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John A Widsoe Speaks On Liberals: Are Mormon’s Liberals? – From the Spirit of the Law Blog

Posted by admin | Posted in Liberal Blog | Posted on 30-07-2011

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John A Widsoe Speaks On Liberals: Are Mormon’s Liberals? – From the Spirit of the Law Blog

I read this passage in Elder John A Widsoe’s book, “Evidences and Reconciliations (vol. 1)”. He took the time to define the term liberal in both religious and political implications. I found it to be enlightening and thought I would share. “The word liberal, correctly used, has a noble meaning. The true liberal hates slavery of every kind. He battles for human freedom. He wants liberty in thought and action. He is tolerant, free from bigotry, and generous in all his deeds. He places truth above all else and hungers for full truth. He welcomes all new improvements and calls for more – the telegraph, electric light, telephone, printing press, typewriter, railroad, airship, radio. He insists that every new invention must be used for human welfare, with full respect to civil and moral law. In short, the liberal seeks to make better the day in which he lives, and he becomes therefore a crusader for the betterment of the human race. Such a liberal, to accomplish his purpose, holds fast, without the least concession, to the convictions of his soul. He is anchored to the rock of truth, as he may see it. He never wavers from the basic, underlying principles of the cause, whether of church or state, to which is committed. All the world knows how and where he stands. His liberalism lies in his constant attempt to make the underlying unchanging principles of the cause he represents serve the changing conditions of the day. He may differ with the superficial conventions of the past, but not with its established truths. He may refuse to continue the church architecture of the past but will insist that the ancient truths of the gospel be taught in every building dedicated to worship. He may be forever seeking, under changing conditions, to make the doctrine of human brotherhood more effective in behalf of the needy. He is a believer who seeks to use his beliefs in every concern of his life. Unfortunately, the word liberal is not always properly used. It has been used, or misused, for so many purposes that its original meaning has largely vanished. Word-juggling, making a good word cover a doubtful or an ugly cause, is an age-old pastime. Words are too often used as shields to hide or disguise truth. Many men are inclined to hide their true motives behind a word. The self-called liberal is usually one who has broken with the fundamental principles or guiding philosophy of the group to which he belongs. He is an unbeliever. He claims membership in an organization but does not believe in its basic concepts, and sets out to reform it by changing its foundations. He is forever entangling his unbelief with his membership. He wants the protection of the organization, therefore he refuses to admit frankly that he rejects the fundamental beliefs of the cause and seeks truth elsewhere. It is a species of cowardice. In the United States, communists, nazis, or fascists would probably insist that they are liberals. In a church, the liberal refuses to accept the doctrine of the church or the way of life that it enjoins upon its members. It is an undeserved compliment to designate such men by the noble word liberal; they are apostates from a cause, engaged in building their own cause under false colors, whether in the state or the church. They are often without basic convictions, rudderless mariners, victims of every passing wave. Such men, whatever they may call themselves, are dangerous to human happiness. Certainly they are not entitled to be called liberals within the organization of which they are members. Their chief pastime is to sow the seeds of anarchy in the hearts of others. Under the true definition of liberalism, the Church of Jesus Christ is preeminently liberal. … it makes truth and love of truth its foundation.”


When reading this quote many things come to mind that reflect society today. Socialists and communists are the liberals of today. There are many principles that liberal claim to espouse that appear on the surface to be in conjunction with church teachings. However, as this quote points out, there are differences, there are perversions of good doctrine and it is the liberals of today that are perverting those teachings.

James Numark is one of the founders and major contributors to the Spirit of the Law Blog.

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