We, the People:
The Need for Constituent Wisdom and Influence
Who Will Save The Constitution?
Senator Hatch insists that he and Mitt Romney, with a few more conservatives in the Senate, will “turn this country around.” I hope they get the opportunity and I hope they do their parts well; however, President Benson taught differently:
“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 by the principles of the Constitution. . . . “
Democracy Requires an Informed Citizenry
The thing the Founders felt most strongly about regarding education was the need to teach the children morality, religion, and our foundation documents. We lost that vision a long time ago, and because the children were not taught in previous generations, today’s adults and politicians don’t know the truth either. We are close to losing our heritage and our culture.
The Saints are just as poorly educated about the Constitution as anyone else, and in addition we have the added problem of separating our church from our government, especially when politicians are Church members. We forget that the councils our elected officials sit in are not Church councils where the priesthood reigns. Our votes for elected officials are not sustaining votes but delegation-of-a-portion-of-our-own-God-given-authority votes, and in a sense employment offers. (Many who are voted into office to serve soon become career politicians, for better or worse.)
In a sustaining vote we recognize that the authority flows through the priesthood. We have no obligation to oversee the person and we aren’t personally held accountable for his performance. The authority of elected officials flows from “we, the people.” As a duty of citizenship we are responsible to hold them accountable against the standard to which they swore allegiance, the Constitution. (State constitutions generally follow the US Constitution.) God sanctions government as a blessing for man, but like fire, man needs to keep it under control.
In his April 1972 General Conference address, Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints, then-Apostle Ezra Taft Benson quoted J. Reuben Clark, Jr., First Counselor in the First Presidency, who said:
President Benson’s address is available on-line here, or you can search for it on lds.org.
Lesson #9: Citizens have responsibility to hold elected officials accountable to the Constitutional standard. To do that, we need to know our Constitution and the proper role of government.
Who will save the Politicians?
Unfortunately, those who are elevated to Federal government positions often begin to think that bigger government feels better. They think they are wise, and they decide on their own, some with the best of intentions and others with an inclination toward self-aggrandizement, to go beyond the bounds the Constitution – and if it is truly an inspired document, the Lord himself — have set. Sadly, we have a few examples:
Terrel Bell: According to Wikipedia, LDS educator T. H. Bell’s Washington career began with his service as Commissioner of Education in the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare from 1974–1976. He returned to Washington in 1981 to head the new Cabinet-level Department of Education under President Reagan. He was responsible for the 1983 A Nation At Risk report.
I have in my files a photocopied page from an unidentified book which says:
Federal aid does funny things to people. The experience of Terrel Bell, U.S. commissioner of education in the early 1970’s, is typical. Says Bell: “I came here feeling that education was almost exclusively a state responsibility. My view has shifted to where I feel education is vital to what this country is trying to accomplish, and it is the prime instrument for attaining our ideals. Congress and the federal statutes can no longer defer to the states and say ‘you take the lead.’ The federal government must guarantee certain rights, and in doing so, it should specify the ends of education and provide the financial support to meet those ends.”
“Congress can no longer defer.” So he takes it upon himself to change what the Founders did under inspiration? How did a good Mormon boy from Idaho, listening to fellow Idahoan Ezra Taft Benson expound on government their entire lives, get it so wrong? Who made education a right? By what constitutional authority does the federal government “specify the ends of education”? Or “provide the financial support”? And how does the federal government generate the money it doles out to the states? President Benson would say by “legalized plunder.”
Robert Bennett: Two years ago Utah Senator Robert Bennett was replaced by Mike Lee, a younger, more conservative man, in the Primary:
“Bennett, who had originally promised he’d stay only two terms in office, was seeking a fourth 6-year term. In spite of being introduced at the state convention by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Bennett lost. ‘The political atmosphere, obviously, has been toxic, and it’s very clear some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment,’ Bennett told reporters after the defeat. Choking up, he added, ‘Looking back on them, with one or two very minor exceptions, I wouldn’t have cast them any differently even if I’d known at the time it would cost me my career.’ — Washington Post
Note the word “career.”
Orrin Hatch: Senator Hatch was smart and began preparing right away for a similar challenge in 2012. He raised lots of money, organized a brilliant campaign, and was careful to vote more conservatively. Since he has said he will not be running again, he will have no need to campaign or worry about his voting record any more. There will be no external pressure to influence his behavior — unless the people stay engaged in the political process. We should also be prayerfully engaged to help him stay internally motivated. And we should do the same for all good office holders. They are up against the strongest of pressures.
Lesson #10: Politicians have a responsibility to stay connected to their constituents and explain their votes. Citizens who are educated, civil, engaged, and wise will be a force for good. Elected officials need the support of our righteousness, our influence, and our prayers.
“Let [us] seek for wisdom instead of power, and [we] will have all the power [we] have wisdom to exercise.” -Eliza R. Snow, Daughters of My Kingdom, p.45
You will save the Constitution
It just may be that in the process of learning the principles of government and applying those principles in our personal behavior and in civic life, we, the people, will change who we are and how we behave. As we do, America will then be worthy of the Divine help we need to save our Constitution, which was designed only for a “moral and religious people” (John Adams).
We have no right to expect a higher degree of morality from those who represent us than what we ourselves are. 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. — Ezra Taft Benson
Lesson #11: In the act of studying the proper role of government and applying the principles, our own natures will change. That change may have a power of its own.
There is no question that Senator Hatch will win in Utah. Utah’s electoral votes will go to Mitt Romney, and most Church members will vote for him. Many will vote in the hope of security; if we win the battle, they may think we have won the war and go home to rest. Please don’t be among them.
Voting is an interesting task, much like an essay test at the end of a course. Everyone’s essay is different, and The Teacher knows who did their homework and who only heard the sound bites and cast a shallow vote.
We’ve taken a journey in this writing, from campaign attack ads, to the hope of unity, to our own responsibilities. Recognizing that the November 2012 election is somewhat akin to a battle in the War in Heaven, it is time for Americans – especially homeschoolers — to study and engage with great seriousness. November isn’t far away, and we have a lot of work to do.
This has been a wonderful, surprising journey for me. Many weeks ago when I received the disturbing campaign mailer from Senator Orrin Hatch which made accusations against his opponent, Dan Liljenquist, I knew that the publication quoted as the source of the material would be unfamiliar to most people. I was also quite sure that the message of this very conservative organization had been misrepresented, and I felt sure that Orrin Hatch knew this too. So I read the article online and began preparing a quick rebuttal flier for my friend who was working hard on the Liljenquist campaign. But one piece of information led me to another, and another, and so on. I spent many hours over several weeks on the project, always finding something more I was driven to know. When I finally felt it was time to stop, I still had lingering questions: What does the Lord think about these various people we will be voting for? Who does He want to see in the White House? What about those good people who don’t want to vote for Romney as a matter of conscience?
Remembering the BYU Idaho address given in 2010 by Clayton Christensen about asking the right question, I wondered if I was missing something. I began looking harder for the right question. I began to wonder if maybe “moral and religious” was more important than “strict Constitutionalist.” In our wickedness, has America lost the privilege of freedom? Do we need to restore righteousness first? Would that be Romney’s real contribution? Then it seemed that “only for a moral and religious people” was continually popping into my view like a waving flag, in the books I picked up, in a cd chosen at random, in articles in my email basket. I decided I needed to listen to Elder Christensen again.
When I had listened to Elder Christensen’s BYU-I address before, I did so because I was studying his book, Disrupting Class, and I wanted to know him. I was listening in the context of education. This time I had a completely different experience. I heard things I hadn’t heard before. I was an exhilarating experience.
I really don’t have words to describe the difference in how I now understand what I already knew before, unless it is that I was taught by the Holy Ghost through this most humble, brilliant Harvard professor who learned a truth from an outside observer, a visiting Chinese Marxist economist. I know now, in my heart and in every cell and fiber of my being, that the protection and practice of our Christian religion is the first priority. The Constitution (democracy is the word he uses) can only follow Christian living; it cannot drive it. And I understand why.
Lesson #12: Religion and morality are inseparably connected to democracy. Democracy can only work with a people trained by their religion to be honest, moral, trustworthy, and kind. The test of a country’s ability to sustain Democracy is the willingness of the people to be obedient to the unenforceable.
God bless the Chinese Marxist for his insight.
Please, please watch Elder Christensen’s talk, The Importance of Asking the Right Question, BYUI, May 20, 2010. You may come to different conclusions, but I hope you have as beautiful an experience as I did. Brother Christensen taught that when we find the right question, the answer become obvious. It has for me. I hope it will for you.
Suggestions for getting your family engaged
The goal will be to help your children understand the reality, the seriousness, and the nature of the war Satan is waging against us and then to see and feel themselves as warriors in the spiritual and physical battle. Here are some sources beyond those found in the article:
Make the Chinese Marxist’s words about “obedience to the unenforceable” a part of your family vocabulary. This is the first step in restoring our Constitution. If you do watch Elder Christensen’s Devotional and would like the rough transcript I typed of this one segment, send me an email, email@example.com. (Use the comment in other situations as well – modesty comes to mind.)
- Watch and discuss the program, Discussions on the Book of Mormon Alma 43-50 on byutv.org. This program encourages us to get engaged in the spiritual battle and use stratagem where necessary.
- Glenn Beck is doing exactly what should be done. He is a peaceful warrior with an ingenious stratagem. His Restoring Love event in Dallas was magnificent. Over the course of three days, he brought ministers together, had 35,000 people performing service projects, entertained and taught 80,000 people, in a live show, about principles and history, and more. I strongly recommend that you sign up for Beck’s internet tv station where you can watch the whole event on demand. Then you can watch his shows between now and the election; you’ll have a ringside seat to the election, to history in the making, and to the building of a new culture. The cost is $10 a month. The first two weeks are a free trial; staying with it for three months will cost $30 and will take you through the election http://www.gbtv.com
- Constitution Day is September 17; read the document before then. Search the internet for President Benson’s addresses. For additional materials, my favorite source is http://nccs.net
We, the beloved beneficiaries, face difficult days in this beloved land, a land
which is choice above all other lands. It may also cost us blood before we are through. It is my conviction, however, that when the Lord comes the stars and stripes will be floating on the breeze over this people. May it be so, and may God give us the faith and the courage exhibited by those patriots who pledged their lives and fortunes that we might be free. — Ezra Taft Benson