Quote Category: ‘United States Government’
Evoking images of the Mayflower pilgrims and of George Washington at Valley Forge, Hinckley said the United States was founded on “an unequivocal trust in the power of the Almighty to guide and defend us.”
Revered as a prophet by members of the Mormon Church, Hinckley decried the disappearance of family prayer and attempts to remove reference to deity from society.
At times seeming to suppress tears, Hinckley recalled his visits to the American military cemetery in France, where his brother is buried.
“As I have stood before the cross that marks his grave, I have thanked God for the cause for which he died, for the great and eternal concepts” of human dignity, liberty and freedom to worship, speak and assemble.
Those concepts were handed down by God to the framers of the U.S. Constitution, Hinckley said.
“I pray that America may always be worthy of [God’s] blessing. There is no place for arrogance among us. There is no place for conceit or egotism. As we look to God, we will grow in strength.”
I believe in America. I am grateful for the Constitution under which this nation lives and moves and has its being. I am profoundly grateful that somehow for more than two centuries of time we have existed as a nation and grown to become the strongest and most free in the entire world. I am grateful for those men whom the God in Heaven raised up and inspired and who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to establish this nation and its government. I believe in America — one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. We are, of course, not without fault. We have more than our share of crime and of every other evil to be found on the earth. I fear that we have become an arrogant people, but when all is said and done, there is no other nation quite like this one.
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.)
In order to avoid a concentration of power in any one branch, the Founding Fathers created a system of government that provided checks and balances. Congress could pass laws, but the president could check these laws with a veto. Congress, however, could override the veto and, by its means of initiative in taxation, could further restrain the executive department. The Supreme Court could nullify laws passed by the Congress and signed by the president, but Congress could limit the court’s appellate jurisdiction. The president could appoint judges for their lifetime with the consent of the Senate.
The use of checks and balances was deliberately designed, first, to make it difficult for a minority of the people to control the government, and, second, to place restraint on the government itself.
As a means of emphasizing this during this Bicentennial year, we have prepared four Bicentennial family home evening lessons, which will be distributed to all Church members in the United States of America. We are asking fathers and mothers to teach the story of America to their children, to tell of its spiritual foundation, and to emphasize how that freedom can be preserved.
Do we dare ask ourselves if the United States, though cast in the role of a leader to preserve and strengthen world civilization, isn’t itself tottering internally because too many of its citizens have abandoned the virtues that comprised the basic format of its own civilization? For instance, if spiritual faith, courage, and the willingness of our forbears to work hard were the sustaining virtues, and if, solely because of them, they were able to create our own civilization, can we now in the United States substitute for these virtues the human weaknesses of selfishness, complacency, apathy, and fear — and still hope to survive as a civilized nation?
With all my heart I love our great nation. I have lived and traveled abroad just enough to make me appreciate rather fully what we have in America. To me the U. S. is not just another nation. It is not just one of a family of nations. The U. S. is a nation with a great mission to perform for the benefit and blessing of liberty-loving people everywhere.
What are these fundamental principles which have allowed the United States to progress so rapidly and yet remain free?
First, a written Constitution clearly defining the limits of government so that government will not become more powerful than the people.
The Mormon people who are citizens of [the United States of] America today are intensely loyal to its Constitution and desire in every way to promote the God-given freedoms it was designed to protect. They have had experience with the tragedy that results when those freedoms are not protected, but this only feeds their determination to do all within their power to protect these freedoms, both for themselves and others, everywhere.
Youth must never forget that this the government of the United States was established “According to the laws and constitution of the people, which (God) has suffered to be established. . . . That every man may act in doctrine and principle . . . according to the moral agency which (God) has given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.” It was to accomplish this lofty purpose basic to all liberty that God “established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom (he) raised up unto this very purpose.” (D&C 101:77–80.) Contained within the principles of that great heaven-inspired document is the message of this Church to the world in this fateful hour. Except the spirit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and principles contained within the Constitution of the United States are inherent in world plans now being formulated, they are but building on sand and the Lord is not in that building.
Some time ago the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve were engaged in a meeting of serious import, and I said something at that time unpremeditated, but I couldn’t have said it better had I taken a month to prepare it. I said: . . .
. . . We should not be concerned about finding out what is wrong with America, but we should be finding what is right about America and should be speaking optimistically and enthusiastically about America.
In such a system, the individual is told in effect, “You are free to make your life what you will, and we will try to see that you are rewarded for worthwhile service.” These lofty concepts did not spring from governments, but from the Creator Himself, penned into tenets for a stabilized government by men whom God raised up for this very purpose. The basic principles underlying these concepts of human government are contained in that great state paper, the Constitution of the United States of America. Written into the Constitution as we have it today are three prime safeguards:
1. There are unique restraints on power that governmental authority may exercise upon citizens, embodied in what is known as the Bill of Rights.
2. There is outlined a division of power between the federal and state governments.
3. There is defined a distinct separation of power among three branches of government—the executive, the legislative, and the judicial—in such a way as to provide checks and balances to control the exercise of governmental power.
In the wisdom of the Almighty, this ensign of liberty was raised to the nations to fulfill an ancient prophecy that “out of Zion [should] go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa 2:3). How could this be? The answer is clear: through the Constitution, kings and rulers and the peoples of all nations under heaven may be informed of the blessings enjoyed by the people of this land of Zion by reason of their freedom under Divine guidance, and be constrained to adopt similar governmental systems and thus fulfill the ancient law to which I have already referred.
My visits to underprivileged countries and among subjugated peoples who have placed their trust in governments of dominating men, rather than in governments of constitutional law, have shown me the importance and the great blessed privilege that is ours to live in this country where the basic law of the Constitution safeguards us in our God-given rights.
Some may enquire, is it right — is it lawful for another government to be organized within the United States, of a theocratical nature? Yes, perfectly so! Does not the constitution of our country guarantee to all religious societies the right of forming any ecclesiastical government they like? Certainly it does, and every intelligent man knows this to be the fact.
The nucleus of such a government is formed, and its laws have emanated from the throne of God, and it is perfect, having come from a pure fountain, but does this make us independent of the laws of the United States?
No, this new government does not come in contact with the government of the United States. In keeping our covenants and observing our religious laws and ceremonies, or the laws that God has given to the children of men, we are not required to violate the principles of right that are contained in the constitution and laws of the United States.
Many great and glorious principles are contained within the constitution of our country. We do not say that it is perfect, but it is perfect so far as it pertains to the rights and privileges of the children of men. But there is a nucleus of a government, formed since that of the United States, which is perfect in its nature, having emanated from a Being who is perfect.
No nation in the world has a constitution that was given to it by our Heavenly Father except the United States of America. I wonder if we appreciate that. The Lord gave us a rule of life for this great nation, and as far as we have lived up to it and taken advantage of it, the nation has grown, and the people have been blessed. But there are many people who prefer, or at least they seem to prefer, something else.
As one man said to me, “Why not try what Russia has tried and Germany has tried?” And my answer to him was, “Why try something that has already failed? Why not hold on to what the Lord has given?” The Constitution of the United States was written, it is true, by men, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and others who were their associates, but we have in this book that I have in my hand, the book of Doctrine and Covenants, a revelation in which the Lord tells us that the Constitution of the United States was prepared by men raised up by him for this very purpose.
As Latter-day Saints we ought to know that there is nothing better anywhere else. And so we should cleave to the Constitution of the United States and in doing so, earn the blessings of our Heavenly Father.
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.
The Lord raised up mighty men to establish the United States of America, and we became a nation. He gave us a glorious Constitution for our guidance and protection.
There are those who would destroy the Constitution of this land; and there are some who would rejoice if they could overthrow this Nation, not realizing that our heavenly Father has given us the best government on earth. No loyal member of this great Church will raise his voice against the government, but he will be found upholding it; he will be found praying for those who have been exalted to the office of presidency and for those who make the laws, under the Constitution.
So today in the midst of the difficulties that exist in the world, while there are transgressors of the laws of the land, and there are transgressors of the laws of God, in the midst of the conflict in which we are now engaged, this awful world war, it is a great joy and satisfaction to my soul that while there are those persons who are opposing this government set up by the power of God, there are no members of this Church in good standing but are sustaining the law and order and the government of the United States, so far as it lies in their power. There is one Church upon the continent of America that has been taught by God that this government has been raised up for the blessing of mankind. There is one Church whose members cannot remain in good fellowship in it if they criticize and find fault and tear down and oppose the legal action of the constituted authorities of the land, with reference to going into this war; and why? Because we have been trained by the gospel in a knowledge of the purpose of this government. We have been taught by inspired men, who have pointed the way, and all Israel, to a man, comes forward in the crucial hour and says: “If I am needed, Lord, here am I” [Abr 3:27]. If my country requires it, my all is on the altar, and my life if need be. God help us to be worthy of our heritage, help us to sustain the government that has been so good to us, that has made it possible for the establishment of this work. Let us sustain good men and great men everywhere, and pray for them as we are told to do in this same record. Pray for the chief executive of the Nation and his associates, asking God to inspire them to labor for the good of humanity and the liberty of mankind.
I wish to say this, there isn’t a feeling in my soul, nor in any fibre of my being that is disloyal to the government of the United States or to the desire that we have in our souls to maintain the principles of individual and National liberty, justice and freedom that have been established in the Constitution of our country. I believe in the Constitution of the United States. I believe in the principles which that instrument promulgates — the freedom of mankind to do right, to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, freedom to pursue their way in peace and to observe and maintain their rights, their freedom, their liberties, and justly recognize and equally preserve and defend their rights, freedom and liberty of their neighbors and of their fellow beings — and of all God’s creatures. I believe that the Constitution of the United States was and still is an inspired instrument. The Lord God Almighty inspired the minds that framed it, and I believe it ought to be most sacredly preserved. It is worthy of the defense and should be upheld by all the people of our land.
We love our country and pray for the perpetuity of its government, we support its institutions, we venerate the Constitution.
The Lord Almighty has prepared the way for the coming forth of the kingdom of God in this dispensation by establishing the republican government of the United States; a government affording the widest liberty and the greatest freedom to man that has ever been known to exist among men, outside of those governed by the direct communication of heaven. It was part of the design of the Almighty when He influenced our fathers to leave the old world and come to this continent; He had a hand in the establishment of this government; He inspired the framers of the Constitution and the fathers of this nation to contend for their liberties; and he did this upon natural principles, that the way might be prepared, and that it might be possible for Him to establish His kingdom upon the earth, no more to be thrown down.
We thank thee for this opportunity to show our love for these heroes who have accomplished such wonders for the beloved United States, which was founded by noble and inspired men.
They will sustain the constitution and laws and institutions of the United States, and be the champions of liberty and of that constitution when its integrity shall be threatened.
The Lord . . . has spoken concerning our Government and Constitution, and he has said — “Ye are justified in maintaining the Constitution and laws of the land, for they make you free, and the Gospel maketh you free; and you shall seek to sustain good and wise men for rulers, and whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil.” . . . The laws of Heaven command us not to uphold and sustain men, except they are good men, who will sustain the Constitution of our country; and we are fulfilling the revelations in this respect as in many others, and we are carrying out the requirements of the Constitution of the United States.
The young people asserted that it had been taught to them by their parents from their youth up, and that the principles of purity, virtue, integrity and loyalty to the government of the United States had been instilled into their minds and hearts since their earliest childhood.
There is one thing I wish to speak about here politically. “What do you think about the government of the United States,” so the people say. “What are your opinions?” I will tell you what I think about the Constitution. I have just the same opinion of it that Joseph Smith had, and he said it was given by inspiration of God. The men did not know this who wrote it; the men did not know it who adopted it; nevertheless it is true. There is an embodiment of principles contained therein that are calculated to bless and benefit mankind. “What do you think about the government of the United States as a government? I think it is a good deal ahead of most governments, but I think the administrators are apostatizing very fast from the principles that the fathers of this nation instituted.” It has become quite a question now-a-days, whether men can be preserved in their rights or not, whether men can worship God according to the dictates of their conscience or not, or whether we are living in a land of freedom or not. What is the matter? Why, they are like the religionist. How is it with them? They profess to believe in the Bible. They do believe it shut, but when you open it they deny it. The people of this nation profess to believe in the Constitution. They do until it comes to be applied to the people and then they do not. That is perhaps too broad a saying; but I will say there are many who feel like this—not all by a long way. There are thousands and tens of thousands who are imbued with the same principles as were the framers of the Constitution and who desire to see human freedom perpetuated. The principles of freedom and the love of human liberty have not quite died out of the hearts of all men in these United States. There is a respectable balance in favor of liberty and freedom and equal rights. . . . We would say to men who profess so much loyalty and patriotism to the government, be true to your institutions, be true to the Constitution of the United States, as we say to all our people to be true to the same. We expect the Latter-day Saints to be so, and to be subject to law, to avoid lawlessness of every kind and the interference with men’s rights in any shape.
We will sustain the government in its administration, and be true to it, and maintain this position right along. And when division, strife, trouble and contention arise, we will try to still the troubled waters, and act in all honesty as true friends to the government; and when war shall exist among them, and there is no one found to sustain the remnants of liberty that may be left, the Elders of Israel will rally round the standard of freedom and proclaim liberty to all the world.
We are under the United States, but the United States is not the kingdom of God. It does not profess to be under his rule, nor his government, nor his authority. Yet we are expected as citizens of the United States to keep the laws of the United States, and hence we are, as I said before, an integral part of the government, [sic] Very well, what is expected of us? That we observe its laws, that we conform to its usages, that we are governed by good and wholesome principles, that we maintain the laws in their integrity and that we sustain the government, and we ought to do it. But there is a principle here that I wish to speak about. God dictates in a great measure the affairs of the nations of the earth, their kingdoms and governments and rulers and those that hold dominion. He sets up one and pulls down another, according to his will. That is an old doctrine, but it is true to-day. Have we governors? Have we a president of the United States? Have we men in authority? Yes. Is it right to traduce their characters? No, it is not. Is it right for us to oppose them? No, it is not. Is it right for them to traduce us? No, it is not. Is it right for them to oppress us in any way? No, it is not. We ought to pray for these people, for those that are in authority, that they may be lead [sic] in the right way, that they may be preserved from evil, that they may administer the government in righteousness, and that they may pursue a course that will receive the approbation of heaven. . . .
. . . Well, shall we be governed by them? Yes. Shall we obey the law? Yes. Shall I as a citizen of this city obey the laws of this city? Yes. . . . Shall I cause trouble or speak evil of the mayor or city council or any of the administrators of the law? No, I ought to pray for them that they may lead aright and administer justice equitably and act for the welfare and interest of the community wherein they live and for whom they operate. Am I a citizen of the United States? Yes, and I ought to feel the same toward them.
We are told, however, that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty;” and as we possess the best Constitution and the best government in the world, let us preserve it, and transmit it intact, pure and unadulterated to our children.
Well, but do you not hold allegiance to the government of the United States also? Do you not believe in the laws and institutions thereof? Yes, we have always sustained and upheld them; and although we have had many very heavy provocations to make us feel rebellious and opposed to that government, yet we have always sustained it under all circumstances and in every position. When they tried to cut our throats, we rather objected to that, you know. We had some slight objection to have our heads cut off and be trampled under foot; we did not think it was either constitutional or legal. But when they took their swords away from our necks and said that we might enjoy the rights of American citizens, that was all we wanted.
There is, however, a kind of political heresy that we have always adopted. We have always maintained that we had a right to worship God as we thought proper under the constitution of the United States, and that we would vote as we pleased. But some people took a notion to say “they would be damned if we should.” We told them, however, that was a matter of their own taste; that we would seek to be saved and yet we would do it. It has always been a principle with us, and in fact is given in one of our revelations, “that he who will observe the laws of God need not transgress the laws of the land” [D&C 58:21]. . . . I am prepared to say that, as a population, as a people, as a Territory, we have always been loyal to the institutions of our government, and I am at the defiance of the world to prove anything to the contrary. When we left—I was going to say the United States—what did we leave for? Why did we leave that country? Was it because its institutions were not good? No. Was it because its constitution was not one of the best that was ever framed? No. Was it because the laws of the United States, or of the States where we sojourned, were not good? No. Why was it? It was because there was not sufficient virtue found in the Executive to sustain their own laws. That was the reason, gentlemen. Is this anything to be proud of? It is a thing that should make every honorable American hide his head in shame; and all reflecting, intelligent, and honorable men feel thus. . . .
But did we rebel? No, we did not act as the Southern States have done. We came here; and, in the absence of any other government, we organized a provisional state government, just the same as Oregon did before us. Thus, in the midst of this abuse heaped upon us, we showed our adherence to the institutions and constitution of our country. If bad men bore rule, if corrupt men held sway — men who had neither the virtue nor the fortitude to maintain the right and protect the institutions and constitution of this, shall I say, our once glorious country — if men could not be found who possessed sufficient integrity to maintain their oaths and their own institutions, there was a people here found of sufficient integrity to the constitution and institutions of the United States not to abandon them. . . . Still we have been true to our trust, to our integrity, and to the institutions and constitution of our country all the time in the midst of these things.
. . . Sometimes people think we are acting almost hypocritically when we talk of loyalty to the constitution of the United States. We will stand by that constitution and uphold the flag of our country when everybody else forsakes it. We cannot shut our eyes to things transpiring around us. We have our reason, and God has revealed unto us many things; but never has he revealed anything in opposition to those institutions and that Constitution, no, never; and, another thing, he never will.
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.
If there is a people within the pales of this nation that is worthy of the constitution, good laws and institutions of the American Government, it is this people called Latter-day Saints. It is the best earthly Government that ever was framed by man, and the true and righteous are alone worthy of it. It cannot long be administered by wicked hands. “When the wicked rule, the people mourn” (D&C 98:9).
If our present happy form of government is sustained, which I believe it will be, it will be done by the people I am now looking upon, in connection with their brethren and their offspring. The present Constitution, with a few alterations of a trifling nature, is just as good as we want; and if it is sustained on this land of Joseph, it will be done by us and our posterity. Our national brethren do not know how to do it. They are not capable of controlling their own passions, to say nothing of ruling a nation. What is the reign of a king who cannot control his passions? Will not his subjects sorrow? Yes, they will feel the weight of his wrath, and their backs will ache, and their heads will ache, and they will receive the lash from a heavy hand.
Is the form of the Government ruined? Has its form become evil? No; but the administrators of the Government are evil. As we have said many times, it is the best form of human government man ever lived under; but it has as corrupt a set to administer it as God ever permitted to disgrace his footstool.
The administrators of the Government of the United States violated every principle of the Constitution in the very act of making a war upon their own subjects; and if the laws of Congress were carried out, they would be treated as traitors to the Government. I was in Missouri through the troubles. Did this people transgress the law of that State or of the United States? Did they do anything to justly bring the wrath of that State or of the Government upon them? No. This people observed the laws of Missouri and the law of God more strictly than any other class.
The kingdom of God will be extended over the earth; and it is written, “I will make thine officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness” [Isa 60:17]. Is that day ever coming? It is; and the doctrine we preach leads to that point. Even now the form of the Government of the United States differs but little from that of the kingdom of God.
In our Government a President is elected for four years, and can be re-elected but once, thus limiting the time of any one person to but eight years at most. Would it not be better to extend that period during life or good behaviour; and when the people have elected the best man to that office, continue him in it as long as he will serve them? . . .
When the best man is elected President, let him select the best men he can find for his counselors or cabinet. . . . Our Father in heaven does not visit every place in person to guide and administer the law to the people, and to do this, that, and the other: he never did and never will; but he has officers, whom he sends when and where he pleases, giving to them their credentials and missions, as does our Government to our fellow-men here.
It is alleged and reiterated that we do not love the institutions of our country. I say, and have so said for many years, that the Constitution and laws of the United States combine the best form of Government in force upon the earth. But does it follow that each officer of the Government administers with justice? No; for it is well known throughout our nation that very many of our public officers are as degraded, debased, corrupt, and regardless of right as men well can be.
I repeat that the Constitution, laws, and institutions of our Government are as good as can be, with the intelligence now possessed by the people. But they, as also the laws of other nations, are too often administered in unrighteousness; and we do not and cannot love and respect the acts of the administrators of our laws, unless they act justly in their offices.
We as a people have more reason to respect, honor, love and cherish the Government of the United States, and her Constitution and free institutions than any other people upon the face of the earth.
It was observed this morning that the government of the United States was the best or most wholesome one on the earth, and the best adapted to our condition. That is very true. And if the constitution of the United States, and the laws of the United States, and of the several States, were honored by the officers, by those who sit in judgment and dispense the laws to the people, yes, had even the letter of the law been honored, to say nothing of the spirit of it, of the spirit of right, it would have hung Governors, Judges, Generals, Magistrates, etc., for they violated the laws of their own States. . . .
I say again that the constitution, and laws of the United States, and the laws of the different States, as a general thing, are just as good as we want, provided they were honored. But we find Judges who do not honor the laws, yes, officers of the law dishonor the law. Legislators and law makers are frequently the first violators of the laws they make. “When the wicked rule the people mourn” (D&C 98:9), and when the corruption of a people bears down the scale in favor of wickedness, that people is nigh unto destruction.