Quote Category: ‘Righteousness Exalteth a Nation’
On what basis can we morally resist tyranny?
I say to you with all the fervor of my soul that God intended men to be free. Rebellion against tyranny is a righteous cause. It is an enormous evil for any man to be enslaved to any system contrary to his own will. For that reason men, 200 years ago, pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.
No nation which has kept the commandments of God has ever perished, but I say to you that once freedom is lost, only blood – human blood – will win it back.
The Book of Mormon narrative is a chronicle of nations long since gone. But in its descriptions of the problems of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired, and inspiring concerning the solutions of those problems.
I know of no other writing which sets forth with such clarity the tragic consequences to societies that follow courses contrary to the commandments of God. Its pages trace the stories of two distinct civilizations that flourished on the Western Hemisphere. Each began as a small nation, its people walking in the fear of the Lord. But with prosperity came growing evils. The people succumbed to the wiles of ambitious and scheming leaders who oppressed them with burdensome taxes, who lulled them with hollow promises, who countenanced and even encouraged loose and lascivious living. These evil schemers led the people into terrible wars that resulted in the death of millions and the final and total extinction of two great civilizations in two different eras.
No other written testament so clearly illustrates the fact that when men and nations walk in the fear of God and in obedience to His commandments, they prosper and grow, but when they disregard Him and His word, there comes a decay that, unless arrested by righteousness, leads to impotence and death. The Book of Mormon is an affirmation of the Old Testament proverb: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
The God of heaven spoke to these people of the Americas through prophets, telling them where true security could be found: “Behold, this 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).
I should like to say a few words about America…. No land is without its beauty, no people without their virtues, and I hope that you who come from elsewhere will pardon my saying a few words concerning my own native land, America. I know that she has problems. We have heard so much of them for so long. But surely this is a good land, a choice land, a chosen land. To me it is a miracle, a creation of the Almighty….
I was stirred in my heart by the words of our late, great President Harold B. Lee, who, speaking to a group such as this, said:
‘This nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail…. I have faith in America. You and I must have faith in America if we understand the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ (Deseret News, 27 October 1973.)
I doubt not that we shall have days of trial…. But I am certain that if we will emphasize the greater good and turn our time and talents from vituperative criticism, from constantly looking for evil, and lift our sights to what may be done to build strength and goodness in our nation, America will continue to go forward with the blessing of the Almighty and stand as an ensign of strength and peace and generosity to all the world.
I testify that America is a choice land. (See 2 Nephi 1:5.) God raised up the founding fathers of the United States of America and established the inspired Constitution. (See D&C 101:77–80.) This was the required prologue for the restoration of the gospel. (See 3 Nephi 21:4.) America will be a blessed land unto the righteous forever, and is the base from which God will continue to direct the worldwide latter-day operations of His kingdom. (See 2 Nephi 1:7.)
How then can we best befriend the Constitution in this critical hour and secure the blessings of liberty and ensure the protection and guidance of our Father in Heaven?
First and foremost, we must be righteous. . . .
Two great American Christian civilizations — the Jaredites and the Nephites — were swept off this land because they did not “serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). What will become of our civilization?
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? . . .
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.
Will we be prepared? Will we be among those who will “bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction?” If we desire to be numbered among those who will, here are some things we must do:
1. We must be righteous and moral. We must live the gospel principles—all of them. We have no right to expect a higher degree of morality from those who represent us than what we ourselves are. In the final analysis, people generally get the kind of government they deserve. To live a higher law means we will not seek to receive what we have not earned by our own labor. It means we will remember that government owes us nothing. It means we will keep the laws of the land. It means we will look to God as our Lawgiver and the Source of our liberty.
2. We must learn the principles of the Constitution and then abide by its precepts. We have been instructed again and again to reflect more intently on the meaning and importance of the Constitution and to adhere to its principles. What have we done about this instruction? Have we read the Constitution and pondered it? Are we aware of its principles? Could we defend it? Can we recognize when a law is constitutionally unsound? The Church will not tell us how to do this, but we are admonished to do it. I quote Abraham Lincoln: “Let [the Constitution] be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges, let it be written in primers, in spelling books and in almanacs, let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation.”
3. We must become involved in civic affairs. As citizens of this republic, we cannot do our duty and be idle spectators. It is vital that we follow this counsel from the Lord: “I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. Wherefore, 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. And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God” (D&C 98:8–11).
Note the qualities that the Lord demands in those who are to represent us. They must be good, wise, and honest. Some leaders may be honest and good but unwise in legislation they choose to support. Others may possess wisdom but be dishonest and unvirtuous. We must be concerted in our desires and efforts to see men and women represent us who possess all three of these qualities.
4. We must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, and our advice. We must be wisely informed and let others know how we feel. We must take part in local precinct meetings and select delegates who will truly represent our feelings.
I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. But it will not be saved in Washington. It will be saved by the citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened members of this Church — men and women who will subscribe to and abide the principles of the Constitution.
The Founding Fathers understood the principle that “righteousness exalteth a nation” (Prov 14:34), and helped to bring about one of the greatest systems ever used to govern men. But unless we continue to seek righteousness and preserve the liberties entrusted to us, we shall lose the blessings of heaven. Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” The price of freedom is also to live in accordance with the commandments of God. The early Founding Fathers thanked the Lord for His intervention in their behalf. They saw His hand in their victories in battle and believed strongly that He watched over them.
The battles are not over yet, and there will yet be times when this great nation will need the overshadowing help of Deity. Will we as a nation be worthy to call upon Him for help?
God, through his power has established a free people in this land as a means of helping to carry forward his purposes. . . .
It was here under a free government and a strong nation that protection was provided for his restored Church.
Now God will not permit America, his base of operations, to be destroyed. He has promised protection to this land if we will but serve the God of the land. He has also promised protection to the righteous even, if necessary, to send down fire from heaven to destroy their enemies. (1 Nephi 22.)
No, God’s base of operations will not be destroyed. But it may be weakened and made less effective.
I would to God that every citizen of this land might read the Book of Mormon prayerfully and learn something of the prophecies made regarding this land — the promises made and the conditions upon which they are made — that we might as an American people so live that these great promises could be fully realized; that we might come to know that the Constitution of this land has been established by men whom the God of heaven raised up unto that very purpose.
Free agency is an eternal principle vouchsafed to us in the perfect law of liberty — the gospel of Jesus Christ. Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any earthly possession. It is guaranteed in our heaven-inspired Constitution. Yes, freedom is an inherited, inalienable, divine gift to men. . . .
The inspired founding fathers formulated a system of government with checks and balances protecting the freedom of the people. But even this was not enough. The first order of the new congress was to draw up a Bill of Rights — ten amendments guaranteeing for all time the fundamental freedoms that the American people insist are theirs by the will of God, not by the will of government.
Yes, the founders of this nation bequeathed to us a heritage of freedom and unity that is our most priceless political possession. . . .
. . . Under the constitutional concept, powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people [U.S. Const. Amend. X]. . . .
The founding fathers, inspired though they were, did not invent the priceless blessing of individual freedom and respect for the dignity of man. No, that priceless gift to mankind sprang from the God of heaven and not from government. Yes, the founding fathers welded together the safeguards as best they could, but freedom must be continually won to be enjoyed. Let us never forget these facts.
This is America — the land of opportunity! A land choice above all other lands. Let us keep it so! . . .
. . . It is my firm conviction that the Constitution of this land was established by men whom the God of heaven raised up unto this very purpose.
The days ahead are sobering and challenging and will demand the faith, prayers, and loyalty of every American. Our challenge is to keep America strong and free — strong socially, strong economically, and above all, strong spiritually, if our way of life is to endure. There is no other way. Only in this course is there safety for our nation.
I concluded by calling attention to the prophecy of Joseph Smith that “the constitution would hang as by a thread.” I then pointed out that the basic principles of the three separate and independent branches of government were being threatened in the demands of the present Senate investigation. I then read a statement of President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., pointing this out that if either the executive, the legislative, or the judicial were to presume to make the law, enforce it, and then pass judgement, we would approach tyranny. At least the audience heard and listened to this last statement. I finally said that if the basic principles laid down in the Constitution were to be threatened, as is now a possibility, that we might come to [such] a time as when Abraham bargained with the Lord to save Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction, if he could find some righteous souls. Similarly, if such a downfall of the Constitution were imminent, the righteousness of this people might again importune the Almighty to save it because of their pleadings.
Now in this statement from The Deseret News we read: “We stand for the Constitution of the United States with its three departments of government as therein set forth, each one fully independent in its own field.” I hope that every member of the Church subscribes to that declaration—also to The Deseret News. The preamble to the Constitution does not begin, “I, the king”; nor does it begin, “I, the President of the United States.” It reads:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
It is “We the people.”
It was understood that the people would govern; of course, it would have to be by representation, but the control of government would be in the hands of the people. As we read in the Book of Mormon, when the righteous rule, everything is well. King Mosiah gave up his throne with the idea that the people would have a republic, and he called attention to the dangers of a kingdom and a centralized government and the dangers that would arise should the wicked rule. The Lord has taught us to choose wise men and just men, and that was the understanding on the part of these men who formed the Constitution of the United States. . . .
. . . I wish to read another statement. The English statesman, James Bryce, in his excellent work, The American Commonwealth, has said:
The Constitution of 1789 deserves the veneration with which the Americans have been accustomed to regard it. It is true that many criticisms have been passed upon its arrangement, upon its omissions, upon its artificial character of some of the institutions it creates, . . . Yet after all deductions it ranks above every other constitution for the intrinsic excellence of its scheme, its adaptation to the circumstances of the people, the simplicity, brevity, and precision of its language, its judicious mixture of definiteness in principle with elasticity in detail. (The American Commonwealth, vol. 1, p 25.)
I desire to call attention to the fact that the united, well ordered American home is one of the greatest contributing factors to the preservation of the Constitution of the United States. It has been aptly said that “Out of the homes of America will come the future citizens of America, and only as those homes are what they should be will this nation be what it should be.”
During the great struggle for independence in the country under the leadership of George Washington, our Heavenly Father was preparing the way for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity.
He gave to certain individuals the inspiration to frame the Constitution of the United States that has been referred to in this conference, the greatest palladium of human rights that we know anything about. Under such a Constitution the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth one hundred nineteen years ago. . . .
Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and his brother Hyrum (the great-great-grandfather of the man who sits at my left here on the stand and grandfather of the man who sits behind me in this congregation) died as martyrs at the hands of a wicked mob. They were sacrificed not for any wrong they had done but because they had sought to teach the truth and call the people of the world to repent before it was too late. The work has gone on and under the Constitution of the United States we have been permitted to carry on in this great land. We have been permitted to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our missionaries of course have gone all over the world, but I am speaking now of the United States of America. However, there are many people, many men and women in this land, some of whom may be friends or relatives who are misguided by the idea that the Constitution of the United States isn’t as fine a system of government as they have in Russia or Germany or Italy or some other part of the world, notwithstanding the fact that the Lord himself said that he raised up the very men who framed the Constitution of the United States and directed that the membership of this Church should pray for and sustain those who represented the Constitution of this land. I hold in my hand the Bible and can read the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses for the guidance of the people wherein the Lord told Moses what the people should live for and do. If those Ten Commandments had been lived up to by the people of the world down to the present time, this earth could long ago have been celestialized. But the people refused.
You know, and I know, that the Ten Commandments contain the will of our Heavenly Father, and I am grateful, not only for the civil laws but also for the laws God has given to us. I feel bound to conform my life to the teachings of the Ten Commandments. I feel equally bound to sustain the Constitution of the United States which came from the same source as the Ten Commandments. Unless the people of this great nation can realize these things and repent, they may forfeit the liberty that they now enjoy, and the blessings that are so multiplied among us. I do hope and pray that they will discover before it is too late that God has spoken again. Your responsibility and mine is to let our light so shine that others seeing our good works will be constrained to glorify him who is the Author of our being.
I feel that, as long as the people of this land obey, or strive to keep the commandments of God, this liberty will continue to flow unto us. . . . I say to you that our only hope, and the hope of the sons and daughters that God may bless us with, to enjoy peace and liberty in this land, is in standing by the Constitution that God has inspired to direct this government. . . . Let us stand by the law-makers, and encourage them in the making of just laws, and stand by the executive departments, and the judiciary in the administration of those laws.
Every faithful Latter-day Saint believes that the Constitution of the United States was inspired of God, and that this choice land and this nation have been preserved until now in the principles of liberty under the protection of God. . . .
These principles are fundamental to our belief, fundamental to our protection. And in the providences of the Lord, the safeguards which have been incorporated into the basic structure of this nation are, if we preserve them, the guarantee of all men who dwell here against abuses, tyrannies, and usurpations. From my childhood days I have understood that we believe absolutely that the Constitution of our country is an inspired instrument, and that God directed those who created it and those who defended the independence of this nation. . . .
And such the Constitution of the United States must be to every faithful Latter-day Saint who lives under its protection. That the Lord may help him to think straight, and to pursue a straight course regardless of personal advantage, factional interest, or political persuasion, should be the daily prayer of every Latter-day Saint. I counsel you, I urge you, I plead with you, never, so far as you have voice or influence, permit any departure from the principles of government on which this nation was founded, or any disregard of the freedoms which, by the inspiration of God our Father, were written into the Constitution of the United States. (”Admonition and Blessing” 694-95)
As far as constitutional liberty is concerned, I will say, the God of heaven has raised up our nation, as foretold by His Prophets generations ago. . . . It is also well known how our forefathers found a home and an asylum in this land from the hand of persecution, and how they planted here the tree of liberty and jealously guarded it from the attempt of the mother country to uproot and destroy it. The hand of God was in this; and it is through the intervention of His providence that we enjoy to-day the freest and most independent government the world ever saw. And what was the object of this? It was to prepare the way for the building up of the kingdom of God in this the last dispensation of the fullness of times; and as long as the principles of constitutional liberty shall be maintained upon this land, blessings will attend the nation.
By and by, you will find they will tear the Constitution to shreads, as they have begun now; they won’t have to begin; they have started long ago to rend the Constitution of our country in pieces; and in doing so they are letting loose and encouraging a principle which will re-act upon themselves with terrible consequences; for if law-makers and administrators can afford to trample upon justice, equity, and the Constitution of this country, they will find thousands and tens of thousands who are willing to follow in their wake in the demolition of the rights of man, and the destruction of all principles of justice, and the safeguards of the nation; but we will stand by and maintain its principles and the rights of all men of every color, and every clime; we will cleave to the truth, live our religion and keep the commandments of God, and God will bless us in time and throughout the eternities that are to come.
But what I admired in those Senators and Members was their fealty to the government, to the Constitution and the maintenance of the freedom and the inalienable rights of man, of every color, creed and profession.
We have no fault to find with our government. We deem it the best in the world. But we have reason to deplore its malad-ministration, and I call upon our legislators, our governors and president to pause in their career and not to tamper with the rights and liberties of American citizens, nor wantonly tear down the bulwarks of American and human liberty. God has given to us glorious institutions; let us preserve them intact and not pander to the vices, passions and fanaticism of a depraved public opinion. . . .
We do not wish to place ourselves in a state of antagonism, nor act defiantly towards this government. We will fulfill the letter, so far as practicable, of that unjust, inhuman, oppressive and unconstitutional law, so far as we can without violating principle; but we cannot sacrifice every principle of human right at the behest of corrupt, unreasoning and unprincipled men; we cannot violate the highest and noblest principles of human nature and make pariahs and outcasts of high-minded, virtuous and honorable women, nor sacrifice at the shrine of popular clamor the highest and noblest principles of humanity!
We shall abide all constitutional law, as we always have done; but while we are God-fearing and law-abiding, and respect all honorable men and officers, we are no craven serfs, and have not learned to lick the feet of oppressors, nor to bow in base submission to unreasoning clamor. We will contend inch by inch, legally and constitutionally, for our rights as American citizens. . . .We stand proudly erect in the consciousness of our rights as American citizens, and plant ourselves firmly on the sacred guarantees of the Constitution; and that instrument, while it defines the powers and privileges of the President, Congress and the judiciary, also directly provides that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively or to the people” [US Const. Amend. X].
We need have no fears, no trembling in our knees about these attempts to deprive us of our God-given and constitutional liberties. God will take care of His people, if we will only do right.
I told General Thomas L. Kane, that friend to humanity, when he visited us in 1857, that the coming of that army was the entering wedge to split the Government of the United States in pieces, and that soon. He, of course, could not see how this could ever be. They then were in great prosperity, and were going to annex the whole continent and neighboring islands, and so continue to annex until the whole world should take shelter under our national banner. He only saw this from a political stand point, basing his expectations of such grand results upon the goodness of the Constitution and laws. I acknowledged to him that we have the best system of government in existence, but queried if the people of this nation were righteous enough to sustain its institutions. I say they are not, but will trample them under their feet. I told General Kane that the Government of the United States would be shivered to pieces. Will this Government ever be restored to its former peace and tranquility, and the institutions thereof ever be maintained and honored? If they are, it will be by this people.