The United States of America is the greatest nation in history. It is truly a nation of divine destiny! Why was it formed, and what is its divine duty and destiny?
What is our role in its preservation?
The answers to these momentous questions are worthy of our solemn consideration!
The United States of America was a relatively young nation when the Prophet Joseph Smith was born. In 1775, just thirty years before the Prophet Joseph’s birth, the conflict in quest of the Nation’s freedom began in earnest.
In 1776, the founders of the Nation declared the United States a free and independent Nation. The Revolutionary War was concluded at the signing of the treaty of peace with England in 1783, but the Nation still struggled without a firm foundation until the United States Constitution was penned in 1787, and finally ratified and put into operation in 1789. By the end of 1791 the Bill of Rights, which recognized and guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, the press, property, numerous other elements of liberty and justice, and which further declared restrictions limiting the power of government to abuse its authority, had been ratified by the States.
Many latter-day prophets have declared that these conditions were essential to the restoration of the gospel. Indeed, these critically necessary elements of freedom and properly framed government have been called the “prelude” or “prologue” to the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation.1 Thus, just a few short years after this great preparatory work had been accomplished by the Founding Fathers of the United States, Joseph Smith Jr. was born, and the stage was set for the gospel to be restored for the blessing of all mankind.
After the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to the fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith in 1820, and the revelations of Moroni and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon which followed soon afterward; the great eternal principles and saving ordinances of the gospel burst forth upon the world in a veritable torrent of light and knowledge from the eternal courts on high! The great work of the Father and the Son continues today to roll forth as the stone cut out from the mountain without hands,2 and it will continue until it has filled the whole earth.
It is interesting to note the ongoing importance of liberty and properly framed government, as expressed by the Lord and His servants, as the gospel is to be carried to all mankind! In August 1833 the Lord stated that He endorsed the United States Constitution, and that “as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.”3
In December 1833, the Lord revealed that He raised up the Founding Fathers of this Nation, established the United States Constitution, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.4
The Prophet Joseph Smith testified that the Savior dictated to him the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple. That dedicatory prayer is recorded as Doctrine and Covenants Section 109. Verse 54 of that section testifies of the Savior’s intention that the Constitution be established forever.5
Among his many statements on the Constitution, Joseph Smith declared:
“We say that God is true, that the Constitution of the United States is true, that the Bible is true, the Book of Mormon is true, that Christ is true, that the ministering of angels is true;…” 6
The Prophet Joseph Smith also stated: “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth.”7
Joseph Smith and the brethren of the Twelve had such high regard for the United States Constitution that the charter that they penned for the City of Nauvoo refers to the U.S. Constitution seven times.8
The Prophet Joseph Smith’s devotion to the foundation principles embodied in the United States Constitution are clearly stated in each of his recorded comments. As he campaigned to be elected as President of the United States in 1844, the Prophet published his “Views on the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States.”9 In that political tract, he outlined Constitutional solutions to many vexing online payday lenders problems of his day, as well as challenges which continue to face the United States today.
As the apostles circulated Joseph Smith’s document on his views regarding government among the prominent citizens of the Nation in that day, it was received with acclaim and excitement. Letters from members of the Quorum of the Twelve reflect the hope the people found in the Prophet’s proposal, and a willingness to embrace and apply it. Joseph Smith was recognized as the first man since the days of Washington and Jefferson to have such a clear and sound understanding of the principles of proper government.10
After the martyrdom of the Prophet, the leaders of the Church continue to recognize the great importance of the United States Constitution, and of sustaining it so that the gospel may continue to roll forth most effectively. Indeed, latter-day prophets have asserted that the United States Constitution is part of their religion, and that “its words are akin to scripture, for God has placed His stamp of approval upon it.”11
Among the many testimonies of Brigham Young regarding the United States Constitution is his following statement:
“I want to say to every man, the Constitution ofThe, price dry-damaged, would can leave quantities fragrance.
the United States, as formed by our fathers, was dictated, was revealed, was put into their hearts by the Almighty, who sits enthroned in the midst of the heavens; although unknown to them, it was dictated by the revelations of Jesus Christ, and I tell you in the name of Jesus Christ, it is as good as I could ask for.”12
In the dedicatory prayer of the Idaho Falls Temple, President George Albert castle payday Smith petitioned God with a powerful plea that the United States Constitution be preserved from the efforts to destroy it.13
It appears that the principles of freedom and proper government are interwoven as part of God’s eternal plan for His children.
And President David O. McKay was emphatic in his support of these principles, saying:
“Next to being one in worshiping payday God, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States.”14
“I repeat that no greater immediate responsibility rests upon members of the Church, upon all citizens of this republic and of neighboring republics than to protect the freedom vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.”15
And President Ezra Taft Benson expressed his faith that the United States Constitution will be preserved by those who remain faithful to its precepts:
“I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. It will be saved by the righteous citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened members of this Church-among others-men and women who understand and abide the principles of the Constitution….
“I testify that the God of heaven sent some of His choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government, and He has now sent other choice spirits to help preserve it.”16
Relatively recent statements made by President Gordon B. Hinckley regarding his views of this Nation’s founders and their principles capture his view on these matters:
“…both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were brought forth under the inspiration of God, to establish and sustain the freedom of the people of this Nation. …I looked upon the Founding Fathers as men who believed in God, as men who prayed to God, as men who recognized God, and wished to do His will. What a singular and remarkable group they were. As I look across the world today I search in vain for such a group as walked together across the stage of history, when this Nation was born….
“Just think for a moment of George Washington, of Franklin, of Madison, of the Adams, of Thomas Jefferson and their associates who signed the Declaration of Independence, or participated in the Constitutional Convention. Where in all the world today can even one or two such men be found, let alone the great aggregation who participated in the birth of America? …It is my conviction that while we’ve had a few great leaders since then, there has not been before or since so large a group of talented, able and dedicated men, as those who we call the Founding Fathers of this Nation.”17
In a more recent general conference address, President Gordon B. Hinckley made the following statement:
“The Constitution under which we live and which has not only blessed us but has become a model for other constitutions, is our God-inspired national safeguard ensuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.” 18
We have much to live up to! If we who live in this blessed Nation are to remain the platform from which the Lord takes the gospel to all of His children throughout the world, it is imperative that this great Title of Liberty be maintained over this land.
We must maintain our liberty and economic strength to perform our duty, and it cannot be done if we do not obey, honor and sustain the law which God established in this land.19
If we are to fulfill our responsibility, we cannot be swept into the mainstream of the world and embrace the false and destructive principles which are so universally taught and accepted today. The world’s principles are not God’s principles. The truth has been revealed and may be known by those who will seek diligently and faithfully to obtain it.
The Nation is currently caught up in the hoopla of the election year, with glorious and grand promises being bandied about like so much confetti. Some cry “lo, here, and others cry lo, there,” in their quest to become, or remain, our political leader. The Lord has advised us that “by their fruits ye shall know them.”20 It would therefore seem apparent that the Lord expects us to exercise the wisdom He has granted us to wisely evaluate our choices, and elect those who will honor their sacred oath to uphold the United States Constitution. Those who have held office have a track record which testifies of their action, and which may be evaluated against the plain English words of the United States Constitution. And, apparently, the Lord will hold us responsible for how we vote.21
On page 170 of his marvelous little book, “Standing for Something,” Gordon B. Hinckley lamented the current political state of affairs, saying:
“We are involved in an intense battle. It is a battle between right and wrong, between truth and error, between the design of the Almighty on the one hand and that of Lucifer on the other. For that reason, we desperately need men and women who, in their individual spheres of influence, will stand for truth in a world of sophistry. I have lived long enough now to know that many political campaigns, for example, are the same. I have heard again and again the sweet talk that leads to victory but never seems to be realized thereafter. We need moral men and women, people who stand on principle, to be involved in the political process. Otherwise, we abdicate power to those whose designs are almost entirely selfish.”
In light of this counsel, what is to be done? Great wisdom may be found in statements made by Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in 1844 when Joseph ran for President of the United States.
Hyrum Smith, Patriarch of the Church stated:
“We engage in the election the same as in any other principle: you are to vote for good men, and if you do not do this it is a sin: to vote for wicked men, it would be sin. Choose the good and refuse the evil. Men of false principles have preyed upon us like wolves upon helpless lambs.”22
In 1844 the Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of principle-based voting, saying:
“…we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we have acted conscientiously, and have used our best judgment. And if we have to throw away our votes, we had better do so upon a worthy rather than an unworthy individual who might make use of the weapon we put in his hand to destroy us.”23
It would seem that casting one’s vote must be based upon more than “belief,” party politics, personalities, slick advertising, or a superficial understanding. It is apparent our vote must be based upon firmly founded principles which are inextricably bound to the principles incorporated within the divinely established United States Constitution. Such principles-based understanding is only possible through diligent seeking.
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that the time would come when the Constitution would hang by a thread, and the elders of the Church would have a hand in its preservation.24 Many other prophets have restated that prophecy. We have a divine mandate to preserve the Constitution!
As the prophet, President Benson declared: “Unfortunately, we as a Nation have apostatized in various degrees from different Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired founders. We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith…”25 If this is the case, what are we to do?
In his monumental October 1987 General Conference address, “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson outlined our responsibility:
First and foremost, we must be righteous.
…the Latter-day Saints, must be virtuous….
Second, we must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.
Have we read the Federalist papers? Are we reading the Constitution and pondering it? Are we aware of its principles? Are we abiding by these principles and teaching them to others? Could we defend the Constitution? Can we recognize when a law is constitutionally unsound? Do we know what the prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it?
Third, we must become involved in civic affairs to see that we are properly represented.
We must follow this counsel from the Lord: “Honest men and wise men should be payday 2 cheats sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil” (D&C 98:10).
Fourth, we must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, our teaching, and our advice.
…The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound. ‘Tis right, politically, for a man who has influence to use it….From henceforth I will maintain all the influence I can get'” (History of the Church, 5:286).26
In light of the many testimonies which have been borne by the latter-day apostles and prophets in regard to our marvelous God-ordained Constitution, it is apparent that the people, and particularly members of the Church, have a responsibility to become knowledgeable “Constitutionalists.”
- Petersen, Mark E. The Great Prologue. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975; “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, pages 4-7.
- The Old Testament,, Daniel 2:45.
- Doctrine and Covenants 98:4–7.
- Doctrine and Covenants 101:77–80.
- Doctrine and Covenants 109:54.
- Times and Seasons vol. 1, page 134; also, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 148.
- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843-44, p.326; also, History of the Church 6:56-57.
- History of the Church, Vol.4, Ch.13, p.239-p.249; also History of the Church, Vol.4, Introduction, p.22-23.
- History of the Church, Vol.6, Ch.8, p.197-209.
- History of the Church, Vol.7, Ch.11, p.136-139, Letter from Elders Lyman Wight and Heber C. Kimball to Joseph Smith, Philadelphia, Pa., June 19, 1844.
- “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, pages 4-7.
- Henry, D. “The Prophets on the Christ.” Liahona: The Elders’ Journal (26 Dec 1908) 6:678; also in Roberts, B. H. Mormonism, 27-28.
- Temples of the Most High, compiled by N. B. Lundwall, Bookcraft, pg. 187-189.
- Conference Report, October 1939, p. 105.
- Conference Report, April 1950, p. 37. ; Gospel Ideals, p.319-320.
- “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, page 7.
- President Gordon B. Hinckley, Fireside Address, BYU Marriott Center, 29 June 1997; also Standing for Something, pg xv.
- President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, p. 72.
- Article of Faith 12
- Matthew 7:16; Matthew 7:20; 3 Nephi 14:16; 3 Nephi 14:20; JST Matthew 7:25
- Doctrine and Covenants 134:1
- History of the Church, Vol.6, Ch.15, p.323
- Times and Seasons, Nauvoo, IV, 441. Cited also in Roberts, Comprehensive History, II, pages 208-209
- 19 July 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; ms. in Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City.
- “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, page 6
- “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, pages 6-7.