Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Constitution's Major Flaw, Notwithstanding

Latter-day Saint Constitutionalists have interpreted scripture pertaining to the Constitution of the United States in varying degrees. Some believe it itself is scripture, on par with the canonized Standard Works. Others have a looser (in my view correct) interpretation that only those parts “supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges” are inspired. It is the purpose of this article to point out the major, foundational flaw in the Constitution that is overlooked by many Latter-day Saint Constitutionalists. It is also the purpose of this article to point out how we can honor the Lord’s justification “in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.”

The Highest Degree

For argument sake, I will concede the highest degree of Latter-day Saint Constitutional interpretation that the Constitution should be regarded as scripture. This quote by the thirteenth President of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson, is an example of this belief, “I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed his stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land.” (“A Heavenly Banner”, 1986) This may or may not be a correct interpretation of President Benson’s words, but many have made the very same interpretation in defending the Constitution. In holding it up as the ideal, divinely sanctioned, standard of public government, they fail, however, in recognizing it’s major, real world, foundational flaw.

The Major Flaw

The United States Constitution is not a constitution to be implemented, enforced, amended, or preserved by angels. As James Madison, fourth President of the United States and one considered to be the “father of the Constitution,” said in the Federalist Papers, No. 51, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” And therein lies the Constitution’s flaw. It must be implemented, enforced, amended, and preserved by mere mortal men. Such a requirement is extremely likely to cause the Constitution to fail in it’s supposed purpose, to limit government to it’s proper role in preserving freedom. Indeed, this has been the case.

Conclusion

This major flaw notwithstanding, as Latter-day Saints and as citizens of the United States of America, we have on obligation to uphold the Constitution. How can we do this while still recognizing it’s real world application? By holding those who swear to defend the Constitution to their oath. The officers of our Federal Government promised to govern according to the rules set forth by the Constitution. For that we must make every effort to teach others what that means, and hold those officers to the promise that they made, thereby “befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.”