Democracy vs. Republic in the Scriptures

If you’ve never watched the republic video linked to in the top right corner of this website, may I suggest you make it a priority to understand there are only 2 forms of government. There never has been a lasting form of government other than a type of totalitarian government, and a republic.

In the scriptures we see various examples of this. Kings wield sovereign rule in 2 ways. Righteous kings (benevolent dictatorship) included King David (Bible) and King Benjamin (Book of Mormon-BOM), and wicked kings included King Ahaz (Bible) and King Noah (BOM) [sidebar: back in 1993 after President Clinton had been in office a year, I wrote a list of about a dozen parallels between his governmental actions and that of King Noah as found in Mosiah 11–it gave me a new perspective for how King Noah may have been a real schmoozer with the people and not just some fat gluttonous fellow as depicted in Arnold Friberg’s picture].

We also see conniving individuals in the scriptures who formed what the BOM calls “secret combinations” so they could achieve dictatorships and bring all the people under their power and control. An example of this would be Amalikiah (BOM).

It will be recalled that in the Old Testament, the Lord had given Moses the law and they had a system of representatives to offload the burden from Moses. Someone was appointed over 10, 50, 100, etc… This was a republican form of government. A written law existed and the people had a scheme of representation.

Later, Samuel the prophet gave the people judges but the people found them corruptible so they demanded a king so they could be “like all the nations.” (1 Samuel 8:5). How many people in America today are clamoring for us to be “like all the nations.” Where are “all the nations” today? They are either under totalitarian rule or quickly getting there by use of democracy.

Democracy is a dangerous form of government because it devolves into anarchy over time as the people lack the ability to closely watch all the issues and they begin to only vote for the things that benefit them and not the country. The passing of the 17th amendment was a breakdown of the separation of powers to hold the voice of the masses in check by those specifically put in place to represent the voice of the state (ie. to strip away the protection of states’ rights).

What did it mean when the people in Samuel’s day wanted to be like “all the nations?” The Lord answered that in 1 Samuel 8:7.

“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.”

Turning to a dictatorship is a rejection of God. Why? Because the primary element in worshiping the Lord is found in the principle of agency, or the freedom to choose. God doesn’t force you to worship him and he doesn’t force people to be good. He lets their own actions speak for themselves. When we choose to do good and charitable things, we are blessed for it. When we do evil, we are cursed. When we choose to have a king, we reject the one true King which is God. We can find many examples in the scriptures of wicked kings leading the people to do sin or bringing them into bondage by government policies or by morally weakening the people to the point that outside forces easily conquered them.

Concerning America, one Book of Mormon prophet wrote:

“Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.” (Ether 2:12)

I believe our Founding Fathers were divinely inspired to set up a republic in America precisely because that is the only form of government that preserves agency and allows people the freedom to choose to serve God. They rejected the government of the king of England because God is King. Our freedoms have rapidly eroded over the last century the further God has been pushed from public dialog and from our schools.

Concerning democracy, the word doesn’t appear in scripture, but the word republic does appear one time in the LDS canon. Doctrine & Covenants 98:3 states:

“We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.”

There are only 2 forms of government. A republic that is upheld by the voice of a moral people, or a form of a dictatorship. When people lose their morality and their worship of God as king, they embrace destructive government policies which tell them what to do and how to live and as that monster grows, liberty is destroyed.


To those that come across this article and believe socialism is taught in the scriptures, including the teachings of Jesus, may I refer you to Marion G. Romney’s classic talk, “Socialism is not the United Order.”

If any of you would like to read a paper I wrote on why socialism is the devil’s plan, please click here to read my LDS perspective on freedom and agency.

19 Responses to “Democracy vs. Republic in the Scriptures”

  • Jo:

    The perfect example of the difference between the representative republican form of government and democracy is found in the account of Jesus' trial. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said to God the Father, the Author of perfect law, Thy will not mine be done. This was the crown of many times that He said the same thing. Then there was Pilate who threw out the decision of crucifixion upon the crowd Though it was declared to them that no guilt could be assigned to Christ, the majority decided that He should be crucified and that was what was done.

  • Lynn:

    Thank you. This is excellent. Lots to think about as I ponder what is going on around us.

  • Lewis B:

    This is ridiculous and a simpleton way of looking at things. There are actually four general methods/types of governance as defined by modern definitions of the terms used to describe them.

    1. Rule of none (anarchy)
    2. The rule of the one (autocracy)
    3. The rule of the few (oligarchy)
    4. The rule of the many (democracy)

    Anarchy is usually the most short lived and is often a transitional period between changes in governments. It is a period of chaos and strife as various local factions attempt to extend their rule. There are a few examples of long lasting anarchy type governments. Despite a propped up regime in Afghanistan, the country is rule by competing factions (warlords). It has been this way for some time now. Somalia is also plagued with an extended bout of anarchy. Nature abhors a vacuum and usually anarchy evolves into an autocracy.

    Autocracies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; however, the absolute rule of a monarch or military dictator are the most common examples of “one man” rule. It is the oldest and most implemented of the government systems before the 20th century. The Bible is filled with examples of one man rule. Oftentimes, autocracies will allow some form of faux democracy in order to placate the masses where people are allowed to vote for representatives who have no power such as the Roman Senate during the time of the emperors or the British parliament as it transitioned to a governing body over the course of hundreds of years. However, faux democracy can co-exist with most any form of government. Today, we see various rubber stamp elections in many countries throughout the world, including our own. Autocracies often have the advantage during war time because of quick decision making that doesn't get bogged down in parliamentary type debates. Also, as described in the Bible, you can have good autocratic rulers and bad ones and people's experiences with autocracies are directly linked to the effectiveness and benevolence of the ruler.

    Oligarchies are quite common in the world today. It is where a select few administer the government, usually in the form of permanent political party that squelches all opposition. Sometimes oligarchies get entrenched due to a bad autocrat. China was ruled by Mao, an autocratic dictator, but his reign of terror during the cultural revolution prompted the elite communist party members to retain control collectively over their Secretary General. You also saw the same thing in the USSR after the reign of Stalin. Oligarchies have a public face, a leader if you will, but that leader is usually under the control of an elite group where power is really seated. Theocracies (religious rule) are also considered oligarchies. Oligarchies are similar to autocracies in that they may set up faux democratic institutions and have elections where results don't matter or can be overturned by the establishment. The Iranian elections are a good example of this. Also, like autocracies, oligarchies can implement harsh rule and limit freedoms.

    In today's lexicon, a democracy is generally used to describe a system of government where power is ultimately vested in the people. Like other forms of governments, there are different ways to do this. Athenian Demoracy or Pure Democracy or Direct Democracy are terms used to describe a system where the citizens are required to vote on every single matter. In Athens, the cradle of Democracy, the citizens could only be male who were born in Athens and were not slaves. Using lots, they drew a pool of hundreds of jurors, citizens who were tasked with voting on the laws of Athens. A great experiment that ended in failure due to a major plague that wiped out many citizens, causing jurors to make rash and poor decisions, culminating with the death sentence for Socrates and conquest of Athens. Our founding fathers were correct when they described democracy “Athenian Democracy” as mob rule because that was the result in Athens–uneducated, uninformed, superstitious people making laws for the rest of the city-state.
    A Republic is another type of democracy where power is still vested in the people, but rather than have the people themselves vote for everything, they elect representatives to vote in their behalf. If the people don't like their representatives, they vote for someone else assuming that the party in power doesn't throw up roadblocks to protect themselves from defeat. Early Rome was a Republic, but its fatal flaw was a lack of a written document that outlined the rules of the Republic. The Roman Senate was a corrupt body without a system of checks and balances. The would elect a consul to act as leader of the Senate, and when things got really bad, they would elect a temporary dictator to take charge of things until the crisis abated because a dictator could make urgent decisions faster than a bickering Senate. Roman Senators would often double as generals–leading men into battle and on various occasions lead armies against the armies of other Senators. The only thing “Republic” about Rome was the election of Senators as representatives. Our Founding Fathers also knew the follies of Rome and that is why we have a written Constitution to guide our Republic.

    Today there are interesting amalgamations of “Democratic” governments. For example: In the U.S., we have a strong Federal Constitutional Republic and in Britain, they have a Constitutional Monarchy with a powerless monarch. Both are countries where citizens elect their representatives. In the U.S. it is in Congress, in the U.K it is their parliament. The Head of State in the U.S. is the President, in the U.K it is the Queen (a figurehead) and PM. Both governments are similar in that the people hold the ultimate power but the difference from that point on are many. The same with other countries around the world that allow their people to choose their representatives. That is why the term “Democracy” was hijacked to generally describe a government that allows their people to have a say in who represents them in government. Our founding fathers had only one example of a democracy and a republic to look at. That is why back in the 1700's, Democracy truly meant Athenian Democracy. Today, the closest thing to an Athenian Democracy would be the Swiss Government and I would hardly lump them into the totalitarian camp. While a pure Democracy is not the most desirable form of government, I can see a lot worse out there.

  • Lewis B:

    So you are saying that the passage of Proposition 8 in California was an example of mob rule and mob, in effect, was taking away the freedoms of homosexuals when our Constitution was designed to protect the minority from the majority. Maybe the judge that overturned Prop 8 was correct after all. Thanks for enlightening me, Jo.

  • Jennrc3:

    Prop 8 should have never had to have been brought to the table. Morality is defined by God. God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman and homosexuallity is defined as an awful sin in the Bible. The problem is that we as a people are wanting to define morality by how we feel rather than look to God for what is right. Therefore, the people of CA have found themselves in an odd position where they have to defend marriage as between a man and woman because there are those who are trying to justify their immorality. Prop 8 doesn't prevent homosexuals from acting in whatever way they choose; they are not arrested or put to death for their behavior. It only defines marriage as between a man and a woman. This protects those who don't want same sex marriage taught to their children in school as a “normal behavior, and it also protects clergyman who don't agree with marrying same sex couples from having to do something they know is wrong. So by one gay judge overturning prop 8, it can actually take away the right of religion from many people.

  • Jon F:

    Prop 8 only went to the public vote because of a corrupted legislative body who allowed it in the first place.

  • Lewis, as the video points out, there are only 2 forms of government that last. Everything else is temporary. You either have a republic or an oligarchy (which all other forms of government devolve into).

  • Lewis B:

    So what I'm hearing is that it is okay for citizens to engage in a little Democracy (mob rule) if it is an issue that you agree with. ..and when I thought I've heard it all.

  • Lewis B:

    First of all, I highly doubt clergy will have to perform gay marriages. That would be direct government interference in a religion. I would assume that gay couples would get a non-secular wedding from a justice of the peace. They would probably have to do against their beliefs though which is a problem. It would be like requiring a doctor to perform abortions against his/her moral and religious convictions.

    I do see your point about schools being required to teach about gay relationships. This bothers me as well, as do legalized gay adoptions.

    As far as a gay judge overturning Prop 8, I don't see any difference with a straight judge upholding Prop 8. If a gay judge is considered an activist judge for overturning Prop 8, wouldn't a straight judge be considered an activist judge for upholding Prop 8? Perhaps a fair judge would be bisexual?

    Also, what is marriage to a government. Really it is nothing more than a contract (reason wedding licenses are signed) that merges assets and responsibilities. Doesn't it seem strange that religious marriages are often performed by religious clergy with added religious rites and ceremony, but always end with lawyers and judges, often in a courtroom where assets are divided or dissolved. You never hear anything about God when a marriage ends, only assets and custodial rights to children.

    I would almost say we are doing homosexuals a favor by denying them the right to marry, because if they did, many would have to go through the misery and expense of a divorce like “normal” people.

    Just some food for thought.

  • Lewis B:

    I'm glad you hang on to every word in a video. As a political scientist and historian, I disagree with something that makes it to neat and simple and eliminates all the gray areas. As far as a Republic being a lasting government, I would say it is arrogant presumption. Our Republic is the longest lasting in the history of the earth and it is only just over 200 years old, which is about how long the Roman Republic lasted before devolving into autocracy. I think the jury is still out on the life cycle of a Republic. One thing is for certain, totalitarian governments have been the most popular and easy to establish throughout human history.

  • The EU stated the right to religious conscientious objection “should be regulated in order to ensure that, in circumstances where abortion is legal, no woman shall be deprived from having effective access to the medical service of abortion. In the view of the Network, this implies that the State concerned must ensure, first, that an effective remedy should be open to challenge any refusal to provide abortion; second, that an obligation will be imposed on the health care practitioner exercising his or her right to religious conscientious objection to refer the woman seeking abortion to another qualified health care practitioner who will agree to perform the abortion; third, that another qualified health care practitioner will be indeed available, including in rural areas or in areas which are geographically remote from the centre.”
    http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/596

    Do you still “highly doubt clergy will have to perform gay marriages?”

  • They are the only forms that *can* last. Anarchy always breaks apart. Democracy always devolves to socialism and that to communism. They all wind up in an oligarchy. A republic that preserves maximum freedom within established laws is the only alternative. The rule of law vs. the rule of man.

  • Fred:

    Fred here. Great discussion by both Lewis and Oak! Too bad Lewis degraded his very well stated counter argument by introducing it with “A ridiculous and simpleton way of looking at things.” Simple isn't bad. God said, “Don't steal, murder or bear false witness.” Man obfuscates. It appears to me that our Federal Government has devolved into an oligarchy headed by a puppet president who is supported by an unelected bureaucracy that is directed by a few powerful people. Looking to the scriptures for guidance is probably a reasonable suggestion.

  • Lewis B:

    Fred, not everything in the world can be condensed into a neat little black and white package. That is what I meant by “ridiculous and simple.” If you've noticed, Oak has shifted his view from two long lasting governments–totalitarianism and republic–to just one, an Oligarchy. There are no historical examples of a Republic being long lasting, and I would hardly call 200 years long lasting when compared to thousands of years of human history. I'm not debating that a Republic isn't the best form of government. Of course, I think it is. My point is that there are four types of governance, not two. Oak keeps trying to remind me that Anarchy is short lived. Of course I know that. I stated that in my argument earlier. I'm trying to say that there are many variations on the government types. There are even variations of Republics. The Roman Republic is not the same as our Republic for instance. In fact there are a lot of hybrid type governments such as Britain's Constitutional Monarchy.

    When it comes to teaching students about forms of government, I would rather have them know that variations and nuances of government systems rather than it is either “one or the other.” That is more akin to indoctrination than real critical thinking and analysis. In fact, each form of governance has strengths and weaknesses depending on objectives. We can go further by suggesting that certain economic systems are a natural or better fit with certain government types.

    As far as the Bible being full of examples of Republic forms of government, I beg to differ. The Bible is loaded with Kings and tyrants, that episodically or temporarily grant some some democratic freedoms or some form of hybrid governance, but that is the extent of it. One must not also forget that yes, we live in a Republic, but that Republic incorporates many principles of democracy in that people are given the power to elect their representatives. While pure democracy is a bad thing, limited democracy, underpinning our Republic, is a good thing. Without limited and controlled democracy supporting our Republic and providing a system of checks on our elected officials, we would turn into an oligarchy that mimics real, functioning Republics where voters get to choose from a slate of candidates that were “pre-approved” by those who are in power. The Islamic Republic of Iran (A Theocratic Oligarchy) for instance, holds those types of elections. We have seen this same type of thing crop up in Utah with the state school board election process that even Gov. Herbert called “screwy.” We have to be careful in safeguarding our Republic and support true democratic process that allow our Republic to function, otherwise our Republic will be corrupted like Rome and quickly descend into either totalitarianism or oligarchy.

    I sometimes wonder whether Oak is attacking just “pure democracies” which is okay, or attacking the democratic process, which is not okay with me, and what I consider to be dangerous to our Republic. I think his insistence on just using the word “democracy” in his attacks is troublesome because in today's world, “democracy” is a general term that encompasses our democratic institutions that make our Republic possible. If he would be more specific and would sharpen his language on Athenian style democracy, direct democracy, or pure democracy he would gain more traction with readers and the community at large. It would be better to confront the ASD schoool board of embracing “direct democracy” as Goodlad, Dewey, and Ayers have done in promoting a socialist agenda.

    Using the phrase “direct democracy” versus just “democracy” would help more people learn the distinction and make the argument against the district motto more palpable to a public that generally believes Oak wants some sort of a corrupt Republic without Democratic underpinnings where voters' freedom to choose elected officials become routine exercises that have no real worth.

    That is my concern and that is the concern of many of my friends in colleagues and why we believe this movement to be just as dangerous to our Republic as the “socialists” out there.

  • Lewis, please find an instance where I've attacked the “democratic process” of voting. Also, what a ridiculous notion that the public “generally believes” I want some sort of corrupt republic where voters can't choose their officials. This is the most bizarre twist of things I've ever read.

    As for your other comments, there is no such thing as the rule of one or the rule of many. It may start that way but it's always going to morph into the rule of a few. A king has his counselors and the masses always have people that emerge from that mob-rule promising them justice and equity. The rule of law is the only thing that protects the freedoms of the people from the rule of man and right now we are being rapidly moved toward the rule of man in this country by the things being taught by Ayers, Goodlad and others who are in favor of moral relativism.

    As for Alpine District teaching these things which you keep asking for proof of, I have a 40 foot sign on a wall that reads, “Enculturating the Young into a Social and Political Democracy.” Every teacher that walks into the professional development center for training sees that socialist sign. They become indoctrinated further by those at the district who continue to espouse Goodlad in their training.

  • Lewis B:

    Oak, a sign on a wall in the district office is not proof that teachers are instructed to teach students to prefer a socialist economic theory or that America should turn into a direct democracy. You can never seem to provide any evidence of that. A sign is meaningless if it isn't having an impact on the classroom, and nobody has proven that impact. I'm looking for actions, not words. You say that ASD is “enculturating” students. Well, start listing those classrooms that are bastions of Marxism.

    I've worked in the business world long enough to know that mission statements and motos are cute, frilly little things to justify why management and the bureaucracy gets a paycheck. It rarely translates to the employees or impacts their behavior. You have provided not one iota of evidence to this end. You have no district memo or email instructing teachers to brainwash kids to be Marxist socialists. In fact, most teachers didn't know the motto at all until you started complaining about it, which just had the effect of the motto being placed in more and more schools in order to spite you. You have had no teachers come forward and blow the whistle on the Marxist/Democracy conspiracy in ASD. This whole thing is a mountain being made out of a molehill. No matter what the district chooses as the motto, teachers are required by law to teach the state core curriculum and could care less what the School Board wastes their time doing until it directly interferes with them and their instruction. I know several teachers who would be kicking and screaming if they were forced to indoctrinate kids in the manner you are intimating. You know what I'm saying is true.

  • Lewis, the fact is that the motto is a socialist phrase. It shouldn't be up especially since it sits on top of a “freedom” shrine display of founding documents. The fact is, there are some teachers in the district who have told students we don't live in a republic, but have a democracy. There have been some assignments to reinforce progressive/socialist ideas concerning this. The fact that the district hasn't come out full force and instructed teachers to teach socialism is meaningless. The fact that the phrase was posted is troubling. The fact that ASD linked their website to a radical Green Party member in California who called the Founding Fathers “predatory elitists” who gave us a republic but was grateful we were transforming into a democracy…A DIRECT DEMOCRACY…is further evidence that those within the district advocate this transition of our government. Yes, many teachers would be up in arms if they were told to teach socialism, but those who aren't aware of the national push and Goodlad's role as a change agent who works by degrees, may start accepting things they see and hear all the time without it ever being pushed at them. It certainly reinforces the concept for those teachers who do have socialist leanings.

  • Lewis B:

    Again, we go round and round in circles. Teachers are not wholly wrong when they tell students we live in a democracy when they are referring to a general term that is commonly accepted to mean any form of government where power is vested in the people. That includes our Republic. With thousands of teachers in the district, I have no doubt that an occasional teacher may have told students we don't live in a Republic, but I'm willing to bet that was due to ignorance rather than the district motto or socialist conspiracy. I'm also willing to be that such instances are more common in elementary schools where teachers don't specialize in any particular subject area, meaning their history skills are weak as compared to most secondary teachers, but you have never tied these sporadic classroom incidents as being the result of the district motto which causes me to believe that they (ASD School Board) are not interpreting the motto the same way you are. That is very important to this debate because it is your tone and demeanor in these accusations that have caused a retrenchment by the school board, rather than change. When their personal reputations are on the line, they will defend until the bitter end. If you want this to end faster, you need to help and support them in finding a way out of the predicament, rather than exacerbate the problem.

    Yes, the phrase (motto) is troubling, but look at the school board. They are made up of individuals who are not trained in politics, government, or history either. They are just simple community members, similar to what you would find sitting on charter school boards. The same goes for the BYU's Dept of Education. They know education theories, but are weak in politics, history, and government. BYU dropped the program, stating they respect and support Goodlad, and blamed money as the culprit for the change. Of course, I don't believe that. I think you woke them up (BYU) to reality, but they found a way out without looking bad. The ASD School Board has not found a way out without egg on their faces and you need to give them a way to gracefully exit their support for Goodlad, but I don't believe you will give them a graceful way out of the predicament, which is why they don't drop it. Like any cornered animal, they will fight back and get extremely defensive. Think about it, Oak! If ASD dropped Goodlad's organization and blamed doing so on BYU's dropping of Goodlad rather than concede to you, would you let them? …or would you brag and gloat that you won? You credited yourself for BYU's about face on Goodlad, which caused some consternation at BYU and provoked a defensive reaction among some. Again, this time around, would you and supporters behave with civility and professionalism, or would continue to attack and celebrate? If ASD agreed to drop Goodlad and in return you would not gloat and declare victory, but drop the issue, would you do it? I think that is the problem. You won't give ASD the breathing room to make the change, that is possibly why this has gone on so long. Perhaps you need to offer an olive branch and help them find a way out and agree to tone down the rhetoric. ASD school board members were most likely guilty of being ignorant and they thought they were doing the right thing by aligning with BYU–a pretty safe and conservative thing to do in a conservative community. You have to give them some credit there. They are not bad people, they are not socialists or anti-Republic, they just got caught up in something they didn't fully understand. Treat the issue as such and you might get better results.

  • Unbelievable Lewis. I know you've only been out here for a few months, but your complete lack of understanding things we've stated multiple times just astounds me. Above you accuse me of saying there is only one form of government, an oligarchy, when throughout this entire site I've said there are two.

    In 6 years of asking the district to change the motto/slogan, nothing has changed. Then in February of this year we found that ASD had linked their official website to a radical nut job. The district got properly slammed for posting that link (and not even by me to begin with). When that hit the press, a few hundred people showed up at a school board meeting and asked that the sign be pulled down and questioned why the district linked themselves to an open radical. One individual spoke about what a republic was to teach the board. It was not aggressive, it was genuine concern. The board had a *very easy way out* but the majority on the board didn't want to change it. If they had changed it, the entire ASD controversy would have washed away in an instant. We'd have said “thank you very much” and gone about our business. I have offered olive branches several times before and they continually get tossed out the window.

    Lewis, you never showed up at this website till the Daily Herald ran a story they made up which consisted of them saying I was accusing BYU and ASD of a socialist conspiracy. You can't find one place where I've ever accused either institution of a conspiracy. The DH made that up to sensationalize a story. The moment that story hit I published a denial and the truth of what I had said.

    When BYU dropped their association with the NNER a couple months ago, I did take some credit for the collective actions from several people which I believed brought who Goodlad was to light, and thus caused the McKay School of Education to drop their association with him. It wasn't a gloat fest, it was acknowledging our efforts were successful. When BYU said they dropped it for financial reasons I could care less why they dropped it. If Caleb had called me back and said they claimed it was for financial reasons, I would have changed my statement to say, “regardless of the reason, I'm glad they're dropping it.” It is also very unfortunate that in that same article on BYU dropping the NNER, someone from the MSE strongly endorsed Goodlad.

    Lewis, this is the last post I'm going to allow on this thread. This is getting ridiculous.