History Facts: Constitution Day and the Hand of God

History Facts:

Constitution Day and the Hand of God

key“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Our Divine Constitution

Ezra Taft Benson

October 1987

signers3We have recently celebrated the bicentennial of the signing of the United States Constitution. That commemoration marked the beginning of a series of bicentennial anniversaries of events leading up to the ratification of the Constitution, implementation of the government it created, and the writing and ratification of the Bill of Rights. We look forward to the future commemoration of each of these important events during the next four years. It is as a result of these events that we are able to meet today in peace as members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. For this we should all be eternally grateful.

U.S. Constitution a model for the World

I desire, therefore, to speak to you about our divine Constitution, which the Lord said “belongs to all mankind” (D&C 98:5; italics added) “and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles” (D&C 101:77; italics added).

The Constitution of the United States has served as a model for many nations and is the oldest constitution in use today.

“I established the Constitution of this land,” said the Lord, “by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80).

For centuries the Lord kept America hidden in the hollow of His hand until the time was right to unveil her for her destiny in the last days. “It is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations,” said Lehi, “for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Ne. 1:8).

Columbus and the Pilgrims directed by the Holy Spirit

columbus5In the Lord’s due time His Spirit “wrought upon” Columbus, the pilgrims, the Puritans, and others to come to America. They testified of God’s intervention in their behalf (see 1 Ne. 13:12–13). The Book of Mormon records that they humbled “themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them” (1 Ne. 13:16).

Constitution is the American Covenant with God

Our Father in Heaven planned the coming forth of the Founding Fathers and their form of government as the necessary great prologue leading to the restoration of the gospel. Recall what our Savior Jesus Christ said nearly two thousand years ago when He visited this promised land: “For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth” (3 Ne. 21:4). America, the land of liberty, was to be the Lord’s latter-day base of operations for His restored church.

The Declaration of Independence affirmed the Founding Fathers’ belief and trust in God in these words: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The Doctrine and Covenants states, “We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life” (D&C 134:2). Life, liberty, property—mankind’s three great rights.

At the conclusion of the Declaration of Independence, they wrote, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” This Declaration was a promise that would demand terrible sacrifice on the part of its signers. Five of the signers were captured as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary War; another had two sons captured. Nine died from wounds or from the hardships of the war. The Lord said He “redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80). Nephi recorded that the Founders “were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations” (1 Ne. 13:19).

The years immediately preceding the Constitutional Convention were filled with disappointments and threats to the newly won peace. Washington was offered a kingship, which he adamantly refused. Nephi had prophesied hundreds of years before that “this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land” (2 Ne. 10:11; italics added).

The United States

Between the critical years of 1783 and 1787, an outsider viewing the affairs of the United States would have thought that the thirteen states, different in so many ways, could never effectively unite. The world powers were confident that this nation would not last.

Eventually, twelve of the states met in Philadelphia to address the problem. Madison said at the beginning of the Convention that the delegates “were now digesting a plan which in its operation would decide forever the fate of Republican Government” (26 June 1787, Records of the Federal Convention, 1:423).

“The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning,” said Nephi, “wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men” (1 Ne. 9:6).

Four months later, the Convention delegates had completed their work. As Gladstone said, it was “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man” (William Gladstone, North American Review, Sept.–Oct. 1878, p. 185), and the Prophet Joseph Smith called it “a glorious standard … a heavenly banner” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 147).

The Constitutional Convention was Inspired by God

Const-signers-AmericansWhoRiskedAllThe delegates were the recipients of heavenly inspiration. James Madison, often referred to as the father of the Constitution, wrote: “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution” (The Federalist, no. 37, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1983, p. 222).

Alexander Hamilton, famous as the originator of The Federalist papers and author of fifty-one of the essays, said: “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interest” (Essays on the Constitution of the United States, ed. Paul L. Ford, 1892, pp. 251–52).

Charles Pinckney, a very active participant and author of the Pinckney Plan during the Convention, said: “When the great work was done and published, I was struck with amazement. Nothing less than the superintending Hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war … could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole” (Essays on the Constitution, p. 412).

Within ten months, the Constitution was ratified by nine states and was therefore in force for them. Prophecy had been fulfilled.

George Washington: “Acknowledge the Hand of God”

George WashingtonDuring his first inaugural address in 1789, President George Washington, a man who was raised up by God, said: “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency” (First Inaugural Address, 30 Apr. 1789).

In compliance with Article 6 of the Constitution, the very first act passed by Congress and signed by President Washington on June 1, 1789, was the actual oath to support the Constitution that was to be administered to various government officers.

The dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, as dictated by the Lord and found in the Doctrine and Covenants, contains these words: “May those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever” (D&C 109:54).[1]

America has strayed from her Covenant with God

by Jon McNaughton

by Jon McNaughton

Unfortunately, we as a nation have apostatized in various degrees from different Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired founders. We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: “Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon 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” (19 July 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; ms. in Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City).

For centuries our forefathers suffered and sacrificed that we might be the recipients of the blessings of freedom. If they were willing to sacrifice so much to establish us as a free people, should we not be willing to do the same to maintain that freedom for ourselves and for future generations?

Only in this foreordained land, under its God-inspired Constitution and the resulting environment of freedom, was it possible to have established the restored church. It is our responsibility to see that this freedom is perpetuated so that the Church may more easily flourish in the future.

The Lord said, “Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land” (D&C 98:6).

How then can we best befriend the Constitution in this critical hour and secure the blessings of liberty and ensure the protection and guidance of our Father in Heaven?

The Constitution is for a Moral and Religious People

First and foremost, we must be righteous.

johnadams2John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851, 4:31). If the Constitution is to have continuance, this American nation, and especially the Latter-day Saints, must be virtuous.

The Book of Mormon warns us relative to our living in this free land: Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Ne. 1:7).

“And now,” warned Moroni, “we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity” (Ether 2:9).

Two great American Christian civilizations—the Jaredites and the Nephites—were swept off this land because they did not “serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). What will become of our civilization?

Principles of the Constitution

Second, we must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800Have we read The Federalist papers? Are we reading the Constitution and pondering it? Are we aware of its principles? Are we abiding by these principles and teaching them to others? Could we defend the Constitution? Can we recognize when a law is constitutionally unsound? Do we know what the prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it?

As Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be” (Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, 6 Jan. 1816).

Get Involved!

Third, we must become involved in civic affairs to see that we are properly represented.

The Lord said that “he holds men accountable for their acts in relation” to governments “both in making laws and administering them” (D&C 134:1). We must follow this counsel from the Lord: “Honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil” (D&C 98:10).

voter placing ballotNote the qualities that the Lord demands of those who are to represent us. They must be good, wise, and honest.

Fourth, we must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, our teaching, and our advice.

We must become accurately informed and then let others know how we feel. The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound. ‘Tis right, politically, for a man who has influence to use it. … From henceforth I will maintain all the influence I can get” (History of the Church, 5:286).

The Constitution will be saved by Righteous People

I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. It will be saved by the righteous citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened members of this Church—among others—men and women who understand and abide the principles of the Constitution.

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 upon it.

american-exceptionalism2I testify that the God of heaven sent some of His choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government, and He has now sent other choice spirits to help preserve it.

American Exceptionalism

We, the blessed beneficiaries of the Constitution, face difficult days in America, “a land which is choice above all other lands” (Ether 2:10).

May God give us the faith and the courage exhibited by those patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

May we be equally as valiant and as free, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 


[1] Shortly after President Spencer W. Kimball became President of the Church, he assigned me to go into the vault of the St. George Temple and check the early records. As I did so, I realized the fulfillment of a dream I had had ever since learning of the visit of the Founding Fathers to the St. George Temple. I saw with my own eyes the record of the work which was done for the Founding Fathers of this great nation, beginning with George Washington.

Think of it: the Founding Fathers of this nation, those great men, appeared within those sacred walls and had their vicarious work done for them.

President Wilford Woodruff spoke of it in these words: “Before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, ‘You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God’” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, p. 160).

After he became President of the Church, President Wilford Woodruff declared that “those men who laid the foundation of this American government were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits … [and] were inspired of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, p. 89).

 

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Book Reviews: Hand of God in American Revolution

Dinner Topics for Independence Day

Book Reviews: Hand of God in American Revolution

key“We have a new land, a new constitution, a new government, and I believe now the fight is going to be to keep it. The fight between good and evil. A shooting war comes and it goes, but the war between the good and the bad—it never ends.” ~Matthew Dunson in A More Perfect Union, p.529

Through the eyes of the heroes in this powerful series, the reader can see the Hand of God in the American Revolution, as He prepared the way for a land of liberty to base operations for the spreading of gospel teachings to all the world. ~C.D.

Prelude to Glory

By Ron Carter

Volume 1

prelude-glory1Our Sacred Honor

Few stories are as compelling as that of the birth of the United States of America. It is a story of courage and sacrifice, of commitment to freedom and faith. Above all, however, the events that marked America’s beginnings were a prelude to the glory that would arise upon the land through the restoration of the gospel.

Those pivotal pre-Restoration events are brought to life in the epic historical fiction series Prelude to Glory. In volume I, Our Sacred Honor, author Ron Carter transports readers to the 1770s to witness key episodes of the Revolutionary War, from the opening encounter at Lexington (where “the shot heard round the world” is fired) to the incredible sea battle off the east coast of England (where the American commander John Paul Jones exclaims, “I have not yet begun to fight!”). But this is much more than a story of kings and generals. Though we certainly get to meet the likes of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Benedict Arnold, the author focuses on the perspective of common people. Thus, through the eyes of the fictional Dunson family of Boston we see what it was like to live in everyday colonial America, to fight among the minutemen, to sail the seas at wartime and to experience love and heartache as America’s destiny unfolds.

The underlying spiritual nature of that destiny is powerfully woven into the fabric of the story. And this spiritual perspective will give readers a better understanding of why the Founding Fathers were moved upon to champion a cause to which they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Volume 2

prelude-glory2The Times That Try Men’s Souls

By Ron Carter

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” writes journalist Thomas Paine at the end of 1776, a dark time in America’s struggle for freedom. As the dramatic events depicted in volume 2 of the monumental Prelude to Glory series show, the high price of liberty for which colonists fought would include great sacrifice and endurance—even in the face of apparent defeat.

Focusing primarily on events between June and December 1776, this book follows Billy Weems (friend of Matthew Dunson from volume I) tot eh battlefields in the New York area, where General George Washington commands the Continental army. Early on, Billy meets and befriends Eli Stroud, a white man raised by Iroquois Indians, who lends his unusual talents to the Revolutionary cause. But as events unfold, the Americas’ situation looks more and more bleak. A series of engagements with the enemy leaves the colonial soldiers pummeled and staggering, driven to disastrous retreat again and again. By December 1776, the war for independence seems all but lost. Nevertheless, determination and hope remain alive, along with a powerful sense that divine providence is watching over the Americans.

As with the previous volume, author Ron Carter re-creates these historic episodes in such a way as to transport readers back in time. Along with fascinating fictional characters, he provides engaging portraits of such luminaries as George Washington, Nathan Hale (“I regret that I have but one life to give for my country”), and the intrepid John Glover. Through this powerful story, readers will come to appreciate the fortitude it took for Patriots to stand firm and resolute during these times that tried men’s souls.

 

Volume 3

prelude-glory3To Decide Our Destiny

Washington spoke. It seemed his voice was subdued, quiet, yet it reached every man in the Delaware Regiment.

“My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay only one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you probably never can do under any other circumstances. The present is emphatically the crisis which is to decide our destiny.”

He stopped. He raised a hand as though to speak further, but there were no words he could think of that would add strength to what he had already said. He slowly lowered his hand and reined his horse to the right and raised it to a trot, back towards his officers and Turlock.

Turlock did not know how long he stood without moving, without breathing, aware Washington had been touched by a power not of any man, knowing that at that moment, somehow, the course of the world’s history hung in the balance.

In the frigid winter marking the end of 1776 and the beginning of 1777, the Continental army is faced with the overwhelming truth that they are losing the Revolution. The British have pummeled them with a series of bloody battles that have ripped the Americans to tattered shreds and have driven them to retreat so vast that it crosses two colony lines. The American camp, now crouching on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, is helpless as the British move more than three thousand Hessian soldiers into position. Only the black waters of the Delaware River prevent a total ruin. Only a desperate plan promises a chance of success.

Volume 4

prelude-glory4The Hand of Providence

“Writing home?” Billy asked.

“To Mother. How does this sound? ‘It was a glorious sight to see the haughty Brittons march out and surrender their arms to an army which but a little before they despised and called palltroons.’”

Men slowed and stopped, listening in the firelight as Boardman read on.

“Surely the hand of Providence work’d wonderfully in favour of America.”

More than fifty men had gathered to listen as Boardman concluded

“I hope every heart will be affected by the wonderful goodness of God in delivering so many of our enemy into our hands, with so little loss on our side.”

Boardman raised his eyes back to Billy, and for the first time realized he was surrounded. The men peered down at him, sitting beside his campfire. They wiped at their eyes, then nodded to him as they moved on.

Boardman watched them go, then turned back to Billy. “Was it too much? Did I say it too strong?”

Billy stared at the fire for a moment. “No, it wasn’t too strong. It was fine. It was fitting. The hand of Providence was with us.”

 

Volume 5

prelude-glory5aA Cold, Bleak Hill

December 22, 1777

To the Hnble Henry Laurens, President,

Congress of The United States:

Sir:

It is with infinite pain and concern that I must again dwell on the state of the Commissary’s department. I do not know from what cause this alarming deficiency or rather total failure of supplies arises, but unless more vigorous exertions and better regulations take place, and immediately, this army must dissolve.

Regarding the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council and their declared wish that this army should attack the enemy, I can assure those Gentlemen that it is a much easier and less distressing thing to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room by a good fireside than to occupy a cold, bleak hill and sleep under frost and snow without clothes or blankets. However, although the Council seems to have little feeling for the naked and distressed soldiers, I feel superabundantly for them, and from my soul pity those miseries they are now suffering, which it is in my power neither to relieve nor prevent.

George Washington

Valley Forge

 

Volume 6

prelude-glory6The World Turned Upside Down

Having underestimated the resolve and strength of the Continental Army in New England, Great retain adopts a new strategy in the war to subdue the American rebels. British general Sir Henry Clinton leads British and German Forces in an invasion of the South, hoping to use success there as a springboard to subdue the Northern colonies.

At first the British Southern campaign seems an unqualified success when in December 1778, American general Benjamin Lincoln surrenders his entire command army at Savannah, Georgia, and a second army at Charleston, South Carolina. But the British are not prepared for the fierce resistance from the common people in the Southern colonies. Famed guerrilla fighters Dan Morgan, Nathanael Greene, and Frances Marion (the Swamp Fox) use frontier skills and tactics learned in Indian warfare to erode the British forces and wear down British resolve.

Meanwhile, Benedict Arnold enters into treasonous negotiations to surrender Fort West Point to the British, thus betraying the American cause and earning for himself the ignominious title of traitor.

Finally, with the French providing much-needed financial, naval, and military aid, General Washington traps the British at Yorktown, where American and French forces mount a prolonged siege and compel the surrender of General Charles Cornwallis. The embittered and once-proud British see the American victory as evidence that the world has truly been “turned upside down.”

In this sixth volume of his acclaimed Prelude to Glory series, author Ron Carter has crafted another compelling chapter in his depiction of the Revolutionary War. Readers will be interested to learn the fates of beloved fictional characters. Through their stories and others, Carter brings to vivid life the legendary places, people, and battles that were part of America’s quest for liberty and independence.

Volume 7

prelude-glory7The Impending Storm

October 19, 1781: The great guns at Yorktown fell silent, British General Cornwallis surrendered, and England conceded the war. For one euphoric moment a shout of jubilation rolled forth in America – and then harsh reality gripped the country. America was thirteen separate countries, each with its own money, political organization, culture, and history. Congress was essentially powerless. Border tariffs sprang up between states, with cannons to enforce them. Quarrels over control of the great rivers brought states to the brink of war. Banks lacked gold and silver to support their paper currency; bankruptcies raged. The military was paid with unenforceable written promises, and destitute soldiers marched on to Philadelphia, demanding their wages. Finally, in 1786, still unpaid, the soldiers revolted, closing down many New England courthouses to stop the bankruptcy courts from seizing their farms. Shooting erupted; Americans killed Americans. The impending storm was threatening to break.

 

Volume 8

prelude-glory8A More Perfect Union

Within minutes each delegate had a copy spread on his desk and was leaned forward, locked in silence, with an intensity seldom seen during the convention, while he slowly, thoughtfully read the document.

The preamble no longer named all thirteen states. Rather, it stated with simple dignity, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

For several minutes a hush held in the East Room. Every man sensed a feeling in his soul that rose in his breast to hold him silent. What had they created? No one had gotten everything he had contended for, but everyone had gotten something. Some were satisfied with it, some disgruntled, a few disappointed. Some reckoned it was the work of fifty-five men who had reached inside themselves for the best they had. Others remembered the words of John Adams: “God is the great legislator of the universe.”

“We have a new land, a new constitution, a new government, and I believe now the fight is going to be to keep it. The fight between good and evil. A shooting war comes and it goes, but the war between the good and the bad—it never ends.” ~Matthew Dunson in A More Perfect Union, p.529

 

Volume 9

prelude-glory9By the Dawn’s Early Light

On the deck of the sloop, soaked to the skin, squinting in the rain, the Americans, Key, Skinner, and Beanes, stood at the rail, transfixed, watching the British warships rain destruction on the fort as never before in history. They saw the yellow fire trails of the rockets and the white bursts of bombs over the fort, and they listened to the continuous roar of the big guns, staring, unable to believe tat Armistead had not surrendered rather than face total destruction.

Key stood frozen to the rail as the dull light strengthened in the rain, and he could see the dim outline of the fort.

Something fluttered above the black outline, and then it took form and shape, and Key gasped when he understood it was the flag! Key’s heart was pounding in his chest. He wiped at his eyes and then reached inside his coat for an envelope and a pencil, and began to write the thoughts that came flooding from deep within.

Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light. . .