June 11th, 2007

Scriptures and Church, Constitution and Government

photo credit: FrogMiller

Imagine, if you will, a nice Sabbath morning where you attend your three hours of church meetings ready to feel the spirit and be taught the gospel. You arrive, eager to feast upon the words of Christ.

As you sit through your meetings, you feel that something is amiss. Trying to pinpoint the problem, you realize that not one of the speakers or teachers have used the scriptures in their talks or lessons. Not a single one.

Baffled, you wonder why this is. You realize that these instructors have spent the entire time preaching their own wisdom. They introduce personal opinions, errant doctrines, and all manner of falsehoods.

Months pass, and the years go by. Week after week, the same thing occurs. Nobody uses the scriptures anymore. Looking back, you notice that it has torn the church apart. Apostasy reigns, and members no longer understand the true doctrine of Christ. Factions within the faith vigorously debate their interpretations of the gospel, yet nobody appeals to the scriptures. It’s as if they don’t exist.

Ultimately, the church is destroyed, as the members rely on the wisdom of men to guide them.

Sadly, this is exactly what has happened with our government.

The Constitution is, in essence, the scripture off of which our government should be based.

And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. (D&C 98:5-7)

Just as the church would not survive intact without constant appeal to and teaching from the scriptures, so too would the government crumble if we ignored the Constitution.

Now here is an exercise for each of you: next time you hear a politician speak, take notice of any references (or lack thereof) to the Constitution. Just as we would not want a church leader that ignored his scriptures, so too we should shun any politician that makes no reference to the Constitution.

Without the Constitution as its foundation and guide, government essentially becomes the tyranny of the majority that the founding fathers warned us of:

If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates, but let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. (George Washington, Farewell Address, September 17, 1796)

Very infrequently in modern political debate (with the shining exception of Ron Paul) will you hear of appeals to the Constitution. This was not always so, for as Thomas Paine describes, this document was widely used and referenced in early political discourse:

Here we see a regular process — a government issuing out of a constitution, formed by the people in their original character; and that constitution serving, not only as an authority, but as a law of control to the government. It was the political bible of the state. Scarcely a family was without it. Every member of the government had a copy; and nothing was more common, when any debate arose on the principle of a bill, or on the extent of any species of authority, than for the members to take the printed constitution out of their pocket, and read the chapter with which such matter in debate was connected. (Thomas Paine, via Quoty)

Compared to Paine’s times, one can easily see how far we have strayed from our Constitutional heritage.

Just as we cannot understand the gospel without consuming scripture, so too we cannot understand the proper role of government without reading and understanding the Constitution:

You must learn the principles of the Constitution to abide by its precepts. You were instructed by the First Presidency in 1973 “to begin now to reflect more intently on the meanings and importance of the Constitution, and of adherence to its principles.” What have you done about this instruction? Have you read the Constitution, pondered it? Are you aware of its principles? Could you defend it? Can you recognize when a law is constitutionally unsound? As a Church, we will no tell you how to do this, but we admonish you to do it. (Ezra Taft Benson, via Quoty)

These are questions we must each ponder. We must, in addition to personal study of this document, hold our representatives accountable and dropkick the ones who show no understanding of or respect for this document to which they profess allegiance.

4 Responses to “Scriptures and Church, Constitution and Government”

  1. Kelly Winterton
    June 11, 2007 at 11:41 am #

    The comparison of the Constitution and the scriptures was brilliant. Thanks Connor for your insight.

    Bush alledgedly proclaimed the Constitution to be “just a G** D*** piece of paper.”

    If our Prophet were to proclaim the Book of Mormon as just a nice story like the Community of Christ has done………….

  2. Mark N.
    June 11, 2007 at 12:06 pm #

    Nobody in the Federal Government likes the Constitution because it was set up to put limits on what the Federal Government could and couldn’t do. The view from D.C. these days seems to be one of “Limits? We don’t need no steenking limits! We’re fighting a war on terrorism, for gosh sakes!”

    Besides, the Constitution is really a fairly boring document. Nobody gets excited much about anything in it until you get down to the Bill of Rights. And then, once again, it’s all about limiting what the government can and can’t do to the citizens, and they really chafe at those limits these days.

  3. Shaun
    June 11, 2007 at 9:32 pm #

    Oh man,

    Church now is almost unbearable in terms of so many neglecting scriptures as it is. We have Elder Holland share this insight on this issue, which we can apply to Connor’s excellent imagery. Indeed we can see why the people are malnourished and only seem to find Ron Paul dishing out the intillectual and spiritual food. Elder Holland taught:

    President Spencer W. Kimball once pled: “Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, please take a particular interest in improving the quality of teaching in the Church. … I fear,” he said, “that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or a meeting, and … then return home having been largely [uninspired]. It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time … of stress, temptation, or crisis [in their life]. We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit,” he said, “and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen. We often do vigorous work,” President Kimball concluded, “to get members to come to Church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come.” 9 On this subject President Hinckley himself has said, “Effective teaching is the very essence of leadership in the Church.” May I repeat that. “Effective teaching is the very essence of leadership in the Church. Eternal life,” President Hinckley continued, “will come only as men and women are taught with such effectiveness that they change and discipline their lives. They cannot be coerced into righteousness or into heaven. They must be led, and that means teaching.”

    “…That is what our members really want when they gather in a meeting or come into a classroom anyway. Most people don’t come to church looking merely for a few new gospel facts or to see old friends, though all of that is important. They come seeking a spiritual experience. They want peace. They want their faith fortified and their hope renewed. They want, in short, to be nourished by the good word of God, to be strengthened by the powers of heaven.

    “When crises come in our lives—and they will—the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won’t do. Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie—spiritually empty calories? President John Taylor once called such teaching “fried froth,” the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied. 18 During a severe winter several years ago, President Boyd K. Packer noted that a goodly number of deer had died of starvation while their stomachs were full of hay. In an honest effort to assist, agencies had supplied the superficial when the substantial was what had been needed. Regrettably they had fed the deer but they had not nourished them. (Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Teacher Come from God,” Ensign, May 1998, 25.)

    Romney, Giuliani, McCain, all the so called “front runners” dish out the equivalent here of “Theological twinkies—spiritually empty calories.” We can add these as well are intillectual twinkies. It is Ron Paul who brings the spirit alive by speaking truth, true foreign policy as spoken of by the US Founders.

  4. Pared
    June 12, 2007 at 9:51 am #

    This is a great point and great insight.

    But I can imgaine teachers at church not using the scriptures, I’ve seen it, and their “wisdom” comes shining through.

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