Romans 13


Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers


John A. Widstoe


"The Church believes 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.' (D. & C. 134:1.)


"Governments must be righteous to receive the support of the Church. They must be in harmony with the principles of justice acknowledged by believers in God. This includes the full and unqualified right of the free exercise of individual liberty whenever it does not infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. Moreover, governments must be organized and maintained for the good and safety of society, that is for the governed, rather than for those who govern. This implies a constitutional form of Government, a form of Government in which the people participate.


"The Church believes 'that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the law 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.' (D. & C. 134:3.)" (John A. Widtsoe, Program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1937], 100.)


Romans 13:1 For there is no power but of God


Both civil and religious power comes from God. Indeed, all righteous power in the universe comes from God. Interestingly, Paul's statement to the Romans reflects the same idea taught by the Savior when he was interviewed of Roman procurator, Pilate, 'Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above' (Jn. 19:11). Pontius Pilate, a generally wicked man, had received his authority from God whether he knew it or not. God had allowed him to rule and pass judgment on his Son. Furthermore, we can see the hand of God in the formation of the Roman Republic-a necessary precursor to the constitutional and democratic governments of today.


Paul's statement indicates that rulers should rule understanding the true source of their power. They must also use that power for good in order to be worthy of the title 'minister of God', for 'he is the minister of God to thee for good' (v. 4, italics added). Therefore, the Roman saints should not rebel against civil authorities but be subject unto them, nor are they justified in rebelling against a government which was mostly good, for 'sedition and rebellion are unbecoming [of] every citizen' (DC 134:5). Richard Anderson noted, "Even though Christ was unlawfully crucified with the approval of an appointee of Tiberius, Christian leaders stressed civil obedience as a gospel duty, Paul stating that 'higher powers' were assigned by God (Rom. 13:1) and Peter naming both the emperor and his governors as appointed by God to maintain order in society. (See 1 Pet. 2:13-14.) Thus Christianity was revolutionary, but on a moral, not a directly political, level." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, "The Church and the Roman Empire," Ensign, Sept. 1975, 13-14)


Romans 13:1 the powers that be are ordained of God


Erastus Snow


"The Apostle Paul says truly: 'For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.' [Rom. 13:1.] At first this is a startling statement. . . . 'The powers are ordained of God,' not that they are always the best forms of government for the people, or that they afford liberty and freedom to mankind, but that any and all forms of government are better than none at all, having a tendency as they do to restrain the passions of human nature and to curb them, and to establish and maintain order to a greater or less degree. One monopoly is better than many; and the oppression of a mob, where every man is a law to himself and his own right arm, is his power to enforce his own will, is the worst form of government." (Roy W. Doxey, comp., Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 4: 447)


James E. Talmage


"Governments are instituted of God, sometimes by His direct interposition, sometimes by His permission. When the Jews had been brought into subjection by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the Lord commanded through the prophet Jeremiah (27:4-8) that the people render obedience to their conqueror, whom He called His servant; for verily the Lord had used the pagan king to chastise the recreant and unfaithful children of the covenant. The obedience so enjoined included the payment of taxes and extended to complete submission. After the death of Christ the apostles taught obedience to the powers that be, which powers, Paul declared 'are ordained of God.' See Rom. 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Tim. 2:1-3; see also 1 Pet. 2:13, 14. Through the medium of modern revelation, the Lord has required of His people in the present dispensation, obedience to and loyal support of the duly established and existing governments in all lands. See D&C 58:21-22; 98:4-6; and section 134 throughout. The restored Church proclaims as an essential part of its belief and practice: 'We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.'" (Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to Holy Scriptures Both Ancient and Modern [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 522, footnote 2.)


JST Romans 13:1 there is no power in the church but of God


The Joseph Smith Translation is helpful for two reasons. First, it reminds the leaders in the church that they are powerless without God, for the 'powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness' (DC 121:36).


Secondly, it preempts misinterpretation. Paul's phrase, 'there is no power but of God,' could be misinterpreted to justify the wicked rule of kings, tyrants, and despots. Hereby, the wicked could lay claim to their unjust rule, saying that their power is 'ordained of God.' Certainly, we are to understand that Paul was not justifying all forms of government. Furthermore, we know that Satan often uses kings and queens, "false priests who oppress" in order to "reign with blood and horror." God doesn't ordain wicked governments, but he does permit them in order to preserve the free exercise of man's agency. Hence, the Joseph Smith Translation arms us against false interpretation by allowing an alternative to those who wrest the scriptures unto their own destruction. As with many inspired alterations by the Prophet, the change is not so much intended to restore Paul's original intent as it is to defuse Satan's powers of doctrinal distortion.


Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing


"The Apostle Paul instructed the Romans to 'owe no man any thing' (Rom. 13:8), while in modern times the Savior counseled Martin Harris to 'pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage' (D&C 19:35).


"Clearly scripture cautions us against incurring unnecessary debt. Modern prophets and apostles have echoed that plea... President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: 'Reasonable debt for the purchase of an affordable home and perhaps for a few other necessary things is acceptable. But from where I sit, I see in a very vivid way the terrible tragedies of many who have unwisely borrowed for things they really do not need' ("I Believe," Ensign, Aug. 1992, 6)." (Scott Nash, "Understanding Interest on Debt," Ensign, Sept. 1997, 64)


J. Reuben Clark, Jr.


"Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours; it never has short crops nor droughts; it never pays taxes; it buys no food; it wears no clothes; it is unhoused and without home and so has no repairs, no replacements, no shingling, plumbing, painting, or whitewashing; it has neither wife, children, father, mother, nor kinfolk to watch over and care for; it has no expense of living; it has neither weddings nor births nor deaths; it has no love, no sympathy; it is as hard and soulless as a granite cliff. Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you." (Conference Report, April 1938, Afternoon Meeting 101.)


Romans 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbor


Spencer W. Kimball


"Across the desk sat a handsome nineteen-year-old and a beautiful, shy but charming, eighteen-year-old. They appeared embarrassed, apprehensive, near-terrified. He was defensive and bordering on belligerency and rebellion. There had been sexual violations throughout the summer...Finally the boy said, 'Yes, we yielded to each other, but we do not think it wrong because we love one another.' I thought I had misunderstood him. Since the world began, there have been countless immoralities, but to hear them justified by Latter-day Saint youth shocked me. He repeated, 'No, it is not wrong, because we love one another.'


"They had repeated this abominable heresy so often that they had convinced themselves, and a wall of resistance had been built, and behind this wall they stubbornly, almost defiantly, stood...


"As I looked the boy in the eye, I said, 'No, my boy, you were not expressing love when you took her virtue.' And to her I said, 'There was no real love in your heart when you robbed him of his chastity. It was lust that brought you together in this most serious of all practices short of murder. Paul said, `Love worketh no ill to his neighbour. . . .` (Romans 13:10.)


"I continued, 'If one really loves another, one would rather die for that person than injure him. At the hour of indulgence, pure love is pushed out one door while lust sneaks in the other. Your affection has been replaced with biological materialism and uncontrolled passion...It is unthinkable that anyone could call this love.'" (Faith Precedes the Miracle [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], 151-154.)


Romans 13:9 it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself


Paul astutely recognizes that of the Ten Commandments the last five deal with our relationship with our neighbor. Similarly, the first four deal with our relationship with God, for they are 'briefly comprehended in this saying, namely,' Love the Lord thy God 'with all your heart, might, mind, and strength' (DC 4:2). Indeed, all the commandments of God can be encompassed by one of these two great commandments and both of these commandments can be encompassed by the doctrine of love. Hence, we see an example of how all of God's truth is "circumscribed into one great whole."


Romans 13:10 love is the fulfilling of the law


Carlos E. Asay


"Other scriptural references remind us that to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourself 'is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices' (Mark 12:33). Moreover, 'love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law' (Rom. 13:10). If love of God and one's fellowmen fulfills the law and is regarded as more than burnt offerings and sacrifices, how can we possibly ignore the woman on the street, the man in the gutter, and the abandoned urchin when we have precious, saving truths to share?


"[John Taylor said:] Our feelings towards the world of mankind, generally, ought to be the same as Jesus manifested to them. He sought to promote their welfare, and our motto ought ever to be the same as his was-Peace on earth and good will to men; no matter who they are or what they are, we should seek to promote the happiness and welfare of all Adam's race." (The Seven M's of Missionary Service: Proclaiming the Gospel as a Member or Full-time Missionary [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chap. 1)


Romans 13:11 for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed


Elder McConkie paraphrased Paul as follows: "We are nearer the goal of salvation now than when we first accepted the gospel; we have made progress along the path leading to eternal life; through continued obedience we have acquired more of the attributes of godliness and become more Christlike." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 298.)


What? Salvation is nearer than when we believed? The cry of Christendom is that if you "believe" you are saved already. Yet, Paul declares that salvation hasn't arrived yet, it's on the horizon-and it's getting closer every day. All this confirms latter-day doctrine that salvation is more of a process than a one-time event.


"...being born again...involves a moment or a season of decision, a resolve to change and improve, as well as a process that continues throughout our lives. We are born again line upon line, precept upon precept. Even those who have had an instantaneous conversion must learn to live by faith, walk in the light of the Spirit, and incorporate the powers of Christ and of his Spirit for the remainder of their days. Truly, 'now is our salvation nearer than when we believed' (Romans 13:11)." (Robert L. Millet, Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 197.)