An Introduction to Our Sacred Documents
"The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard;
and is founded in the wisdom of God.
It is a heavenly banner."
— Joseph Smith
We will now get into those two sacred documents that our Founding Fathers so devotedly created and cherished. No other nation has had such inspired men to direct their destiny as this one. The documents, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States, stand as monuments to the men and women who sacrificed their all for the sake of liberty. We are told by President David O. McKay that they are involved "primarily" with the "freedom of the individual," and that they are "immortal." In context he says:
"The two most important documents affecting the destiny of America are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Both of these inspired, immortal papers relate primarily to the freedom of the individual. Founded upon that principle of free enterprise fostered by these documents, the United States of America, in less than two centuries, has achieved a greatness that far exceeds that of any other country in the world." (CR, October 1966, p. 5.)
In the statement above, President McKay spoke of "free enterprise." To understand a little better the purpose of government and how it relates to free enterprise, President Benson gives us a glimpse of how a government might come about:
"In order for people to prosper, they cannot afford to spend their time constantly guarding family, fields, and property against attack and theft, so they join together with their neighbors and hire a sheriff. At this precise moment, government is born. The individual citizens delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves — nothing more. Quoting from Bastiat: ‘If every person has the right to defend — even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right.’
"The proper function of government, then, is limited to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act. By deriving its just powers from the governed, government becomes primarily a mechanism for defense against bodily harm, theft, and involuntary servitude. It cannot claim the power to redistribute money or property nor to force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will. Government is created by the people. No individual possesses the power to take another’s wealth or to force others to do good, so no government has the right to do such things either. The creature cannot exceed the creator." (CHB, pp. 8-9.)
The Declaration of Independence
The appropriate title of the "Declaration of Independence" is "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America." Notice that the "u" in united is a small letter. This signifies that the states were "united" in their declaration for independence — not that they were called the "United States." The states were independent, but united in their effort.
In this declaration, Thomas Jefferson penned these famous words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Frederic Bastiat was quoted earlier by President Benson. Bastiat, a French economist, statesman, and author, studied the socialist fallacy and, in 1850, wrote a little book entitled, The Law. It is based on eternal truths and has been read for over a century. Our Prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, has often quoted from its pages. Its arguments against socialism are equally valid today. Mr. Bastiat phrased his feeling about liberty very succinctly:
"Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.
"Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place." (The Law, p. 6.)
Liberty was the overriding principle our founders sought. The declaration was a series of 27 grievances against King George, III, of England because of his repressive measures. It was time to do something about it since the King paid no heed to the request from America. John Adams, when the state delegates were assembled and adopted the Declaration of Independence, said,
"Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote. It is true, indeed, that in the beginning we aimed not at independence. but there’s a Divinity that shapes our ends. . . . Why, then, should we defer the Declaration? . . . You and I, indeed, may rue it. We may not live to see the time when this Declaration shall be made good. We may die; die Colonists, die slaves, die, it may be, ignominiously and on the scaffold.
"Be it so. Be it so.
"If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready. . . . But while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a country, and that a free country.
"But whatever may be our fate, be assured . . . that this Declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood, but it will stand and it will richly compensate for both.
"Through the thick gloom of the present, I see the brightness of the future as the sun in heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will honor it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. . .
"Before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence now, and Independence forever." (Quoted in CHB, p. 31-33.)
Explanations on the Declaration
In the Declaration of Independence, as published in this book, the reader will find a number (within parentheses) at the beginning of a clause which represents one of the 27 complaints the founders had against King George, III. This numbering is not part of the original document.
We, in this nation, are right back where our forefathers were with King George. Again, we are fighting for the same causes — not with a foreign nation, this time, but with our own.
Eleven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence came the Constitution of the United States. In most books where The Constitution is presented, it is usually relegated to an appendix as an afterthought. Here it is offered in the body of the text for serious consideration and study. It may be good to keep in mind the question, "If we do not know what is in the Constitution how do we know if a law is constitutional, unconstitutional, or non-constitutional?" Should we take it for granted?
The purpose of this book is to show, in part, what has happened to our rights because we have taken the Constitution for granted and left it in the hands of those who were supposed to safeguard its principles and our liberties, but have not. Another purpose is to not only establish the fact of secret combinations in the world, but to show what effect those conspiracies have had on the Constitution.
As we become well acquainted with the Doctrine and Covenants, we begin to understand why God established this Constitution. It was for the purpose of protecting the agency He has given to us. We must realize and have it firmly planted within our souls that Lucifer — Satan, the devil himself, the founder of secret combinations, conspiracies, and the great and abominable church — wants to destroy the Constitution for the purpose of taking away our liberties.
Because many of us have not come to this realization, we have failed, to a great extent, to fully understand the real meaning of agency, and have therefore neglected our duty in regard to this sacred document. President David O. McKay said to the saints, ". . . There has been an alarming increase in the abandoning of the ideals that constitute the foundation of the Constitution of the United States. . . ." (Quoted in CR, October 1966, p. 120.)
As Good as It Can Be
Perhaps a reason many have abandoned this document is because it is popular to teach its weaknesses rather than its strengths. The Constitution, although an inspired document, does not mean that it is perfect. It is only as perfect as man, in his weaknesses, can make it. Brigham Young pointed this out when he said, "I repeat that the Constitution, laws, and institutions of our Government are as good as can be, with the intelligence now possessed by the people." (Journal of Discourses, 6:344.)
Likewise, let’s hear what Moroni said, "Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, . . ." (Mormon 9:31.) He also said, "And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these." (Morm. 8:12.)
That same promise can hold true to this great and inspired Constitution. Whoever receives it "and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it," can receive an understanding of it and know the minds of our Founding Fathers and the will of the Lord in its creation.
What Is in It?
The Constitution of the United States was created and adopted "to form a more perfect union" among the different states. This was done by a combination of the different states for the purpose of protecting themselves, and for their mutual pursuit of happiness.
There had already been a union created and the Articles of Confederation was the charter for that union. However, it was not a very stable document and in these articles were many weaknesses. So to create a stronger nation the Founding Fathers convened an assembly to rectify the problems and to help establish "a more perfect union" of states.
The Constitution consists of a preamble and seven separate articles. The Preamble states the purpose of the Constitution and shows that the people are to hold the power over the government, not the other way around.
The first article deals with the legislative department, the "Congress of the United States" — the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The second article deals with the executive department, the "President of the United States of America."
The third article involves the judicial department, the "Supreme Court," and other "inferior courts."
The fourth article relates to the states and their alliance with other states, the national government, and the citizens.
The fifth article discusses how the Constitution can be amended.
The sixth article covers several miscellaneous items.
The seventh, the last, explains the process for the ratification of the Constitution.
A Document of Agency
The Founding Fathers, when they forged the Constitution, did not leave us with a document that tied our hands. They also included elements of "free agency" therein — provisions so man could make choices. Some of these provisions that God gave us to see how we will exercise our agency, involve: contracts, treaties, and amendments (These three items will be covered in later chapters).
Within these three provisions they, as the Lord would have done, left opportunities for us to make decisions and decide what we will do with the opportunities afforded us. If the reader will refer back to the sub-heading, "Agency Given On Earth," in Chapter 2, he will see that God gave man options in exercising his agency after God gave him life. After God gave this nation life, He wisely established this Constitution with some provision for man to exercise his agency.
The questions might have been: "How will man utilize these provisions?" "Will he bind himself into servitude through the obligations of contracts?" "Will he involve himself with treaties that will supersede the Constitution?" or, "Will he introduce amendments to the document which will nullify his liberties?" This, to the author, is an example of the inspiration under which this "Heavenly Banner" was created — to make man free to be free, or free to place himself into bondage.
In our study of the Constitution and its accompanying Articles of Amendments, we will explore how well "We The People" have exercised these options in protecting our liberties.
Explanations on the Constitution
The Constitution as presented in the text of this book is as it was written, as far as this author can find, even to the spelling. The modifications in bold italics represent passages which have been changed, eliminated, or nullified — this is not part of the original text — the exception to this is the bolding of titles, heading, and the first three words of the Preamble — they are modified for emphasis only.
The parenthetical notations at the ends of clauses in the document are for reference to the respective articles in The Federalist papers. This will be handy for the personal study of the document and The Federalist papers themselves. These papers include the writings of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. The purpose of the papers was to help explain many of the clauses and principles found in the Constitution.
An example for The Federalist paper Number 78 will be noted: (Fed. No. 78). These references, as placed herein, are not part of the original Constitution but are in keeping with President Ezra Taft Benson’s counsel to read The Federalist papers. (General Conference, October 1987; The Ensign, November 1987, p. 7.
For further enhancement in the study of the Constitution and The Federalist papers, Clinton Rossiter made the following remarks in his edition of the papers: "Those readers who do not have the energy and fixed purpose to make their way through the whole of The Federalist may wish to know that, by common consent of learned opinion, the following numbers are the cream of the eighty-five papers: 1, 2, 6, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 23, 37, 39, 47, 48, 49, 51, 62, 63, 70, 78, 84, 85 (ten by Hamilton, ten by Madison, and one by Jay)." (The Federalist, p. xvii.)
There is no substitute for reading and studying the Constitution in order to get an understanding of what it contains. For the serious student, it should be approached as one would study the scriptures, that is, with faith and prayer. When this is done with the true intent of knowing and understanding this inspired work, the Spirit of God will help teach and testify of its meaning and divine origin.
The student of the Constitution should do all he can to search out the writings and statements of authorities on the subject and weigh them against the dictates of the Spirit. And, in this search, no greater authorities exist than our Founding Fathers, themselves, and the scriptures. To help facilitate this approach there are two good books on the subject. They are both by W. Cleon Skousen: The Making of America and The Five Thousand Year Leap. He goes into the Constitution clause-by-clause, and also identifies and discusses the 28 basic principles on which our nation was founded.
The Bill of Rights
The term, "Bill of Rights," is the common and popular name given to the first ten Articles of Amendments. These first Ten Amendments were passed by Congress, September 25, 1789, and ratified by three-fourths of the states, December 15, 1791. They took effect on the 15th of December, 1791.
The driving motive behind the Bill of Rights was the conviction, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, that rights came from God and not from man or man’s government. The main contributor to the Bill of Rights was George Mason. Mason was a close friend to George Washington and very influential in governmental affairs. In 1776 he drew up the Virginia Constitution along with the popular Bill of Rights for that State.
Originally, the first ten Articles of Amendments — Bill of Rights — had a three paragraph preamble. In most publications of this document the preamble is not published; most Americans do not know it exists.
In that preamble it states, "that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added," to the Constitution. By such a statement it tells us what the Constitution is: It is a series of "Declaratory" and "Restrictive" clauses. The amendments to it were to add "further" clauses of the same nature.
The Bill of Rights was much like the Constitution which it amended, it declared that which already existed, such as the rights of the people and the states but put restrictions on the powers of government. However, starting with the eleventh article and thereafter, the amendments started limiting "We The People," and started giving more power to the government. Thomas Jefferson was very concerned about government using its vested powers to control people when he said, "In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." (The Making of America, p. 570, from Adler, Mortimer J., et al., eds. The Annals of America, 4:65-66.)
It is important to keep in mind that, if we don’t know what our rights are, it is the same as if we had no rights. Why? Because if we do not know what they are, how do we know when they are being violated? The following quote comes from the Pathfinder Magazine, June 27, 1951. It also expresses some of these same concerns:
"We have enjoyed the safeguards of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, whose word, until recently, we believed was immutable and inalienable. The protection, the confidence, the assurance provided by the Bill of Rights opened up the faucets of human ambition and let loose an avalanche of new incentives. Men were free to inquire, to reject, to choose, to risk, to create!
"Till twenty years ago, the Bill of Rights, generator of the genius of America, was taken for granted. For two decades now it has been under attack. . . . The plan seems to be to impose upon the people political control of their daily activities.
"Today the Bill of Rights is in jeopardy. If it could speak, I believe it would have this to say: ‘I am your Bill of Rights. Don’t take me for granted. As man brought me to life, I can be slain by men, and will be slain unless you, the plain people of America, organize to defend me.
"‘My existence depends on how vigilantly you watch those who administer your government. . . . Your question must always be: Not ‘what does a law give me, but what does it take away from me?’" (Statements on Communism and the Constitution of the United States, p. 38.)
One of the most pressing fears that existed in the hearts of some of the Founders was the impending threat to the liberty of future generations by law makers. To help curve this possibility, they placed in the First Amendment the phrase, "Congress shall make no law. . . ." However, as we examine the current issues closely, we find that our federal government has made laws contrary to the Bill of Rights. President Ezra Taft Benson has this to say about these amendments:
"I am hereby resolved that under no circumstances shall the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights be infringed. In particular I am opposed to any attempt on the part of the federal government to deny the people their right to bear arms, to worship, to pray when and where they choose, or to own and control private property." (TETB, p. 617.)
Explanations on the Bill of Rights
Originally there were seventeen articles proposed; these were narrowed down to twelve — the first two of the twelve, of which, were not ratified by the states. The remaining ten, now known as the Bill of Rights, were originally Articles Three through Twelve. They have been, however, renumbered as Articles One through Ten. A transcription of the original twelve articles is presented here. But, the reader must remember that the first two are not part of the Bill of Rights as we have them today.
This document is as it was written, as far as the author can find. The modifications in bold italics represent passages which have been changed, eliminated, or nullified — this is not part of the original text. The bracketing and parenthetical numbering of the first amendments, comprising the Bill of Rights, are also of this author’s doing to help the reader understand their relationship to one another.
Our Constitution Meant For a Republic
We Latter-day Saints have a duty to this Constitution. In 1967, President McKay wrote:
"It is part of our ‘Mormon’ theology that the Constitution of the United States was divinely inspired; that our Republic came into existence through wise men raised up for that very purpose. We believe it is the duty of the members of the Church to see that this Republic is not subverted either by any sudden or constant erosion of those principles which gave this Nation its birth. (A Letter by President David O. McKay dated May 25, 1967.)
". . . there are some fundamental principles of this Republic which, like eternal truths, never get out-of-date; and which are applicable at all times to liberty-loving people. Such are the underlying principles of the Constitution, a document framed by patriotic, freedom-loving men, who we declare were inspired by the Lord." (Man May Know For Himself, 1967, pp. 345-346.)
In his monumental speech at Brigham Young University, known as The Constitution A Heavenly Banner, President Benson said,
"It is now two hundred years since the Constitution was written. Have we been wise beneficiaries of the gift entrusted to us? Have we valued and protected the principles laid down by this great document?
"For the past two centuries, those who do not prize freedom have chipped away at every major clause of our Constitution until today we face a crisis of great dimensions." (CHB, p. 24-25.)
What type of government did our Founding Fathers establish? A republic, not a democracy as many would have us believe. To point this out we will hear what Benjamin Franklin said as he, and other delegates, filed out of Independence Hall at the end of the convention. Dr. Franklin was anxiously approached by a woman who asked:
"A republic," said Franklin, "if you can keep it." (The Real Benjamin Franklin, p. 263.)