The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner

I have recently been reading a  book entitled, “The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner“.  This book is a collection of Constitutional relates speeches by Ezra Taft Benson, David O. McKay, J. Reuben Clark, Jr. and Bruce R. McConkie.

The book gets its name from a speech by Ezra Taft Benson given at the Marriot Center at Brigham Young University on September 16, 1986.  I would like to talk about this speech, and give what I feel are the bullet points or highlights of the speech.  You can get a copy of the speech in HTML, or MP3 format by following this link: http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=87.   I suggest you purchase the book, it includes more than this speech, as well as a bunch of others about the constitution.

“We pay honor – honor to the document itself, honor to the men who framed it, and honor to the God who inspired it and made possible its coming forth.”  – Ezra Taft Benson

Benson first defines some principles that are “eternal principles” that he believes we need to understand in order to study the constitution.  These principles “have their beginnings in the premortal councils of heaven.”

  1. Agency – “Shall the children of God have untrammelled agency to choose the course they would follow, whether good or evil, or shall they be coerced and forced to be obedient … one of Lucifer’s primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of governments.  Proof of this is found in the long history of humanity.”
  2. Role of Government – “… the most important single function of government is to secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens.”
  3. Source of basic human rights – “rights are either God-given as part of the divine plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan.”
  4. People are superior to the governments they form – “It cannot claim the power to redistribute money or property nor to force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will.  Government is created by the people.  No individual possesses the power to take another’s wealth or to force others to do good, so no government has the right to do such things either.”

Benson then tells us that the Constitution was inspired of God.  He then suggests that we read the book by Elder Mark E. Petersen titled, “The Great Prologue” – Salt Lake City – Deseret Book Co., 1975

“Every true American and true friend of liberty should love our inspired Constitution.  Its creation was a miracle.”

Benson, then discusses some of the “major provisions” for the Constitution itself.  He lists five that he views as “being crucial to the preservation of our freedom.”

  1. Sovereignty lies in the people themselves- “The Founding Fathers believed in common law, which holds that true sovereignty rests with the people”
  2. To safeguard these rights, the Founding Fathers provided for the separation of powers among the three branches of government – the legislative, the executive, and the judicial – “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.”
  3. The powers the people granted to the three branches of government were specifically limited – “The Founding Fathers well understood human nature and its tendency to exercise unrighteous dominion when given authority.  A Constitution was therefore designed to limit government to certain enumerated functions, beyond which was tyranny.”
  4. Our constitutional government is based on the principle of representation – “The intent was to protect the individual’s and the minority’s right to life, liberty and the fruits of their labors – property.  These rights were not to be subject to majority vote.”
  5. The Constitution was designed to work only with a moral and righteous people.

“It is now two hundred years since the Constitution was written.  Have we been wise beneficiaries of the gift entrusted to us?  have we valued and protected the principles laid down by this great document?

At this bicentennial celebration we must, with sadness, say that we have not been wise in keeping the trust of our Founding Fathers.  For the past two centuries, those who do not prize freedom have chipped away at every major clause of our Constitution until today we face a crisis of great dimensions.”

He then cites two examples.  First, are the number of federal agencies that have been created.  Benson states that these are unconstitutional because they give the agencies the ability to “make rulings, enforce rulings, and adjudicate penalties when rulings are violated.”   (Off the top of my head I can think of a bunch of them, the DEA, Homeland Security, and the newly created ObamaCare.)  Second, he talks about recent trends in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Benson then gives four things we must do to preserve the Constitution.

  1. We must be righteous and moral.
  2. We must learn the principles of the Constitution and then abide by its precepts.
  3. We must become involved in civil affairs. (D&C 98:8-11)
  4. We must make our influence felt by our vote, and letters, and our advice

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