How do you feel about the Constitution of the United States of America? Do you consider it to be a glorious standard of liberty for all generations or do you consider it to be outdated? How you feel about this great document will determine how you commemorate Constitution Day annually on September 17.
The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution are two of the greatest statements ever written about liberty. Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence announced to the world that the American colonies were declaring themselves free and independent. The main argument of the Declaration was that men have God-given rights to life, liberty and the opportunity to be happy and that governments derive their power from the consent of those governed. The purpose of government is to protect the fundamental rights of the people. The British government was not protecting the rights of the American colonists; therefore, the Americans declared themselves to be free of Great Britain and fought for eight long years to secure that independence.
Eleven years after the signing of the Declaration, a small group of delegates met in Philadelphia to create a new constitution for their new nation. They met at Independence Hall from May 25 to September 17, 1787, in an effort “to form a more perfect union” and to establish a government that would protect and secure “the blessings of liberty” for themselves and their posterity.
Matthew Spalding of The Heritage Foundation stated, “Their challenge was to create the institutional arrangements for limiting power and securing the rights promised in the Declaration of Independence while preserving a republican form of government that reflected the consent of the governed. Their solution was to create a strong government of adequate but limited powers, all carefully enumerated in a written constitution. In addition to an energetic executive, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary, its structural arrangements include a system of separated powers – giving each branch different functions and responsibilities so that none dominates - and federalism, which divides authority between the national and state governments. That the delegates could agree on such a system was, according to George Washington, `little short of a miracle.’
“Since its ratification in 1789, the Constitution has secured our fundamental rights, providing for an unprecedented degree of human freedom and at the same time upholding the rule of law…. Nevertheless, the Constitution has been the framework for the building of a great, prosperous, and just nation unlike any other – a nation that those few delegates, as optimistic as they were, could only have imagined.” (See pamphlet, “The Declaration of Independence [and] The Constitution of the United States,” pp. 3-4.)
President Ezra Taft Benson, who served as Secretary of Agriculture on President Eisenhower, loved the Constitution and spoke about it often. “The framers of the Constitution were men raised up by God to establish this foundation of our government, for so the Lord has declared by revelation in these words: `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 101:80; italics added.)
“Yes, this is a land fertilized by the blood of patriots. During the struggle for independence, nearly 9,000 of the colonist forces were killed. Among those fifty-six patriots who had pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor by signing the Declaration of Independence, at least nine paid that price with their life’s blood.
“At the close of the Revolution, the thirteen states found themselves independent but then faced grave internal economic and political problems. The Articles of Confederation had been adopted but proved to be ineffectual. Under this instrument, the nation was without a president, a head. There was a congress, but it was a body destitute of any power. There was no supreme court. The states were merely a confederation.”
There were seventy-four appointed delegates, but only fifty-five actually reported to the convention; they represented every state except Rhode Island. Thirty-nine signed the finished Constitution, which was written “to form a more perfect union.”
These delegates – the “wise men” raised up by God for this purpose – were young men in the prime of their life; their average age was 44 with the eldest being Benjamin Franklin (age 81). Other well-known delegates were George Washington (age 55), Alexander Hamilton (age 32), and James Madison (age 36). These men were young men, but they were well prepared for their task. Of the 39 men who signed the Constitution, 21 were college-educated, 18 were lawyers or judges, 26 had served in the Continental Congress, 19 had been soldiers in the Revolutionary War. “Among that assembly of the thirty-nine signers were to be found two future presidents of the United States, one the `Father of his Country’; a vice-president of the United States; a secretary of the treasury; a secretary of war; a secretary of state; two chief justices of the Supreme Court, and three who served as justices; and the venerable Franklin, a diplomat, philosopher, scientist, and statesman.
“`They were not backwoodsmen from far-off frontiers, not one of them…. There has not been another such group of men in all [the 200 years of our history] that even challenged the supremacy of this group’ (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Conference Reports, April 1957, p. 47).
President Wilford Woodruff said they “were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits….’ (CR, April 1898, p. 89; italics added.)” (Benson).
The wisdom of the Framers can be more appreciated when we consider that their document was written for a nation of thirteen states and less than four million people. Today the Constitution is the Supreme Law of a nation consisting of fifty states, several territories, and more than 350 million people. These wise men created a Constitution with enough checks and balances to keep the government from becoming powerful enough to destroy the rights of the people.
President John Adams declared that the Constitution was written for “a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
The American continents, both North and South, have been declared by prophets to be “a choice land” that God reserved for His own purposes. The conditions of living in this “promised land” were declared by an ancient American prophet known as the Brother of Jared: “And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.
“For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God….
“Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Ether 2:9, 10, 12).
The Constitution of the United States is a sacred document written under inspiration from God. It is a glorious document containing the Supreme Law of our land. It has governed our nation well for 226 years and will continue to do so if we will preserve and protect it from those men and women who are attempting to destroy it