Declaration of Independence

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.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Divinely Inspired Constitution (Part 2)

I was taught all my life that the United States Constitution was divinely inspired; however, I never understood exactly what this meant until I read an article by Dallin H. Oaks, lawyer, former law professor, and former justice of the Utah Supreme Court ("The Divinely Inspired Constitution," Ensign, February 1992, 68-74).
In his article Mr. Oaks asked the question "what is there in the text of the Constitution that is divinely inspired?" He then proceeded to explain his belief that the Constitution has five fundamental principles that were divinely inspired. The following quotes are from his article.
1. "Separation of powers … the inspiration on the idea of separation of powers came long before the United States Constitutional Convention. The inspiration in the convention was in its original and remarkably successful adaptation of the idea of separation of powers to the practical needs of a national government. The delegates found just the right combination to assure the integrity of each branch, appropriately checked and balanced with the others" (p 71).
2. "A written bill of rights. This second great fundamental came by amendment, but I think Americans all look upon the Bill of Rights as part of the inspired work of the Founding Fathers….
"I have always felt that the United States Constitution's closest approach to scriptural stature is in the phrasing of our Bill of Rights..." (p 71).
3. "Division of powers. Another inspired fundamental of the United States Constitution is in its federal system, which divides government powers between the nation and the various states. Unlike the inspired adaptations mentioned earlier, this division of sovereignty was unprecedented in theory or practice. In a day when it is fashionable to assume that the government has the power and means to right every wrong, we should remember that the United States Constitution limits the national government to the exercise of powers expressly granted to it… [see the Tenth Amendment].
"This principle of limited national powers… is one of the great fundamentals of the United States Constitution" (pp 71-72).
4. "Popular sovereignty. Perhaps the most important of the great fundamentals of the inspired Constitution is the principle of popular sovereignty. The people are the source of government power…. God gave the power to the people, and the people consented to a constitution that delegated certain powers to the government" (p 72).
Since the people hold the power, it is only right that the business of the nation be conducted according to the voice of the people.
A wise king the Book of Mormon, in trying to teach this principle to his people, said: "Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law - to do your business by the voice of the people" (Mosiah 29:26).
5. "The rule of law and not of men. Further there is divine inspiration in the fundamental underlying premise of this whole constitutional order. All the blessings enjoyed under the United States Constitution are dependent upon the rule of law….
"…The self-control by which citizens subject themselves to law strengthens the freedom of all citizens and honors the divinely inspired Constitution" (p 73).
It is easy for me to see that the five fundamental principles as explained by Mr. Oaks are crucial to our nation. They explain very clearly why our nation has been able to remain strong for over 200 years as well as why other nations would use our Constitution for a model for their own governments.
With a proper understanding of these principles, we can judge better the importance of keeping our three branches of government - executive, legislative, and judicial - separate in order that the power is kept separate. If the power were to be concentrated in one branch, then our government would become more like a dictatorship than a democracy.
Without a written Bill of Rights, people would not be guaranteed any rights; therefore, they would lose their powers.
It is important to have a strong central government to defend us from other nations, to print our money, to collect taxes to pay our bills, etc, but it is also important that the majority of the powers remain in the states because the state governments are more responsive to the people.
If the power did not remain with the people, our leaders would soon become tyrants and dictators.
Without the rule of law, anarchy would reign.
Why would God reveal these principles to our Founding Fathers? He did so because He loves His children and wants them to have the freedoms necessary to use their God-given agency and to be happy.

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