I had quite a shock several years ago. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe the United States Constitution to be a divine standard crafted under the inspiration of Almighty God. The Lord declares in Doctrine and Covenants 101:80: “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose."
Because Doctrine and Covenants 20 and 22 are sometimes described as the “constitution” of the church, I decided to compare and contrast the framework and form of those sections of the Doctrine and Covenants against that of the U.S. Constitution.
Combined, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution concisely and sublimely articulate the theories, principles, doctrines and supreme law of our country and form the basis for determining the legitimacy of all our other laws. They undergird America's historical past. (Exquisite parallels exist, but that is something for another discussion.)
I opened the Doctrine and Covenants, then sought a copy of the Constitution. Because I teach U.S. history, I have many high school- and university-level American history textbooks. I reached for one and paged through in search of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. They were nowhere to be found. Surprised, I went to the next textbook, and the next and the next. Those documents were not included.
"How could this be?" I asked myself. To teach the history of the United States without close and careful study is like cutting a ship free from its anchor — with inevitably disastrous consequences.
Our great Founding Father John Adams understood how crucial it was to abide the Rule of Law, and thus his support for the Constitution — the ultimate law of the land. Indeed, during the tumult of the American Revolution, Adams' greatest fear was that without carefully constructed laws, without obedience to the Rule of Law, America would simply end up replacing one form of tyranny with another.
Like the beating of a drum, he reiterated this concept throughout his life. In 1775, Adams penned an article titled, "The Rule of Law and the Rule of Men,” defending the principle that our country be based on the Rule of Law.
On March 5, 1770, British sentries in Boston fired on a threatening crowd. When the dust settled five colonists were dead, and British Capt. Preston and eight soldiers were arrested and charged with murder. Adams agreed to represent them. He was vilified by fellow revolutionaries for doing so but, based on his long-standing belief in the Rule of Law, he knew that the soldiers were not only entitled to a defense but, from his gathering of the facts, they had not violated the law.
In his remarks to the jury he explained, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence.” Adams reminded the jury that they needed to decide the case based on the law and not on their prejudices — to determine if the law had been violated.
Capt. Preston and his men were acquitted.
Adams later wrote, “The part I took in defense of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers (was) one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country. Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the evidence was, the verdict of the jury was exactly right.”
It is chilling when citizens of the United States are not taught, are discouraged from and are punished for teaching or learning about the Constitution. Without adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law the safety and security of our nation and the rights of its people are in jeopardy.
The Lord made clear the role of the Constitution in the lives of U.S. citizens. The “laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77).
The Constitution was inspired of God in defense of human liberty and freedom. It is the herald of liberty in the world today, not only for citizens of the United States but for people around the world, and we must do our part to defend its precepts and principles.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World." She teaches part-time at BYU. Her views do not necessarily represent those of BYU. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org