The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from prophets: God had a hand in ancient America and will preserve the freedom He established. I understand that America will go through some dark days, but it will be triumphant in the end if the people are righteous.
On February 24, 1976, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke at Brigham Young University on the topic of “God’s Hand in the Founding of America.” Elder Perry began his address with this statement: “I look around me and find some very definite signs of the decay that is beginning to occur. Corruption, crime, dishonesty, immorality, pollution, laziness, devotion only to special interests – these are signs that precede the fall of great civilizations. We see so much evidence of these signs before our eyes. Yet I realize the promise that has been given to us in this great land of America. I also remember the prophecies concerning our great responsibilities to preserve that which we have been blessed with by God. The Lord has promised to sustain the truth in this land.
“Our commitment to America has been testified to by many, but I will point out to you special witnesses who have indicated our responsibilities to this land.”
Elder Perry then proceeded to share the words of several prophets. His first quote was by Brigham Young, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Will the Constitution be destroyed? No: it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, `The time will come when the destiny of this nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.’ It will be so.” (Journal of Discourses, 7:15)
As a second witness, Elder Perry gave this statement by John Taylor, third president of the Church: “When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States, the elders of Israel will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth, and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men, and extending the hand of fellowship to the oppressed of all nations” (The Gospel Kingdom, Deseret Book Co., 1943, p. 219). This is part of the program.
Elder Perry’s final witness was George Q. Cannon, a former member of the First Presidency of the Church, who said that “the day will come when the Constitution and free government under it will be sustained and preserved by this people” (Journal of Discourses, 23:104).
One of the purposes for Elder Perry’s address to the students at BYU was to present the Church’s Bicentennial message to America. The Church printed and distributed a document titled “God’s Hand in the Founding of America” in an effort to “reverse the trend and help chart the course of this country back toward righteousness.” The Church “commissioned seven paintings” and printed them as “posters to tell our message to the nation.” The desire was for the posters to hang in every Church building located in the United States during 1976.
During the Bicentennial year of the founding of the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wanted the people of America to hear “three unique messages. First, America’s early history began more than 2,000 years ago and is contained in an ancient and sacred record called the Book of Mormon. Second, the discovery of America and the establishment of the United States was a part of God’s plan and was brought about by men who were inspired and guided by God. And finally, America’s future destiny is dependent on the righteousness and morality of [America’s] families.
“Why is it so important to know and understand America’s past? We know that history provides important lessons and warnings for today – lessons about God and his interest in the affairs of men; and warnings in the form of destructions that came to early American civilizations when they lost their reverence for family, morality, or God. Why are these messages particularly important during the Bicentennial year? Because the only true way to celebrate the Bicentennial is in the same spirit that prevailed 200 years ago, in the spirit of humility and acknowledgement of God’s control over the earth and man’s dependency on Jesus Christ.”
Elder Perry explained the seven posters using history and then gave a challenge to the BYU students. It is a wonderful challenge that I now extend to my readers: “I want you who are the best trained, the best educated, who have been given these great advantages here in America to literally become the conscience of America and the molders of its destiny and future. With your knowledge, your training, your understanding of how God works in the hearts of his children here on earth, let us obligate ourselves to temperance, to frugality, and to industry. Let us show justice, kindness, and charity toward our fellowmen. Let us demonstrate the love and reverence we should exhibit toward our Almighty God. Let us not trifle with the things that are holy to God.
“Fifty-six men represented 2.5 million in 1776 to bring about a new nation that has literally blessed the whole world. That was one man to every 45,000. Today I’m calling on each of you to exert an influence over about 220 million people in this land. [Now there are over 300 million people in the United States.] The odds are even better for you; the advantage is on your side. This is the time for you to be bold enough to stand up for what you believe, to let the world know that God still blesses this great land of America – if we will live righteously, according to that which he has commanded.”
This message was given nearly 40 years ago. The problems discussed by Elder Perry have grown steady worse. America needs righteous men and women to stand up and defend her by personal righteousness and prayer. These are the weapons that we can use against the evils of our day. May God still bless America!