The Lord's Standard of Constitutionality
In the midst of the conflict of opinion between those who advocate greater centralized control by the federal government under a flexible interpretation of the Constitution, and those who urge return to practices they believe to be more in harmony with the intent of the Framers, where should Latter-day Saints turn for correct understanding?
It is well to recall Nephi's statement in the Book of Mormon.
. . . the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.(1)
Having placed on Latter-day Saints the responsibility of working to save the Constitution, the Lord has also given them the correct interpretation of it so that they can carry out that responsibility.
Actually, Latter-day Saint understanding of the Constitution comes from an even better source than the writings of the Framers who drafted it. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Latter-day Saints have the words of the One who really designed the Constitution and who used the Framers as inspired instruments in bringing it forth. There the Lord declared his purpose in establishing the Constitution in these words: [p. 80]
The laws and constitution . . . which I have suffered to be established . . . for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
That every man may act in doctrine and principles 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.
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
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. . . .(2)
For a person to be fully accountable for his own sins, he must have the moral agency to act voluntarily without compulsion. If his actions are compelled, they are not really his actions, and he is not accountable for them in the day of judgment. He does not himself merit either reward or condemnation for doing what he is compelled to do.
Constitutional System the Freedom Way of Life
Thus the Lord's purpose in establishing the Constitution was to provide a system under which men would be free to do as they wish with a minimum of compulsion, and to enjoy the fruits or suffer the consequences of the actions they choose. This means that the system set up by the Constitution is not just a governmental organization pattern, but is rather a system under which a certain way of life can be lived. That way of life is the way of individual freedom.
America's constitutional system is, therefore, not just a political system, but a complete political, social, and economic system under which men have the right to do as they wish (exercise their free agency) with a minimum of governmental regulation or control (bondage).
This free agency concept of the Constitution is in harmony with the clearly expressed intent of the Framers that [p. 81] the federal government was to protect the people in their freedomthat is, to be sure their free agency is not taken from thembut to let them work out their own temporal salvation. Thomas Jefferson expressed well this free agency concept in these words:
With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizensa wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.(3)
If free agency is the true yardstick to measure constitutionality, then the Mormon people, who are most familiar with free agencyinstead of being novices at constitutional laware uniquely equipped to understand and apply it correctly. [p. 82] [p. 83]