God Chose Our Founding Fathers
"And for this purpose have I established
the Constitution of this land,
by the hands of wise men
whom I raised up unto this very purpose. . . ."
— Doctrine and Covenants 101:80
We are taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that our Founding Fathers were inspired in their work in establishing this country and bringing about the Constitution of this nation — for the scriptures tell us they were "raised up unto this very purpose. . . ." (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80.) Ezra Taft Benson tells us: "Now the Lord knew that before the gospel could flourish there must first be an atmosphere of freedom. This is why He first established the Constitution of this land through Gentiles whom He raised up before He restored the gospel." (CR, April 1965, p. 123.)
At another time he teachess us that the foundation that was laid for this country was spiritual. He said, "This nation was established by the God of heaven as a citadel of liberty. A Constitution guaranteeing those liberties was designed under the superintending influence of heaven. . . . The foundations of America are spiritual. That must never be forgotten nor doubted." (TETB, p. 569.)
And in October conference of 1987, President Benson cites a quote from Charles Pinckney, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from South Carolina, in which Mr. Pinckney says: ". . . The superintending hand of Providence . . . miraculously carried us through the war. . . ." (General Conference, October 1987; Ensign, November 1987, p. 5.)
These Founding Fathers recognized the hand of God in their affairs as they fought for independence and drafted the document we revere as coming from God. As James Madison was trying to influence the state of New York to ratify the new Constitution, he wrote: "It is impossible for a man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution. (The Federalist, No. 37.)
This new-found nation was in serious trouble. There were disputes between the states, civil unrest, financial problems, and a host of other serious concerns to the leaders of America. The charter for the new nation, the Articles of Confederation, had weaknesses that needed attention. To save the nation, delegates from the various states gathered to find the remedies.
James Madison, considered the Father of the Constitution, had a plan; others also had their worthy ideas. During this Constitutional Convention, the delegates argued and fought over most any little item. The convention was about to go down as a disaster. On June 28, 1787, as the quarreling persisted, Benjamin Franklin, the eldest delegate of the convention, addressed the president of the convention, George Washington, and the other delegates. It has become his most famous speech:
"The small progress we have made . . . is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. In this situation of this assembly, groping, as it were, in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard — and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a super-intending Providence in our favor. . . . And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
"I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that ‘except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that, without his concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little, partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, or conquest.
"I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be required to officiate in that service." (The Real Benjamin Franklin, pp. 258-259; America: To Pray or Not To Pray, p. 15, from James Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, pp. 209-210.)
The result of this speech to the delegates resulted in serious prayer and contemplation by the members of the convention — the rebuke began three days of prayer and church attendance. Reflecting on the events, after the delegates reassembled, Jonathan Dayton, one of the delegates, said, "Every Unfriendly feeling had been expelled, and a spirit of reconciliation had been cultivated." (Quoted in America: To Pray or Not To Pray, p. 16, from Stephen K. McDowell and Mark A. Beliles, The Spirit of the Constitution.) The result: the finest government charter ever presented to a people — the Constitution of the United States.
Our Founders Esteemed Lightly
Our Founding Fathers were highly religious men who trusted in the protection of a wise and loving Heavenly Father. But as the years pasted and we drew further away from those founders, we began to loose sight of the vision they once held. We, as a nation, also began to loose the religious faith they once knew — relying more on our own abilities than on the blessings of God. President McKay expressed his feeling along these lines in a statement he made in General Conference on Friday morning, April 4, 1952. In his address he said,
It is the current practice in many of the college and high school history books to try to teach our youth that our Founding Fathers were "deists," and not believers in Jesus Christ as we, as Latter-day Saints, know they were. A deist is one who believes in "deism." Webster tells us that deism is:
"1) The belief that God exists and created the world but thereafter assumed no control over it or the lives of people.
"2) The belief that reason is sufficient to prove the existence of God, with the consequent rejection of revelation and authority." (Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, 1964 edition.)
To give one example of this, this author chose one of his own American History text books from college, and in it — as the text speaks of the founders — we read the following:
"Many interested themselves in deism, the rational religion of Enlightenment philosophers, especially those in France. The deists believed in God but considered Him a rather remote being who had created the universe, not an intimate presence who was concerned with human individuals and their sins. Franklin, Jefferson, and others among the Founding Fathers held deistic views." (Richard N. Current, T. Harry Williams, and Frank Freidel, American History: A Survey, p. 173.)
Not only have they been labeled deists and non-believers in Christ, they have also been increasingly neglected in our history books as well. To this fact Ezra Taft Benson makes note:
"This Week Magazine recently surveyed history books issued before 1920 and compared them with those being used today, issued since 1920.
"Nathan Hale said, ‘I regret that I have but one life to give for my country,’ in eleven of the old textbooks, but in only one of the new textbooks.
"Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ in twelve out of the fourteen earlier texts, but in only two out of the forty-five recent texts.
"But John Paul Jones set the record. He said, ‘I have not yet begun to fight,’ in nine of the old books and in none of the new books.
"Is this a challenge? Today's world! Today's world is warped. We must give direction to our young people." (TL, p. 201.)
Among the neglect and misrepresentation of our founders are the false stories about them, such as their being immoral or power-hungry. Even Christopher Columbus has been charged with introducing syphilis into Europe from America. This is currently being taught in one of Utah's major universities where the professor believed it, because it is in a text book from which he teaches.
This information, as many good historians know, is false. This is a shameful philosophy perpetrated upon our American youth in order to steer them away from the truth regarding the faith and moral integrity of our forefathers and their belief in the divine intervention of God in the establishment of this nation. Not that all college professors are purposely deceiving our youth, but people do have a tendency to believe what they read. And everything we read is not truth.
Such stories were not being taught 75 years ago or before. Why now? Why are they taught today? Perhaps to discredit those God-fearing men, and in so doing, undermine the foundation of our great nation. Remember — when you have enough money you can buy almost anything. That includes publishing companies, as well as the news media.
Our Founders a Moral People
What did John Adams, our second president, say about the Constitution? He is quoted by President Benson in the general conference of October 1987: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." (Quoted in CHB, p.23; General Conference, October 1987; the Ensign, November 1987, p. 6.)
Could immoral men establish a moral and religious government? Can "a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit?" (Luke 6:43-45; Matt. 7:15-20.) No it cannot! Whatever other faults they possessed as mortals, they were not immoral. These were men of principled integrity and religious devotion.
This devotion is pointed out in the case of our first President, George Washington. In Article II, Section 1, Clause 8, of the Constitution, will be found the oath of office for the President of the United States. Dr. Cleon Skousen, one of our nation’s best-learned men on the government of this country, wrote about George Washington and what happened when he took the oath of office for the first time: "It is interesting that when George Washington placed his hand on the Bible and took the oath of office, he added the words, "So help me God!" Each President followed this example afterward, and in 1862, by an act of Congress, it was incorporated into the oath as an official part of the ceremony." (The Making of America, p. 538.)
Not only was George Washington a great general and President, but he was also very modest and a great Christian. This is pointed out in the following: When the gathering of delegates from differing states convened for the Constitutional Convention on May 25, 1787, they immediately and unanimously voted and chose George Washington to be its presiding officer. After having been "conducted to the Chair," George Washington "lamented his want of better qualifications" for the position.
This was not the first time that Washington expressed his unworthiness, or lack of desire, for leadership and glory. After the Revolutionary War, he was approached by some of his officers with the proposition of setting up a monarchy with him as King George I, to be King of America. While begging his associates to wait with patience until the governmental system could be improved, he fervently condemned the plot and is purported to have said, "There is only one King and that is Jesus Christ."
Not only was Washington devoted to Christ but Thomas Jefferson also was well acquainted with Him. Has anyone ever heard of the "Jefferson Bible"? A few people have. What is the Jefferson Bible? It is the "Red-Letter" edition of the New Testament. Thomas Jefferson was the first to read the New Testament and underline, in RED, all of the words that Jesus spoke. The practice became popular and eventually publishers started printing "Red-Letter" editions of the New Testament.
Our Founders Chosen of God
These great Founding Fathers, as we have briefly discussed, were chosen by God to do a great work. The Lord would not have chosen immoral people to lay the foundation of this great Republic. He would have chosen those with integrity, faith, and moral and religious principles. If they were otherwise, would they have appeared in the St. George Temple and requested their work to be done for them? Here is Wilford Woodruff’s testimony regarding this great event:
"I am going to bear my testimony . . . 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, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord. . . .
"Every one of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them. . . . Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder of Israel, to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not." (Quoted in This Nation Shall Endure, p. 18, from Conference Report, April 1898, pp. 89-90.)
James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, had these sentiments to share about his brethren in that great work:
"Whatever may be the judgment pronounced on the competency of the architects of the Constitution, or whatever may be the destiny of the edifice prepared by them, I feel it a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction, derived from my intimate opportunity of observing and appreciating the views of the Convention, collectively and individually, that there never was an assembly of men, charged with a great and arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them, than were the members of the Federal Convention of 1787." (Quoted in The Constitution A Heavenly Banner, pp.14-15.)
We have reviewed a few positive things in relation to our Founding Fathers. They were the type of people you would expect God would choose to do a great and holy work. We may have to stand before them someday and answer to them for what we have or have not done about the blood they gave, the sacrifices they endured, and the nation they raised up for our benefit and liberty. We will close this chapter with these words from another God-fearing President, Abraham Lincoln:
"God rules the world. It is the duty of nations as well as men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow . . . and to recognize the sublime truth that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord." (Quoted in GFC, p. 392.)
From the foregoing we may ask ourselves: Does this sound like we should be living in a nation where we leave God out of our affairs and out of our public education? Was this the intent of our inspired Founding Fathers, or is it the current philosophy of those who want to distort history and undermine the spiritual progress of this nation?