If the United States government were to ever overthrow the First Amendment and pass a law that banned Latter-day Saints from practicing our religion, would the church obey that law?
That is an interesting hypothetical question that honestly would be really hard to give an accurate accounting of what the Church would do in that situation. The question is so broad in relation to “practicing religion.” Does that mean the U.S. government banned prayer? The U.S. government banned Sunday worship services? Let’s begin with scriptures that highlight possibilities as we know for sure our Church leaders would seek the scriptures for answers.
The first thing we know is that the Church leaders (prophets and apostles) would fast and pray and seek wisdom from the head of this Church — Jesus Christ. In our Book of Mormon we have the following verse of scripture that possibly relates to this, Alma 48:15,
“And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger.”
The second thing for sure, at a time like this, the Lord would not remain quiet. Revelation would come to the prophets and apostles, and then that revelation would be spread to the whole Church. In the beginning, we might receive similar counsel Alma received when tyranny ruled over them, Mosiah 24:13-16:
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.”
For a time the Lord may command the Church to worship in private, practice our religion in our hearts and in our actions that reflect who we are as Christians, while openly not practicing our religious rights. Even with the First Amendment, our pioneers had to suffer horrible experiences they should have never had to in light of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
A third thought, we already have Church members who are living in areas without the First Amendment. We have members who are restricted as to how they can worship the Lord. In those lands the members are encouraged to obey and honor the laws they live within. The United States though would be different because the state of affairs would be going from having the right to not having the right, but the command from the Lord to “obey the law” is still in force until the Lord directs otherwise (as with the first scripture shared).
The final thought though, what would be the atmosphere of the United States to lose the First amendment? To remove the First amendment would be an act of tyranny. Would the government be only targeting the Church or would other Christian groups be targeted as well? How would other Christians respond to the loss of the First Amendment and our ability, God given right, to practice our religion? Would the Church even have to worry about such a policy due to the potential civil war that could result in such a display of power by government officials? So, at that time the Church maybe figuring out, fasting and praying, on how to protect its members from a far worse fate. Thus, the counsel, which has been received and commanded — strengthen the stakes of Zion — and the counsel to “Set in Order Thy House.”