Our Unalienable Rights
"I . . . have given unto the children of men
— D&C 104:17
". . . they have become free forever . . .
— 2 Nephi 2:26
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty
— Galatians 5:1
Thomas Jefferson wrote the following words in our great Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self_evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This is the most oft-quoted clause in the document. Jefferson is also quoted in President Benson’s book, The Constitution A Heavenly Banner, as saying: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?" (CHB, p. 5.)
The subject of rights, and the free exercise of these rights, was the whole foundation for the establishment of this nation. The Declaration of Independence declared these rights and the creation of the Constitution with its Bill of Rights was to protect them. Rights can be cataloged into various forms:
1. Unalienable or Inalienable Rights — Rights granted by God and inherent in every man.
2. Divine Rights — Rights granted by a monarch’s inherited claim to rule.
3. Legal Right — Rights established or given by written law.
4. Human Rights — Rights established by humanity or society.
Who Gives Rights?
Our legal rights, and human rights, are usually granted by dictators and tyrants and those despotic forms of governments that do not recognize God as the giver of rights. The following quotes will help establish the true nature of rights:
"RIGHT. A well-founded claim. . . . As rights precede government, so we find that now rights are acknowledged above governments and their states.
"A legal right, a constitutional right, means a right protected by the law, by the constitution; but government does not create the idea of right or original rights; it acknowledges them; just as government does not create property or values and money, it acknowledges and regulates them. If it were otherwise, the question would present itself, whence does government come? Whence does it derive its own right to create rights? . . . We would be consistently led to adopt the idea of a government deriving its authority to introduce and establish rights from a source wholly separate from human society and the ethical character of man, in the same manner in which we acknowledge revelation to come from a source not human." (Bouvier, p. 2961.)
True and unalienable rights were granted by God and not by man nor by government; for we are told that we are "endowed" by our "Creator with certain unalienable Rights." President Benson states, on page six of his book previously quoted, that:
"Rights are either God-given as part of the divine plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition, and religious conviction all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. I, for one, shall never accept that premise."
What Is Liberty?
There is a difference between liberties and rights. Where a right is a claim upon some quality of life, liberty is the freedom to posses that right or exercise that claim. For example: A person may have the liberty or freedom to injure another person in his life (kill), liberty (slavery), or property (steal), but he does not have the right to do so. Again, let’s turn to Bouvier:
"LIBERTY. (Lat. Liber, free; libertas, freedom, liberty). Freedom from restraint. The faculty of willing, and the power of doing what has been willed, without influence from without.
"Liberty, on its positive side, denotes the fullness of individual existence; on its negative side it denotes the necessary restraint on all, which is needed to promote the greatest possible amount of liberty for each." (Bouvier, p. 1964.)
When the Church was to be restored, the Lord needed a free environment in which His people could exercise their rights to worship without restraints. President Benson states:
Our Father in Heaven planned the coming forth of the Founding Fathers and their form of government as the necessary great prologue leading to the restoration of the gospel. Recall what our Savior Jesus Christ said nearly two thousand years ago when He visited this promised land: ‘For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth’ (3 Ne. 21:4). America, the land of liberty, was to be the Lord’s latter-day base of operations for His restored church." (CR, October 1987; The Ensign, November 1987, p. 4.)
So God’s purpose was for man to be free — free to exercise his agency with no restraints from others. Rights are free gifts from God. He, however, did not give man the right to take another man’s rights from him. Nor did He give man the right to give away his rights to another, though he may possess the liberty or freedom to do so.
Man cannot take our rights away from us unless we give him permission to do so. The wording, "unalienable" rights, means rights that cannot, or should not, have a lien placed upon them.
In the same dictionary we find the meaning of unalienable: "UNALIENABLE. Some things are unalienable in consequence of particular provisions in the law forbidding their sale or transfer . . . the natural rights of life and liberty are unalienable." (Bouvier, pp. 1978, 3350.)
Giving Jurisdiction Over Our Rights
There are those that complain that such-and-such a law or act of government is "un-constitutional" and takes away our rights. When the law goes contrary to the provisions in the Constitution it may be considered, "un-constitutional." However, when we feel that a law or act takes away some of our rights and freedoms and those losses are the result of our entering into contractual agreements, then it is not "un-constitutional," it is "non-constitutional." It is "non-constitutional" because we have permitted ourselves to be placed "outside" of the God-given protection of the Constitution by putting our liberties in jeopardy through contracts, licenses, and treaties.
It is interesting that when God gave us our free agency, He also gave us a choice to see how we will use it; such as with Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit. The Constitution is no exception. It was devised and instituted under divine intervention, "that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment." It was "established . . . by the hands of wise men whom [He] raised up unto this very purpose. . . ." (D&C 101:77-80.) The Lord also said, in verse 79, "Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another." However, the clause in Article I, Section 10, states, "No State shall enter into any. . . . Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts," which opens the door for the citizens of the United States to "contract" their God-given rights away.
Our rights can be waived and superseded by contractual agreements. Since the government cannot impair the obligation of contracts that we sign ourselves into, then those contracts cannot be infringed upon, leaving us with no constitutional protection. We literally set ourselves outside of the protecting influence of the Constitution. Some of these contracts are: documents called "contracts," a license, and treaties.
Contracts — Liening Away Our Liberty
We can lien away our rights and they can be superseded by contract. In Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (page 658), it tells us: "CONTRACT. An agreement between two or more parties to do or not to do a particular thing."
We find here that a contract is an "agreement between two or more parties." A contract binds those parties to one another in a way that neither of the parties is totally free until the provisions of the contract are satisfied. Therefore, when a contract in entered into, the parties are subject to one another. We are to be subject to only one sovereign, and He is God. By such contractual obligation we willfully give ourselves over to a form of slavery. When we do this, we must serve another power in addition to serving God. This is totally against God’s laws of liberty, even though we are free to exercise our agency in this manner. By so doing, we are not totally free to serve God because we are bound by contract to serve mammon. Since the government cannot impair the obligation of contracts that we sign ourselves into, then those contracts cannot be infringed upon, leaving us with no constitutional protection.
Now what are some of these contracts we get involved in that nullify our free agency and put us into debt? A partial list of contracts is: bank notes for loans, bank signature cards, Social Security card applications, driver’s licenses, marriage licenses, insurance contracts, incorporation papers, written or oral agreements, various applications, etc.
Licensure — An Excuse to Control
Now the term, license, was mentioned. Let’s find out what a license really is: "LICENSE. A permission. A right, given by some competent authority to do an act, which without such authority would be illegal, or a tort or trespass." (Bouvier, p. 1974.)
A license is a contract wherein we have to abide by a particular set of rules in order to be granted the right to perform some act. We must note that the rights granted by a license are rights granted by man to man through contract and not rights necessarily granted by God, as the Declaration of Independence declares. We must also be aware that whoever grants rights to a person has the power to take the granted rights from that person.
There is a very interesting story in regards to licensure behind one of the most famous quotes in American history. It involves an observation of one of our great patriots — it goes something like this:
In March of 1775, a young attorney, Patrick Henry was riding through a small town in Culpeper, Virginia. In the town square he saw, to his horror, a man tied to a whipping post. He had been scourged mercilessly, his back laid bare and bloody. "When they stopped beating him," said Patrick Henry, "I could see the bones of his rib cage. I turned to someone and asked what the man had done to deserve such a beating as this." The answer given was that the man was a minister and one of twelve men who refused to obtain a license. Three days later he died of continued scourging. It was this incident, shortly before the revolution, which inspired this young attorney from Virginia to speak his famous words that fanned the fires of liberty. These heated words were declared at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamsburg, Virginia:
"The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. . . . There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! . . Gentlemen may cry peace, peace — but there is no peace. . . . Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" (PPNS, pp. 498-99.)
The license can become arbitrary control which gives permission to do something that is otherwise illegal without that license. Are contractors, professionals, and other business owners required to have a license? Such a requirement makes a crime out of something that is otherwise not a crime. A license turns a right into a privilege which can be rescinded.
On the other hand, some things are illegal and a license is obtained by the individual or business to function beyond that which is lawful. Are banks, such as the Federal Reserve, licensed? Yes, they are. If they did not have a license, they would be doing something illegal. What might that be? Could it be the loaning of money for "usury" (interest), which is condemned in the Bible and by our Founding Fathers? This could be a subject the reader might find worth investigating.
Another thing that must be considered is that when we form a corporation, obtain a license, or enter into any other form of governmental contractual agreement, we become an arm of, and subject to, that government body that issues the license. And therefore, we are not free as we would suppose, but subject to the whims of that government. That government can dictate the terms, policies, teachings, activities, etc. of that person or entity under contract.
The Prophet Joseph Smith, while expressing his feelings on some needed moral improvements in the city, covered the subject of licensing to the council of the City of Nauvoo. Said he: "I also spoke at length for the repeal of the ordinance of the city licensing merchants, hawkers, taverns, and ordinaries, desiring that this might be a free people, and enjoy equal rights and privileges, and the ordinances were repealed." (HC, 5:8.)
So we see that a license is an instrument that can be used to give another power over our liberties. Another document that will help nullify our liberty as will a license is a treaty. Let us now take a look at that.
Treaties — Entangling Alliances
The second clause of Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution says that the President, "shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties. . . ." And in Article VI, Section 2, we read: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land. . ."
One such treaty was the League of Nations Treaty of 1919. The U.S. Senate did not approve of this treaty because the obligations associated with it posed a serious threat to the Constitution. However, the Senate did not seriously study the United Nations Treaty and adopted it without much analysis. The United States, in consequence thereof, is now required to go to war without a declaration by Congress. This is exactly what happened in the cases of Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. This treaty is now leading the United States and the rest of the world into a "New World Order" of government — a government in which the voice of the people is not heard — a government which does not recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and King — a government which dictates its will upon all "kindreds, and tongues, and nations." (Rev., Chapter 13.) By such treaties we have authorized other nations and people to control our destinies instead of controlling our own. Is there any wonder that the second President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, said, "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none." (The Five Thousand Year Leap, p. 267, from Bergh, 3:321.)
Incorporation — An Arm of the State
Many incorporate and become corporations for various reasons. Two of the prevalent ones are: to receive protection from certain liabilities, and to receive special tax credits or considerations. However, by so incorporating, those corporations become subject to the laws and whims of government and are not totally free to exercise their affairs as they so choose. They literally become an arm of the state, controlled and dictated to by the state.
When someone incorporates they are not only trying to serve themselves, their company, and perhaps their God, but they are also serving the state by adopting their laws, policies, and many principles which could be contrary to the interest of free men and of God’s will, even though some of those laws or policies may be legal. In reality, they are serving "two masters." The scriptures tell us, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon," and that a "house divided against itself shall not stand." (Matt. 6:22-24, 12:25; see also I Kgs. 18:21, James 1:8, Rev. 3:15-16, Moro. 7:16-17.) Although financial prosperity can come about by incorporating, yet often correct and Godly principles can be relegated to the state in the process.
It is God who granted us our rights. We do not have the right, though we may have our freedom, to put a lien upon them and assign those rights over to someone else, government or otherwise. Let us read the words of President John Taylor on this most important matter:
"There are certain principles that belong to humanity outside of the Constitution, outside of the laws, outside of all the enactments and plans of man, among which is the right to live; God gave us the right and not man; no government gave it to us, and no government has a right to take it away from us. We have a right to liberty — that was a right that God gave to all men. . . ." (JD, 23:63.)
By engaging in such contracts, as just discussed, we have exercised the free agency God has given us, and by utilizing the clauses provided to test our character, we have put a lien upon our rights and have become enslaved. Can we then blame our loss of freedom on that government we have so contracted with? No! We cannot blame them. We are at fault. And we must suffer the consequences of our ignorance, and the judgments of a just God. It will be His judgments we will ultimately have to contend with, not those of governments.