We always hear how the Constitution played a key role in preparing the earth for the Restoration of the Church by ensuring religious freedom.
Less noted, but equally important, is the Constitution’s role in preparing the earth for the Second Coming.
Joseph Smith prized his patriotic heritage. His grandfather, Solomon Mack, fought in the American Revolutionary War.
Joseph saw himself (and the saints) as champions of Constitutional liberty; as defenders of the principles of freedom as old as the world itself.
He framed a soteriology around the principles of agency and accountability. He developed a theology in which the war in heaven continued on earth.
Which side do we fight for?
On July 19, 1840, Joseph Smith gave a speech in which 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 upon the brink of ruin this people will be the Staff up[on] which the Nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the verge of destruction.
(Joseph Smith, "Discourse, 19 July 1840, as Reported by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray–B," The Joseph Smith Papers)
You see, for Joseph Smith the Constitution embodied the principles of righteous government. America was to be a prototype of Zion, where people would learn to govern themselves.
The "destruction" of the Constitution, therefore, would threaten the whole Zion enterprise.
So this was never about politics: it was about preparing the soil in which Zion could blossom as a rose.
So let's see: have we established Zion?
No. Why not?
Is it because we have not followed the "just and holy principles" of the Constitution in our Church councils and government?
The Prayer for America
The prayer at Valley Forge was pretty great. But another impressive prayer for America was given by Joseph Smith at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple:
O Lord, may those principles which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.
How long is forever? Are these "principles" eternal?Are they principles belonging to the Kingdom of God?
Well, who gave us these "principles?"
I [have] established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.
1. How well are we defending the "just and holy principles" (D&C 101:77) of the Constitution?
2. Is the Church obeying the "just and holy principles" which protect our "moral agency" (D&C 101:78) itself?
3. If the Constitution were a living thing, how would we measure its health or take its pulse? How healthy is it?
Walk the Walk
Recently I was having lunch with friends and we were talking about the response of the government to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conversation transitioned to the way the First Presidency has dealt with the crisis, most recently with their statement on August 12, 2021:
We find ourselves fighting a war against the ravages of COVID-19 and its variants, an unrelenting pandemic. . .
We know that protection from the diseases they cause can only be achieved by immunizing a very high percentage of the population. . .
We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders.
Well, we are fighting a "war" ― but not against a virus. The war has always been about agency.
I mentioned in Part 3 of the Series "The Church Began to be Broken Up" that we don't need Nero and hungry lions and tar and feathers and extermination orders and Edmunds-Tucker Acts . . . when all it takes is a virus to bring the Church to its knees.
Is it too Late to Save the Constitution?
In the Spring of 1966 Clarence Manion, Dean of Notre Dame Law School and a constitutional law professor for many years, spoke in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. It was interesting to hear him begin his talk by saying that he had heard that the Mormons had a prophesy that the Constitution would one day hang by a thread, and they would be the means of saving it. Then he very earnestly said that if the Mormons are going to save the Constitution, they had better wake up and get going, because it seemed to him that it was already almost too far gone to save.
(The Elders of Israel and the Constitution, p. 198).
Sometimes I wonder if a modern-day Captain Moroni will burst onto the scene.
I keep waiting.
Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay.
I do not fear your power nor your authority, but it is my God whom I fear.
I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country.
(Alma 60:23, 28, 36)
Now that is the spirit of Zion.
It is also the Spirit of Christ.
The Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom.
Sometimes as I sit in Church, or as I read press releases from the Church Newsroom, seeing all of the attention given to authority and to power and money and to the praise of men, I wonder:
When did we stop being freemen and become king-men?