September 17 is Constitution Day. This year marks 227 years since thirty-nine men signed the Constitution of the United States. All thirteen original states were petitioned to send delegates to the Constitution Convention scheduled to begin on May 25, 1787; twenty-nine delegates gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 25, 1787. With George Washington presiding at the convention, the delegates spent a hot and sweaty summer working on our glorious Constitution. The delegates’ first duty was to formulate rules for the convention; one of the rules called for absolute secrecy about everything that happened in the convention. Other delegates eventually joined the first twenty-nine, and fifty-five out of seventy-four appointed delegates actually attended the convention. Thirty-nine men signed the finished Constitution.
The Framers of the U.S. Constitution understood they were undertaking a magnificent task as they created a completely new type of government. The Constitution they created was the first written constitution in the entire world. It would not only serve America well, but it would also serve as a pattern for constitutions in many other nations. The Framers also understood that Americans would need to be vigilant to maintain this new formula for freedom; they knew that this new government could be lost in a single generation.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks believes the Constitution to be divinely inspired. He stated that several miracles took place while the Constitution was being written with the first miracle being the agreement for a strong central government by delegates representing different regions and loyalties. He attributed this success to the “intelligence, wisdom, and unselfishness of the delegates.”
According to Elder Oaks, a second miracle concerned the actual writing of the Constitution because the Framers were far from being of “one mind” on the wording. A third miracle concerned the principles included in the Constitution. Elder Oaks does not believe that every word in the Constitution was inspired, but he does believe the following principles included in it were inspired by God: (1) Separation of powers, (2) A written bill of rights, (3) Division of powers, (4) Popular sovereignty, and (5) Rule of law and not of men.
President Ezra Taft Benson served as Secretary of Agriculture during administration of President Eisenhower. He described the Constitution as being a “glorious standard raised up by the Founding Fathers.” He reminded his listeners that “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.)
President Benson stated that “Wise and honorable men raised that glorious standard for this nation. It will also take wise and honorable men to perpetuate what was so nobly established.” He continued by encouraging every American to “do his duty” and not be an “idle spectator.” He counseled us to seek diligently for people who are good, honest, and wise – and to be “prayerfully wise” as we choose our leaders. “May we select only those who understand and will adhere to Constitutional principles. To do so, we need to understand these principles ourselves.”
President Benson quoted from a public statement made by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “We urge members of the Church and all Americans to begin now to reflect more intently on the meaning and importance of the Constitution, and of adherence to its principles” (Ensign, Nov. 1973, p. 90).
Continuing his talk, President Benson urged “every Latter-day Saint and all Americans in North and South America to become familiar with every part of this document. Many of the constitutions of countries in South America have been patterned in large measure after that of the United States. We should understand the Constitution as the Founders meant that it should be understood. We can do this by reading their words about it, such as those contained in the Federalist Papers. Such understanding is essential if we are to preserve what God has given us.
“I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed His stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land. I testify that the God of heaven selected and sent some of his choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government as a prologue to the restoration of the gospel and the Second Coming of our Savior.
“May God bless us to protect this sacred instrument. In the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, `May those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.’ (Doctrine and Covenants 109:54.) For this I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
I too believe the Constitution of the United States to be a “glorious standard” that was “divinely inspired.” I too pray that we will stay strong in defending and protecting this Constitution and the liberty and freedoms of men and women everywhere.