I was reading Doctrine and Covenants section 134 today. I have read it before on various occasions, but my perspective on government has sharpened considerably since the last time I read it and it struck a chord with me as a wonderful description of the proper interaction between government and religious organizations.
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 all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws 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.
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.
That resonates with my thoughts that government is a divinely sanctioned necessity for maintaining secular order in an otherwise chaotic world and also that the purposes of government are limited to establishing that order while stopping short of interfering with the legitimate agency of its citizens.
I wonder if any government has ever managed to avoid overstepping those very limited bounds consistently.