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.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Glorious Standard

                The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes to us from President Ezra Taft Benson in a talk given in April 1976 titled “The Constitution – A Glorious Standard.”  President Benson was a staunch defender of the Constitution of the United States and spoke of it often.  In a talk given to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he called the Constitution “that glorious standard raised up by the Founding Fathers.  He continued his talk by paying “tribute to those who laid the foundation of our Republic” and testified “concerning one of the most vital principles that makes the work of the founders timeless and inspired.

                “Every Latter-day Saint should love the inspired Constitution of the United States – a nation with a spiritual foundation and a prophetic history – which nation the Lord has declared to be his base of operations in these latter days.
                “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.”

                President Benson continued his talk by discussing the state of affairs in the American Colonies following the end of the Revolutionary War.  “Who were these delegates, those whom the Lord designated `wise men’ whom he raised up?  They were mostly young men in the prime of their life, their average age being forty-four.  Benjamin Franklin was the eldest at eighty-one.  George Washington, the presiding officer at the convention, was fifty-five.  Alexander Hamilton was only thirty-two; James Madison, who recorded the proceedings of the convention with his remarkable Notes, was only thirty-six.  These were young men, but men of exceptional character, `sober, seasoned, distinguished men of affairs, drawn from various walks of life.’  (J. Reuben Clark, Sand Fast by Our Constitution, Deseret Book Co., 1965, p. 135.)

                “Of the thirty-nine signers, twenty-one of them were educated in the leading American colleges and in Great Britain; eighteen were, or had been, lawyers or judges; twenty-six had seen service in the Continental Congress; nineteen had served in the Revolutionary army, seventeen as officers.  Four had been on Washington’s personal staff during the 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….’ (Wilford Woodruff, CR, April 1898, p. 89; italics added.)”

                Later in his talk President Benson said, “In the final analysis, what the framers did, under the inspiration of God, was to draft a document that merited the approval of God himself, who declared it to `be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh.’  (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77; italics added.)
                “The document has been criticized by some as outmoded, and even a recent president of the United States criticized it as a document `written for an entirely different period in our nation’s history.’  (U.S. News and World Report, Dec. 17, 1962, p. 104.)  The eminent Constitutional authority, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., has answered this argument in these words:  `These were the horse and buggy days as they have been called in derision; these were the men who traveled in the horse-drawn buggies and on horseback; but these were the men who carried under their hats, as they rode in the buggies and on their horses, a political wisdom garnered from the ages.’  (Stand Fast by Our Constitution, p. 136.)”

                President Benson commented, “What those framers did can be better appreciated when it is considered that when the instrument went into operation, it covered only thirteen states with fewer than four million people.  Today it adequately covers fifty states and over 200 million people.  [We now have more than 300 million people in the United States with a Constitution still adequate.]
                “The wisdom of these delegates is shown in the genius of the document itself.  The founders had a strong distrust for centralized power in a federal government.  So they created a government with checks and balances.  This was to prevent any branch of the government from becoming too powerful.”

                You can read the remainder of President Benson’s talk here, but his closing remarks are as follow:  “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.)

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