The Book of Mormon and the Constitution

The following address by President J Reuben Clark, Jr., was delivered at the closing session of the forty-fifth annual M.I.A. Conference, Sunday, June 9, 1940. 

America’s Destiny: Thus America’s ultimate God-given destiny, planned by the Creator and testified by ancient and modern prophecy and revelation, is that OUT OF HER SHALL GO FORTH THE LAW [i.e. the Constitution]. (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bookcraft, 1965-75, vol. 6, p. 97)

That law was and is the Inspired Constitution of Colonial America:

The Constitution

We had won our freedom but we were near to losing it. The Constitutional Convention met and out from it came our God-inspired Constitution-“the most wonderful work,” said Gladstone, “ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”

The Lord Himself has declared as to this great document of human liberty, “I established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.” and He added, referring to the war it cost to gain us our liberties: “and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.” (D&C 101:80.)

The Lord declared the purpose of this Constitution when He said that it “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh.” (D&C 101:77.)

Thus we had set up, under the guidance of God Himself, a government that made of this land the kind of land Lehi and Jacob had foreseen and prophesied-“a land of liberty.”

Again the Lord had moved us forward towards our destiny. He had bestowed upon us another blessing.

What was this plan of the Lord which had been established by the hands of wise men whom He had raised up for this very purpose? May I tell you a few of the elemental principles.

Three Branches of Government

It gave us, for perhaps the first time in all history, a republic with the three basic divisions of government-the legislative, executive, and judicial-mutually and completely independent the one from the other, under which it is not possible for any branch of government legally to set up a system by which that branch can first conceive what it wants to do, then make the law ordering its doing, and then itself, judge its own enforcement of its own law, a system that has always brought extortion, oppression, intimidation, tyranny, despotism,-a system that every dictator has employed and must employ.

Local Self-Government

Under this plan which the Lord established, we have a dual jurisdiction-State and Federal. The Federal Government may do only what we the people have authorized it to do; if it does more, it is guilty of usurpation. The people have reserved to themselves or to their State Governments every right and power they have not delegated to the Federal Government, which must always look to the Constitution and its Amendments to find its rights, for it has none others. This system puts the great bulk of our daily life activities in the hands of our own’ neighbors who know us and our surroundings, and not in the hands of a bureaucrat in a far away national capital, who, to all intents and purposes, is an alien to us and our affairs. His plan gives us the largest possible measure of local self-government. Liberty will never depart from us while we have local self-government controlling and directing matters pertaining to our personal liberties and to the security of our private property; it will not abide with us if we shall lose this local self-government.

Equality of Men

The Lord’s plan so given us was founded on the universal truths “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Freedom of Speech, Press, Conscience

The inspired plan provides that we might write what we wish and send to our friends, without danger of being jailed, that we might speak our minds unrestrained, free likewise from any such danger; that we might print the truth and our comment thereon, without let or hindrance, provided in all cases that we were not libeling or slandering our fellow citizens. These rights are fundamental to freedom, and to a society of freemen. They are flouted by governments not established under the Lord’s plan.

Due Process of Law

His plan we rely, as we rely on the coming of day, upon the security that comes from the principle that government shall not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Yet none of these things are sacred in other countries. There, men go to bed at night seemingly secure in the fruits of long labors and awaken in the morning shorn of the savings of a lifetime, taken to enrich some favorite of government; there, men are ruthlessly cast into prison, having committed no offense other than, by some careless word or act, to have offended the sensibilities of some petty official. These things are happening where God’s system is not in force.

Since under the Lord’s plan He must be served by the people under the penalty of otherwise being swept off, there must be in the land complete freedom of worship and so the Lord set up His plan that men might follow and worship Him. Under His plan it is not possible for some government official to come into our Sunday Schools, or our Mutuals, or our Relief Societies, or our Sacrament Meetings, and tell us what we may say, or prescribe what we may teach. This guarantees to us our most precious gift. Yet this kind of supervision, direction and control is being exercised in other countries today where these God-given rights of men are being trampled underfoot.

Our Allegiance

God provided that in this land of liberty, our political allegiance shall run not to individuals, that is, to government officials, no matter how great or how small they may be. Under His plan our allegiance and the only allegiance we owe as citizens or denizens of the United States, runs to our inspired Constitution which God Himself set up. So runs the oath of office of those who participate in government. A certain loyalty we do owe to the office which a man holds, but even here we owe, just by reason of our citizenship, no loyalty to the man himself. In other countries it is to the individual that allegiance runs. This principle of allegiance to the Constitution is basic to our freedom. It is one of the great principles that distinguishes this “land of liberty” from other countries.

Thus God added to His priceless blessings to us.

Encroachments upon Free Institutions

I wish to say with all the earnestness I possess that when you youth and maidens see any curtailment of these liberties I have named, when you see government invading any of these realms of freedom which we have under our Constitution, you will know that they are putting shackles on your liberty, and that tyranny is creeping upon you, no matter who curtails these liberties or who invades these realms, and no matter what the reason and excuse therefor may be.

In the whole history of God’s dealing with men, He has never urged, counseled, nor advised any nation or people to set up autocracies, tyrannies, despotisms, or dictatorships. [i.e. Not Mexico, Canada or Guatemala] His prophet pleaded with ancient Israel not to crown a king. (1 Sam. 8.) He has always condemned that which takes away man’s free agency. This is His way. You may judge every proposal for human government by this principle. (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bookcraft, 1965-75, vol. 6, pp. 105-108; see also The Book of Mormon and the Constitution by H. Verlan Andersen, 1995)

Not the Hemisphere

But our Revolution and Constitution had brought their blessings of freedom and liberty to the people of the UNITED STATES ONLY. The great territorial bulk of the Hemisphere was still in bondage; still unprepared to take part in our God-given destiny. (Ibid., p. 109)

If I have made clear the course of events to this point, it is apparent that in the era of the Gentiles, it has been the UNITED STATES that has always been called to carry forward the BANNER OF HUMAN LIBERTY AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. [i.e. Not Mexico, Canada or Guatemala] (Ibid.)