God save the Queen?

By: Jake
June 21, 2012

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This month saw the queen of England celebrate her 60th year of reigning over us. England has been awash with royalist sentimentality for the past weeks. Villages have been decked in flags and holding street parties. A four day weekend was declared, and a massive celebration was held in London on behalf of her.

In a strange twist of fate, the same weekend as the nation was celebrating the queen’s rule over us, in Sunday School we were discussing the evils of a king, or queen, from Mosiah 29. Given my strong anti-royalist sentiments I couldn’t help but chuckle at this fortunate confluence of events. The resulting discussion in my class with my students has allowed me to muse on some of the theological reasons I have an issue with monarchy.

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The fact is that a monarch is an artefact of a political system that is entrenched in inequality – highlighted by the fact that homeless people were forced to work unpaid as stewards for the Royal celebrations. In a climate in which the poor are getting poorer and the super rich are literally reaching astronomical heights (with the super rich having the luxury of being able to afford private jets into space), to celebrate a symbol of inequality and elitism seems repulsive to me. This is not to say that I have anything against Queen Elizabeth personally — I am sure that she is a lovely lady.  It is the monarchical institution I take issue with (it’s like loving the sinner but not the sin, in political institutional form). There is certainly something endearing about a quaint old lady who seems to embody national and civic pride, but behind that smile (who wouldn’t be smiling in her situation?) is something that disturbs me.

The Queen has over £500 Million of personal assets,  holds assets of £17 billion in trust through the Crown Estate and still gets £32 million a year from the Government in support. This extreme wealth came to her by no effort from her; it was simply the chance of her birth within an elite bloodline. It seems unfair that an extreme minority, such as royalty, are given a head start in life, whilst others find themselves born with their legs and hands (metaphorically) already bound. This inequality is particularly repugnant when it is solely on the basis of biological heredity. The problem with aristocracy, inherited position, and the wealth of a Royal family is that it means that a select few are given incredible privileges whilst others, through no fault of their own, are not given the same opportunity.

To justify this inequity, people invented the “divine investiture of kings.”  This suggests that God chose to place them in that situation, making sure that they were born into a noble bloodline.  This suggests that the situation of our birth is a product of our pre-mortal existence.  A similar argument has been made that Mormon children were special and valiant spirits who earned a right to be born into the covenant of the gospel.  This is problematic as it creates a negative correlation with poverty and lack of opportunity.  By the same logic, those born into poverty were not valiant. If the righteous who are born into good Mormon homes, or royal families, are given a place on earth out of pre-mortal faithfulness, then does that mean those born into abuse, suffering and poverty are wicked spirits…is God really partisan in his placement of his children?

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If the answer is ‘yes,’ then it justifies the preservation of aristocracy and the accumulation of wealth by a cultural elite who through generations have gained wealth. It justifies this cultural elite handing that wealth over to their children, as those children were born to inherit it. In the religious sense, there’s the idea that Mormon children are of a better quality than non-Mormon children. If God really does have a protocol for the placement of spirits, then the Queen stands as the just head of State and her wealth, position and power are the rightful products of God’s divine birth management. But this does mean we are logically bound to say that the starving, suffering children deserve their suffering through actions in a theoretical pre-mortal realm that no one can even remember. We can’t have one side of the bargain without the other.

On the other hand, if we say ‘no’ —  that God is not partisan and does not have a algorithm for placing pre-mortal spirits and our birth is simply a matter of biological chance — that requires us to question our attitudes to inheritance, the distribution of wealth and more egalitarian principles in our political and economic systems. It requires us to question our own sense of superiority from our Mormon birth, but also places the responsibility of addressing this inequality on us as a society and nation. A removal in God’s role in the distribution of opportunity in the game of life suggests that the current system is a product of man’s thinking, and to change it is our duty for we (that is, mankind) created it. It also suggests that the idea of a divine birth placement system is a product that serves to justify inequality and injustice, that it is a pseudo-doctrine designed, or at least has the effect, of convincing us that the status quo is part of God’s will, quenching any revolutionary spirit. It makes religion essentially into a tool of the elite to preserve and justify their status, and on such grounds, perhaps Marx was right when he famously said that religion was ‘the opium of the people.’

God save the Queen?

The difficulty with the monarchy is not simply on economic and social reasons; it has wider implications concerning nationalism and patriotism. This is in part because the justification used for a monarch is often that they are there by divine intervention. The national anthem makes it clear that God and the Monarchy are closely entwined with its opening line ‘God save our noble queen.’ I have always been uncomfortable with the presence of our national anthem in the Hymn book. This was mostly because it seemed like cultural favouritism having it in there. This was perhaps a natural extension of the fact that I was not impressed with the American national hymns in the Hymn book – if I am uncomfortable with American cultural imperialism in hymns, then surely I should be just as concerned about my own being included.

What concerns me most about them is that running through them both is the idea that the national head of state is there by divine design. That the Queen’s current age is not a product of her stress-free, luxurious, wealthy, pampered lifestyle, but the result of God preserving her as a sign of his approval (not unlike the doctrine behind our method of appointing our church president). This suggests that it is more divine intervention than better lifestyle and medical provision that has allowed her to reign for so long. The idea of a divinely chosen national head of state sits uneasy with me, even if the idea of a nation favoured by God is one that runs deep within scripture. Ancient Israel was told it was God’s chosen people; in the English reformation they claimed that ‘God is an English man’ and that the English due to their religious freedom were God’s favoured people –a trope that was to be seized upon later by the American revolutionaries and the divine providentialism that was characteristic of the religious revivals in the nineteenth century. In particular, the resurrection of the doctrine of Zion by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and the proclamation that America was the promised land preserved by God for his chosen people to reside in. Every nation it seems at some point has claimed that God is involved in their leadership. God save the Queen became God bless America; the seal of divine approval was shifted from a person to a nation.

How do we know which nations are favoured and preserved by God, and which ones are his cursed nations? Given that the gospel is now in almost every corner of the world, how do we know which leaders are being held up by God and which are in the grasp of Satan? On the one hand, as long as our current head of state is in our favour, or at least are in agreement with our own political ideology,  we are quick to stamp God’s hand on him. However, as soon as the political wind changes and they fall out of favour, they are in Satan’s power. The desire to see our leaders preserved by God is understandable; after all, who doesn’t want to think that not only is their nation the best nation on the planet, but their leader has been chosen by God? It’s a pleasing notion, but it’s one which has lots of people competing for that claim and if God is guilty of favouritism, then I want to make sure that I am in a nation that he really does has a soft spot for. I can’t help but thing that in the end, just as all people are equal in the eyes of God (even if not in the eyes of the church), all nations and countries are equal before God.

Discuss.

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20 Responses to God save the Queen?

  1. Jenn on June 21, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    The predestination thing has always cracked me up- either we were blessed to be born into a mormon home because we were awesome premortal spirits, or, as I’ve long suspected is the case with me, I was born into a great family because God knew I couldn’t handle more than that. Kids born into crappy situations? They were AMAZING in the pre-earth life and proved that they had a higher chance than normal of handling it.
    I don’t think either view is correct anymore, but it is funny that you can spin it either way.

    I don’t love inequality and elitism either, but have no problems with the current British monarchy. After all, we’ve seen inequality, elitism, and misery in every form of government we’ve ever seen- including the United Order. Mortals inherently create inequality. We shoulnd’t applaud it, but if the UK wants to celebrate their monarchial heritage (because really, who are we kidding, the queen DOES very little these days- there are other legislative bodies for that), more power to them.

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  2. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 21, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    I have thought a lot about the entire thread of inheritance and family so that I can not shake the feeling that my children have some relationship with me.

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  3. Jake on June 21, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Jenn,

    That’s an interesting way of spinning it both ways. It essentially either makes everyone amazing or everyone weak. But then perhaps that is the case we are born with the ability to handle anything in life, but we never have more then we can handle.

    The fact that inequality and elitism has existed in almost all systems of government is hardly an argument to preserve a powerful symbol of it that both sustains and gives support to inequality. Yes, inequality seems to be a curse that will never go away but we can do our best to reduce it.

    Stephen m,

    Of course you have a relationship with your kids. It’s just a question of when that relationship started. Can you love and have a relationship with someone you don’t know or doesn’t exist yet? I don’t think so. I think As mortals we only can start to have relationships when we are born, but that doesn’t make our relationships any less special. We can always make them meaningful and special without invoking a premortal union.

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  4. MH on June 21, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    Jake, fascinating insights.

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  5. Bonnie on June 21, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    In Sunday School two weeks ago we spent considerable time discussing this interesting transition in the BofM from divine right of kings to democracy (of whatever form). The priesthood had previously been tied to the kingship and Alma saw firsthand how destructive that was in Noah, so he had a powerful incentive to do something different. So for the first time in nearly 500 years they set up a church and altered their government. Whoa. Changed everything. Eliminated some problems, created others.

    I think personally that we are born into the situation that allows us whatever we needed out of mortality. That’s all. No “deserves this” or “can’t handle that” stuff needed.

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  6. Mike S on June 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    Jake, interesting post. A few comments.

    Regarding whether we “deserve” to be born where we are, I think that most leaders up to the past decade or two have taught that principle. For example, Elder Mark Petersen taught:

    We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some Americans, some as Latter-day Saints. These are rewards and punishments . . . Is it not reasonable to believe that less worthy spirits would come through less favored lineage? . . .

    There are many, many other quotes along the same lines. This isn’t unique to our faith, however. Muslims teach that the more valiant were blessed to be born in good Muslim homes. Buddhists teach that people valiant in a previous live are favored by being born in a good Buddhist home, with the most favored ending up as Buddhist priests.

    We have LDS family “dynasties” as pointed out by others, where multiple generations of a family serve as General Authorities and on the General Boards of the Church. Many teach that it’s not favoritism, per se, but that special spirits are born into family lines that make this possible.

    And the whole idea of “Saturday’s Warrior”, a very popular musical when I was growing up, is based on the idea that they best of the best were saved not only for the last days but for being born in LDS families.

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  7. ji on June 22, 2012 at 12:53 AM

    God is not a respecter of persons. We are, but God isn’t. When the queen dies, she will have to get in line with everyone else for whatever reward she might get.

    Mike (no. 6) — Please don’t bring up stuff like that Petersen quote — that is one man’s rationalizations — I prefer to put all of that in the bag with Elder McConkie’s forget “everything we ever said on the subject.”

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  8. Bob on June 22, 2012 at 1:45 AM

    #7:Ji,
    “Please don’t bring up stuff like that Petersen quote — that is one man’s rationalizations”.
    Mark E Peterson was an Apostle for 40 years. One of the leaders most for the Black Ban. He MUST be talked about.

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  9. AndrewJDavis on June 22, 2012 at 2:19 AM

    Regarding Bonnie’s discussion of Alma’s new change of government:

    I find it interesting that the BoM doesn’t spend much time talking about life with a monarch, but it does spend pages and pages about how hard it was to have the system of judges and ‘democracy’ as the Nephites had it. Perhaps it was a warning to us that while yes, electing your leaders is likely better than a monarch, it will be hard and require a lot of effort to keep it strong and working.

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  10. ji on June 22, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    I look at the kings in the Book of Mormon as being far more like tribal or village chieftains than like the current-day Queen of England or King of Saudi Arabia. I think it would be better if we read about Chief Benjamin and his speech and so forth.

    Alma’s new change of government was a move away from the tribal system at a time when the tribal system wasn’t working because of growth and assimilations.

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  11. Hawkgrrrl on June 22, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    I taught this lesson and one of my 13 year old students pointed out that Iran is a theocracy. Tough crowd, but spot on observation.

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  12. Jon on June 22, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    As for the form of government it doesn’t really matter as long as they are adherent to a form of ethics or God’s law (as the scriptures call it). With a republic it is more likely that you can achieve liberty and freedom for a longer period of time but eventually you will run into the problem of the tyranny of the majority.

    So, in the queens case, she is living against God’s laws because she is stealing from the populace for her livelihood. At the same time a whole group of people can be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor.

    So, all this begets the question, are we not all sinners? We point our fingers at her but do we not all live off of one another and think we are all entitled to one another’s wealth? I think we all need to lift ourselves to a higher standard and live according to a code of ethics that every one should adhere to that is universal in nature.

    As for which nation God is favors, I would say, God favors those nations that do live by this code of ethics and a general moral compass. Even for people that don’t believe in God I think could accept this notion that if you are kind to your neighbor then, in general, others will be nice to you, at a personal level and at a level of a group of people as large as nations.

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  13. Jon on June 22, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    @Hawkgrrrl, #11,

    It is interesting because Benjamin and Mosiah and after with the judges they did not rule as a theocracy. Sure, the king’s and judges may have been in the upper echelon’s of the church but as Mosiah 26 points out the law was based on ethics, not morality.

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  14. Course Correction on June 22, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    I heard several Mormons say it showed God’s favor when Pope John Paul II had an infirm body (but clear mind) while President Hinckley was comparatively robust.

    These good Saints conveniently ignored the infirmity, even senility, of previous elderly church presidents: David O McKay, Spencer W Kimball and Ezra Taft Benson.

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  15. Anonymous on June 22, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    Following the “where much is given, much is required” idea, there is no reason to assume that LDS people are LDS because of valiance. But rather, because of the same reason a man is called to be a bishop. God gave it to them as a calling, not because of any worthiness reason on their part. In other words, God choses who he chooses to be called to whatever calling because of their ability to perform it or talents or whatever, not because they are any more worthy. So, really, it is because they were given a calling to be Mormon, nothing more and nothing less. It is a call to serve. And if they do not serve and perform in that which they are called, they are condemned and held responsible. That is about all there is to it. This to me is a much better explanation as to why some people are born LDS and others are not. It has nothing to do with anything they did to merit it.

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  16. Roger on June 22, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    Hawk– glad your class is out there testing the truth. As far as Peterson, McConkie, Melvin J. Ballard go, along with Brother Brigham they must have been overdriving their headlights.

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  17. Jake on June 23, 2012 at 5:56 AM

    Bonnie,

    I think getting what we needed only makes sense from a privileged position. If you are a child of crack addict surrounded by abuse, neglect and poverty do we really want to say that is what that child needed to have? It makes god seem rather cruel if he have that to them because they needed it.

    Mike s,

    The problem with those quotes is that I think a lot of the doctrine like that was tied into why blacks didn’t have the priesthood. We may have changed the practice but the theory behind it remained.

    Interesting point about the lds dynasties that make the leadership. It makes me think that the church is very much like a monarchy and a royal family in that they form A cultural elite who pick amongst themselves for leadership. it justifies elitism amongst them for they have better blood then everyone else.

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  18. Jake on June 23, 2012 at 6:01 AM

    Andrewjdavies

    I can think of several times rule under kings is mentioned such as king Noah. Almost entirely a king in the book of Mormon is associated with unrighteousness dominion.

    Interesting insight that it shows then struggling to put into practice the republican and democratic principles of their society. I hadn’t thought of it in that way.

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  19. Bonnie on June 23, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    17 Jake, I agree, but only if you view this world and its circumstances of surpassing importance. If you view this world in the context of Lazarus and the rich man, the only thing that matters here is having a mortal experience which provides you a DNA print to be resurrected with substance and having the freedom to choose. I’m not the biggest fan of hatred, violence, and want either, but they fall away at death as meaningless as a bad experience fades into our mortal memory once it’s over – much more so. In the bosom of Abraham was Lazarus. It’s all about the choice.

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  20. sean on June 24, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    you should look up mi6 agent james casabolt. he ran drugs for the english royals into ireland for mi6, like his father did before him. also see lyndon larouches book, Dope Inc. The Windsors and Rothschilds head thew world global drug trade.

    Dope, Inc. Is Back in Print!

    Oct. 21, 2010 (EIRNS)—Executive Intelligence Review is pleased to announce that the underground best-seller, Dope, Inc., first published by the LaRouche political movement in 1978, is back in print. The 320 page paperback, subtitled “Britain’s Opium War Against the World,” includes reprints from the 1992 third edition, and indepth studies from Executive Intelligence Review magazine, analyzing the scope and size of the international illegal drug-trafficking empire known as Dope, Inc.

    Dope, Inc. was commissioned by Lyndon LaRouche, who laid out a war strategy against these London-based death merchants that would work, a war strategy that got considerable traction in the early 1980s. Appropriately, this new edition begins with LaRouche’s 1985 proposed multinational strategy against the drug-traffic in the Western hemisphere, presented in Mexico city in 1985, but never implemented. It also reviews Dope, Inc.’s expansion, including the drug wars being waged out of Afghanistan, and against Russia and Europe today.

    This book represents a crucial weapon against the British Empire today, which uses its dope money to support its bankrupt financial system, and to stupefy and degrade populations worldwide.

    This edition, published by Progressive Independent Media, is currently available in limited numbers, so there is no time to waste in buying yours today. The cost is $25 per book, with $4 for shipping and handling. It is available through http://www.larouchepub.com, and EIR’s national office, at 1-800-278-3135.

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