Ten Commandments: Foundational Laws of Civilization

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

But what enabled us [America] to reach all this achievement?

It has been the power that has come to us from God, because, by and large, we have been a God-fearing, Christ-worshipping people; it has been a power we hope we have not yet lost, not yet having transgressed to the point of being ripe in iniquity,—that point where, as some of us believe, we shall no longer have claim upon the divine favor promised us till that time comes. For some of us believe that this land is “a land choice above all other lands” to our Lord, and that He will hold it and us in the hollow of His hand if we will but permit it.

But, what are the principles behind our conduct, the observance of which has enabled us so to build? I am not thinking of our constitutional Bill of Rights and the free institutions of our political system. I am thinking of the principles that underlie these, the foundation upon which they rest.

Well, these principles are three and a half thousands of years old. They came from God Himself to Moses, who brought them down from the fastnesses of Sinai upon tablets of stone, where they had been traced by the finger of God Himself.

It has been said for generation upon generation that the Ten Commandments are basic to the laws of the civilized world. Clear it is beyond reasoned denial, that the principles they announce are basic to the international and political life of nations, and to the civic and religious life of each individual. No man and no nation, strictly keeping the Commandments, will stray far from the path of usefulness, service, and righteousness, which are the ends that should be reached after by men and nations. No nation has ever perished that kept the Commandments . . . .

As a political constitution, the Ten Commandments could be analyzed as:

1. The setting up of a personal sovereign, God, the providing for allegiance to Him, and the declaring of treason against Him and stipulating its punishment, even to the doctrine of corruption of blood to the third and fourth generation.

2. The promulgation of the law governing family relationships, parent and child, master and servant, and in this connection, stipulating the periods of work and of rest,—the relationship of capital and labor.

3. The announcement of the basic principles governing civic relations, and social order,—the “thou shalt not’s” of the Commandments.


Source: J. Reuben Clark Jr. LDS Church News, 8 March 1947. 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.

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