The Doctrine of an Inspired Constitution Provides the Key To Understand and Apply the Framers' Constitution
The doctrine of an inspired Constitution provides the key to understand and apply the Framers' Constitution.
It is much easier to enter a door by using a key than by forcing the door open without a key.
Similarly it is much easier to understand a subject if the student has prior knowledge of the principles involved.
The doctrine of an inspired Constitution provides the key to a clear understanding of the Framers' Constitution. A Constitution inspired by God would be built on eternal principles. Since the gospel also involves eternal principles, Latter-day Saints begin their study of the Constitution with prior familiarity with its foundation concepts.
The laws of nature and of nature's God.
The first great principle is indicated by appeal to "the laws of nature and of nature's God" in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.
Today it is popular to believe that law is whatever the legislature enacts. That concept is called positivist law. In a sense it is true because that is the law that will be enforced by the compulsory power of the government.
But the positivist law position overlooks the reality of eternal law beyond the power of men to change. Failure to conform to that underlying law is one of the reasons so many modern laws do harm instead of the promised good. Man made law that violates natural law is like a legislature passing a law that thenceforth two plus two shall equal five.
The Framers' believed there are underlying natural laws of government just as there are underlying natural laws concerning physical objects. They felt that if they did not grope for and seek to conform to God given eternal law, whatever they did would not be successful in the long run.
Their attitude was similar to that expressed by the Roman statesman Cicero before the time of Christ. He said: [p. 40]
True law is, indeed, right reason, conformable to nature, pervading all things, constant, eternal . . . . It is not lawful to alter this law, to derogate from it, or to repeal it. Nor can we possibly be absolved from this law, either by the senate or the people; . . . nor will it be one law for Rome and another for Athens, one thing today and another tomorrow; but it is a law eternal and unchangeable for all people and in every age. (The Declaration of Independence and What It Means Today, by Edward Dumbauld, p. 43)
Although most scholars today reject the concept of natural law, Latter-day Saints have no difficulty recognizing it because they are thoroughly familiar with similar gospel concepts.
A familiar example is the following oft quoted statement in Section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
20. There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated
21. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
Another example is the discussion of law in Doctrine and Covenants 88:6-45. Many of those verses are about physical objects, but a number of them apply the eternal laws that emanate from God to the consequences of men's conduct.
Thus on the great underlying principle of natural law Latter-day Saints and the Framers' Constitution are on the same wave length, while most modern scholars go off in a different direction.
Knowing natural law.
In the Cicero statement quoted above, natural law is referred to as right reason. It is also sometimes referred to as the law written in men's hearts. The Framers not only believed in it, but believed that man could find it by earnest seeking.
While the Framers' attitude is outside the world view of most modern scholars, it is clearly in harmony with the gospel.
Gaining understanding of natural law is similar to seeking guidance of one's conscience or the light of Christ as is indicated in Doctrine and Covenants 84:46 which reads: [p. 41]
And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
The above quotation clarifies that while understanding of natural law is available to all men, actually receiving that understanding is dependent on the seeker's own spiritual receptivity.
The spiritual receptivity of the Framers is confirmed by the Lord's statement that it was through them that "I established the Constitution of this land" and that they were "wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose." (D&C 101:80)
A willingness to "hearken to the voice of the Spirit" is a necessary foundation to understand and appreciate natural law and its relationship to the Framers' Constitution. This is another important principle already familiar to Latter-day Saints.
The nature of man according to the philosophy of the world.
The next great principle on which the Constitution is based has to do with the nature of man.
Those who ascribe to the philosophy of the world accept as a foundation principle that it is the nature of man to be good (or at least deny that he has a tendency to do evil) and that left to himself he will make good moral choices. Yet the history of the world is filled with so many contrary examples that comments have repeatedly been made about "man's inhumanity to man."
Rather than question their basic assumption that the nature of man is to be good, believers in the philosophy of the world explain man's contrary actions by insisting that the reason man acts contrary to his inborn tendency to do good is because he has been corrupted by his environment. The term "environment" includes the influence of family, church and society.
This leads to the question of how to prevent people from being corrupted by their environment. The answer of those who ascribe to the philosophy of the world is to control the environment.
The environment is controlled by controlling people and seeking to mold them by government programs and especially to mold the rising generation through public education.
Those who ascribe to this world view focus on the good consequences they plan to achieve through their control programs rather than who will do the controlling or the consequent loss of freedom. [p. 42]
They also ignore the question of how to assure that those who do the controlling are not people who have been corrupted by an uncontrolled environment. They generally seem to assume that they, and people like them, are virtuous and uncorrupted and that they can and will make and administer just laws.
Obviously the consequence of that world view is pervasive government control and diminished freedom.
The nature of man according to the gospel.
The gospel explanation of "man's inhumanity to man" is the opposite of the philosophy of the world.
When the brother of Jared approached the Lord on the question of light in the vessels they had built, he said:
We know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually. (Ether 3:2)
The prophet Abinadi in his powerful message to King Noah and his priests said this of the nature of man:
They are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them, yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil. (Mosiah 16:3)
Other scriptural references on the subject include Moses 5:13 and 6:49. Latter-day Saints recognize that "man's inhumanity to man" is because that is the way man is from the fall, not because he was corrupted by his environment.
They also understand that the way to change men so they will do good instead of evil is not by changing their environment but by rebirth in Christ, after which transformed men will change their own environment.
In response to King Benjamin's address, the account of which begins in the second chapter of Mosiah, the people said:
We believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. (Mosiah 5:2) [p. 43]
These fundamental principles concerning the nature of man are the bedrock foundation on which the Constitution is built. Most constitutional experts ignore them if they have any comprehension of them at all, but to Latter-day Saints they are as familiar as old friends.
The freedom philosophy of the Framers.
The political philosophy of the Framers grew out of their world view concerning the nature of man.
They recognized that a better society could never come from government control of external influences. While such control might have some desirable effect, particularly in people's external conduct, it could not eliminate their tendency to do evil from the fall. Also since an unrighteous people must be controlled to maintain order, such an approach could never produce freedom.
The Framers believed that the only way it was possible to have a people righteous enough for government controls to be removed so the people could be free was to have a people whose hearts were changed sufficiently so their collective tendency to do evil was greatly diminished. They also believed that the only way that could occur was through the people's religious conviction and especially their commitment to Christ. This is the understanding behind John Adams' famous statement:
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. (The Supreme Court and Public Prayer, by Charles E. Rice, p. 47)
The natural law reality that only a moral and religious people could be free was explained by Alexis de Tocqueville in these words:
Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot . . . . How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity? (Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville, Vol. I, p. 318)
The Framers felt that while a Constitution or system of government can make it more difficult for a tyrant to destroy freedom, no political system can alone provide or preserve freedom unless there is a sufficient inward religious commitment changing the lives of most of the people.
Their position was similar to that expressed by King Mosiah in connection with formation of the Nephite republic. It was possible to establish the republic because the [p. 44] people were in a high state of righteousness. But he warned that the freedom system would not survive if the people became unrighteous. He said:
If the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you, yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction. (Mosiah 29:27)
A similar thought was expressed by James Madison when he said:
No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. (Elliot's Debates, Vol. III, p. 537)
How solidly the American people adhered to this principle was noted by Alexis de Tocqueville who traveled throughout the United States in the early 1830's. He found the people so committed to the concept that freedom could only exist among a people made righteous through their inward religious commitment that he wrote:
The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other. (Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville, Vol. I, p. 317)
The entire Chapter 4 entitled "The Indispensable Ingredient" in The Elders of Israel and the Constitution contains much valuable material on the religious foundation on which our Constitutional freedom system is built.
Another great principle then is that since it is the nature of man to do evil from the fall, the only way to have a sufficiently righteous society for freedom to survive is to have enough of the populace changed so that they are motivated to do good because of their inward religious commitment.
On this principle also Latter-day Saints and the Framers share a similar world view while the scholars of the world go off in the wrong direction.
Protecting the people's freedom by restricting those with political power.
The next great principle underlying the Constitution is also familiar to Latter-day Saints. Again it has to do with the unrighteous nature of man from the fall and his transformation to righteousness through rebirth in Christ.
Even when people do exercise faith and repent and truly desire to be righteous, Lucifer continues to work on them to try to draw them back to their old ways. The parable [p. 45] of the sower (Matthew 13:3-8 and 18-23) illustrates what happens even with people who do repent. Some who receive the word endure only until they experience tribulation or persecution while others are enticed away by their interest in riches and the cares of the world. Even among those who receive the word and do not depart from it there is great diversity of effectiveness.
The import of this reality from the constitutional point of view is that even in a society that is righteous enough to be free there is a general waxing and waning of religious commitment, and individuals are still subject to being tempted and doing evil.
An area of temptation that is particularly dangerous is pride and especially pride involved with being elevated to a position of authority. This statement by Joseph Smith shows recognition of that danger even in a religious context:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (Doctrine and Covenants 121:39)
This leads to the next great principle which is that most of the detailed provisions of the Constitution are designed to bind down those entrusted with governmental authority.
The underlying concept is essentially this. Government is necessary for the preservation of freedom against both internal and external danger. To accomplish that task, government must be empowered to exercise sufficient force to repel invasion and maintain internal order.
But once government has that power, what is to prevent those in authority from using that power to take away the people's freedom and transform the government into a tyranny? While the Constitution has appropriate provisions pertaining to other matters also, most of the provisions of the Constitution are designed to protect against improper actions by those with political authority.
With their philosophy of the world concept of the nature of man many people focus mainly on the good they feel government can do for them if it only had more power. But Latter-day Saints with their more realistic understanding of the nature of man have greater appreciation of the importance of the many protective provisions the Framers' built into the Constitution.
The principal protective provisions.
Most people are more or less aware of the principal protective provisions of the Constitution, although they may not be as clear as they might be on why they are there. [p. 46]
The Framers recognized the need to prevent the federal government from becoming so big that it would be too difficult to control. One of the devices used keep the federal government small was to carefully restrict the authority given to it.
As is pointed out earlier in this work, the extent of federal authority under the Framers' Constitution is limited to areas where separate state or local action would be inappropriate. That is why the scope of federal authority involves mostly such areas as military matters, foreign affairs, commerce beyond the borders of one state and standards of weights and measures, including standardized coinage.
An important related protective concept is separation of powers under which government powers are compartmentalized making it more difficult for any person or group to gain control of the entire government. The separation of powers is both horizontal among the branches of the federal government and vertical between the federal government and the states and the people.
Another important protective approach is checks and balances under which government officials seeking to expand their powers collide with and are checked by other government officials doing the same thing. The Constitution is remarkable in the way checks and balances provisions are built into so many different areas.
A significant protective area that is sometimes overlooked involves limitations on the people's fight to vote. That power can also be misused such as by voting to take away the freedom of the minority. To prevent misuse of the power to vote, the Constitution contains limits on what was referred to as the democratic part of the Constitution.
Human nature and the property qualification for the vote.
An interesting and important aspect of the people's voting power is the property qualification for the vote. It is not in the Constitution itself apparently for several reasons.
One reason it is not in the Framers' Constitution is that voting rights were considered to be primarily a state matter. Another is that the different states had different qualifications and it seemed inappropriate to try to make them uniform. Another reason is that the requirement seemed so obvious that the Framers assumed the states would always impose it even if in different ways.
There was much discussion at the time concerning whether the vote should be limited to landowners (freeholders) or whether other kinds of property should be sufficient. But the property qualification itself was deemed necessary for the preservation of liberty.
While the requirement may seem outdated today Oust as many people believe the Framers' Constitution to be outdated today) it was directly related to human nature and is very sound. In fact, much of the undermining of the Framers' Constitution is related to eliminating this important safeguard. [p. 47]
The freedom trilogy of life, liberty and property is a sort of shorthand way of defining freedom. In our present discussion of property in the context of voting rights it meant that the very concept of freedom itself involved inviolate property rights with minimal exceptions.
The Framers' believed that the checks and balances system must be designed so that the ordinary working of human nature would tend to preserve freedom and would not tend to destroy freedom.
Who would have the human nature tendency to preserve freedom (inviolate property rights) and who would have the human nature tendency to destroy freedom by violating property rights? The answer is obvious. Those who own property have a human nature motivation to preserve property rights (freedom) while those without property have a human nature motivation to destroy freedom (inviolate property rights) by voting themselves other people's property.
Eliminating the property qualification to vote opens the door to demagogues to gain power by pretending to be a friend of the poor and promising to redistribute to them property taken from others.
An illustration of this technique is President McKay's warning about those in the United States seeking to undermine the Constitution and set up a dictatorship in this country. Here is how he described their method of operating:
These revolutionists are using a technique that is as old as the human race,a fervid but false solicitude for the unfortunate over whom they thus gain mastery, and then enslave them. (Statements on Communism and the Constitution of the United States, by President David O. McKay, p. 7)
Many who are pleased that the property qualification for the vote has been eliminated are unaware that they are siding with Karl Marx, who demonstrated his clear understanding of its implications when he wrote:
Man proclaims politically that private property is abolished as soon as he abolishes the property qualification for the vote . . . . Is not private property as an idea abolished when the non-owner becomes legislator for the owner? The property qualification for the vote is the ultimate political form for the recognition of private property. (A World Without Jews, by Karl Marx, p. 11) [p. 48]
Constitution is keyed to human nature, not an agrarian economy.
Repeated efforts have been made to undermine respect for the Constitution by claiming that it is outmoded because it was designed for an 18th Century agrarian economy.
However, as is pointed out above, the Constitution is not keyed to an agrarian economy but to human nature in two distinct ways.
The first way the Constitution is keyed to human nature has to do with the people themselves. Since it is designed for a free people, it can only function among a people righteous enough to minimize the need for freedom destroying external control.
The Framers recognized that history and experience show that a strong religious commitment is necessary to have a sufficiently moral society for freedom to survive. This requirement was recognized as so important to the preservation of constitutional freedom that it was one of the points emphasized by George Washington in his Farewell Address.
The second way the Constitution is keyed to human nature has to do with protecting against misuse of power by those with political authority. The Constitution contains many safeguards to prevent those with political authority from usurping power not granted to them. In fact, this is the main focus of the detailed provisions of the Constitution.
Since the Constitution is clearly keyed to human nature rather than any particular type of economic activity, claims that it is obsolete because it was designed for an 18th century agrarian economy are simply not true.
Such claims are similar to insisting that the Ten Commandments are obsolete because the predominant economic activities in Moses' day were agriculture and animal husbandry.
Comparison with law of consecration increases understanding of the Framers' Constitution.
If the Constitution was inspired by God, then life under it should be similar to other God given systems such as the law of consecration.
In fact, the law of consecration probably furnishes the most helpful lesson of all in visualizing the general way the constitutional system is supposed to operate.
A brief description of the law of consecration.
Under the law of consecration each person has legal ownership of the property he receives as his stewardship. He can manage it without compulsion and continues to own it if he leaves the system.
People living under the law of consecration are expected to unselfishly devote time and effort to the needs of the community and other individual members, including [p. 49] voluntarily contributing a portion of their increase or even a portion of their stewardship itself for the good of others.
Through that voluntary unselfish service the needs of the community and its individual members are taken care of with little or no use of the compulsion of political laws.
But the law of consecration requires a people with a level of religious commitment high enough to "love thy neighbor as thyself' and overcome inappropriate selfishness. Most people do not have a high enough level of religious commitment to live the law of consecration.
Comparison of the law of consecration with the Framers' Constitution.
The fact that the Framers' Constitution is also a freedom system that requires a religiously committed people for it to function successfully has already been mentioned. This is one basic way it is similar to the law of consecration.
However, while the Framers' Constitution is similar in principle, it is on a lower level than the law of consecration. Since it requires a lower level of religious commitment, the Framers' Constitution has many additional safeguards against abuse of authority.
Another area of similarity is belief in private property rights under which a person cannot be deprived of his property at the will of government officials or even a majority of the people.
Another similarity is in the way welfare needs are handled.
Government welfare programs.
To some it may seem incongruous to compare welfare under the Framers' Constitution to the law of consecration in view of the large amount of compulsion involved in federal welfare programs. But it should be remembered that those compulsion programs are under the Supreme Court's Constitution. The federal government has no such authority under the Framers' Constitution.
To any who may believe that such compulsion government welfare programs are necessary in our modem society, may I respectfully suggest two books.
The first book is Moving Backward, by Charles Murray. It shows that government welfare programs typically not only do not accomplish their stated compassionate purposes, but that they tend to injure the people they were said to have been enacted to help. [p. 50]
The second book is The Tragedy of American Compassion, by Marvin Olasky. It is a study of how the needs of the poor and unfortunate have been handled particularly in the United States from Colonial times to the present.
This second book floodlights an area of history that has been blacked out. That is that before this country started following anti scriptural unsuccessful principles, welfare in the United States was remarkably successful.
Welfare principles under the Framers' Constitution.
Historical information in The Tragedy of American Compassion confirms that there was much emphasis on Biblical principles in early welfare activities in the United States. This is to be expected because, as was shown in the de Tocqueville quotation given above, the American people believed firmly that a Christian society was indispensable to the preservation of freedom.
Information in the Olasky book also shows that the success of welfare efforts appears to have been directly related to how closely scriptural principles were adhered to.
There is a remarkable similarity between the LDS Church welfare program of today, which is based on the law of consecration, and the earlier religiously oriented welfare activities in the United States, which were almost entirely privately operated with little government involvement. A few basic principles will illustrate that similarity.
The first basic principle was that aid should be given voluntarily out of Christian love without government compulsion.
Another basic principle was that aid must be given with great care on an individual basis because aid can be harmful as well as helpful.
For example, in cases where need arises out of a person's conduct, the primary focus must be on reforming the conduct so the person will become a productive member of society. Merely giving aid in such cases is harmful to the recipient and to society because it facilitates continuation of the recipient's damaging conduct, and encourages it in others. It is also sinful as to the giver because his unwise giving is harmful to both the recipient and society.
In such cases aid must be conditioned on the willingness of the recipient to at least acknowledge his problem and make a some start toward improvement. If he is unwilling to work at correcting his problem, aid must be withheld so he can suffer the consequences of his conduct until that suffering convinces him of the need to change.
If he refuses to change, a difficult situation may arise particularly where innocent family members are involved. But an effort must still be made to let him feel the [p. 51] consequences of his conduct, while striving to prevent inappropriate injury to himself or others.
A spiritual and religious influence is vital to a long term solution for such a recipient. If he becomes a practicing Christian, his life will be so changed that in most cases he will no longer need aid.
Other principles included the giving of commodities instead of cash, personal involvement and bonding by committed individuals rather than impersonal dispensing of material aid, and the involvement of the recipient's own family wherever possible.
Mention of these principles does not mean they were always applied perfectly. Skill was developed through trial and error and many mistakes were made. But the devoted efforts of many committed people resulted in a high overall level of success.
Some may wonder how withholding harmful aid can be reconciled with King Benjamin's admonition not to consider whether the needy person has brought his difficulty on himself. (Mosiah 4:16-18) I believe the distinction lies in the fact that King Benjamin was talking about the giver's attitude and willingness to help rather than how and when help should be given to be of the most long range benefit to the recipient.
The transition to the thinking behind the Supreme Court's Constitution.
The change to the Supreme Court's Constitution way of thinking was largely the consequence of a gradual change in many people's basic beliefs.
Over time many Americans came to reject both the concept of man's inherent tendency to do evil from the fall and the existence of underlying natural law. In their place they accepted the anti scriptural concept that man is good combined with the idea that all points of view are equally valid.
Based on those underlying assumptions many people came to believe that man's anti social conduct is the result of his being corrupted by his environment, and especially capitalism and poverty, They concluded that if government were to rein in capitalism and eliminate poverty by redistribution programs, man's destructive actions would end because his natural tendency to do good would no longer be corrupted.
Acceptance of the idea that behavior is the result of environmental influences rather than belief systems, and that all points of view are equally valid led to the attitude that it is officious for givers of aid to try to influence the religious or spiritual beliefs of recipients.
It was in the context of both these ideas that the profession of social worker developed. Social workers were trained to be both non judgmental of the recipient's conduct and neutral (if not actually negative) toward any religious influence. [p. 52]
Many of those engaged in religiously motivated private charitable service continued their efforts, but they were largely supplanted by the social workers. This was partly because of a widespread change in attitude under which welfare came to be regarded more as a political entitlement, and less as a voluntary Christian responsibility. Also many people felt less disposed to make substantial private contributions or volunteer their personal efforts for services being furnished by paid employees dispensing tax money that had been involuntarily collected from the same potential contributors.
The attitude of elimination of any spiritual or religious influence was legalized under the new system. Where private funds were used, aid givers could promote what values they chose since they were not using tax money. But the shift to use of tax money for welfare aid caused many to feel that it was desirable to eliminate any spiritual or religious values to avoid contention over whose values were to be used.
Aside from the question of elimination of the effort to inculcate spiritual and religious values, the transition from multitudes of people engaged in voluntary charitable activities to a limited number of paid social workers resulted in such heavy caseloads for the social workers that they are not able to devote much time to their individual "clients."
Today there are attempts to have the efforts of social workers supplemented by volunteers. While that is probably a step in the right direction, it does not compare with the volunteers of an earlier time either in proportional numbers or religious commitment. Also the inculcation of spiritual or religious values is still unusual.
Government welfare programs and freedom.
The willingness of the American people to accept the idea of government welfare programs indicates how far we have strayed (or let ourselves be led) from the great foundation concepts of our constitutional system.
The Framers used what has been called the freedom trilogy (typically expressed as life, liberty and property) as a sort of shorthand way of describing freedom. Those rights were regarded as so basic that they were not to be violated unless very specific requirements were met. For example, the Fifth Amendment includes the following:
No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
Under both the Constitution and the law of consecration welfare aid was regarded as Christian charity to be given voluntarily rather than compelled by government. In fact the Founding Fathers regarded protection of property rights as a fundamental part of government's responsibility to protect freedom. This principle was expressed by James Madison as follows: [p. 53]
Government is instituted to protect property . . . . This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own . . . . That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has . . . is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest. (Prophets, Principles and National Survival, by Jerreld L. Newquist, p. 175)
Since government welfare programs use the compulsory power of the state to take property from some to give to others, they violate the very freedom our system of government was established to preserve.
This is another area where the true Constitution and the law of consecration are similar while the Supreme Court's Constitution follows the philosophy of the world.
The gospel foundation for understanding the Constitution.
As is indicated in this chapter, gospel principles illuminate understanding of the Constitution.
The God given natural law foundation is easily grasped by people familiar with the necessity of conforming to the eternal laws of God.
The great underlying principle of the necessity for a moral and religious society for the constitutional system to function successfully is consistent with gospel understanding that it is rebirth in Christ that changes people's hearts. It is only when enough hearts are changed through their religious commitment that compulsion government can be diminished and people can be free.
The need for many protections against the human nature tendencies of people to do evil and particularly to seek to exercise unrighteous dominion over others is very clear to Latter-day Saints. It is simply the application in the political area of the gospel doctrine of the evil propensities of people as a result of the fall and the influence of the Adversary.
Perhaps the clearest understanding of the Framers' Constitution is obtained by noting how similar it is to the law of consecration both in principles involved and in manner of operating.
Admittedly the discussion has not included comments on the application of gospel principles to all the details of the Framers' Constitution. As the various specific provisions are studied it will be helpful to always remember that the key to understanding the Constitution is to examine its provisions from the point of view of the gospel and particularly the reality of the nature of man from the fall. Approached from that orientation [p. 54] the next step is to consider which aspects of the reality of human nature the particular provisions protect against.
In summary, life under the Framers' Constitution is illustrated by Joseph Smith's comment when he was asked how, as Mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, he was able to govern so many people with so little effort. He replied, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, pp. 57-58)
More accurate understanding of the Framers' inspired Constitution gives increased insight into the following statement said to have been made by Joseph Smith apparently concerning a time after the cataclysmic events culminating in the second coming of Christ:
(Joseph Smith) taught us relating to the Kingdom of God, as it would become organized upon the earth through "all nations learning war no more," and all adopting the God-given constitution of the United States. (Latter-day Prophets and the United States Constitution, edited by Donald Q. Cannon, p.13) [p. 55]