Quote Category: ‘1st Amendment’
The legislation against polygamy by Congress, and the endeavors of the church to resist those enactments on the ground of their conflict with the first Amendment to the Constitution, are pretty well known to the American public. It is not so generally known that the final decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that the anti-polygamy laws were not in contravention of the Constitution was the chief reason for the change of attitude on the part of the church leaders.
I feel to bear my testimony to these things. They are true. God is with this people. And we say to our nation — maintain the Constitution and we are satisfied. Give us the rights of that Constitution and we are satisfied. It is an instrument inspired by the power of God. Our forefathers were inspired when they framed it. Yet it is marvelous to reflect upon some principles that have been laid down — perhaps I ought not to allude to these things, but I am only expressing my own reflections — even by the supreme court of the United States. In effect it has said that we may think as we please, but must not act. I would ask, in the name of the Lord, was that all Thomas Jefferson, and others had in their minds when they framed the clause in reference to religious liberty? What about men acting? If it was only intended that men should think and not act, why not say so in the instrument? Why should it be stated that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” [U.S. Constitution Amendment I] if men were not to be allowed to act? Why, in the exercise of their religion, men must act: and it is straining points, it is overstepping the bounds of the Constitution to pass laws taking away the rights and privileges of any people because of their religion — because they happen to differ from their neighbors. Where will such a course land our government? I will tell you what it will do. It will rend the government in twain like unto a potter’s vessel. It will lay the nation in the dust. It will overthrow the government. When they get through with the Mormons there will be somebody else to deal with. The Constitution is good enough for anybody. It is good enough for the Latter-day Saints. We have no principles but what are in accord with the Constitution of the United States and the laws of God. We are perfectly willing to trust ourselves and our interests in the hands of God, and to leave our nation in His hands also; for God will judge our nation; He will judge us; He will judge all the children of men and He will judge righteous judgment. What men sow they will reap. What measure they mete, it shall be measured to them again.
I pray God to bless this nation. I pray God to give our legislators wisdom, that they may maintain the Constitutional principles of the government, the only government on the face of God’s earth where the Lord could have established His Church and Kingdom.
Am I to disobey the law of God? Has any man a right to control my conscience, or your conscience, or to tell me I shall believe this or believe the other, or reject this or reject the other? No man has a right to do it. These principles are sacred, and the forefathers of this nation felt so and so proclaimed it in the Constitution of the United States, and said “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” [US Const. Amend. I].
We Latter-day Saints — what are we? Professors of religion. Are we? Yes. There are laws being enacted in order to deprive us of our religious rights, whereas the Constitution of the United States says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof [US Const. Amend. I]. Is that true? Read it for yourselves in the Constitution. This is what we profess as Americans. We have men in our midst who have introduced test oaths, whereas the Constitution says, that “no religious test shall ever be required” [US Const. Art. VI]; yet they have introduced test-oaths, and people are obliged to swear certain things that the Constitution says shall not be permitted. Are we American citizens here? I think so. Have we any rights? I think we ought to have. Are they being trampled upon? Yes, they are; and these things are being done with impunity. How is it? Why, the Constitution is treated by the politicians of to-day as the Bible is treated by professors of religion. . . . As I have said, the Constitution provides that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .
. . . At the time when the Edmunds law was passed I was living in what is known as the Gardo House. I had most of my wives living with me there, and after looking carefully over the Edmunds law I thought to myself, why Congress is growing very wild; this Government is getting very, very foolish; they are trampling upon Constitutional rights. No matter, I said, I will obey this law. . . . “[W]e shall stand up for our rights and protect ourselves in every proper way, legally and constitutionally, and dispute inch by inch every step that is taken to deprive us of our rights and liberties.” And we will do this in the way that I speak of. We are doing it to-day; and as you have heard it expressed on other occasions, it looks very much like as though the time was drawing near when this country will tumble to pieces; for if the people of this nation are so blind and infatuated as to trample under foot the Constitution and other safeguards provided for the liberties of man, we do not propose to assist them in their suicidal and traitorous enterprises; for we have been told by Joseph Smith that when the people of this nation would trample upon the Constitution, the Elders of this Church would rally round the flag and defend it. And it may come to that; we may be nearer to it than some of us think, for the people are not very zealous in the protection of human rights. And when legislators, governors and judges unite in seeking to tear down the temple of liberty and destroy the bulwarks of human freedom, it will be seen by all lovers of liberty, that they are playing a hazardous game and endangering the perpetuity of human rights. For it will not take long for the unthinking to follow their lead, and they may let loose an element that they never can bind again.