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"OUR DIVINE CONSTITUTION

By: President Ezra Taft Benson
October Conference 1987

My beloved brethern and sisters, what a glorious blessing to be assembled 
in another great general conference of the Church.  I ask for an interest
in your faith and prayers as I speak to you about a subject that affects 
the worldwide Church.

We have recently celebrated the bicentennial of the signing of the United
States Constitution.   That commemoration marked the beginning of a
series of bicentennial anniversaries of events leading up to the
ratification of the Constitution, implementation of the government it
created, and the writing and ratification of the Bill of Right.  We look
forward to the future commemoration of each of these important events
during the next four years.  It is as a result of these events that we are
able to meet today in peace as members of the restored Church of Jesus
Christ.   For this we should all be eternally grateful.

I desire, therefore, to speak to you about our divine Constitution, which
the Lord said "belongs to all mankind" (D&C 98:5) "and should be maintained 
for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy
principles" (D&C 101:77)

The Constitution of the United States has served as a model for many
nations and is the oldest constitution in use today.

"I established the Constitution of this land," said the Lord, "by the
hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose" (D&C 101:80).

For centuries the Lord kept America hidden in the hollow of His hand until
the time was right to unveil her for her destiny in the last days. It is
wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other
nations, said Lehi, "For behold, many nations would overrun the land,
that there would br no place for an inheritance" (2 Nephi 1:8).

In the Lord's due time His Spirit "wrought upon" Columbus, the pilgrims,
the Puritans, and others to come to America.  They testified of God's
intervention in their behalf (see 1 Nephi 13:12-13).   The Book of Mormon
records that they humbled "themselves before  the Lord; and the power
of the Lord was with them" (1 Nephi 13:16).

Our Father in Heaven planned the coming forth of the Founding Fathers
and their form of government as a the necessary great prologue leading
to the restoration of the gospel.  Recall what our Savior Jesus Christ said
nearly two thousand years ago when He visited this promised land: "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, that these things
might come forth" (3 Nephi 21:4).   America, the land of liberty, was to be
the Lord's latter-day base of operations for His restored church.
The Declaration of Independence affirmed the Founding Fathers' belief
and trust in God in these words: "We hold these Truths to be
self-evident, 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."

The Doctrine and Covenants states, "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"  (D&C 134:2).  Life, 
liberty,property - mankind's three great rights.

At the conclusion of the Declaration of Independence, they wrote, "And
for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection
of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our
Fortunes and our sacred Honor."  This Declaration was a promise that
would demand terrible sacrifice on the part of its signers.  Five of the
signers were captured as traitors and tortured before they died.  Twelve
had their homes ransacked and burned.  Two lost their sons in the
Revolutionary War; another had two sons captured.  Nine died from
wounds or from the hardships of the war.  The Lord said He "redeemed
the land by the shedding of blood" (D&C 101:80).  Nephi recorded that
the Founders "were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of
all other nations" (1 Nephi 13:19).

The years immediately preceding the Constitutional Convention were
filled with disappointments and threats to the newly won peace. 
Washington was offered a kingship, which he adamantly refused.  Nephi
had prophesied hundreds of years before that "this land shall be a land
of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land"
(2 Nephi 10:11; italics added).

Between the critical years of 1783 and 1787, an outsider viewing the
affairs of the United States would have thought that the thirteen states,
different in so many ways, could never effectively unite.  The world
powers were confident that this nation would not last.

Eventually, twelve of the states met in Philadelphia to address the
problem.  Madison said at the beginning of the Convention that the
delegates "were now digesting a plan which in  its operation would
decide forever the fate of  Republican Government" (26 June 1787,
Records of the Federal Convention, 1:423).

"The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning," said Nephi,
"wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his words among the
children of men" (1 Nephi 9:6).

Four months later, the Convention delegates had completed their work.
As Gladstone said, it was "the most wonderful work ever struck off at a
given time by the brain and purpose of man" (William Gladstone, North
American Review, Sept. - Oct. 1878, p. 185), and the Prophet Joseph
Smith called it "a glorious standard, a heavenly banner" (Teaching of the
Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret
Book Co., 1938, p. 147).

The delegates were the recipients of heavenly inspiration.  James
Madison, often referred to as the father of the Constitution, wrote, 
"It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in 
it a finger of that Almighty hand which as been so frequently and 
signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution"
(The Federalist , no. 37, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge, New York: G.P. Putman's 
Sons, 1983, p. 222).

Alexander Hamilton, famous as the originator of The Federalist papers
and author of fifty-one of the essays, said: "For my own part, I sincerely
esteem it a system, which without the finger of God, never could have
been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interest"
(Essays on the Constitution of the United States, ed. Paul L. Ford, 1892,
pp. 251-52).

Charles Pinckney, a very active participant and author of the Pinckney
Plan during the Convention, said: "When the great work was done and
published, I was struck with amazement. Nothing less than a super- 
intending Hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through
the war could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole"
(Essays on the Constitution, p. 412).

During his first inaugural address in 1789, President George Washington,
a man who was raised up by God, said: "No people can be bound to
acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of
men, more than the people of the United States.  Every step by which
they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to
have been distinguished by some token of  providential agency" (First
Inaugural Address, 30 Apr. 1789).

In compliance with Article 6 of  the Constitution, the very first act passed
by Congress and signed by President Washington on June 1, 1789, was
the actual oath to support the Constitution that was to be administered to
various government officers.

The dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, as dictated by the Lord
and found in the Doctrine and Covenants, contains these words: "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).

Shortly after President Spencer W. Kimball became President of the
Church, he assigned me to go into the vault of the St. George Temple and
check the early records.  As I did so, I realized the fulfillment of a 
dream I had had ever since learning of the visit of the Founding Fathers 
to the St. George Temple.  I saw with my own  eyes the record of the 
work which was done for the Founding Fathers of this great nation, 
beginning with George Washington.

Think of it: the Founding Fathers of this nation, those great men,
appeared within those sacred wall and had their vicarious work done for
them.

President Wilford Woodruff spoke of it in these words: "Before I left St.
George, the spirits of the dead gathered round me, wanting to know why
we did not redeem them."  Said they, "You have had the use of the
Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been
done for us.  We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy,
and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were
faithful to God'"(The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer
Durham, Salt Lake City:  Bookcraft, 1946, p. 160).

After he became President of the Church, President Wilford Woodruff
declared that "those men who laid the foundation of this American
government were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the
face of the earth.  They were choice spirits [and] were inspired of the
Lord" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, p. 89).

Unfortunately, we as a nation have apostatized in various degrees from
different  Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired
founders.  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 upon 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; ms. in Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City).

For centuries our forefathers suffered and sacrificed that we might be
the recipients of the blessings of freedom.  If they were willing to
sacrifice so much to establish us as a free people, should we not be
willing to do the same to maintain that freedom for ourselves and for
future generations?

Only in this foreordained land, under its God-inspired Constitution and the
resulting environment of freedom, was it possible to have established the
restored Church.  It is our responsibility to see that this freedom is
perpetuated so that the Church may more easily flourish in the future.

The Lord said, "Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethern of
my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the
land" (D&C 98:6).

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 in Heaven?

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 Nephi 1:7).

"And now," warns Moroni, "we can behold the decrees of God
concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and a whatsoever 
nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off 
when the fulness of his wrath come upon them. And the fulness 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
governments "both in making laws and administering them" (D&C 134:1). 
We must follow this counsel form 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)

Note the qualities that the Lord demands of those who are to represent
us.  They must be good, wise, and honest.

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 us it"..From henceforth I will maintain all the influence I can get*
(History of the Church, 5:286).

I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph
Smith.  It will be saved by the righteous citizens of this nation who love
and cherish freedom.  It will be saved by enlightened members of this
Church - among others - men and women who understand and abide the
principles of the Constitution.

I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. 
To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed
His stamp of approval upon it.

I testify that the God of  heaven sent some of His choicest spirits to lay
the foundation of this government, and He has now sent other choice
spirits to help preserve it.

We, the blessed beneficiaries of the Constitution, face difficult days in
America, "a land which is choice above all other lands" (Ether 2:10).  

May God give us the faith and the courage exhibited by those patriots
who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

My we be equally as valiant and as free, I pray in the name of Jesus
Christ, amen.




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