Good Neighbor policy (LDS Church)

Good Neighbor policy (LDS Church)

The "Good Neighbor" policy is a collective term used to describe a variety of reforms adopted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1927. The reforms were primarily intended to remove from church literature, sermons, and ceremonies any explicit or implicit suggestion that Latter-day Saints should seek vengeance on the citizens or government of the United States for past persecutions of the church and its members, and in particular for the assassinations of church founder Joseph Smith, Jr. and his brother Hyrum. The name of the policy is borrowed from U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor foreign policy, which was first articulated in 1933.

Changes in temple ordinances

In 1919, shortly after he became the president of the LDS Church, Heber J. Grant appointed a committee to review the content of ordinances performed in LDS Church temples. [The committee was headed by Grant's counselor and president of the Salt Lake Temple Anthon H. Lund. When Lund died in 1921, Apostle George F. Richards became head of the committee. The other members of the committee were David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Stephen L Richards, John A. Widtsoe, and James E. Talmage.] The committee completed its work in 1927 and recommended to Grant that the oath of vengeance be removed from the temple Endowment ceremony. [David John Buerger (2002). "The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship" (2d ed.) (Salt Lake City: Signature Books) 139–140.] The oath of vengeance required participants to agree to be bound by the following oath:

"You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children's children unto the third and fourth generation." [U.S. Senate Document 486 (59th Congress, 1st Session) "Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Hon. Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to hold his Seat." (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906) vol. 1, pp. 6–7. The "prophets" referred to Joseph and Hyrum Smith and "this nation" referred to the United States.]

On February 15, 1927, Apostle George F. Richards, acting on behalf of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, notified the presidents of the church's six temples that "all reference to retribution" was to be removed from the Endowment ceremony and that the oath of vengeance was to no longer be administered. He also added that "all reference to avenging the blood of the Prophets" should be omitted from the prayer given in the temple's prayer circle. [George F. Richards, Letter to Edward H. Snow, President of the St. George Temple, 1927-02-15, LDS Church archives, quoted in David John Buerger, "The Development of the Mormon Endowment Ceremony", "Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought" 35:75–122 (2001) at 104–105.]

Changes in church literature

In 1927, the church also moved to change similar references in church literature. For example, since 1844, Latter-day Saints had sung the hymn "Praise to the Man" as a tribute to Joseph Smith. Part of the second verse read, "Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins, / Stain Illinois, while the earth lauds his fame". [Anonymous [W. W. Phelps] , [ "Joseph Smith"] , "Times and Seasons", 5 (1 August 1844), p. 607.] In its 1927 hymnal, the church substituted "Stain Illinois" with "Plead unto heav'n".George D. Pyper (1939). "Stories of the Latter-day Saint Hymns, their Authors and Composers" p. 100.]


While it was being implemented, the LDS Church did not describe its changes as part of an overall plan or shift in policy. Therefore, the church gave no official name to the policy. However, after the policy changes were implemented, some commentators began referring to the changes as the LDS Church's "Good Neighbor" policy.


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