According to Joseph Smith, "the Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God."
(Joseph Smith, Letter, 20-25 March 1839, quoted in Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon, eds., Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000, p. 143.)
Can you think of another word for "glorious standard?" Oh yes! Ensign. The Constitution is an ensign.
Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her;
And she shall be an ensign unto the people, and there shall come unto her out of every nation under heaven.
The Lord promised that America “shall be a land of liberty” and “unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Nephi 1:7).
But it is important to remember that it is the land that is choice, not necessarily its people.
Only the righteous “shall be blessed upon the face of this land” (2 Nephi 1:9), while unto the wicked it shall be “cursed” (2 Nephi 1:7).
So America is a Promised Land, but don't forget that one of those promises is that this land is cursed when the people are wicked.
The Great Experiment DOA?
In 1790, George Washington called America "the last great experiment for promoting human happiness by reasonable compact in civil society." (George Washington to Catharine Graham, Letter, January 9, 1790.)
The Constitution was to act as an Elias! It was supposed to be a stepping stone toward the government of Zion.
But now, 250 years later, has the Great Experiment failed? Have we proven ourselves incapable of self-government?
Political commentator Stefan Molyneaux said:
The original American experiment was at least intellectually founded upon the ideal of creating a government by and for the people, with the express knowledge that the state was a dangerous servant and a terrible master.
It is hard to think of other examples in history where so many checks and balances were placed upon centralized political power – and it is also impossible to think of a more dangerous and powerful government than the modern American leviathan.
The abysmal failure of such a noble experiment should give all moralists pause.
[T]he smallest possible government has grown into the largest conceivable government within a few hundred years.
(Stefan Molyneaux, Achieving Freedom: Part One, How Not to Achieve Freedom, accessed at: http://cdn.media.freedomainradio.com/feed/books/HNTAF/How_Not_to_Achieve_Freedom_by_Stefan_Molyneux_PDF.pdf)
Is it Time to Pack Our Bags?
Shall we throw in the towel and give up on so noble a cause?
I, for one, am not prepared to declare the Constitution DOA in the 21st Century.
Joseph Smith declared, “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 326)
I stand with Joseph and George.
In 1858 Elder Orson Hyde told the Saints:
It is said that brother Joseph in his lifetime declared that the Elders of the Church should step forth at a particular time when the Constitution should be in danger, and rescue it, and save it.
This may be so; but I do not recollect that he said exactly so. I believe he said something like this — that the time would come when the Constitution and the country would be in danger of an overthrow; and said he, If the Constitution be saved at all, it will be by the Elders of this Church. I believe this is about the language, as nearly as I can recollect it.
(Orson Hyde, Address given 3 January 1858; quoted in Dahl and Cannon, eds., Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, 145-46.)
So . . . what are the Elders of the Israel supposed to be doing to protect the cause of freedom?
Every Member a Missionary . . . for Freedom?
President John Taylor taught, “Besides preaching of the gospel, we have another mission, namely, the perpetuation of the free agency of man and the maintenance of liberty, freedom, and the rights of man.” (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 23:63, 9 April 1882.)
Our missionaries of liberty preach the three pillars of freedom mentioned in D&C 134:2:
1. The free exercise of conscience
2. The right to and control of property
3. The protection of life
Obviously the Constitution was not perfect when it was written (for example, the Great Compromise and Suffrage.)
However, I do not ascribe to Presentism. I am grateful for the foresight of the Framers who made the Constitution a living document that could be amended and improved by future generations.
President J. Reuben Clark said, “It is not my belief, nor is it the doctrine of my Church that the Constitution is a fully-grown document. On the contrary, we believe it must grow and develop to meet the changing needs of an advancing world.” (J. Reuben Clark, “Constitutional Government: Our Birthright Threatened,” Vital Speeches of the Day 5 (1938): 177.)