These are the words of a man named Mosiah, who was a good king in the Book of Mormon. He ruled his people justly. However, near the end of his life, he had no one to confer the kingdom upon. In addition, he worried about the possibility of a future king ruling in wickedness. And so he proposed a new system of government that would give more power and responsibility to the people (see Mosiah 29). King Mosiah's speech bears some similarities to that of Samuel the prophet to the people of Israel when they demanded of him that he anoint a king over them (see 1 Samuel 8). Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon contain numerous examples of wicked kings. But there are also examples of good ones. It isn't the office of "king" specifically that is the problem. Indeed, Latter-day Saints "believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers," etc. (Articles of Faith 1:12). But when any would-be ruler seeks to take or keep power by force--be they king, queen, president, or dictator--they become a tyrant.
At the time of this writing, the United States is nearing election day. However, it is not my intention to use this post to endorse or condemn any specific candidate. While I, of course, have my own opinions about who should be entrusted with the office of President, I think it is ultimately more useful to call attention to troubling behaviors rather than to call out specific individuals. No U.S. President in recent memory nor candidate who stood a chance of winning has been completely free from tyrannical tendencies. It's as if "as soon as they get a little authority... they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion" (D&C 121: 39). But that doesn't mean we should defend or ignore their actions because"nobody's perfect." Holding our leaders accountable is one crucial way of keeping potential abuses of power in check.
These are just a few of the troubling behaviors that I've seen from Presidents, congressman, and other politicians from both major U.S. political parties, as well as from leaders of other countries:
- A tyrant seeks to silence opposition rather than addressing it head on. When they can't remove opposition entirely, they rely instead on threats, mockery, insults, and defamation.
- A tyrant restricts the rights or abilities of a people to speak their minds, peaceably protest, and spread facts and opinions that may cast them in an unfavorable light.
- A tyrant applauds, encourages, or fails to condemn words or acts of violence or hatred against those who oppose them.
- A tyrant seeks to increase their own power and authority at the expense of the people they lead.
- A tyrant tries to make it more difficult for others to run against them instead of winning based on their own merits.
- A tyrant seeks to change rules and systems designed to keep their power in check.
- A tyrant defies the authority of those in other positions who lead alongside them and interferes in affairs outside of their own authority.
- A tyrant values loyalty to their own party more highly than loyalty to the country or to one's personal values.
- A tyrant makes promises they have no intention or ability to keep and breaks promises they view as no longer expedient.
- A tyrant ignores or contradicts the advice and warnings of domain experts.
- A tyrant does not accept the results of elections, initiatives, or other democratic processes when they don't go their way.
- A tyrant never willingly gives up power, even when mandated by the laws of the land.
- A tyrant withholds necessary information and actively spreads incorrect, misleading, or unverified information.
- A tyrant betrays their allies when it serves their goals.
- A tyrant never takes the blame when things go wrong but always takes credit when things go right.
- A tyrant assumes or claims that opposition is always merely partisan while never admitting to partisanship themselves.
- A tyrant portrays their opposition as objectively wrong or even evil instead of addressing the multifaceted, nuanced nature of their positions.
- A tyrant sees themselves as the ultimate authority rather than as a servant of the people.
- A tyrant inspires these and other tendencies in their followers.
I recognize the unfortunate fact that no politician, candidate, or president is perfect. For that reason, it's up to us to keep our eyes wide open and hold our leaders accountable. So when one of our elected or aspiring leaders exhibits any of these or other tyrannical tendencies, we mustn't stay silent! We may never have a leader who is perfectly just until the coming of the one true and perfect King. But while we wait for His eventual return, it is our responsibility to not stand idly by and allow wickedness to increase within the ranks of our leaders and rulers.
If you reside in the U.S., please make a plan to vote in this upcoming and future elections. If you are outside the U.S., please participate however you can in the political process of your own nation.
Thanks for reading!