equal rights, and ought to be respected." He wanted the council to throw off "every spirit of bigotry and intollerance towards a mans religious sentiments, that spirit which has drenched the earth with blood."

(Joseph Smith Papers: Council of Fifty Minutes, pages xxxvi-xxxvii, also page 92)

I need to wait a little longer to explain the purpose of the Council of Fifty. The explanation won’t make sense until we review the concept of millennial theocracy.

True Theocracy

I often hear of people speaking of millennial government as a holy monarchy. They often promote the concept of righteous kingdoms, referencing Mosiah 29:13 to support their belief that a government centralized around a righteous person is the best form of government. King Mosiah expressed:

Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.

Note the word "expedient." Websters 1828 dictionary provides this definition:

tending to promote the object proposed; fit or suitable for the purpose; proper under the circumstances

I would contend that under the law of Moses, in an era where the people had to be told everything they should do and have things explicitly spelt out in nearly every matter, yes–a righteous king would be the ideal. But in an era of pre-millennial saints striving to live the higher law of self-government, this form of government would be a handicap, a safe and comfortable alternative to the risky freedoms associated with moral self-discipline and popular sovereignty.

I find the following definition from the Cambridge dictionary insightful:

expedient (adj.): helpful or useful in a particular situation, but sometimes not morally acceptable:

So what is the best form of government? Brigham Young provided a very helpful description of the true form of theocracy:

But few, if any, understand what theocratic government is. In every sense of the word, it is a republican government, and differs but little in form from our National, State, and Territorial Governments; but its subjects will recognize the will and dictation of the Almighty. The Kingdom of God circumscribes and comprehends the municipal laws for the people in their outward government, to which pertain the Gospel covenants, by which the people can be saved; and those covenants pertain to fellowship and faithfulness.

….

The Gospel covenants are for those who believe and obey; municipal laws are for both Saint and sinner.

The Constitution and laws of the United States resemble a theocracy more closely than any government now on the earth, or that ever has been so far as we know, except the government of the Children of Israel to the time when they elected a king.

 

Brigham Young offered another insight about millennial theocracy:

I believe in a true republican theocracy, and also in a true democratic theocracy, as the term democratic is now used; for they are to me, in their present use, convertible terms.

What do I understand by a theocratic government? One in which all laws are enacted and executed in righteousness, and whose officers possess that power which proceedeth from the Almighty. That is the kind of government I allude to when I speak of a theocratic government, or the Kingdom of God upon the earth.

 

I will address the relationship between priesthood holders and this government later in this article. The Joseph Smith Papers emphasizes the freedoms members of the kingdom of God will experience:

As "an advocate of unadulterated freedom," Smith argued that a theodemocracy would protect liberty and freedom "for the benefit of ALL."

Council members reiterated that a system that blended theocracy with democracy would protect rights of minority groups, allow for dissent and free discussion, involve both Latter-day Saints and others, and increase righteousness in preparation for Jesus Christ’s second coming. Sidney Rigdon stated, "The design was to form a Theocracy according to the will of Heaven, planted without any intention to interfere with any government of the world. . . . You need not fear that we design to trample on the rights of any man or set of men, only to seek the enjoyment of our own rights." . . . . "Theocracy as [Joseph Smith] understands it is, for the people to get the voice of God and the acknowledge it, and see it executed."

 

John Taylor expounded on the relationship between the agency and sovereignty of the people and the will of God:

The proper mode of government is this–God first speaks, and then the people have their action. It is for them to say whether they will have this dictation or not. They are free: they are independent under God. The Government of God is not a species of priestcraft … where one man dictates and everybody obeys without having a voice in it. We have our voices and agency, and act with the most perfect freedom…. We believe that no man or set of men, of their own wisdom and by their talents, are capable of governing the human family aright.

 

One of my favorite passages of scripture pertaining to God’s preferred form of government is 1 Samuel 8. In this chapter, the people are practicing free government (originally instituted by Moses at the recommendation of Jethro in Exodus 18). The elders of the people approach the prophet Samuel to demand a king.

1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba.

3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,

5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

It seems the people are frustrated with their free government that has become corrupted and they seek to have the prophet choose a righteous king for them. It might appear this is exactly what Mosiah wold have recommended, right? Read on:

6 ¶ But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.

7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

Verse 7 is incredibly important because it teaches us that Christ reigns when the people are free and the people use their agency to adopt laws and policies that are aligned with His will. In a recent conversation with my friend Jeff Hymas, he articulately referred to this form of government as a "decentralized theocracy." In his publication Common Sense, Thomas Paine notes that there is a grave danger in having kings. Even if a nation has a good king to start with, subsequent kings may not have the same virtue. It’s dangerous for a person to grow up expecting to receive control over a kingdom. It establishes the belief that they deserve it regardless of their preparations or behavior. It fosters the belief in a "divine right of kings." Read the Book of Ether for an excellent history of a nation that experienced the horrible, shifting political tides under righteous and unrighteous kings.

In 2 Nephi 10:11-14, God made it clear that He intended to be a king over the free people in America:

11 And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.

12 And I will fortify this land against all other nations.

13 And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.

14 For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words.

God’s preferred form of government is self-government established by constitutional provisions. He desired that America become a theocracy, a nation of free people who elect virtuous leaders who pledge their oath of office to their Creator, leaders who recognize that unalienable rights come from God and not merely a social contract and consider themselves accountable to Him for their conduct. Institutionally, theocracy is identical to the government we have in the United States today. The difference is where we place our accountability. Unfortunately we currently direct all of our political accountability horizontally towards other members of society rather than vertically up to God.

God has made it very clear that this republican theocracy under a constitution is His preferred form of government. The United States was to be God’s pattern for all governments. Let me just review some scriptures and statements made by church authorities that make this point clear and unmistakable.

D&C 98:4-8

4 And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.

5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.

8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.

D&C 101:77-80

77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

Joseph Smith:

Hence we say, that the Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner; it is to all those who are privileged with the sweets of its liberty, like the cooling shades and refreshing waters of a great rock in a thirsty and weary land. It is like a great tree under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of the sun…. We say that God is true; that the Constitution of the United States is true….

(History of the Church, 3:304)

It’s significant to me that Joseph Smith said the Constitution is "true" in the same manner that God is "true."

Statements by Brigham Young:

our national organization originated in the heavens.

(April 18, 1852, Messages of the First Presidency, 2:98)

To accuse us of being unfriendly to the Government, is to accuse us of hostility to our religion, for no item of inspiration is held more sacred with us than the Constitution under which she acts.

(February 18, 1855, Journal of Discourses, 2:175)

[The Constitution] is the best earthly Government that ever was framed by man, and the true and righteous are alone worthy of it. It cannot long be administered by wicked hands.

(August 31, 1862, Journal of Discourses, 9:368)

I want to say to every man, the Constitution of the United States, as formed by our fathers, was dictated, was revealed, was put into their hearts by the Almighty, who sits enthroned in the midst of the heavens; although unknown to them, it was dictated by the revelations of Jesus Christ, and I tell you in the name of Jesus Christ, it is as good as I could ask for.

(as quoted in "The Prophets on the Christ," December 26, 1908, Liahona: The Elders’ Journal, 678)

Orson Pratt

Many great and glorious principles are contained within the constitution of our country. We do not say that it is perfect, but it is perfect so far as it pertains to the rights and privileges of the children of men. But there is a nucleus of a government, formed since that of the United States, which is perfect in its nature, having emanated from a Being who is perfect.

(Orson Pratt quoted in The Progress of Man All)

I agree with Orson that we have the nucleus of a perfect government. We have some refining and fine tuning to do. We have a lot of restoration work to do and we must make alterations and amendments that "improve and perpetuate" the principles of the Constitution.

John Taylor

The very genius of our Constitution and institutions is freedom. If there is fault, it is the fault of party, sectional strife, or narrow bigotry; it is not in our institutions.

(John Taylor Papers, 1:195)

We have no fault to find with our government. We deem it the best in the world. But we have reason to deplore its maladministration, and I call upon our legislators, our governors and president to pause in their careers and not to tamper with the rights and liberties of American citizens, nor wantonly tear down the bulwarks of American and human liberty. God has given to us glorious institutions. Let us preserve them intact and not pander to the vices, passions, and fanaticism of a depraved public opinion.

(John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 23:65-66. April 9, 1882.)

There are many more quotes I wish to eventually share that emphasize the preference God has placed on the Constitution of the United States.

God has both perfect freedom and perfect restraint. It is His desire to teach us this self-discipline so that we can eventually live as He lives where external government and all forms of coercion are wholly unnecessary. Constitutional self-government provides a political system where these lessons can be learned. One of the ingenious features of the Constitution is its ability to strengthen or reduce the influence of the government in our daily lives according to the discipline and morality of the people.

This leads us now to a brief review of the Council of Fifty.

Council of Fifty

In the same way the United Order was an attempt to establish communities based on the Law of Consecration, the Council of Fifty was an attempt to establish the advisory council of the millennial kingdom of God. The Joseph Smith Papers explains:

Joseph Smith and others in the council emphasized that leaders in the kingdom of God would govern by fostering free discussion, by respecting the people, and by serving as a conduit for revelation and God’s law.

(Joseph Smith Papers: Council of Fifty Minutes, pages xxxvi-xxxvii, also page 92)

During the Millennium, the council will be a conduit or channel through which the political will of God will be made known to the nations of the earth. Although it was and will be presided over by the president of the LDS Church, the kingdom is institutionally separate from the offices of the Church.

The New Testament also speaks of this political kingdom. The Bible Dictionary provides an interpretation on Revelation 12:

The woman is the Church; the man child is the political kingdom of God growing out of the Church.

This multi-denominational body of Constitutional scholars who will advise the nations of the world on the practice of constitutional self-government will be led by priesthood leaders from the LDS church, since it will be leaders of the LDS church who initiate the formation of this council.

(This organization has been misunderstood from day 1 and was a major source of conflict between the early saints and those in Missouri. Many believed the LDS church was trying to create a brand new government that would overthrow the United States and the world, and this bred a lot of hostility among the mobs that would eventually murder Joseph Smith and drive out the saints. Unfortunately, some of the personal beliefs of members fueled this false interpretation and the hostility surrounding the notion of the kingdom of God.)

The Role of Priesthood Holders

Many outside the church would justly wonder why members of the LDS church should have any special position in the kingdom of God. The Church News explained:

Most people in this nation do not understand the origin and destiny of the United States as the Latter-day Saints do… How wonderful it would be if all Americans viewed the marvelous country in which we live in the same light as the Latter-day Saints….

The Lord created the United States for a specific purpose. He provided freedom of speech, press, assembly and worship….

Here He had determined to restore the gospel. From here it would be taken abroad. From here, during the Millennium, Christ will govern the world.

(“Preserving Our Loyalties,” November 6, 1982, p. 16)

The Book of Mormon and revelations to modern prophets, apostles, and patriarchs have given members of the LDS church an unparalleled perspective on the destiny of the United States and the role of freedom in God’s plan for us. Various revelations and passages, such as D&C 121:34-46, provide priesthood holders special insight on how to practice leadership without coercion and how to respect and promote self-government from doctrinal perspectives. Members of the LDS Church believe that they can actually be damned for infringing on the rights and agency of others. They believe that Lucifer became the devil when he attempted to compel others to live without agency, or freedom.

Members of the church rally around the Constitution, not just because of patriotism, but because of a doctrinal conviction that the Lord provided us our Constitution through inspired men. George Q. Cannon said:

This church could not have been organized in any other land, or under any other form of government. Therefore, we love this land, we love this government, and we love the Constitution and the institutions of the land. We believe in the Constitution more than any other people, because we know it has been inspired of the Lord.

(April 1897, General Conference)

Priesthood holders will never assert themselves as some kind of heirs to political power and influence. However, we do anticipate a day when those priesthood holders who truly understand the Constitution and are committed to maintaining the freedoms it espouses will be overwhelmingly elected and supported by the people. They will be men the world can trust to preserve our God-given unalienable rights.

The Gospel of Freedom

We learn from the scriptures that although there is an institutional distinction between the Church and kingdom of God, the same Spirit permeates both. 2 Corinthians 3 teaches:

17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Additionally, Alma 61:15 teaches:

according to the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom …

This section will demonstrate how the success of the political system makes the growth of the spiritual kingdom possible.

D&C 109:72-73

72 Remember all thy church, O Lord, with all their families, and all their immediate connections, with all their sick and afflicted ones, with all the poor and meek of the earth; that the kingdom, which thou hast set up without hands, may become a great mountain and fill the whole earth;

73 That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners;

D&C 65:2, 6

2 The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.

6 Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth, that thine enemies may be subdued; for thine is the honor, power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.

These revelations compare the Church to the kingdom of God, explaining that the gospel/Church will roll forth "as" or ‘in a similar manner as’ the kingdom of God rolls forth. Rather than defining the church as the kingdom of God, this passage compares the success of the two and emphasizes their relationship. It demonstrates the fact that the gospel of freedom precedes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As freedom fills the earth it paves the way for missionary work. The United States provided the first possible opportunity for the restoration of the gospel and as freedom has expanded, the knowledge of the Gospel has growth with it.

The Joseph Smith Papers volume expounds upon this D&C revelation, explaining that the political kingdom must be established before Christ’s Second Coming, contrary to the beliefs of many who assume Christ is going to institute a new form of government upon His arrival (Joseph Smith Papers: Council of Fifty Minutes, page xxviii).

In the early days of the church, patriarchs presided over the whole church and not just a particular stake. These patriarchs were sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators and when they received a vision it was expected that they would record the vision and submit it to the church to be archived. Sometimes these visions were also published. In the 1890’s, the current patriarch for the church, named Charles D. Evans, received a vision of the last days which was published in the youth magazine. It described the restoration of the U.S. Constitution and the resulting success of the Gospel and missionary work. Evans described:

A foreign power had inroaded the nation, and from every human indication, it appeared as if it would seize the government and supplant it with monarchy. I stood trembling at the aspect, when a power arose in the west which declared itself in favor of the Constitution in its original form. To this suddenly rising power, every lover of constitutional rights gave hearty support. The struggle was fiercely contested, but the Stars and Stripes floated in the breeze, and bidding liberty to all, waved proudly over the land. Among the many banners, I saw one inscribed thus: ‘The government based on the Constitution now and forever!’ On another there was: ‘Liberty of Conscience’ And there were several others, both religious and political. The light of the Gospel, which had but dimly shone because of abominations, now burst forth with a luster that filled the earth.

(Contributor, Vol. 15, 1893)

The Gospel of Freedom proceeds the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Inspired constitutional government paves the way for missionary work and the Gospel which can only proser in a climate of religious freedom.

The American Destiny

Members of the LDS church particularly believe that the United States has a very important role to play in establishing the kingdom of God. J. Reuben Clark said:

The Constitution and its free institutions must be our ensign. For America has a destiny—a destiny to conquer the world,—not by force of arms, not by purchase and favor, for these conquests wash away, but by high purpose, by unselfish effort, by uplifting achievement, by a course of Christian living; a conquest that shall leave every nation free to move out to its own destiny; a conquest that shall bring, through the workings of our own example, the blessings of freedom and liberty to every people, without restraint or imposition or compulsion from us; a conquest that shall weld the whole earth together in one great brotherhood in a reign of mutual patience, forbearance, and charity, in a reign of peace to which we shall lead all others by the persuasion of our own righteous example.

(J. Reuben Clark, Called Unto Liberty, 20th Century Sermons)

One of my favorite LDS writers, Hyrum L. Andrus, explained:

The Constitution of the United States, perfected in the means by which it will establish freedom and justice by being placed under the direction of the priesthood, will be the instrument of government in the kingdom of God.

(Liberalism, Conservatism, and Mormonism)

There are many who are not of the LDS faith who have believed and taught this interpretation of Daniel 2 and the purpose and destiny of America. During the Civil War, General George McClellan is reported to have had a vision which foresaw the expansion of republican (or representative) government around the world:

But if she be found worthy of her calling, [the oppressive nations] shall be truly discomfited, and then will be ended her third and last struggle for existence. Henceforth, shall the Republic go on, increasing in goodness and power until her borders shall end only in the remotest corners of the earth, and the whole earth shall, beneath her shadowy wings, become a universal republic!

… Our beloved, glorious Washington shall rest … until perhaps the end of the Prophetic Century approaches, that is to bring the Republic to a third and final struggle when he may once more … become a Messenger of Succor and Peace from the Great Ruler, who has all nations in his keeping …

 

This quote makes it sound like the United States will seek an imperialistic overthrow of all other nations, attempting to dominate the world. I prefer the interpretation of this expansion provided by President George Albert Smith in the Idaho Falls temple dedicatory prayer:

We pray that kings and rulers and the peoples of all nations under heaven may be persuaded of the blessings enjoyed by the people of this land by reason of their freedom under Thy guidance and be constrained to adopt similar governmental systems, thus to fulfill the ancient prophecy of Isaiah that "out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

(Idaho Falls Temple Dedicatory Prayer, 1945)

This prayer references Isaiah 2:2-3 which says:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

This expansion is one of freedom and not necessarily of the borders of the United States. I believe the destiny of America is to raise the "glorious standard" of the Constitution as an "ensign" to the nations, to set an example of the virtues of liberty and to persuade other nations to adopt similar constitutions through the prosperity resulting from our successful and complete implementation of the Founding Fathers "freedom formula." The destiny of America is to learn how to practice the inspired pattern of self-government so successfully that other nations are persuaded to adopt similar governmental systems. Eventually the entire world will be free and the world will recognize Christ as their King.

In Summary: My Understanding of the Kingdom

I understand the kingdom of God to be Lord’s inspired pattern for successful government which is intended to last forever. I believe this political "kingdom" is a series of free, independent, representative governments patterned after the original United States Constitution. Each nation will choose to adopt their own version of the Constitution (in their own language) as they become convinced of the virtues of self-government. Jesus Christ will be considered King of the earth and the citizens of nations and those who administer the laws will conform their will to His counsel. Christ will not change our laws. We adapt them according to his guidance and counsel, not through theocratic edicts. There is no ecclesiastical control over the kingdom. Church and State remain institutionally separate. Those who have made statements saying that priesthood holders will administer the laws anticipate(d) a day when the citizens of each respective nation will recognize that there is something special about the doctrine of the LDS church that prepares priesthood holders to valiantly defend freedom and agency in a way nobody else is prepared to do.

The Council of Fifty, or whatever name it will have when the time comes, will be an advisory body, or council, of constitutional scholars who educate and counsel the nations of the earth on how to transition to and practice successful self-government. They will be members of many churches who have been chosen, presumably by the Savior, to provide needed direction to the governments of the world during the Millennium. Eventually all nations will adopt constitutional government and the entire world will be free.


*For an in-depth study of the Kingdom of God, review these and other resources on the topic:

Although I don’t necessarily agree with all interpretations made by professors about what the future of kingdom of God entails, these resources make it clear that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the political kingdom of God are institutionally separate and fulfill very different roles and perform very different functions. Keep in mind as you read that just as it took the saints a long time to truly understand the law of consecration, the members involved with the kingdom of God (Council of Fifty) held varying beliefs and interpretations about God’s purposes for the kingdom. Use the pieces to gain an understanding of the big picture and use discernment to place the appropriate weight on each statement and quote.