Individual Versus The State

Prophet Statesmen, J. Reuben Clark Jr. (1938)

Reduced to its lowest terms, the great struggle which now rocks the whole earth more and more takes on the character of a struggle of the individual versus the State. Does the individual exist for the benefit of the State, or does the State exist for the benefit of the individual? . . .

This gigantic world-wide struggle, more and more takes on the form of a war to the death. We shall do well and wisely so to face and so to enter it. And we must all take part. Indeed, we all are taking part in that struggle, whether we will or not. Upon its final issue, liberty lives or dies.

In the economic field, this earth-wide conflict has taken the form of seizing without compensation from the man who has and giving to the man who has not, of taking from the worker the fruits of his work, and giving to the idler who does no work. It has from its very nature become an economic, uncompensated leveling downward, not up ward, of the whole mass. This is the result in every country in which it has been tried. That this result may in one country be reached by confiscatory taxation, and in another by direct seizure, is a mere matter of method. The result is the same. In some countries outright seizure and confiscation are already openly and shamelessly practiced. All is done in the name of the State, as if it were Deity—as if the State, not God, gave all.

In the field of government, self-perpetuating governing groups are setting themselves up, either through a revolution, an overturning of the old system and the setting up of a new one, or by a perversion and prostituting of the old system into a new one. Here again the matter is merely one of method. Of what use is an election free in outward form if the government shall name the candidates.

In the new state of the world, laws and courts have lost their wonted places. Secret police, the curse of peoples, arrest, sentence, and punish as their unhampered whim, prejudice, or hate may desire. Public justice has fled the State.

Even into the field of family relationship, which, next to man’s relationship to God, is the most precious and dearest of all relationships, this modern State is thrusting its polluting hand. In some lands this new State is robbing the parents of the custody of their children on the Sabbath, it is forbidding the parents to teach and admonish the children in the ways of righteous living, it is teaching the children that officers of State, not God, shall be looked to for a guide as to standards of life . . . .

Into the field of religion, the holy of holies of the soul of man, this modern world State also enters, to dethrone God and exalt the State into God’s place. This is the arch-est treason of them all. For man robbed of God becomes a brute. This sin must be felt, not told, for words cannot measure the height and breadth of this iniquity; nor can human mind encompass the punishment of those who shall commit this sin.

All over the world, this new State comes into all these fields in the disguise of a protesting love and friendship for the people, whose property it means to confiscate, whose liberties it means to steal, and whose religion it means to destroy. Thus in all the history of the world has tyranny come to the people. Tyranny has always been a hypocrite, a thief, a seducer. It has always been a demon dethroning the true God, for it knows that unless it can touch the souls of men, it must itself die.

Source: J. Reuben Clark Jr., November 16, 1938. J. Reuben Clark Jr. (1871–1961), served as a mem­ber of the First Pres­i­dency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1931–1961. Prior to his full-time church ser­vice he was assis­tant solic­i­tor to the State Depart­ment, worked in the Attor­ney General’s office, Under Sec­re­tary of State, the author of the clas­sic study, the “Clark Mem­o­ran­dum on the Mon­roe Doc­trine” and U.S. ambas­sador to Mex­ico. Among those who knew his work best, J. Reuben Clark was rec­og­nized as the fore­most con­sti­tu­tional scholar of the 20th Century.