Principle #1: God is the Author of Free Government
"The reason why the supreme governor of the world is a rightful and just governor, and entitled to the allegiance of the universe is, because he is infinitely good, wise, and powerful. His goodness prompts him to the best measures, his wisdom qualifies him to discern them, and his power to effect them. In a state likewise, the supreme power is best disposed of, when it is so modeled and balanced, and rested in such hands, that it has the greatest share of goodness, wisdom, and power, which is consistent with the lot of humanity.” (The Essex Result, April 29, 1778)
Our founding generation was not so idealistic as to see human's capable of Godlike governance, in fact our founders were well grounded in the fallen state of man and our based nature and gravely warned against the corrupting power of government. Thomas Paine was famous for saying, "Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one." James Madison gave this sobering prescription for governments of men:
"If Men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and the next place, oblige it to control itself."
The state of human nature being what it is, and the lofty attempt to pattern a government after the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God, required an exercise in faith that a true liberty among a moral people would be ennobling to the human spirit, thus prompting a spiritual progress within society not hitherto known among societies of men in our world. Thomas Jefferson expressed his hope and confidence in the ennobling effects of a secure liberty on the morality of men and society in this way:
"If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice... truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Christ, so long perverted... will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it."
The Framers of our nation appealed first to God, also referred to as natural law and natural rights, as the author of our liberty. It stands to reason if our Natural Rights, both alienable and unalienable are bestowed on all mankind by God then they cannot in justice be forcibly taken from any person. Natural Rights cannot and should not be controlled by any power so far as these rights are exercised without injury to the natural rights of others. It was not to the natural law of the jungle our Founders appealed for the rights of men, but to that God we call the creator. Whatever their particular religious belief they declared with one voice, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights..."
For the progress of human society, it was imperative, in the first place, to call upon the supreme virtues of the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God, and wisdom, in the second, to be cautious of man's ability to model the Supreme rulers balanced wisdom and great goodness in their stewardship of power. For this they took the greatest care to restrain government that man's more base nature would not be corrupted by the artifice of power.
The American prophet, Joseph Smith, wrote these definitive words on the first principle of free governments:
We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. (D&C 134:1-4)
This same belief was grounded in the founding documents of our nation, there could be no truly free government except that form of government in harmony with the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God, thus it follows, that for a free republic to function properly and endure in perpetuity the people and their leaders from the people must be moral. There is no happy state of man without these immutable principles of freedom which are co-eternal with God.
"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated — And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." (D&C 130:20:21)
To God we appeal for our lives, our liberty and our happiness and it is to God that we must submit if we are to retain the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Recommended Reading: "A Law Upon Which All Blessings Are Predicated," by David A. Thomas, Brigham Young University, Speeches.byu.edu