The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns a prophecy made by the Prophet Joseph Smith about the U.S. Constitution being on the verge of destruction and the elders of Israel being involved in saving it. When I first heard of this prophecy, I wondered how it could be true. After many years of watching various individuals and groups attempt to destroy the Constitution, I now have no doubts about its truthfulness.
According to D. Michael Stewart of the Department of History at Brigham Young University, there are documents that show that Joseph Smith made such a prophecy on several different occasions. Stewart shares information on the prophecy in an article dated June 1976.
The first known record of the prophecy dates to July 19, 1840, in Nauvoo [Illinois], when the prophet spoke about the redemption of Zion. Using Doctrine and Covenants 101 as a text, he said, “Even this nation will be on the verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the Constitution is on the brink of ruin this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” (Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Historical Archives, Box 1, March 10, 1844.)
There are also other documents in Church History files that show that five different early Saints recorded some remarks by the Prophet Joseph Smith on this same prophecy…
Stewart continues his articles by sharing the five statements written by Parley P. Pratt, James Burgess, Orson Hyde, Eliza R. Snow, and Jedediah M. Grant. Each statement has the same basic message: The U.S. Constitution will be close to destruction and the Elders of Israel will rescue and save it. The wording of the statements varies, such as “on the brink of ruin,” “hang by a brittle thread,” “hang by a single hair,” and others.
The Prophet “referred to the Constitution, the country, and destiny of the nation” on different occasions and obviously felt some concern. Stewart says that “there is clear evidence that he anticipated future peril” and that the Prophet might have also “interchanged the simile … to describe the anticipated crisis.” The Prophet left no doubt that the general membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Elders would be involved in saving the Constitution. Stewart shares the following counsel.
Since no particular time was given for fulfilling this prophecy, members of the Church have often wondered about its timing. The prophecy clearly indicates a single, identifiable episode yet to come. However, it is helpful for us to constantly be on guard against threats to the central elements of the Constitution. It is not wise to sit by and think that the protection of the Constitution is the problem of someone else at some other time…
Students of history and the Constitution know that the Constitution has been imperiled a number of times in its history and has been saved a number of times both by vigorous political action and by vocal public opinion.
So, what are we to do? Stewart counsels Latter-day Saints to not wait until the Constitution hangs by a thread, but to “continually be vigilant.”
Our commission to save the Constitution is, like salvation, a continuing task, and Church leaders have pointed out the tools available: analysis of constitutional principles, personal study of the history of our nation, reading the Constitution to children at home and in schools, teaching them self-sacrifice – the principle that makes freedom possible – teaching them their obligations as mature citizens, recognizing and resisting ideologies that threaten constitutional principles, and developing loyalty to principle rather than to men or parties.
Did you notice the actions that normal, everyday Americans can take? Here they are again: (1) Know the principles in the Constitution, (2) study U.S. History, (3) read the Constitution to the rising generation, (4) teach children the importance of self-sacrifice, loyalty to principle, and love of country, and (5) prepare them to become mature, responsible citizens.
I encourage all of us to follow the counsel of prophets and apostles and to prepare ourselves and our posterity to come to the rescue of the Constitution whenever the need may arise. We can do much in our homes and families to respond to the “commission” to rescue the Constitution, and we must be consistent in our efforts.