The Blessings of Liberty for Ourselves and our Posterity
by Scott N. Bradley. The Blessings of Liberty for Ourselves and our Posterity. South Weber Sacrament Meeting 16 July 2006
Brothers and Sisters, it is an honor to stand before you this beautiful Sabbath morning. Because July is a month in which our hearts are turned back, in a special way, to our fore fathers, both those who founded this great nation, and those who carved a beautiful garden out of this wilderness in the tops of the mountains, I have been asked to spend a few minutes on some of the elements associated with those great events.
This subject-matter is among my favorite topics, and I have spent a lifetime in study and contemplation of the principles surrounding these issues. Because of the shortness of the time, my enthusiasm for this subject, and in an effort to keep myself from taking too many side-trips along the way, I have written my talk.
I have titled this address: “The Blessings of Liberty for Ourselves and our Posterity.” It really is the subject of the gospel. Perhaps it would be appropriate to call it a central “golden thread” which is woven into the beautiful tapestry of the gospel—from the pre-mortal existence, to the eternal life which we all hope to obtain.
You see, liberty, whether we would be free to choose, was the principle over which the great conflict raged in the pre-mortal council. Father was and is absolutely committed to the principle of agency, and His great Plan of Life and Exaltation was founded upon it. All mankind must have our agency—our ability to freely choose the path we will follow if we are to “prove [that we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;…” You can read about that in Abraham chapter 3, verses 22-28.
We all know the story of how Father gathered us into a grand council, and told us of His plan to allow us the blessing of entering mortality and gaining experiences which were not possible had we simply remained unembodied spirits. We all know how one of Father’s sons stepped forward and attempted to modify Father’s wonderful plan. The usurper would have implemented a plan of compulsion—force—which would not honor our freedom to choose. The modification would have destroyed mankind’s agency, and dethroned God, our eternal Father. It would have resulted in the destruction of Father’s great work and glory, that of bringing to pass the eternal life and exaltation of His children. (See Moses 1:39)
Of course, our Savior—the Father’s Beloved and Chosen from the beginning stepped forward in support of His Father’s plan, and offered Himself as an Eternal Sacrifice on behalf of those who would conform to the Father’s will.
Hear the words of Moses chapter 4 verses 1-4:
1 AND I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying–Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me–Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
4 And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.
In Doctrine and Covenants section 29, verses 36-37 we are told:
36…for, behold, the devil… rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;
37 And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels;
So critical was mankind’s agency, that our loving Father was willing to loose a third part of the hosts of heaven in order to preserve that blessing for those who would accept His plan.
And we know that Satan and his minions have continued their war against God’s eternal plan even on this earth.
One of the most succinct statements I have found on the matter was made by President George Albert Smith in the dedicatory prayer of the Idaho Falls Temple. It is interesting to me that about 15 to 20 percent of that dedicatory prayer was focused on this issue. In the interest of time, I will quote only a short segment of that prayer. President Smith prayed thus:
“We thank thee, oh God, for the choice land upon which we reside, and for the marvelous promises thou hast made concerning America. That it should be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven so long as the inhabitants of the land should worship the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ. Thou hast revealed unto us that in the great controversy which took place in Heaven that the cornerstone of Thy plan of salvation was the free agency of man, and that Lucifer, who was an angel in authority in Thy Holy presence, proposed a different way; that Lucifer’s plan was rejected because the effect of its application would be to deprive Thy children of their free agency. When Lucifer’s plan was rejected by Thee he rebelled against Thee; there was war in Heaven and he and his followers were cast out. We thank Thee that Thou hast warned us by revelation that Satan would deceive the nations in our time. As we look about the world among the various countries we find philosophies and forms of government the effect of which is to deprive men of their free agency, but by reason of thy timely warning to us, we know that they are not approved of Thee. Since the God of this choice land is Jesus Christ, we know that His philosophy of free agency should prevail here. There are those, our Heavenly Father, both within and without our borders who would destroy the Constitutional form of government which Thou hast so magnanimously given us, and would replace it with a form that would curtail if not altogether deprive man of his free agency.
“We thank Thee that Thou hast revealed to us that those men who gave us our Constitutional form of government were men wise in Thy sight and that Thou didst raise them up for the very purpose of putting forth that sacred document.” (Temples of the Most High, compiled by N. B. Lundwall, Bookcraft, pg. 187-189)
There were many wonderful principles touched upon in those few brief sentences, and we shall again refer to some of them for they are found within our scriptures.
From this we know that God’s plan was based upon that marvelous gift of agency, and that agency was an absolutely necessary element. We learn that this land is a chosen and choice land, that as long as the inhabitants of the land would worship the god of the land, who is Jesus Christ, that they would be free from bondage and captivity. We learn that Satan’s philosophies are rampant upon the earth, and that he institutes forms of government which deprive mankind of their god-given agency. We learn that there are even efforts upon this land to foster Satan’s ways. We learn that this displeases God. And we learn that God raised up the founding fathers of this nation to create the form of government which they established under His divine guidance. What marvelous truths!!
It is interesting to me that the scriptures predicted the special nature of this land, and the founding of this nation. Time will not permit a full review of these scriptures, but let us briefly touch upon them.
Ether chapter 2 verses 7-11 tell us of the journey of the Jaredites to this land:
7 And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.
8 And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fullness of his wrath should come upon them.
9 And now, 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 fullness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fullness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.
10 For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fullness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.
11 And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles [and I will parenthetically interject here that the Prophet Joseph Smith said that this reference to Gentiles referred to us modern-day inhabitants of this land], that ye may know the decrees of God–that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fullness come, that ye may not bring down the fullness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.
Of course, there are many other marvelous Book of Mormon scriptures which we could review which would reinforce the understanding that the hand of God was upon the founding of this nation. For instance, First Nephi chapter 13 reviews how the Spirit of God moved upon Columbus and brought him to this land, and how the pilgrim/puritan migration was based upon God’s Spirit moving upon them, and how the Revolutionary War was to bring forth a free and prosperous nation, and how this was to create an environment in which the Gospel could be restored.
These facts, and the privilege of living under these conditions and circumstances, should thrill us!
It is also interesting to me that the prophets have informed us that the establishment of this nation under the United States Constitution was an essential prelude to the restoration of the Gospel.
The United States of America was a relatively young nation when the Prophet Joseph Smith was born. In 1775, just thirty years before the Prophet Joseph’s birth, the conflict in quest of the Nation’s freedom began in earnest.
In 1776, the founders of the Nation declared the United States a free and independent Nation. But declaring their independence did not automatically make it so—there were seven more arduous years of conflict after the declaration before it was recognized.
The Revolutionary War was concluded at the signing of the treaty of peace with England in 1783, but the Nation still struggled without a firm foundation until the United States Constitution was penned in 1787, and finally ratified and put into operation in 1789.
By the end of 1791 the Bill of Rights, which recognized and guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, the press, property, numerous other elements of liberty and justice, and which further declared restrictions limiting the power of government to abuse its authority, had been ratified by the States.
Many latter-day prophets have declared that these conditions were essential to the restoration of the gospel. Indeed, these critically necessary elements of freedom and properly framed government have been called the “prelude” or “prologue” to the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation.1 Thus, just a few short years after this great preparatory work had been accomplished by the Founding Fathers of the United States, Joseph Smith Jr. was born in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, and the stage was set for the gospel to be restored for the blessing of all mankind.
After the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to the fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith in 1820, and the revelations of Moroni and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon which followed soon afterward, the great eternal principles and saving ordinances of the gospel burst forth upon the world in a veritable torrent of light and knowledge from the eternal courts on high! The great work of the Father and the Son continues today to roll forth as the stone cut out from the mountain without hands,2 and it will continue until it has filled the whole earth.
It is interesting to note the ongoing importance of liberty and properly framed government, as expressed by the Lord and His servants, as the gospel is to be carried to all mankind! In August 1833 the Lord stated3:
4 And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.
5 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.
6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.
In December 1833, the Lord revealed the following:4
77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle 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.
79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I have raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.
The Prophet Joseph Smith testified that the Savior dictated to him the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple. That dedicatory prayer is recorded as Doctrine and Covenants Section 109. Verse 54 of that section reads:5
54 Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.
Among his many statements on the Constitution, Joseph Smith declared:
We say that God is true, that the Constitution of the United States is true, that the Bible is true, the Book of Mormon is true, that Christ is true,… 6
It is of interest to note the close association which Joseph Smith makes with these great and important truths! It is also of great interest that the Prophet Joseph Smith also stated: “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth.”7
Joseph Smith and the brethren of the Twelve had such high regard for the United States Constitution that the charter that they penned for the City of Nauvoo refers to the U.S. Constitution seven times.8
The Prophet Joseph Smith’s devotion to the foundation principles embodied in the United States Constitution are clearly stated in each of his recorded comments. As he campaigned to be elected as President of the United States in 1844, the Prophet published his “Views on the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States.”9 In that political tract, he outlined Constitutional solutions to the vexing slavery issue, proposed a viable method to eliminate the national debt, supported a system of money for the United States which would have prevented the economic disruption which plagues the Nation, addressed the method for assuring that the people of the Nation would hold the means of production and be able to continually grow in prosperity, and many other wonderful principles of liberty. And all of the solutions looked to the application of the founding principles of the Nation as embodied in the United States Constitution.
It is of interest that, as the latter-day apostles circulated Joseph Smith’s document on his views regarding government among the prominent citizens of the Nation in that day, it was received with acclaim and excitement. Letters from members of the Quorum of the Twelve reflect the hope the people found in the Prophet’s proposal, and a willingness to embrace and apply it.
After the martyrdom of the Prophet, the leaders of the Church have continued to recognize the great importance of the United States Constitution, and of sustaining it so that the gospel may continue to roll forth most effectively. Indeed, many latter-day prophets have asserted that the United States Constitution is part of their religion, and that “its words are akin to scripture, for God has placed His stamp of approval upon it.”10
Among the many testimonies of Brigham Young regarding the United States Constitution is his following statement:
“I want to say to every man, the Constitution of the United States, as formed by our fathers, was dictated, was revealed, was put into their hearts by the Almighty, who sits enthroned in the midst of the heavens; although unknown to them, it was dictated by the revelations of Jesus Christ, and I tell you in the name of Jesus Christ, it is as good as I could ask for.”11
It appears that the principles of freedom and proper government are interwoven as part of God’s eternal plan for His children.
And President David O. McKay was emphatic in his support of these principles, saying:
“If we would make the world better, let us foster a keener appreciation of the freedom and liberty guaranteed by the government of the United States as framed by the founders of this nation. Here again self-proclaimed progressives cry that such old-time adherence is out of date. But there are some fundamental principles of this republic which, like eternal truths, never get out of date, and which are applicable at all times to liberty-loving peoples. Such are the underlying principles of the Constitution, a document framed by patriotic, freedom-loving men, who Latter-day Saints declare were inspired by the Lord.”12
“Next to being one in worshiping God, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States.”13
“I am grateful for this republic and for the individual freedom vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.”14
“I repeat that no greater immediate responsibility rests upon members of the Church, upon all citizens of this republic and of neighboring republics than to protect the freedom vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.”15
And President Ezra Taft Benson expressed his faith that the United States Constitution will be preserved by those who remain faithful to its precepts:
“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.
“I 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.
“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, amen.”16
Relatively recent statements made by President Gordon B. Hinckley regarding his views of this Nation’s founders and their principles capture his view on these matters:
“A news magazine writer asked me the other day during an interview concerning my belief in the Constitution of our country. I replied that I felt it was inspired. That both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were brought forth under the inspiration of God, to establish and sustain the freedom of the people of this Nation. I told him that I looked upon the Founding Fathers as men who believed in God, as men who prayed to God, as men who recognized God, and wished to do His will. What a singular and remarkable group they were. As I look across the world today I search in vain for such a group as walked together across the stage of history, when this Nation was born….
“Just think for a moment of George Washington, of Franklin, of Madison, of the Adams, of Thomas Jefferson and their associates who signed the Declaration of Independence, or participated in the Constitutional Convention. Where in all the world today can even one or two such men be found, let alone the great aggregation who participated in the birth of America? Can anyone deny that they were raised up unto this very purpose? That working together they brought forth on this continent an independent nation, at the risk of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. It is my conviction that while we’ve had a few great leaders since then, there has not been before or since so large a group of talented, able and dedicated men, as those who we call the Founding Fathers of this Nation.”17
In a more recent general conference address, President Gordon B. Hinckley made the following statement:
“Great are the promises concerning this land of America. We are told unequivocally that it is a ‘choice land and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ’ (Ether 2:12). This is the crux of the entire matter—obedience to the commandments of God.
“The Constitution under which we live and which has not only blessed us but has become a model for other constitutions, is our God-inspired national safeguard ensuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.” 18
We have much to live up to! As previously mentioned, many prophets have declared that the establishment of the United States of America under the Constitution was the “great prologue” (meaning that which comes before) to the restoration of the gospel. If we who live in this blessed Nation are to remain the platform from which the Lord takes the gospel to all of His children throughout the world, it is imperative that this great Title of Liberty be maintained over this land.
We must maintain the liberty and economic strength to perform these labors, and it cannot be done if we do not “obey, honor and sustain” the law which God established in this land.
If we are to fulfill our responsibility, we cannot be swept into the mainstream of the world and embrace the false and destructive principles which are so universally taught and accepted today. The world’s principles are not God’s principles. The truth has been revealed and may be known by those who will seek diligently and faithfully to obtain it.
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that the time would come when the Constitution would hang by a thread, and the elders of the Church would have a hand in its preservation.19 Many other prophets have restated that prophecy. Indeed, we have a divine mandate to preserve the Constitution!
As the prophet, President Benson declared: “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 [regarding the Nation and the Constitution being on the brink of destruction]”. If this is the case, then what are we to do?
In his monumental October 1987 General Conference address, “Our Divine Constitution,” which included the statement just noted, President Ezra Taft Benson outlined our responsibility. They are the words of God’s mouthpiece to us, defining how we may preserve the government God ordained for this Nation.
First and foremost, we must be righteous.
John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If the Constitution is to have continuance, this American nation, and especially the Latter-day Saints, must be virtuous….
Second, we must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.
Have 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.”
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).
Note 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).20
The United States Constitution itself promotes the idea that the people are the keepers of the Constitution,21 and therefore an informed electorate is the key to keeping all of their representatives in line with the proper constitutional principle. In light of the many testimonies which have been borne by the latter-day apostles and prophets in regard to this marvelous God-ordained document, it is apparent that the people, and particularly members of the Church, have a responsibility to become knowledgeable “Constitutionalists.”
As noted above, 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.”22
Brothers and Sisters, the time is spent, but as we contemplate during this season the great blessings of liberty which have been bequeathed to us by our loving Heavenly Father, and the sacrifices which were so expended not only in the establishment of the nation, but also in the efforts to establish the communities here in the Rocky Mountains that we may be free to worship our god, to practice our religion, to enjoy our freedom and our peace, and to support our wives and our children (see Alma 46:12), let us resolve that these blessings shall not be lost because of our slothfulness.
The importance of the preservation of liberty in this land must not be under-estimated—it is so critical is mankind’s liberty, and the eternal principle of agency, in the effort to take the message of salvation to the world. The Constitution is truly a “Heavenly Banner” which was divinely inspired, and which must be preserved if this nation is to continue to be the platform from which the message of salvation may be taken to our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
I bear testimony of God the Eternal Father, and of His divine Plan of Life and Exaltation.
We must be willing to subject ourselves to His great, eternal wisdom, His plan, His love.
I bear testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His perfect fulfillment of His Father’s will.
We must come unto Christ with all our hearts if we are to fulfill the great purposes for which we came to this earth.
We must be willing to embrace His principles, His ordinances, His government if we are to have all that He has promised us is possible.
We must become obedient in all things before Him.
It is for these purposes His gospel has been restored and is declared unto us.
For these purposes ordinances of salvation are administered unto the children of men.
For these purposes prophets have been called to declare the words of salvation to all mankind.
For this purpose was God willing to send His Only Begotten Son, His Chosen and Beloved from the beginning, to be our Savior.
For this purpose Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane, and ignominiously upon the cross.
Of these things I testify, in the sacred name of our Savior and Messiah, even Jesus Christ, amen.
1. Petersen, Mark E. The Great Prologue. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975; “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, pages 4-7.
2. The Old Testament,, Daniel 2:45.
3. Doctrine and Covenants 98:4-7.
4. Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-80
5. Doctrine and Covenants 109:54.
6. Times and Seasons vol. 1, page 134; also, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 148.
7. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843–44, p.326; also, History of the Church 6:56-57.
8. History of the Church, Vol.4, Ch.13, p.239-p.249; also History of the Church, Vol.4, Introduction, p.22-23.
9. History of the Church, Vol.6, Ch.8, p.197-209.
10. “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, pages 4-7.
11. Henry, D. “The Prophets on the Christ.” Liahona: The Elders’ Journal (26 Dec 1908) 6:678; also in Roberts, B. H. Mormonism, 27-28.
12. Conference Report, October 1940, p. 104.
13. Conference Report, October 1939, p. 105.
14. —DNCS, September 6, 1952, p. 3.
15. Conference Report, April 1950, p. 37. ; Gospel Ideals, p.319-320.
16. “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, page 7.
17. President Gordon B. Hinckley, Fireside Address, BYU Marriott Center, 29 June 1997; also Standing for Something, pg xv.
18. President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, p. 72.
19. 19 July 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; ms. in Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City.
20. “Our Divine Constitution,” President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, pages 6-7.
21. United States Constitution, Preamble.
22. History of the Church, 5:286.