What Should Latter-day Saints Do?An Action Program
With the forgotten fundamentals firmly in mind, what specific steps should Latter-day Saints take in their efforts to save the Constitution?
Study Constitutional Principles
One of the first things they should do is to follow the counsel of their Prophet contained in a little folder available through stores handling Latter-day Saint books entitled "A Statement by President David O. McKay concerning the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Communism." Here are a few sentences from that published statement:
We therefore commend and encourage every person and every group who is sincerely seeking to study Constitutional principles and awaken a sleeping and apathetic people to the alarming conditions that are rapidly advancing about us. We wish all of our citizens throughout the land were participating in some type of organized self-education in order that they could better appreciate what is happening and know what they can do about it.
While the study necessary to gain an understanding of America's constitutional system requires time and effort, this is in conformity with the basic gospel principle of work which underlies all progress and in fact is the key to salvation. Unless a person puts forth the effort necessary to gain such an understanding, it is all but impossible for him to be effective in the struggle to save the Constitution. Without that understanding he may think he is valiantly [p. 192] helping to save the Constitution when he is really helping destroy it through his promotion of widely taught counterfeit constitutional principles.
Be Aware That Most Modern Materials On Constitution Promote Unsound Philosophy of World
As Latter-day Saints and their families study the American constitutional system, one problem they encounter is that the most popular and widely respected sources present constitutional philosophy very differently from the intent of the Framers. Fortunately, the Lord has anticipated this problem and has provided the correct standard to know in which direction to strive regardless of how popular or plausible a contrary direction may be made to appear. This He has done by declaring that He established the Constitution through wise men He raised up for that very purpose. By thus affirming the inspiration of the Framers and the correctness of their work, He has indicated that the correct standard is the orientation of the Framers as expressed in the Constitution itself and in their other writings.
Since Latter-day Saints believe the Framers to have been inspired in drafting the Constitution and to have been prophets to that extent, they can obtain the best understanding of the Framers' work through the words of other prophets.
Perhaps the best place for Latter-day Saints to start studying constitutional principles as suggested in President McKay's statement would be to become familiar with the perspective of their Prophet. This can be done by carefully reading a 39-page pamphlet entitled, Statements on Communism and the Constitution of the United States, by President David O. McKay.(1) [p. 193]
There are also a number of other Church books and pamphlets that can help Latter-day Saints in studying constitutional government. These are available at any book store handling Latter-day Saint books.
Seek Guidance of Spirit
Plausible sounding but false arguments are constantly presented to promote unsound principles relating to the American constitutional system. Consequently, Latter-day Saints must seek the guidance of the spirit to help distinguish truth from error. To obtain such help, they must be solidly active in the Church and carefully live the gospel. This would include a regular program of studying the scriptures, praying diligently, and cultivating spiritual receptivity. This will make it possible to have the guidance of the spirit in making correct judgments.
Promote Sound Principles
As Latter-day Saints increase in their understanding of the Constitution, they should seek to promote sound principles among all those with whom they come in contact. Even among those who do not believe the Constitution to be inspired, Latter-day Saints should attempt to exert an influence to help such people to think more in terms of freedom and opportunity rather than in terms of security and government control, which lead only to reduction of free agency and really don't produce the promised blessings anyhow. The rightness of seeking to influence others in the direction of sound political principles was declared by Joseph Smith.
There is one thing more I wish to speak about, and that is political economy. It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound.(2) [p. 194]
Be An Example
Latter-day Saints attempting to promote sound political principles should always retain a clear awareness of the overriding importance of example. In this connection they should be particularly alert to the human nature tendency to give lip service to an ideal, but to violate it when it seems to one's financial advantage to do so. This problem arises out of today's political practice of offering benefits from the public treasury in so many areas that there seems to be something for practically everyone. Those who profess adherence to the principles of the Framers must use great care not to forsake those principles in exchange for government benefits.
In urging Latter-day Saints to support the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, President McKay has emphasized the importance of not violating that tradition in exchange for government welfare benefits in these words:
Never be found guilty of exchanging your birthright for a mess of pottage!(3)
Maintain Uncompromised Position
This matter of violating one's principles for personal advantage is important in another area besides that of example. It is necessary that Latter-day Saints keep themselves in an uncompromised position so that they can stand steadfast in support of what is sound and in opposition to that which is unsound. This they cannot do if they have compromised their position by seeking benefits contrary to the principles they claim to espouse.
Unfortunately, today, government is operated to a large extent by the exchange of favors. While there is a strong motivation to play the game, Latter-day Saints should avoid doing so lest they find themselves in a position of being called upon to support an unsound proposal in exchange for a favor previously received. [p. 195]
Seek Candidates Who Will Uphold Constitution
Actually, the widespread practice of government by exchange of favors and the related problem of government by ambition (that is, lending one's support to programs that will further one's ambitions regardless of whether or not the programs are sound) are really related to the question of the type of people who are elected to public office. This question leads to another Latter-day Saint responsibility which is to obtain and uphold honest, wise, and good men in political office.(4) More specific information on how to judge the qualifications of candidates for public office is found in the following statement by President McKay.
Above all else, strive to support good and conscientious candidates of either party who are aware of the great dangers inherent in Communism, and who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers. They should also pledge their sincere fealty to our way of libertya liberty which aims at the preservation of both personal and property rights. Study the issues, analyze the candidates on these grounds, and then exercise your franchise as free men and women.(5)
As President McKay's comment emphasizes, it is not sufficient merely to choose honest and good men for public office. A patient who dies after being given a wrong prescription is not less dead because the doctor was an honest and good man. It should be noted that in addition to having a good character, a candidate must have sound political understanding and devotion in the following areas specifically mentioned by President McKay:
1. He must be aware of the great dangers inherent in Communism.
2. He must be truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers. It is not possible to believe in both the modern popular political philosophy [p. 196] and the tradition of the Founding Fathers because they are contradictory. As is repeatedly pointed out in this work, the modern popular beliefs concerning the Constitution consist of the unsound philosophy of men masquerading behind constitutional sounding words and phrases.
3. He must pledge his sincere fealty to the American way of liberty which aims at the preservation of both personal and property rights. This means he must oppose socialism with its violation of sacred property rights through taking from some to give to others.
Oppose Unsound Principles
As Latter-day Saints use their influence to promote sound principles, they should not forget that part of promoting sound principles is opposing unsound ones. This matter of opposing unsound principles is applicable particularly today in view of the strong momentum in favor of greater government control and reduction of free agency. It is vital that this trend be halted and reversed. In this regard it would be well to recall Washington's warning.
Towards the preservation of your Government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts.(6)
What does it mean to "resist with care the spirit of innovation" upon constitutional principles? Essentially it means preserving inviolate the constitutional system established by the Lord. Since many unsound innovations have been adopted, it means striving to eliminate the unsound innovations and to reinstate the original sound constitutional principles.
More specifically, following Washington's counsel means giving solid support to the three forgotten fundamentals [p. 197] of the Constitution. The following are a few of the ways in which this should be done:
In connection with the first forgotten fundamental, Latter-day Saints should stand up and be counted with those who believe that this is a Christian nation and that the government should recognize God and encourage religion and not be neutral concerning a matter so necessary to the perpetuation of freedom. They should point out to others that a religious citizenry is an indispensable prerequisite of a successful free constitutional government. They should use their influence to secure government policies that tend to promote rather than diminish religious attitudes among the people.
As to the second forgotten fundamental, Latter-day Saints should remind others that inviolate property rights and a free enterprise economy are essential to the preservation of freedom. They should emphasize that this is the economic system under which America has forged ahead of all other nations. They should stress concepts of individual responsibility for oneself and one's family members. Where this is not sufficient, they should promote private assistance rather than government welfare. As is carefully pointed out in this work, use of federal government power for welfare programs is inconsistent with the constitutional system established by the inspired Framers.
With respect to the third forgotten fundamental, Latter-day Saints should call to peoples attention that the American system is based on distrust of government officials who should be closely watched and unhesitatingly called to account. They should remind others that the government should be small and the compulsory power of the government should be used sparingly, and only when authorized by the Constitution. They should point out especially that the role of government should be limited to the protection of life, liberty, and property, and not to the accomplishment of social or moral objectives beyond that limited role. They should oppose the philosophy of democracy [p. 198] and should remind others that the American system is not a democracy but a republic with many built in devices designed to limit the power of the majority. They should emphasize that the fundamental orientation of the American republic is not to implement the currently popular philosophy of the majority, but to ascertain and implement the beneficent and eternal laws of God.
Realize That Improvement Comes From People and Not Leaders
Latter-day Saints should bear firmly in mind that any improvement must come from the people. They should realize that it was the attitude of the Framers that government officials could not be relied upon to preserve the free constitutional system. In fact, one of the most serious problems faced by the Framers was how to protect the system against government officials. Ultimately it was the attitude of the Framers that the only way the system could be preserved is by a religious citizenry who are alert, dedicated, and willing to sacrifice to preserve the freedom system for themselves and their posterity.
Constitution So Far Gone That Tremendous Dedication Required To Save It
How urgent is it that Latter-day Saints commence their efforts to save the Constitution? In the Spring of 1966 Clarence Manion, Dean of Notre Dame Law School and a constitutional law professor for many years, spoke in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. It was interesting to hear him begin his talk by saying that he had heard that the Mormons had a prophecy that the Constitution would one day hang by a thread, and they would be the means of saving it. Then he very earnestly said that if the Mormons are going to save the Constitution, they had better wake up and get going, because it seemed to him that it was already almost too far gone to save. [p. 199]
In the struggle to save the Constitution, Latter-day Saints should never forget that half-hearted or luke-warm efforts will not be sufficient. What is required is devotion such as that expressed by Daniel Webster in these words:
I am not partly for the Constitution, and partly against it; I am wholly for it. . . .
I disdain . . . the character of an uncommitted man. I am committed, fully committed . . . to the Constitution. . . . And I am committed against everything which, in my judgment, may weaken, endanger, or destroy it . . . and especially against all extension of executive power; and . . . any attempt to rule the free people of this country by the power and the patronage of the government itself. . . .
And now . . . I . . . conjure you . . . go on, right on, straightforward, in maintaining, with your utmost zeal and with all your power, the true principles of the best, the happiest, the most glorious Constitution of a free government, with which it has pleased Providence, in any age, to bless any of the nations of the earth.(7)
If Latter-day Saints do these things, they will be qualifying themselves and directing their efforts in the direction of the Lord's program. He will then more specifically guide them as He sees fit, and give their efforts such success as is in conformity with His program. [p. 200] [p. 201]