The Constitution — ‘a glorious standard’

By Kristine Frederickson, Columnist Jul 5, 2009, 12:17am MDT

In our day The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed a worldwide church. Nevertheless, July is a significant month for the church because of two events that occurred in the United States of America.

First, in this month we celebrate the founding of the United States as a nation, organized under God’s providence, for the restoration of the gospel. Second, it was in July the Saints settled in the Salt Lake basin and established the headquarters of the church. Both events are worthy of attention because they help to more clearly illuminate God’s purposes and the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With the Fourth of July upon us, let us consider here the great document upon which the United States is founded.

By definition a constitution is a document that states the basic principles and laws of a nation or a state. It determines the powers and duties of the government, of its leaders, and guarantees certain rights to its people. Members of the church are taught that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by God.

Elder Mark E. Petersen explained: “The Constitution provided freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly. Therefore, under the Constitution the Lord could restore the gospel and re-establish his church. The preparation of the Constitution was the work of his own hand. The restoration of the gospel was likewise his work. Both were part of a greater whole. Both fit into his pattern for the latter days … and allow for the worldwide preaching of (his) sacred word. … Let us always remember that its formation was one of the vital steps preparatory to the second coming of the Savior.”On one occasion the Prophet Joseph Smith described the Constitution as “a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner.” Only when the Prophet’s comments are situated in the times in which he lived, and as the Constitution is recognized as providential, can we begin to understand how vital this document is and the adherence it deserves.

In 1833 the Lord revealed what are now sections 98 and 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Both teach about the Constitution. They were given at a time when the Saints, because they were attempting to live their religion, were being severely persecuted by apostates and mobocrats. A secret constitution was drawn up in Jackson County, Missouri, by leading citizens calling for the expulsion of the Mormons. Mobs destroyed the printing office and the Gilbert and Whitney store, and tarred and feathered Bishop Partridge and Charles Allen. Pillage, plunder, rape and murder were exacted.

Lt. Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs was then a secret supporter of these depredations, and later as governor would issue an extermination order against the Mormons.

Violence was also perpetrated against the saints in Kirtland, Ohio; throughout Missouri; and, in time, in Nauvoo, Ill. Redress through legal channels, accompanied by reams of documentation, was sought from local, state and federal governments, and church leaders met with the president of the United States. No recompense was ever extended.

In the midst of such heinous circumstances, Joseph Smith effused, “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on Earth.”

How was this possible considering what the saints suffered? We find what might be, in part, the answer to this question in D&C 98, “I, the Lord, justify you … brethren of my church in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.” An example to help us understand this distinction can be found in the Extermination Order, a “law of man” that clearly violated constitutional precepts and did great harm to innocent individuals.

The Lord continued, “I, the Lord, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.” Constitutional law must extend to an individual’s right to act in good conscience without egregious interference by government.

Then comes a warning and admonition, “Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.” We are to support candidates who are “wise” men or women of unimpeachable integrity who will uphold the principles of the Constitution.

It could well be of great value to civic-minded individuals the world over to study the principles of the U.S. Constitution and stand against laws and practices that contradict its divinely inspired dictums. If we ignore these injunctions we do so at our peril, for if we do so, the promise will be realized: Evil will come and “when the wicked rule the people mourn.”