The Lord has said, “Be one; and if you are not one, ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). Yet, the word “unity” in regard to anything political seems an oxymoron. People often jokingly say the two topics to steer away from if you want to avoid contention are politics and religion. This isn’t a practical standard for those of us who want to strengthen each other in our religious views and stand firm in our political convictions.
Even in the Church, however, people see things so differently and come from various points of the political spectrum, almost any political discussion can easily become contentious. When it comes to politics, then, how can Latter-day Saints find unity? Is it possible to focus on what we agree on, uniting together behind what gives us strength?
Political unity has never been easily achieved. Once America declared its independence from the British on July 4, 1776, our patriotic forefathers were anxious for unity. Does that mean they immediately united in support of the Constitution? No. Achieving ratification was a long-fought battle. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution in December 1787; Rhode Island was the last, not ratifying until May of 1990.
So why should we, as members of Christ’s church see the Constitution as a document that can unite us? I found answers to that question in a talk my son, Scott Hanks, gave in a Sacrament Meeting. The quotes and ideas he used greatly impressed me, so I have asked his permission to share some of them.
He included the thought-provoking challenge that, regardless of other political persuasions, we can safely unite behind the Constitution because the Lord caused the Constitution to be established. Consider the following verses found in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 101, verses 77 and 80, which states: “According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; . . . And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.” Could we find a better reason to unite in support of a document than that?
Scott reminded us of the power of President Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, “Our Divine Constitution,” given during the 1987 October General Conference. He shows us clearly why we should unite in maintaining and protecting this inspired document. Taking into consideration the current state of our country, this talk is so important that I am going to quote from it at length. Note that the following eight paragraphs are direct quotes from President Benson. (Note the single quotes to show those President Benson quoted, and that I have left his sources embedded in the text.)
“Our Father in Heaven planned the coming forth of the Founding Fathers and their form of government as the necessary great prologue leading to the restoration of the gospel. Recall what our Savior Jesus Christ said nearly two thousand years ago when He visited this promised land: For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth’ (3 Ne. 21:4). America, the land of liberty, was to be the Lord’s latter-day base of operations for His restored church.
“The Declaration of Independence affirmed the Founding Fathers’ belief and trust in God in these words: We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’
“The Doctrine and Covenants states, We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life’ (D&C 134:2). Life, liberty, property-mankind’s three great rights.
“Unfortunately, we as a nation have apostatized in various degrees from different Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired founders. We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction’ (19 July 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; ms. in Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City).
“Only in this foreordained land, under its God-inspired Constitution and the resulting environment of freedom, was it possible to have established the restored church. It is our responsibility to see that this freedom is perpetuated so that the Church may more easily flourish in the future. The Lord said, Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land’ (D&C 98:6).
“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.
“John Adams said, Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other’ (The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851, 4:31). If the Constitution is to have continuance, this American nation, and especially the Latter-day Saints, must be virtuous. The Book of Mormon warns us relative to our living in this free land: Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever’ (2 Ne. 1:7). And now,’ warned Moroni, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity’ (Ether 2:9).
“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?” (End of President Benson’s Quotes.)
We can ask ourselves: “If we are not supposed to rely on the arm of flesh, and if we are supposed to separate ourselves from Babylon, then why are we counseled to be involved in politics, which can so easily put us at odds with these goals? Scott suggested it is because if we can, through the Constitution, protect our right to “life, liberty and property,” then the world can go its way, destroy itself if it must, and we need not take part in its sins.
Neither should we attempt to force others to make correct decisions. Satan’s plan to use force was soundly rejected.
Instead, Scott recommended that we take the advice of President Benson (returning to ideas from his talk) and befriend the Constitution by:
2.Learning the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers. President Benson said, “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? As Jefferson said, If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be'” (Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, 6 Jan. 1816). Especially considering material readily available on the Internet, we now have easy access to resources that can assist us in learning the fundamentals of the Constitution.
3.Becoming involved in civic affairs to see that we are properly represented. The Lord said that “he holds men accountable for their acts in relation” to governments “both in making laws and administering them” (D&C 134:1). The Lord counsels us: “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” (D&C 98:10). How do you know if someone is wise? We can ask ourselves this: Do they vote or preach against our right to life, liberty or property? Do they carry through with promises to defend the Constitution? Daniel Webster said, “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions.”
4.Making our influence felt by our vote, letters, teaching, and our advice. Once accurately informed we can then let others know how we feel. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound. Tis right, politically, for a man who has influence to use it. … From henceforth I will maintain all the influence I can get'” (History of the Church, 5:286). The Prophet Joseph states we must become accurately informed. In this age of information there’s no reason to rely on only one source. By comparing information from multiple sources we can find more complete context and more easily spot inconsistencies that might not be readily apparent in, for example, just one newspaper article.
5.Have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. President Benson said it will be saved by the righteous citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. That it will be saved by “enlightened members of this Church-among others-men and women who understand and abide the principles of the Constitution.” (End of ideas from President Benson’s talk.)
Note that others besides members of our church will help save the Constitution. It would seem wise to support all those who understand and abide its principles, not merely preach it. Remember, unity is the goal. Unity requires discourse, which inevitably involves differing opinions.
As we become more educated concerning the Constitution, line upon line, and precept upon precept we can be more united behind it. I pray that we will desire and strive to do so.
Author’s note: visit my website darlaisackson.com to learn more about my books Trust God No Matter What! and After My Son’s Suicide: an LDS Mother Finds Comfort in Christ and Strength to Go On. Both are available both in print and e-book format.