Several years ago, I decided to re-read the U.S. Constitution. I took one, then another American history textbook off my shelf. After perusing eight textbooks, I was shocked that none of them included the text of the U.S. Constitution and some not even the Declaration of Independence.
As I explain to students in my history classes, the Constitution of the United States — the Bill of Rights being its heart and soul — establishes the foundation upon which our freedoms and liberties depend. It is the basis for our laws and sets up a system of check and balances to prevent tyrannical rulers from oppressing others.
While Samuel Adams was a firebrand and eager for revolution, his cousin John Adams, one of the great Founding Fathers and second U.S. president, was slower to advocate separating from England because, as he rightly understood that “killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many” (see "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (three volumes, published in 1787), republished in the 10-volume "The Works of John Adams (1850-1856)," edited by his grandson Charles Francis Adams).
John Adams rightly perceived the conundrum facing revolutionaries: If a revolution succeeds, how does a new nation control the passions it spawned and avoid replacing one tyrant with another? To avoid doing so, Adams articulated the imperative of three key principles:
1. The sanctity of the rule of law.
2. That our laws be elaborated and remain constant by scrutinizing them against the tenets of the Constitution.
3. That “the only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure … they may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies” (see a letter) to Zabdiel Adams dated June 21, 1776, and in "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" (three volumes, published in 1787), republished in the 10-volume "The Works of John Adams" (1850-1856), edited by Charles Francis Adams).
For this grand and glorious experiment in liberty and government — by, for, and of the people — to endure, Adams exhorted, “Let (the Constitution) be the study … of lawgivers and philosophers, to enlighten the people's understandings and improve their morals, by good and general education; to enable (the people) to comprehend the scheme of government, and to know upon what points their liberties depend; to dissipate those vulgar prejudices and popular superstitions that oppose themselves to good government; and to teach them that obedience to the laws is as indispensable in them as in lords and kings” (see "The Works of John Adams"). He extolled teachers and mentors, “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom" (see "The Works of John Adams").
Anecdotally speaking, few students in my university classes have studied the U.S. Constitution, nor understand it as their defense against tyranny. Indeed, many have been imbued with a belief the Constitution is superfluous, even irrelevant today. That it is rarely found in American history textbooks, and little discussed in classrooms, should deeply concern every freedom-loving citizen of the United States.
Many prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have defended the Constitution as both protection against those seeking to destroy liberty and freedom, and as a glorious standard that, if followed, would bless all nations of the earth.
The Savior taught, “The 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. … I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren … in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land. … I, the Lord God, make you free … and the law also maketh you free” (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:4–9).
The Prophet Joseph Smith affirmed, “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth. … The Constitution … is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner; (and) … to all those who are privileged with the sweets of liberty … like a great tree under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of the sun” (see History of the Church, Vol. 6, pgs. 56–57, and "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith," compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Deseret Book, published 1938) and “A Standard of Freedom for This Dispensation,” by Jay M. Todd, Ensign, September 1987).
“I counsel you, I urge you, I plead with you,” President Heber J. Grant stated, “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” (see Conference Report, President Heber J. Grant, October 1944 and “A Standard of Freedom for This Dispensation”).25 comments on this story
President David O. McKay encouraged, “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” (see Conference Report, President David O. McKay, October 1939 and “A Standard of Freedom for This Dispensation”).
We would do well to take these inspired individuals’ counsel to heart, to study the Constitution, share its glorious principles with others, and stand resolute in its defense.