September 17, 2012, marks 225 years since the day thirty-nine men signed the United States Constitution. Twenty-nine delegates gathered in
on May 25,
1787, and spent a hot and sweaty summer there.
George Washington was elected as president of the convention. The first order of business was to formulate
the rules for the convention, and the rules included one calling for absolute
secrecy concerning the proceedings of the convention. As time passed, other delegates joined the
first twenty-nine; fifty-five out of seventy-four appointed delegates attended
the convention. Philadelphia
The men who framed the United States Constitution knew that their formula for freedom could be lost in a single generation, and yet the Constitution of the
has been the supreme law of our land for 225 years. Every generation of Americans has defended, honored,
and obeyed it, and it continues to protect us.
The United States Constitution was the first written constitution in the
whole world. It has served United States well and
has also served as a pattern for the constitutions of almost every other nation
in the world that has a written constitution. America
How did such a document come to be? How did the Framers of the Constitution invent such a powerful document? Where did its ideas come from?
In a 1788 letter to Lafayette, George Washington wrote, "It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle that the delegates from so many different states (which states you know are also different from each other in their manners, circumstances, and prejudices) should unite in forming a system of national Government, so little liable to well-founded objections" (as quoted by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in "The Divinely Inspired Constitution," Ensign, Feb. 1992, 68). (Emphasis added.)
There were several miracles involved in the writing of our Constitution. The first miracle happened when the delegates, representing various areas of the country, put aside their regional differences and loyalties to agree on a strong central government. Elder Oaks, a former judge, said that one of the reasons for this success was the "intelligence, wisdom, and unselfishness of the delegates."
A second miracle concerned the writing of the Constitution. The Framers were far from being of "one mind" as to what should be in the Constitution as shown in the following quotes.
"I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise." (Benjamin Franklin, 1787)
"My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask who authorized them (the framers of the Constitution) to speak the language of `We, the People,' instead of `We, the States'?" (Patrick Henry, 1788)
"I am exceedingly distressed at the proceedings of the Convention - being … almost sure, they will … lay the foundation of a Civil War." (
Delegate, 1787) Elbridge Gerry, Massachusetts
"I consider the difference between a system founded on the legislatures only, and one founded on the people, to be the true difference between a league or treaty and a constitution." (James Madison, at the Constitutional Convention, 1787)
Thomas Jefferson was obviously worried that the courts would change the Constitution: "The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please." (Did
foresee our day when politicians and judges consider our Constitution to be a
John Dickinson, a delegate from
, compared government to the solar
system where the sun and all the planets have their own orbits but are part of
bigger system. "Let our government
be like that of the solar system. Let
the general government be like the sun and the states the planets, repelled yet
attracted, and the whole moving regularly and harmoniously in several
orbits." (1787) Delaware
A third miracle concerned the principles included in the Constitution. Modern-day scriptures tell us that the United States Constitution was divinely directed. In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith on December 16, 1833, in Kirtland, Ohio, the Lord told him to do his business "According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles….
"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, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood" (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-80).
Elder Oaks said that he does not believe that every word in the Constitution was inspired and used the wording about slavery as one such example. Heavenly Father would never condone slavery in any way. Elder Oaks explained his belief that the inspiration of the Constitution is found in the fundamental principles contained in it and discussed five principles that he considered to be inspired by God.
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).
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 Elder Oaks are crucial to our nation. I too believe that they were inspired by God for they explain very clearly why our nation has been able to remain strong for over 200 years.
Still another miracle took place in the ratification process. All the good works of the Framers would have been null and void if the separate colonies had not ratified their work. The ratification process was very long and arduous and was not completed until ten months after the signing of the Constitution. The first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights were not ratified until nearly three years after the Constitution itself was ratified.
As time passed between the time of the framing of the Constitution and the present, more and more people considered the Framers to be far less than "wise men" and the Constitution to be less than a divinely inspired document. While dedicating the National Archives Building, built to house the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, President Harry S. Truman said that liberty "can be lost, and it will be, if the time ever comes when these documents are regarded not as the supreme expression of our profound belief, but merely as curiosities in glass cases."
Progressive politicians and judges of our day claim that the Constitution is a "Living Constitution" that needs to change in order to stay up with the enlightenment of our day. They not only do not consider the Framers to be "wise men" that were "raised up" by God, but they consider them to be evil, rich, white men. On the other hand, TEA Party members recognize the Framers to be "wise men" and are pushing for a return to constitutional principles. The 2012 presidential election will determine where the majority of the citizens of this great land stand. Do we uphold the Constitution of our land or do we let it fall by the wayside?
I have a strong belief that the United States Constitution was written by wise men that were raised up and prepared by God to write the document we consider as the Supreme Law of our land, a document that has protected Americans' liberties and freedoms for more than 200 years. I believe that Americans must now stand up and protect our Constitution so that it can continue to protect us. I believe that God will hold us accountable if we let our Constitution be destroyed.