Monday, October 18, 2010

The Constitution

This is an article by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, September 4, 2003, given to the graduates of BYU's law school. This is what came out in the Church News of September 13, 2003.
The United States Constitution remains "a most remarkable document" that was shaped by God's hand. "If pondered--both as to its substance and the miraculous process of its coming forth--the Constitution is deserving of our prolonged, spiritual applause."
Elder Maxwell said that while he could not speak to the assembly from shared professional experience, he could speak from a shared theology.
"The scriptures contain so many jewels, brothers and sisters, over which we pass too lightly, especially what I call some stunning 'one liners.'
One such cluster has to do with the unique founding of the American nation.
"The Lord revealed that He established our Constitution 'by the hands of wise men whom (He) raised up unto this very purpose, quoting Doctrine and Covenants 101:80. I know of no parallel declaration with regard to the Constitution of any other nation, ours being the first written constitution.
"The revealed words, given in 1833 in Ohio, clearly remind Church members "that God's hand is in the details of such things -- sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly."
"Think of all the Lord had to oversee, including all the shaping events which occurred long before the Constitution was written, ratified and implemented. First, it was necessary for God to cause a handful of highly talented and wise individuals to be "raised up."
Second, they needed to live in one geographic area on this planet.
Third, these events had to occur in a short time frame.
Forth, a citizenry had to be prepared who wanted and would then implement and sustain self-governance.
"This latter incubation was as important as the later ratification. Thus the words, 'raised up,' involve multiple and concurrent conditions. Without similar incubation, no wonder we find in human history that establishing modern republics and democracies is not easy. Founders require foundational building blocks."
The Constitution, of course, not only needed to be written, but also ratified--gaining approval after dramatic moments and by narrow margins."
The process was no picnic. Thus not only was a special parchment produced, but so were a sufficient number of approving and sustaining people.
"Human history makes "abundantly and sadly clear" that not all mortals use power wisely.
"Unsurprisingly, therefore, certain of the constitutions' central features---such as the vital separation of powers and the precious First Amendment, as conceived and intended--were needed to foster moral agency."
"This later condition is so central to God''s plan of salvation for all mortals. Back in the founding days, however, these and other key concepts needed cleats which would take hold early in the history of the American nation. Otherwise, things could have come apart soon after the birth of a nation."
The bestowal of such divine attention on a few mere colonies located on one planet is especially reassuring , said Elder Maxwell, "given God's governance among 'worlds without number." ( Moses 1:33, 35)."
Elder Maxwell then spoke to the law school graduates about the law. "As alumni, what you are is more important that what you know about the law." "The influence of your character, long term, is more significant than legal expertise, though how commendable when both are combined."
Therefore, he told the graduates, as they manage conflict, to practice advocacy without acrimony and without animosity. "Be eloquent, not only before the bench, but also eloquent in your life' example. And you need your own checks and balances, including at times the constraining influence of the Spirit.
Slack citizenry and cunning devices can over time corrupt even a constitutional system.
"Lawyers can first shape and then exploit the voice of the people, which, if done amiss, can bring the judgments of God."
The Constitution, he said, "remains a most remarkable document. Nevertheless, the various interpretations of the Constitution are more reflective of the moral status of America's citizenry, its lawyers, and its judges than we may care to acknowledge."
Quoting Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Maxwell said the citizens who founded this nation understood the relationship between self-government and citizen responsibilities.
"Therefore, while we cannot fully fathom all that was done in order to raise up wise individuals, I nevertheless praise God for the miracle which came forth."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Joseph Smith on the Constitution

Had a recent comment asking for the source of the quote by Joseph Smith that's on the sidebar. It comes from the Joseph Smith Papers (LDS Church Historical Archives, Box 1, March 10, 1844, according to a BYU-I article.

I highly recommend reading that link, it contains several other quotes and good advice. As I re-read it today, a quote on it by Eliza R. Snow jumped out at me. The idea of Joseph Smith prophesying that the Constitution would "hang by a thread" is pretty common, but rarely discussed is who or what is the source of the attack. According to Sister Snow: "I heard the prophet say, 'The time will come when the government of these United States will be so nearly overthrown through its corruption, that the Constitution will hang as it were by a single hair, and the Latter-day Saints—the Elders of Israel—will step forward to its rescue and save it.'"

Monday, July 5, 2010

What was the true price of liberty?

I hope everybody had a great day yesterday celebrating the independence of the United States and the beginning of the struggle for liberty in our nation.

I was thinking yesterday that it's important to remember that liberty did not begin on July 4, 1776. The revolution in America was just one battle in an eternal war for liberty. In the premortal world, two opposing plans were debated. The plan championed by God's firstborn, Christ, promised liberty. The plan championed by Lucifer, himself a "son of the morning", promised absolute eternal security at the expense of liberty.

With the words, "I will send the first", God chose liberty for His what price? With those words, one-third of His children turned against him and chose damnation over liberty. He knew the other two-thirds would all, to some degree, use the liberty He was giving them to rebel against Him. He knew that liberty would bring sin to the world for which His Only Begotten would have to suffer beyond measure. And still he chose to give us that liberty.

That is the price He paid for our liberty. Are we doing our part to preserve it?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


There are those in the Church who speak of themselves as liberals who, as one of our former presidents has said: “… read by the lamp of their own conceit.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1939], p. 373.) One time I asked one of our Church educational leaders how he would define a liberal in the Church. He answered in one sentence: “A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony.”
Dr. John A. Widtsoe, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve and an eminent educator, made a statement relative to this word liberal as it applied to those in the Church. This is what he said:
“The self-called liberal [in the Church] is usually one who has broken with the fundamental principles or guiding philosophy of the group to which he belongs. … He claims membership in an organization but does not believe in its basic concepts; and sets out to reform it by changing its foundations. …
It is folly to speak of a liberal religion, if that religion claims that it rests upon unchanging truth.”
And then Dr. Widtsoe concludes his statement with this: “It is well to beware of people who go about proclaiming that they are or their churches are liberal. The probabilities are that the structure of their faith is built on sand and will not withstand the storms of truth.” (“Evidences and Reconciliations,” Improvement Era, vol. 44, p. 609.)

courtesy of