[Editor: This is the second in a series of op-ed columns examining the conflict between secular and religious goals in today’s society.]
The battle to defend the Constitution is a repeat of the war in heaven.
The U.S. Constitution is very much in the news – Supreme Court deliberations about Obamacare (including an unprecedented warning this week from the President to the nation’s highest court), recess appointments, the Health and Human Services directive on contraception coverage, among otherissues.
We hear of executive orders and the separation of powers, of the commerce clause and Wickard v. Filburn, of enumerated powers and the necessary and proper clause, and even of penumbras and emanations.
But taking a step back, what do we really understand about the Constitution? What are its deeper purposes?
In four verses in D&C 101, the Lord explains how this sacred document is linked with Heavenly Father’s plan and with what the war in heaven was all about.
#1: The Constitution Comes From God
D&C 101:77 reads:
According to the laws and constitution of the people which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
Does this leave any doubt where the Constitution came from? Breaking away from the divine right of kings took a long time, and we can trace the influence of such philosophers as John Locke on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other Founding Fathers. But the impetus to and guiding hand in its creation came from God, not from man.
#2: Affirms and Maintains Our Natural Rights
Our rights do not come from the Constitution, nor from the government it created, nor from man in any of his assemblages. They are God given. The Constitution was established to maintain, guarantee, and protect them for our benefit.
#3: Designed for All Mankind
The U.S. Constitution was designed not only for what would become the United States, but also as an ensign to the whole world – a template for self-governance in all lands. It is no wonder that major portions of it are found in the constitutions of over 130 nations. (Loyal adherence, however, may be another matter, witness the Soviet Union constitution of 1936.)
#4: Based on Just and Holy Principles
Some Americans argue that the Constitution is outdated – designed by men in another age whose view of the world cannot possibly apply today. Some inside the Church concede that the Constitution may have been inspired, but do not see it as a sacred or holy document.
Either viewpoint diminishes its legitimacy and facilitates the agitation for a “living constitution” – one that is easier to change and takes into better account the problems and complexities of a modern world …and its fads, I might add.
I maintain, however, that the Constitution occupies a higher status than the things God has inspired man to create for our benefit. For example, I can believe that Edison was inspired to invent the light bulb, but it’s not a celestial-kingdom deal killer if I choose not to light my house with his invention.
But if something is holy, it’s a different matter. If a God-given just and holy principle was applicable in 1787, why would it not be today? Are such principles time constrained?
The Constitution may not be scripture, but it houses holy principles.
#5: Reminds Us of a Future Day of Judgment
Now verse 78:
That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
This reframes our day-to-day worldview and points us to the future – a day of reckoning, an inescapable day of judgment – thereby affirming the seriousness of the matter.
#6: Reinforces the Gift and Principles of Agency and Accountability
Also in verse 78, the Lord connects agency, accountability, and the Constitution – the first two being the warp and woof of the war in heaven.
To supplant God, Lucifer intended to separate consequences from actions. Without consequences, actions would have no meaning, nothing is gained from being one’s own agent, agency becomes a hollow principle, accountability a finger-pointing game of “who, me?” and God would cease to be God.
In contrast to Satan’s plan, God recognized the interplay between freedom, choice, and agency in His plan to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life:
Therefore, the Constitution had to be a champion of individual liberty. It had to grant government sufficient power to accomplish necessary functions, but not so much to invite abuse. It is God’s instrument to maximize agency and stand as a bulwark against those who, as in the war in heaven, would minimize our latitude of action and deprive us of our God-given right to be our own agents and to make decisions for ourselves. (More on this interplay of power in my next column.)
#7: Designed to Eliminate Slavery
To facilitate agency and progress for all mankind, D&C 101:79 unequivocally states:
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
Then the payoff in verse 80:
And for this purpose have 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. (Emphasis added.)
The most laughable criticisms of my previous column (“The Danger of Dissing Sacred Things” March 1, 2012) were from those who maintain that the Constitution is racist document. After all, their shallow reasoning goes, the Constitution made slaves worth only 3/5 of a person.
If only they had read the previous verse that it is not right that anyone should be in bondage to another, and that its elimination – the phrase“for this purpose” – was God’s goal. Rather than being a racist document, the Constitution is exactly the opposite – a document that would lead to the elimination of slavery in America.
The 3/5 Compromise was a necessary half step. If no slaves had been counted, the southern states would not have ratified the Constitution. If slaves had been counted fully, the southern states would have had disproportional influence in Congress and the Electoral College, which would have substantially delayed the abolition of slavery.
The Lord raised up a group of wise men to take the first step, and then came Abraham Lincoln to finish the job.
#8: Wise Men Were God’s Instruments
Choose any cluster of 3.5 million citizens today (the total population in the 13 states in 1787) and try to find a dozen or so who can match the caliber of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton, Jay, the Adams brothers, and the other noble souls God sent to the earth in the 1700s.