Utah People's Party

…proclain liberty through out all the land….(Leviticus 25:10)

Constitutionalism

Much of the discussion below either quotes from or comments on

Ensign February 1992

THE DIVINELY INSPIRED CONSTITUTION

BY ELDER DALLIN H. OAKS

Of the Quorum of the Twelve

This article from over two decades ago is a great example of the insights that are readily available to us from inspired men. Citizens who take seriously their responsibility to become well informed on matters of politics and government can find a treasure trove of wisdom with astonishing ease by starting their search on LDS.org where we found this article. Elder Oaks begins–

Not long after I began to teach law, an older professor asked me a challenging question about Latter-day Saints’ belief in the United States Constitution. Earlier in his career he had taught at the University of Utah College of Law. There he met many Latter-day Saint law students. “They all seemed to believe that the Constitution was divinely inspired,” he said, “but none of them could ever tell me what this meant or how it affected their interpretation of the Constitution.” I took that challenge personally, and I have pondered it for many years.

Regrettably back then LDS law students had no answer to the question, “What does it mean to say that the Constitution is inspired?” On the other hand, Elder Oaks’ response is an example worthy of imitation by other citizens. He pondered this important question for many years. After citing some of his experiences, Elder Oaks Continues–

My conclusions draw upon those experiences and upon a lifetime of studying the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets. My opinions on this subject are personal and do not represent a statement in behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Creation and Ratification

The United States Constitution was the first written constitution in the world. It has served Americans well, enhancing freedom and prosperity during the changed conditions of more than two hundred years. Frequently copied, it has become the United States’ most important export. After two centuries, every nation in the world except six have adopted written constitutions, (See “The Constitution,” Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1987, pp. 97, 126.) and the U.S. Constitution was a model for all of them. No wonder modern revelation says that God established the U.S. Constitution and that it “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles.” (D&C 101:77.)

Just as Elder Oaks believes that the rest of the world has benefited from the United States as a model of virtue and freedom, so the Utah People’s Party believes that the rest of the United States will benefit from Utah as a model of virtue and freedom. Elder Oaks continues–

Inspiration

… what is there in the text of the Constitution that is divinely inspired?

Reverence for the United States Constitution is so great that sometimes individuals speak as if its every word and phrase had the same standing as scripture. Personally, I have never considered it necessary to defend every line of the Constitution as scriptural. For example, I find nothing scriptural in the compromise on slavery or the minimum age or years of citizenship for congressmen, senators, or the president….

People’s Party members are not among the individuals whom Elder Oaks refers to who “…speak as if its every word and phrase [of the United States Constitution] had the same standing as scripture.” Rather we see Scripture and Constitution as having fundamentally distinct natures in the sight of God. This distinction can be best understood after learning some great fundamentals that Elder Oaks discusses in his article so back to Elder Oaks and what in the Constitution is divinely inspired–

On my list there are five great [divinely inspired] fundamentals.

The People’s Party agrees with each one of Elder Oaks’ five fundamentals and all five are discussed below. Below Elder Oaks quotes “President Clark” (J. Rueben Clark) who was at one time the chief lawyer of the U. S. State Department and later a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Separation of powers

1. Separation of powers. The idea of separation of powers was at least a century old. The English Parliament achieved an initial separation of legislative and executive authority when they wrested certain powers from the king in the revolution of 1688. The concept of separation of powers became well established in the American colonies. State constitutions adopted during the Revolution distinguished between the executive, legislative, and judicial functions. Thus, a document commenting on the proposed Massachusetts Constitution of 1778, speaks familiarly of the principle “that the legislative, judicial, and executive powers are to be lodged in different hands, that each branch is to be independent, and further, to be so balanced, and be able to exert such checks upon the others, as will preserve it from dependence on, or a union with them.” (Quoted in Gerhard Casper, “Constitutionalism,” Occasional Papers from the Law School, The University of Chicago, no. 22 (1987).)

Thus, we see that the inspiration on the idea of separation of powers came long before the U.S. Constitutional Convention. The inspiration in the convention was in its original and remarkably successful adaptation of the idea of separation of powers to the practical needs of a national government. The delegates found just the right combination to assure the integrity of each branch, appropriately checked and balanced with the others. As President Clark said:

“It is this union of independence and dependence of these branches—legislative, executive and judicial—and of the governmental functions possessed by each of them, that constitutes the marvelous genius of this unrivaled document. … As I see it, it was here that the divine inspiration came. It was truly a miracle.” ( Church News, 29 Nov. 1952, p. 12, quoted in Hillam, “By the Hands of Wise Men,” p. 48.)

Now days the ruling class in America pays lip service to Separation of Powers but excuses itself from practicing that separation. The People’s Party denounces as unconstitutional those executive orders that purport to bind persons just as laws do. A Law by any other name is still a law and as such requires the approval of the legislative branch of government. Federal courts also frequently exercise unconstitutional legislative powers when they declare unconstitutional state laws that do not violate any provision of the Constitution as correctly interpreted. The practical effect of these creative interpretations of the Constitution is like the judicial branch of the federal government deciding to make itself an additional house of the legislature of every state.

Bill of Rights

2. A written bill of rights. This second great fundamental came by amendment, but I think Americans all look upon the Bill of Rights as part of the inspired work of the Founding Fathers. The idea of a bill of rights was not new. Once again, the inspiration was in the brilliant, practical implementation of preexisting principles. Almost six hundred years earlier, King John had subscribed the Magna Charta, which contained a written guarantee of some rights for certain of his subjects. The English Parliament had guaranteed individual rights against royal power in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Even more recently, some of the charters used in the establishment of the American colonies had written guarantees of liberties and privileges, with which the delegates were familiar.

I have always felt that the United States Constitution’s closest approach to scriptural stature is in the phrasing of our Bill of Rights. Without the free exercise of religion, America could not have served as the host nation for the restoration of the gospel, which began just three decades after the Bill of Rights was ratified. I also see scriptural stature in the concept and wording of the freedoms of speech and press, the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, the requirements that there must be probable cause for an arrest and that accused persons must have a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, and the guarantee that a person will not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. President Ezra Taft Benson has said, “Reason, necessity, tradition, and religious conviction all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights.” (Ezra Taft Benson, The Constitution, a Heavenly Banner, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986, p. 6.)

The Declaration of Independence had posited these truths to be “self-evident,” that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights,” and that governments are instituted “to secure these Rights.” This inspired Constitution was established to provide a practical guarantee of these God-given rights (see D&C 101:77), and the language implementing that godly objective is scriptural to me.

We agree with Elder Oaks that the rights protected by the Bill of Rights are sacred. The Bill of Rights was written to make clear some limits on the powers of the federal government. Remember that according to the declaration of independence, which we quote elsewhere, the legitimate mission of the Federal government is to secure God given rights. For that government to be itself the violator of sacred rights is not fulfillment of its legitimate mission but rather defiance of its legitimate mission. What could be more fundamentally wrong than that?

Division of Powers or Federalism

3. Division of powers. Another inspired fundamental of the U.S. Constitution is its federal system, which divides government powers between the nation and the various states. Unlike the inspired adaptations mentioned earlier, this division of sovereignty was unprecedented in theory or practice. In a day when it is fashionable to assume that the government has the power and means to right every wrong, we should remember that the U.S. Constitution limits the national government to the exercise of powers expressly granted to it. The Tenth Amendment provides:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.”

This principle of limited national powers, with all residuary powers reserved to the people or to the state and local governments, which are most responsive to the people, is one of the great fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution.

The particular powers that are reserved to the states are part of the inspiration. For example, the power to make laws on personal relationships is reserved to the states. Thus, laws of marriage and family rights and duties are state laws. This would have been changed by the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.). When the First Presidency opposed the E.R.A., they cited the way it would have changed various legal rules having to do with the family, a result they characterized as “a moral rather than a legal issue.” ( First Presidency letter of 12 Oct. 1978. ) I would add my belief that the most fundamental legal and political objection to the proposed E.R.A. was that it would effect a significant reallocation of law-making power from the states to the federal government.

The current ruling class has forgotten completely that under the Constitution a state is mostly a self governing entity. The Utah People’s Party is not satisfied with statehood is name only and works diligently to implement the tenth amendment to the U. S. Constitution, an amendment that Elder Oaks quotes above.

Popular Sovereignty

4. Popular sovereignty. Perhaps the most important of the great fundamentals of the inspired Constitution is the principle of popular sovereignty: The people are the source of government power. Along with many religious people, Latter-day Saints affirm that God gave the power to the people, and the people consented to a constitution that delegated certain powers to the government. Sovereignty is not inherent in a state or nation just because it has the power that comes from force of arms. Sovereignty does not come from the divine right of a king, who grants his subjects such power as he pleases or is forced to concede, as in Magna Charta. The sovereign power is in the people. I believe this is one of the great meanings in the revelation which tells us that God established the Constitution of the United States,

“That every man may act … according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

“Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land.” (D&C 101:78–80.)

In other words, the most desirable condition for the effective exercise of God-given moral agency is a condition of maximum freedom and responsibility. In this condition men are accountable for their own sins and cannot blame their political conditions on their bondage to a king or a tyrant. This condition is achieved when the people are sovereign, as they are under the Constitution God established in the United States. From this it follows that the most important words in the United States Constitution are the words in the preamble: “We, the people of the United States … do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

President Ezra Taft Benson expressed the fundamental principle of popular sovereignty when he said, “We [the people] are superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around.” (Benson, The Constitution, a Heavenly Banner, p. 7.)

The Book of Mormon explains that principle in these words:

“An unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness. …

“Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws. …

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.” (Mosiah 29:23–26.)

Popular sovereignty necessarily implies popular responsibility. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king or other sovereign, all citizens must share the burdens and responsibilities of governing. As the Book of Mormon teaches, “The burden should come upon all the people, that every man might bear his part.” (Mosiah 29:34.)

President Clark’s third great fundamental was the equality of all men before the law. I believe that to be a corollary of popular sovereignty. When power comes from the people, there is no legitimacy in legal castes or classes or in failing to provide all citizens the equal protection of the laws.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not originate the idea of popular sovereignty, since they lived in a century when many philosophers had argued that political power originated in a social contract. But the United States Constitution provided the first implementation of this principle. After two centuries in which Americans may have taken popular sovereignty for granted, it is helpful to be reminded of the difficulties in that pioneering effort.

To begin with, a direct democracy was impractical for a country of four million people and about a half million square miles. As a result, the delegates had to design the structure of a constitutional, representative democracy, what they called “a Republican Form of Government.” (14. U.S. Constitution, Art. IV, Sec. 4.)

The delegates also had to resolve whether a constitution adopted by popular sovereignty could be amended, and if so, how.

Finally, the delegates had to decide how minority rights could be protected when the government was, by definition, controlled by the majority of the sovereign people.

A government based on popular sovereignty must be responsive to the people, but it must also be stable or it cannot govern. A constitution must therefore give government the power to withstand the cries of a majority of the people in the short run, though it must obviously be subject to their direction in the long run.

Without some government stability against an outraged majority, government could not protect minority rights. As President Clark declared:

“The Constitution was framed in order to protect minorities. That is the purpose of written constitutions. In order that the minorities might be protected in the matter of amendments under our Constitution, the Lord required that the amendments should be made only through the operation of very large majorities—two-thirds for action in the Senate, and three-fourths as among the states. This is the inspired, prescribed order.” ( J. Reuben Clark: Selected Papers on Religion, Education, and Youth, ed. David H. Yarn, Jr., Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1984, p. 165.)

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention achieved the required balance between popular sovereignty and stability through a power of amendment that was ultimately available but deliberately slow. Only in this way could the government have the certainty of stability, the protection of minority rights, and the potential of change, all at the same time.

The popular sovereignty referred to above is the right of the general citizenry, including the supporters of every party or no party, to set limits on the powers of government and to hold government officials accountable. The People’s Party shows its seriousness about popular sovereignty by eliminating the devises that the elite of the major parties use to dilute the ability of the rank and file party members to set limits on the authority of those elites or hold the elites accountable. For example, the major parties allow their convention delegates to keep every vote they cast at conventions a secret from the rank and file party members who are their constituents thus making it impossible for the constituents find out about a vote cast against their wishes. In contrast, the People’s Party does not allow any person of elite status in the party to keep any decision secret from the party members. It often happens that a person serves as a party officer first and then later becomes a candidate for public office. Such a person is much more likely to respect the sovereignty of the citizenry as a government official if he had to respect the ownership and control of the party membership when a party officer. On the other hand a person who could get away with anything as a party officer is likely based no that experience to expect to get away with anything later as a government official.

Rule of Law

5. The rule of law and not of men. Further, there is divine inspiration in the fundamental underlying premise of this whole constitutional order. All the blessings enjoyed under the United States Constitution are dependent upon the rule of law. That is why President J. Reuben Clark said, “Our allegiance run[s] to the Constitution and to the principles which it embodies, and not to individuals.” (16. Ibid., p. 43.) The rule of law is the basis of liberty.

As the Lord declared in modern revelation, constitutional laws are justifiable before him, “and the law also maketh you free.” (D&C 98:5–8.) The self-control by which citizens subject themselves to law strengthens the freedom of all citizens and honors the divinely inspired Constitution.

The Lord’s authorized representatives speak repeatedly of the duties of citizens. They do so because God blesses us with good government when we are worthy of good government. Responsible citizenship is what makes us worthy of good government. This is one of the most basic teachings of the prophets and of the People’s Party. Good government cannot be provided to passive citizens because the right politician won an election or because the worst possible candidate did not win a election. Bad politicians and bad government are the symptoms. Bad citizens are the disease. The cure is the repentance of the citizens.

Citizen Responsibilities

U.S. citizens have an inspired Constitution, and therefore, what? Does the belief that the U.S. Constitution is divinely inspired affect citizens’ behavior toward law and government? It should and it does.

U.S. citizens should follow the First Presidency’s counsel to study the Constitution. (First Presidency letter of 15 Jan. 1987.) They should be familiar with its great fundamentals: the separation of powers, the individual guarantees in the Bill of Rights, the structure of federalism, the sovereignty of the people, and the principles of the rule of the law. They should oppose any infringement of these inspired fundamentals.

They should be law-abiding citizens, supportive of national, state, and local governments. The twelfth Article of Faith declares:

“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

The Church’s official declaration of belief states:

“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them. …

“We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside.” (D&C 134:1, 5.)

Those who enjoy the blessings of liberty under a divinely inspired constitution should promote morality, and they should practice what the Founding Fathers called “civic virtue.” In his address on the U.S. Constitution, President Ezra Taft Benson quoted this important observation by John Adams, the second president of the United States:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” ( Benson, The Constitution, a Heavenly Banner, p. 23.)

Similarly, James Madison, who is known as the “Father of the Constitution,” stated his assumption that there had to be “sufficient virtue among men for self-government.” He argued in the Federalist Papers that “republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.” ( The Federalist, no. 55.)

It is part of our civic duty to be moral in our conduct toward all people. There is no place in responsible citizenship for dishonesty or deceit or for willful law breaking of any kind. We believe with the author of Proverbs that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34.) The personal righteousness of citizens will strengthen a nation more than the force of its arms.

Citizens should also be practitioners of civic virtue in their conduct toward government. They should be ever willing to fulfill the duties of citizenship. This includes compulsory duties like military service and the numerous voluntary actions they must take if they are to preserve the principle of limited government through citizen self-reliance. For example, since U.S. citizens value the right of trial by jury, they must be willing to serve on juries, even those involving unsavory subject matter. Citizens who favor morality cannot leave the enforcement of moral laws to jurors who oppose them.

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