On this day, in 1805, Joseph Smith was born. In the year 1805, Winter Solstice occurred on December 22, the longest night of the year. The next day, the 23rd when Joseph was born, marked the time on our calendar when the days grew longer, triumphing over night, and light prevailed over darkness.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
I’ve seen many Christians cite this passage as a powerful affirmation. It has become a meme. And indeed you have it in you to climb that mountain. You are capable of enduring and overcoming anything if you set your mind to it. You are willing to suffer to become the master of your own destiny. But are you willing to suffer the same things for the benefit of a family member? What about a neighbor? A stranger? A homeless beggar? How far out of your comfort zone are you willing to go for someone who can do nothing for you? What’s in it for you anyway? And if you have the strength alone to help someone in need, how much strength would you need from God to go the extra mile for someone else? How willing are you to become equal to an inordinately burdensome and punishing task for any of the previously mentioned people? There is a reason why there are no traffic jams along the extra mile. People usually don’t enjoy suffering let alone suffering for someone else. Longsuffering is not a part of most people’s vocabulary. But you really are stronger than you might think, and if you are willing to suffer for Christ’s sake, you will find strength that you never thought was possible.
While studying King Hezekiah’s relationship with the prophet Isaiah, I realized something else. Without God to uphold our hearts, we tend to fail every time He tests us. In other words, when God withdraws His Spirit and we feel abandoned, we discover the true nature of our own hearts.
2 Chronicles 32:31 ¶ Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.
He had put his trust in God during the Assyrian invasion and was given an additional fifteen years of life. But when the Lord withdrew to test him, Hezekiah ultimately became accountable for the Babylonian captivity. When we feel abandoned, we all stray. Some of us become monsters.
“Well, if God doesn’t care, why should I?”
But He does care. That is why he steps away periodically. Like a parent who teaches her toddler to walk, He must step away. I remember when one of my sisters was a toddler and still learning to walk. My mother set her at one end of the living room on her wobbly legs and walked to the other end. My sister began to cry because Mom appeared to abandon her. Desperate to be near my mother, my sister began to take one step and then two. Crying and striving to reach Mom, she inched her way forward one wobbly baby step at a time. She has been walking and running ever since. What is the solution?
Matthew 26:41 and , that ye enter not into : the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
William Gurnall wrote that all our strength is fetched without doors, or in other words, outside of ourselves:
“Reason Second. The second reason may be taken from the absolute necessity of this act of faith above others, to support the Christian in the hour of temptation. All the Christian’s strength and comfort is fetched without doors, and he hath none to send of his errand but faith; this goes to heaven and knocks God up, as he in the parable his neighbor at midnight for bread: therefore, when faith fails, and the soul hath none to go to market for supplies, there must needs be a poor house kept in the meantime. Now faith is never quite laid up till the soul denies, or at least questions, the power of God. Indeed, when the Christian disputes the will of God, whispering within its own bosom, will he pardon? Will he save? This may make faith go haltingly to the throne of grace, but not knock the soul off from seeking the face of God. Even then faith on the power of God will bear it company thither: ‘If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean;’ if thou wilt, thou canst pardon, thou canst purge. But when the soul concludes he cannot pardon, cannot save, this shoots faith to the heart, so that the soul falls at the foot of Satan, not able more to resist; now it grows more listless to duty, indifferent whether it pray or not, as one that sees the well dry breaks or throws away his pitcher.”–William Gurnal, The Christian in Complete Armor.
The strength to flee temptation comes only from God. And that strength comes only through prayer. Without prayer, we fail. How strong are we when God steps back to test our hearts?
Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the night hour.
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, God, my God, why hast thou me?
Jesus Christ suffered intense agony for six hours nailed to the cross while the effects of countless lashes had ripped his flesh, thorns had pierced his brow, spikes had pierced nerves in his extremities, hunger and thirst afflicted his body, and gravity made it all the more unbearable. But He did not waver from his mission. He had spent the entire night before in Gethsemane praying and also suffering. Prayer was His constant companion. He was no stranger to an entire night of prayer. He was no stranger to forty days of praying and fasting. But imagine for a moment, if He had stepped down from the cross, being abandoned or, rather, forsaken by His Father to become a monster and to smite the Romans who inflicted so much pain on Him and to make all the high priests wither as dried reeds, or to become as chaff that disappears in the wind and to strike down all those who mocked Him while He suffered intense agony. Only a monster would do such a thing. But Jesus was not a monster. Though capable of destruction of cosmic proportions, as demonstrated by the great flood during Noah’s day, or the pestilences inflicted upon Pharaoh in Moses’ day, Jesus Christ, the God of all creation humbly, meekly, and willingly suffered all things of His own will. Without His Father to uphold His heart, Jesus Christ upheld us all. He, and He alone carried all our guilt.
Returning to Hezekiah, consider finally the following commentary:
“God left him to himself in it, to try him, v. 31. God, by the power of his almighty grace, could have prevented the sin; but he permitted it for wise and holy ends, that, by this trial and his weakness in it, he might know, that is, it might be known (a usual Hebraism), what was in his heart, that he was not so perfect in grace as he thought he was, but had his follies and infirmities as other men. God left him to himself to be proud of his wealth, to keep him from being proud of his holiness.
It is good for us to know ourselves, and our own weakness and sinfulness, that we may not be conceited or self-confident, but may always think meanly of ourselves and live in a dependence upon divine grace. We know not the corruption of our own hearts, nor what we shall do if God leave us to ourselves. Lord, lead us not into temptation.
3. His sin was the his heart was lifted up, v. 25. He was proud of the honour God had put upon him in so many instances, the honour his neighbours did him in bringing him presents, and now that the king of Babylon should send an embassy to him to caress and court him: this exalted him above measure.
When Hezekiah had destroyed other idolatries he began to idolize himself. O what need have great men, and good men, and useful men, to study their own infirmities and follies, and their obligations to free grace, that they may never think highly of themselves, and to beg earnestly of God that he will hide pride from them and always keep them humble!–Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 2 Ch 32:31.
In our individual journeys to seek His face, we must pray and pray often. Yesterday’s prayers are not sufficient for today, for as the Apostle Paul declared, we stand in jeopardy every hour! And when that sweet Spirit of the Lord deliberately withdraws from our hearts, which leaves us feeling empty and desperate, in order to test us, it is then that we truly discover who we are without Him. It is imperative that we learn to be godly without Him to uphold our hearts, else we might find ourselves, like that son of morning, fallen from heaven and cast down to Earth because of our pride and lust and vanity.
Isaiah 14:11 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of the viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou has said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
In light of so many empty chapels across the globe today and the problem of having a “place” to worship isn’t new. The ancient Samaritans once had a similar problem.
According to the Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible (McGraw Hill) by Louis F. Hartman, C.SS.R., feelings of ill will probably went back before the separation of the northern and southern Jewish kingdoms. Even then there was a lack of unity between the tribes of Jacob. After the separation of Judah and Israel in the ninth century, King Omri of the Northern Kingdom bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer (1 Kings 16:24). He built there the city of Samaria which became his capital.
It was strong defensively and controlled the valley through which the main road ran between Jerusalem and Galilee. In 722 B.C. the city fell to the Assyrians and became the headquarters of the Assyrian province of Samarina. While many of the inhabitants of the city and the surrounding area of Samaria were led off into captivity, some farmers and others were left behind. They intermarried with new settlers from Mesopotamia and Syria. Though the Samaritans were condemned by the Jews, Hartman says they probably had as much pure Jewish blood as the Jews who later returned from the Babylonian exile. When the Jews destroyed the temple where the Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerizim about 111 B.C., it left their “apostate” Samaritan brothers and sisters with no place to worship the Lord. This sets the stage for the discussion between Jesus Christ and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
John 4:7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the .
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee .
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never ; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water into .
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a .
20 Our fathers worshipped in mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall the Father in spirit and in : for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 is a : and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in .
25 The woman saith unto him, I know that cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will us all things.
26 Jesus saith unto her, that speak unto thee am he.
27 ¶ And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
I take issue with verse 24 where it says that God is a Spirit. While I agree that God is Spirit, I do not subscribe to the translation saying He is a Spirit without flesh and bone. There is a difference between being Spirit and being a Spirit. But that is a discussion for another day. The point of the discussion between the mortal Messiah and the woman at the well was to teach her that a physical location to offer up oblations would become obsolete and that worshiping the Lord involved offering up a broken heart and a contrite spirit instead of burnt sacrifices and that it could be done anywhere, especially in secret. Considering the temple at Jerusalem would soon be destroyed by the Romans, this revelation would prove to be paramount.
In the Book of Mormon (Alma chapters 31-34), there were impoverished Zoramites who were not allowed to worship in the very synagogues that they labored to build with their own hands. Because they did not dress like their wealthier fellow Zoramites, they were looked down upon and were not fellowshipped by their wealthier brothers and sisters who enjoyed worshiping in their synagogue by going up to a “holy stand” to declare loudly that all present might hear just how special and chosen and elect they were compared to everyone else. When many of these social outcasts approached Alma and Amulek, while they were preaching, they asked what they could do. They were then taught beautifully about faith and exhorted to worship anywhere and everywhere, that they did not need a physical building to worship the Lord.
Alma 34:37 And now, my beloved brethren, I desire that ye should remember these things, and that ye should out your salvation with fear before God, and that ye should no more deny the coming of Christ;
38 That ye no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in daily, for the many and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.
We may go to a building with others to be instructed or listen to someone give witness, whether on a holy stand or in a classroom or some other location, but to worship, or in other words, to honor and to praise the Lord can be done anywhere. It can be at home in your closet or on a mountain top. So what does it mean to honor and praise the Lord in Spirit and Truth? How do we show Him that we love Him? Jesus Christ taught us precisely how in His sermons, especially His famous sermon on the mount. He taught us how to be perfect (Greek: complete). Very simply, if we love Him, we keep His commandments. His commandments teach us what it is like to be like Him and like His Father in heaven and all who dwell in such a celestial society. Jesus declared:
John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be of my Father, and I will love him, and will myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will him, and we will come unto him, and make our with him.
To love God is to worship Him in Spirit. It is to deny the flesh or as Paul said:
Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
We must die as to the flesh. We must crucify the carnal appetites that we might die unto Christ who lives in us.
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
But returning to John 14 above and Jesus manifesting Himself to those who love Him and keep His commandments, Joseph Smith had this to say about it:
D&C 130:3 John 14:23—The of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal ; and the idea that the Father and the Son in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.
There have been many people today who have shared their story of being personally visited by Jesus Christ. He is no respector of persons and will manifest Himself according to His own will to them. In summary, I offer the following revelation given to Joseph Smith:
D&C 93:1 Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who his and cometh unto me, and on my name, and my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall my and that I am;
2 And that I am the true that lighteth every man that cometh into the world;
3 And that I am the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one—
4 The Father he me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made my , and dwelt among the sons of men.
5 I was in the world and received of my Father, and the of him were plainly manifest.
6 And saw and bore record of the fulness of my , and the fulness of record is hereafter to be revealed.
7 And he bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the , before the world was;
8 Therefore, in the beginning the was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.
11 And I, John, that I beheld his , as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the at the first, but received for grace;
13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from to grace, until he received a fulness;
14 And thus he was called the , because he received not of the fulness at the first.
15 And I, , bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my .
16 And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
17 And he received , both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.
18 And it shall come to pass, that if you are faithful you shall receive the of the record of John.
19 I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
20 For if you keep my you shall receive of his , and be in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive for grace.
21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the with the Father, and am the ;
22 And all those who are begotten through me are of the of the same, and are the of the Firstborn.
23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is , even the Spirit of truth;
24 And is of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
25 And whatsoever is or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a from the beginning.
26 The Spirit of is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that his commandments receiveth and , until he is glorified in truth and all things.
29 Man was also in the with God. , or the of , was not or made, neither indeed can be.
30 All truth is independent in that in which God has placed it, to for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
31 Behold, here is the of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is unto them, and they receive not the light.
32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the is under condemnation.
33 For man is . The elements are , and and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
34 And when , man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
35 The are the of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even ; and whatsoever temple is , God shall destroy that temple.
THE SPECIAL IMPORTANCE OF THE
UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO MEMBERS OF
THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
“And for this purpose have I [The Lord Jesus the Christ] established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose,…” (D&C 101:80)
“[The] laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established…, should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;” (D&C 101:77).
“…may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.” (D&C 109:54)
“We must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers” (President Ezra Taft Benson, October General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
THE SPECIAL IMPORTANCE OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO LATTER-DAY SAINTS.
by Ralph Hughes
If there is one single verse of Scripture that has been ringing like a clarion call in my head in recent years, it is Verse 6 of the 98th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. “Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;”. Given by the Lord Jesus Christ thru the Prophet Joseph Smith, at Kirtland, Ohio, August 6, 1833, its message is clear that “The saints are to befriend the constitutional law of the land.” as stated in the section outline. It is preceded in Verse 4 by the statement “…it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.”, and I believe it was well echoed and even magnified by then Apostle David O. McKay’s statement in the October 1939 General Conference that: “Next to being one in worshiping 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.”
By revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, as recorded in Verse 80 of the 101st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord declared that He had established the Constitution of the United States thru “wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.” In the April 1918 General Conference Heber J. Grant stated: “I believe, as does our beloved President Joseph F. Smith, that the Constitution of the United States was written by the inspiration of Almighty God.” And in the April 1935 General Conference, President J. Ruben Clark said: “To me…that statement of the Lord, ‘I have established the Constitution of this land,’ puts the Constitution of the United States in the position in which it would be if it were written in this book of Doctrine and Covenants itself. This makes the Constitution the word of the Lord to us.”
In the April 1963 Conference, then Apostle Ezra Taft Benson said: “…the Lord told his prophet there would be an attempt to overthrow the country by destroying the Constitution.” And on another occasion he stated: For years we have heard of the role the elders could play in saving the Constitution from total destruction. But how can the elders be expected to save it if they have not studied it and are not sure if it is being destroyed or what is destroying it?” (TETB)
In the October 1966 General Conference President McKay stated: “We all know that…there has been an alarming increase in the abandoning of the ideals that constitute the foundation of the Constitution of the United States and of the American home, and you will agree with me that there is real cause for apprehension. But now it seems left to us to decide for ourselves if the situation has improved or worsened since then.
In the October 2001 General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinkley reminded us that “The Constitution under which we live….is our God-inspired national safeguard ensuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.”
Included in a First Presidency statement of 15 January 1987 is, I think clarification of what it means to “befriend” the US Constitution: “We encourage Latter-day Saints throughout the nation to familiarize themselves with the Constitution. They should focus attention on it by reading and studying it. They should ponder the blessings that come through it. They should recommit themselves to its principles and be prepared to defend it and the freedom it provides.”
In the April 1966 General Priesthood Meeting, Marion G. Romney stated in his opening remarks: “This is the first time I have ever attempted to give a talk a second time. My excuse is that the Brethren have asked me to give this talk here tonight” In it, he said: “[The Lord] has told us that in preparation for the restoration of the Gospel, He himself established the Constitution of the United States, and He has plainly told us why He established it….He said He established the Constitution to preserve to men their free agency, because the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ presupposes man’s untrammeled exercise of free agency. Man is in the earth to be tested. The issues as to whether he succeeds or fails will be determined by how he uses his agency. His whole future, through all eternity, is at stake. Abridge man’s agency, and the whole purpose of mortality is thwarted.”
In presenting this and what follows, I want to make it clear that I am not advocating the teaching of the U.S. Constitution or of its principles as such in our church meetings. The time is past when we can make and hear statements such as the above, and others even stronger, over the pulpits and in our church classes. Members will have to find other routes over which to become involved in preserving the US Constitution and its principles. This includes self-study and discussions within the confines of our own homes and communities.
Active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in general have many demands placed upon them, including providing for and spending quality time with their families, making time for personal and family prayers and Gospel study, engaging in missionary work, conducting family history research, attending the temple, fulfilling ministering assignments, and participating in other worthy activities. In spite of all these responsibilities, it appears we are also under obligation to defend and promote the freedoms that make all these activities possible.
THE SPECIAL IMPORTANCE OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO LATTER-DAY SAINTS
In October of 1941 the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received letter of September 30, 1941 from a William C. FitzGibbon, Defense Savings Staff, Treasury Department, Washington, D. C., requesting that the Church endorse and support the Defense Savings Program. The reply of the First Presidency to Mr. FitzGibbon outlining its position declining the request, a little-known but lengthy and powerful letter, emphasizes a tenet of the Latter-day Saint faith that is very seldom discussed in church now, namely the special importance of the United States Constitution to Latter-day Saints. The following statements within that letter that address this and related tenets are quoted below.
“The people therefore believe that the President of the Church, his counselors, and the Council of the Twelve Apostles have a right to the revelations of the Lord as to the conduct of the Church and the members thereof; that the Lord actually speaks through them as the result of the revelations which He gives them; and that therefore the members are under obligation, when the President of the Church speaks, to follow his advice and counsel.”
“In the first place, we should tell you that it is a part of the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, as much a part as any other tenet of our religion, that the Lord Himself “established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood”, and that this Constitution “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and hole principles.” Our people believe that they have a special relationship to the Constitution and its preservation.”
“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”
“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.”
“Now we have said all of the foregoing with a complete understanding in our own minds that we have said nothing or little of anything that may now be of practical value, but this much we feel we can definitely say, that unless the people of America forsake the sins and the errors, political and otherwise, of which they are now guilty and return to the practice of the great fundamental principles of Christianity, and of Constitutional government, there will be no exaltation for them spiritually, and politically we shall lose our liberty and free institutions.”
THE SPECIAL IMPORTANCE OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO LATTER-DAY SAINTS
What the Lord Jesus the Christ Has Told Us About the U.S. Constitution
“For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father….” (Revelation given to Nephi, son of Helaman, 3 Nephi 21:4)
“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.” (D&C 101:80).
In the April 1935 General Conference, President J. Reuben Clark stated: “To me…that statement of the Lord, “I have established the Constitution of this land,” puts the Constitution of the United States in the position in which it would be if it were written in this book of Doctrine and Covenants itself. This makes the Constitution the word of the Lord to us. That it was given, not by oral utterance, but by the operation of his mind and spirit upon the minds of men, inspiring them to the working out of this great document of human government, does not alter its authority….” Hopefully, it is clear that the United States Constitution sprang from our Creator and not from government. The Lord Jesus the Christ is the real author of the Constitution of the United States of America, even though He suffered those American colonials to work out its wording, even with some now-agreed upon imperfections, for nearly four months in a secluded room in Philadelphia with no air conditioning, the same room in which the Declaration of Independence was discussed, voted on, finalized, and signed by a total of fifty-six delegates representing all of the thirteen original American colonies, eleven years earlier.
President Ezra Taft Benson wrote on Page 1 of THE CONSTITUTION – A HEAVENLY BANNER, published in 1986: “It would be erroneous for us, however, to conclude that the document was the sole genius of the Founding Fathers. Theirs was a combined wisdom derived from heavenly inspiration, knowledge of political government from ages past, and the crucible of their own experience. We pay honor – honor to the document itself, honor to the men who framed it, and honor to the God who inspired it and made possible its coming forth.”
“[The] laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established…, should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;” (D&C 101:77).
According to statements in the Doctrine and Covenants and recorded statements especially of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Melvin J. Ballard, J. Reuben Clark, Harold B. Lee, and Ezra Taft Benson, (too extensive to include here) it appears that God committed to Americans the task of learning and upholding the principles of the U.S. Constitution as it was intended to be understood by the Lord, such that by example those principles would reverberate to other nations “for the rights and protection of all flesh”, where people would desire to live by its precepts and choose to be governed by them, and those principles would be established forever. Interesting it is that those statements were given specifically to Latter-day Saints.
“…may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.” (D&C 109:54, included in the prayer at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, as given the Prophet Joseph Smith by revelation.)
In D&C 109:54 one reads that the Lord intended that “those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.” This is immensely significant, as it confirms that “[T]he Constitution’s role goes beyond providing a free nation in which the gospel and true Church could be restored to the earth once again. The Constitution will become the governing system for the whole world during the Millennium.” (Christopher S. Bentley, A GLORIOUS STANDARD FOR ALL MANKIND, Pg. 2). Also, hopefully, this helps us better understand the statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which has since been paraphrased or referred to by several other latter-day prophets, that “…when the Constitution is on the brink of ruin this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” (19 July 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; Manuscript in the Church Historians Office, Salt Lake City). Later prophets and apostles quoted or paraphrased this statement on several occasions.
“And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, that it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them. And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your 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.” (D&C 98:4-7)
Simply put, “The saints are to befriend the constitutional law of the land.” (Preamble to D&C 98)
THE SPECIAL IMPORTANCE OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO LATTER-DAY SAINTS
What Latter-day Prophets Have Told Us About the U.S. Constitution
In the October 1987 General Conference, President Benson asked: “How then can we best befriend the Constitution in this critical hour and secure the blessings of liberty and ensure the protection and guidance of our Father?” He then proceeded to tell us.
“First and foremost, we must be righteous. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851, 4:31). If the Constitution is to have continuance, this American nation, and especially the Latter-day Saints, must be virtuous. The Book of Mormon warns us relative to our living in this free land: “Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Ne. 1:7). “And now,” warned Moroni, “we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fullness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fullness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity” (Ether 2:9). Two great American Christian civilizations—the Jaredites and the Nephites—were swept off this land because they did not “serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). What will become of our civilization?
“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? As Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be” (Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, 6 Jan. 1816).
“Third, we must become involved in civic affairs to see that we are properly represented. The Lord said that “he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them” [governments] “both in making laws and administering them” (D&C 134:1). We must follow this counsel from the Lord: “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” (D&C 98:10).
“Fourth, we must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, our teaching, and our advice. We must become accurately informed and then let others know how we feel. 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).
Note well that President Benson, speaking as a prophet, told us five things that we MUST do:
“We must be righteous.”
“We must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.”
“We must become involved in civic affairs.”
“We must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, our teaching, and our advice.”
“We must become accurately informed and let others know how we feel.”
“We encourage Latter-day Saints throughout the nation to familiarize themselves with the Constitution. They should focus attention on it by reading and studying it. They should ponder the blessings that come through it. They should recommit themselves to its principles and be prepared to defend it and the freedom it provides. (D&C 109:54.) . We believe the Constitution will stand, but it will take the efforts of patriotic and dedicated Americans to uphold it. . . . We, as Latter-day Saints, must be vigilant in doing our part to preserve the Constitution and safeguard the way of life it makes possible. (From a First Presidency statement in January 1987).
“In the revelation he [the Lord] gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith, he said “And now, verily I say unto you concerning the…law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, [that it] belongs to all mankind and is justifiable before me.” [D&C 98:4-6]. (President Spencer W. Kimball, April 1974 General Conference).
“We urge members of the Church and all Americans to begin now to reflect more intently on the meaning and importance of the Constitution, and of adherence to its principles.
(President Harold B. Lee, November 1973, The First Presidency Statement on the Constitution}.
“We therefore commend and encourage every person and every group who is sincerely seeking to study Constitutional principles and awaken a sleeping and apathetic people to the alarming conditions that are rapidly advancing about us.” (President David O. McKay, April 1966 General Conference)
“[Above] all else, strive to support good and conscientious candidates of either party who are aware of the great dangers inherent in communism, and who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our founding fathers.” (President David O. McKay, October 1962 General Conference)
“Next to being one in worshiping 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,” (President David O. McKay, February 1956, The Instructor, 91:34)
“I am saying to you that to me the Constitution of the United States of America is just as much from my Heavenly Father as the Ten Commandments.” (President George Albert Smith, April 1948 General Conference)
“I thank God that we believe that the constitution of our country was given to us under the inspiration of the living God,…” (Heber J. Grant, October 1924 General Conference).
“…we believe that the men who wrote the Constitution of this country were inspired of the living God.” (President Heber J. Grant, October 1919 General Conference)
“By revelation to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, the Lord declared that he had established the Constitution of the United States through “wise men raised up unto this very purpose.” (President Joseph F. Smith, March 26, 1907, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:150).
“[The Church’s] members are under divine commandments to revere the Constitution as a heaven-inspired instrument.” (President Wilford Woodruff, December 12, 1889, Messages of the First Presidency.)
“We believe that the Constitution of the United States was given by inspiration of God” (President John Taylor, April 9, 1882, Journal of Discourses, 23:53).
“The General Constitution of our country is good, and a wholesome government could be framed upon it, for it was dictated by the invisible operations of the Almighty….” (President Brigham Young, July 4, 1854, Journal of Discourses 7:13-14).
“Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the Constitution is on the brink of ruin this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction….I know these things by the visions of the Almighty.” (The Prophet Joseph Smith, July 19, 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; manuscript in Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City).
“The time will come when the constitution and government would hang by a brittle thread and would be ready to fall into other hands but this people the latter-day Saints will step forth to save it.” (The Prophet Joseph Smith, May 1843, James Burgess Journal, 1818-1904, Church Archives, vol. 1)
In the opening address of the October 1987 General Conference, President Benson asked this question: “Do we know what prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it?” Actually, most prophets in this dispensation have emphasized the special importance of the United States Constitution and the vital importance of Latter-day Saints learning, upholding, defending and adhering to its principles. In that same address, President Benson said: “I desire, therefore, to speak to you about our divine Constitution, which the Lord said “I established the Constitution of this land…” (D&C 101:80), “belongs to all mankind” (D&C 98:5), “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles” (D&C 101:77), and was to “be established forever.” (D&C 109:54).
“I testify that America is a choice land. God raised up the founding fathers of the United States of America and established the Constitution.” (President Ezra Taft Benson, October 2, 1988 General Conference)
“The Constitution under which we live….is our God-inspired national safeguard insuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, October 2001 General Conference)
“During a period in Church history when many Latter-day Saints were being denied the protection of the Constitution, Joseph Smith wrote: “The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner.”……The men who framed the Constitution were directed by the Spirit of the Lord in establishing the basic freedoms guaranteed the citizens of this country….Unless we members of the Church do all we can to preserve the freedoms we have, within the bounds of the laws of God, we will be held accountable.” …”The Constitution was established through the inspiration of God to preserve the liberty of the people and to maintain his promise.” (Principles of the Gospel, Page 135-136, Page 146-147, Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1991).
THE SPECIAL IMPORTANCE OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO LATTER-DAY SAINTS
The Constitution is in Danger
In the opening address of the October 1987 General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson asked this question: “Do we know what prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it?” Actually, there exists an avalanche of statements by the Lord Jesus Christ, and latter-day prophets and apostles about the United States Constitution and its special significance to Latter-day Saints. And many of those statements refer to statements attributed to the Prophet Joseph Smith about the U.S. Constitution being in jeopardy and being rescued by efforts involving members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints. I have selected and quoted below such statements by eight latter-day Presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the Constitution is on the brink of ruin this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction….I know these things by the visions of the Almighty.” (July 19, 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; manuscript in Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City)
“The time will come when the constitution and government would hang by a brittle thread and would be ready to fall into other hands but this people the latter-day Saints will step forth to save it.” (May 1843, James Burgess Journal, 1818-1904, Church Archives, vol. 1)
“Will the Constitution be destroyed? No: it will be held inviolate by this people; and as Joseph Smith said, “The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.” It will be so.” (July 4, 1854, Journal of Discourses, 7:15)
“When the Constitution of the United States hangs, as it were, upon a single thread, they will have to call for the “Mormon” elders to save it from utter destruction; and they will step forth and do it.” (February 18, 1855, Journal of Discourses, 2:182)
“During the lifetime of the Prophet Joseph Smith he predicted that the time would come when it would devolve upon the Latter-day Saints to uplift, defend and maintain the Constitution of the United States.” (May 26, 1855, Messages of the First Presidency, 3:12-14)
“…we have been told by Joseph Smith that when the people of this nation would trample upon the Constitution, the Elders of this Church would rally round the flag and defend it.” (October 19, 1884, Journal of Discourses, 25:349-50)
“We have prophecies something like this somewhere, that the time would come when this nation would do as they are now doing – that is, they would trample under foot the Constitution and institutions of the nation, and the Elders of this Church would rally around the standard and maintain those principles which were introduced for the freedom and protection of men. We expect to do that, and to maintain all correct principles.” (February 1, 1885, Journal of Discourses, 26:156)
“It is also part of our belief that the time will come when the country will be distracted and general lawlessness prevail. Then the Mormon people will step forward and take an active part in rescuing the nation from ruin.” (December 16, 1889, Millennial Star, 50:788)
“They will sustain the constitution and the laws and institutions of the United States, and be the champions of liberty and of that constitution when its integrity shall be threatened,” (September 15, 1898, Journal History of the Church, 3)
Joseph F. Smith
“Joseph Smith, the prophet, predicted that the time would come, when the Constitution of our country would hang as it were by a thread, and that the Latter-day Saints, above all other people in the world, would come to the rescue of that great and glorious palladium of our liberty.” (October 1912, General Conference)
Harold B. Lee
“I concluded by calling attention to the prophecy of Joseph Smith that “the Constitution would hang as by a thread….if such a downfall of the Constitution were imminent, the righteousness of this people might again importune the Almighty to save it because of their pleadings.” (August 5, 1973, Bonneville Stake meeting; comments from President Lee’s diary, as recorded in Harold B. Lee: Prophet and Seer, 531-32)
Ezra Taft Benson
“We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: “Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the Constitution is on the brink of ruin this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” (October 1987 General Conference) (July 19, 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; manuscript in Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City)
THE SPECIAL IMPORTANCE OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO LATTER-DAY SAINTS
Responsibility of Latter-day Saints to the U.S. Constitution
So little is mentioned now about liberty and the U.S. Constitution in meetings in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that one might justifiably wonder if members of the Church really do have a responsibility to the Lord to do their best to insure that laws are made, and so administered, to insure “to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” (D&C 134:1-2). Therefore, it would seem wise for us to learn what the Lord and latter-day prophets and apostles have said in this connection.
We know that the American Founding Fathers, in framing the United States Constitution as the “blueprint” for the government of the new nation, were inspired in their work by the Lord, Jesus the Christ. (D&C 101:80). Therefore, it would seem logical that we should carefully (even prayerfully) consider what He, through His prophets and apostles, has told us about our duty to the Constitution. So let’s do that.
In the October 1962 General Conference, President David O. McKay counselled: “[Above] all else, strive to support good and conscientious candidates of either party who are aware of the great dangers inherent in communism, and who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our founding fathers.” And in “A Letter from the First Presidency” of 2 November 1964, was the statement that “We have urged you, above all, to try to support good and conscience candidates…who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our fathers.”
In the April 1976 General Conference, Elder Ezra Taft Benson told us that “We should understand the Constitution as the founders meant that it should be understood. We can do this by reading their words about it, such as those contained in the Federalist Papers. Such understanding is essential if we are to preserve what God has given us.” And speaking as the Prophet in the October 1987 General Conference he told us in no uncertain terms that “We must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.” And the prophet followed that statement with the suggestion that reading the “Federalist Papers” would be helpful in that endeavour. And it may well be fair to say that the word “must” makes learning the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers a commandment to us.
What is meant by saying that Latter-day Saints must learn, uphold and abide by the principles of the US Constitution as the Founders meant it to be understood, or in the tradition of the Founding Fathers? To my mind, one of the best constitutionalists in the Church was the late Jerome Horowitz, author of the book THE ELDERS OF ISRAEL AND THE CONSTITUTION, which was recommended in the April 1972 General Conference. But his later book, THE GOSPEL KEY TO OUR TRUE CONSTITUTION was written, I believe, to address this very question. In the beginning of Chapter One, Brother Horowitz explains that “[T]he United States has two Constitutions. One is the Framers’ Constitution – the written Constitution that was ratified by the people. The second Constitution is the Supreme Court’s Constitution.” He cautions that while “[T]he Framers’ Constitution involves a small federal government”, and “makes state authority supreme over federal authority in most matters of daily life”, “The Supreme Court’s Constitution involves a pervasive federal government…that exercises compulsory authority even over local matters within the individual states”, and empowers the Federal government to exercise supervisory control over the state governments, even to the extent of dictating what religious practices it will permit, and what laws the states must adopt and enforce.” Further study of this issue is recommended by purchase of the book or reading the PDF version of THE GOSPEL KEY TO OUR TRUE CONSTITUTION is accessible at http://www.inspiredconstitution.org/jh_gk/index.html
Another easy-to-understand explanation of this subject is found in the Boy Scouts of America CITIZENSHIP IN THE NATION pamphlet, Page 19. “Written words in the Constitution can be changed or added through the formal amendment process described in Article V…..In the informal amendment process, changes in the Constitution take place over time without altering or adding to the written words. These informal amendments develop as a result to congressional legislation, presidential actions, Supreme Court decisions, activities of political parties, and custom.”
When President Heber J. Grant called J. Reuben Clark to become a member of the First Presidency in 1934 (He was to serve three Church Presidents in that position over a period of twenty-seven years), President Grant reportedly told him he was called to that position because he was “the best constitutionalist in the Church” In the October 1942 General Conference, President Clark said “So, Brethren, I wish you to understand that when we begin to tamper with the Constitution we begin to tamper with the law of Zion which God Himself set up, and no one may trifle with the word of God with impunity.”
True, very little has been said in recent years by Church authorities about the United States Constitution and the responsibility of Latter-day Saints to learn, uphold, and adhere to its principles. Nevertheless, among my personal goals is doing what I can toward helping to prepare a people to restore the American government to its proper role of protecting our God-given and inalienable rights when opportunity arises . And this includes making Latter-day Saints aware of what I consider our divinely mandated responsibilities to study, uphold and abide by the principles of the US Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, or as the Founders meant it to be understood, and to understand and support the proper role of government according to gospel principles. I occasionally find myself embroiled in controversy regarding what I consider the importance of our doing so in a time when political freedom and our understanding and adhering to the principles of the U.S. Constitution are clearly not prophetic priorities. Brother Jerome Horowitz, LDS author of THE ELDERS OF ISRAEL AND THE CONSTITUTION and THE GOSPEL KEY TO OUR TRUE CONSTITUTION, has given me what I consider the best reasons for the silence from Church authorities on this subject. He wrote to me, “Confirming our telephone conversation I think the Church is cautious about openly participating in freedom promotion activities partly because of concern about government retribution that might unduly hinder its primary religious mission and partly because so many members have been indoctrinated to favor federal dominance and federal welfare and regulation that there is concern that a strong constitutional position might split the Church.”
Yet, in the course of a KSL5 radio interview in 2014, when Elder Dallin H. Oaks was asked “Do you think that religious and secular people understand the constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion?”, his reply included the statement “But I see it as a responsibility for well-educated citizens, members of the bar and opinion leaders to be acquainted with the United states Constitution and its guarantees.”
So one might well wonder “What should I do?” “What is my personal responsibility to the U.S. Constitution?” To answer that question properly, I can only recommend serious consideration of a statement by President Russell M. Nelson in the April 2018 General Conference: “My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. … In coming days, it will not be possible to survive without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” In trying to follow that counsel from President Nelson, I have become more convinced that this is not obsolete doctrine, but has become not less, but more important now; — at least for me.