The Book of Mormon and the Constitution (notes)
W. Cleon Skousen. The Book of Mormon and the Constitution (notes). This is the outline and notes for a speech given the afternoon of January 14, 1990 at an L.D.S. Ward located at 5605 S. Vine, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Introduction: In a special solemn assembly of the Church, April 6, 1986, Ezra Taft Benson was sustained as President of the Church. In what might be called his inaugural address, President Benson said he would implore the Lord to remove the scourge and the judgment which is presently threatening the Church. The Lord had talked about this scourge and threatening judgment clear back in 1833. A body of missionaries had just returned from the field and were rejoicing to be home again. But the Lord was not happy with them. They had gone forth thinking they were preaching the fulness of the gospel. The Lord said this was a display of their own vanity. He said they had not learned the fulness of the gospel themselves. It must have been shocking to these Elders of the Church as the Prophet Joseph relayed the Lord’s message to them as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord said:
“And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received — which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
“And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written —
“That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.” 1
We Are Still Under Condemnation for Not Studying the Book of Mormon
Mormon had also anticipated the day when the members of the Church in our day would be worthy of a very special blessing the Lord wanted to bestow on them, but he knew this would not come until the modern Saints had achieved something which they have not yet achieved. Listen to Mormon as he was recording the teachings of the Savior to the Nephites:
“And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people; but behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people.
“And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
“And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.” 2
Because we have not yet received the large plates of Nephi, President Benson knows we are still under the condemnation of the Lord and threatened by a scourge and a judgment if we do not repent. The revelation in 1833 described what we must do. The Lord says we must remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments.
Beautifying the Spirit With the New Covenant
Of course, the former commandments were all set forth in the old covenant given to Moses. The Lord wants us to study the old covenant and those former commandments. Of course, the prophets in the Book of Mormon knew we would have the writings of Moses in the Bible, 3 so they said very little about the old covenant and the former commandments. What they concentrated on was the new covenant which came with Christ. The new covenant did not do away with the old covenant, 4 but Jesus commanded the Saints to beautify their spirits far above the requirements of the old law.
This beautification of the spirit is the new covenant. This is why the Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes which means the beautification of the spirit. The rest of the sermon tells how this can be accomplished. When we are living the Sermon on the Mount, we are living the new covenant.
We should point out that the Sermon on the Mount can be much better understood in the Book of Mormon than the New Testament, and therefore the Lord identifies the new covenant with the Book of Mormon rather than any other scripture.
We should also point out that the Sermon on the Mount is not easy to live. In fact it is the foundation for a Zion society such as the people of Enoch lived, also the people of Melchizedek in the City of Salem, as well as the Nephites during the first 300 years after they were taught by the resurrected Christ.
I think all of us realize we are not yet living on the highly spiritual level of those great people of the past, but that’s where the Lord wants us. He wants us to lift our sights, lengthen our stride, and quicken our pace. Until we do, we are still under condemnation.
Now listen to a few more lines from President Benson’s great inaugural address:
“Now, in the authority of the sacred priesthood in me vested, I invoke my blessing upon the Latter-day Saints and upon good people everywhere.
“I bless you … that God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown — and we will plead to the Lord that he will begin to lift the condemnation — the scourge and judgment. Of this I bear solemn witness.” 5
A Blessing Hitherto Unknown
II. What is the blessing hitherto unknown?
No doubt the blessing President Benson is talking about is the one promised by the Lord in 3 Nephi 21:22–25. There the Lord promises that if we will repent and cease to treat lightly the treasures of sacred knowledge we have received, the Lord will not only give us the large plates of Nephi containing all of the teachings of Jesus, but he will begin to lay the foundation for the New Jerusalem and establish cities of Zion from one end of America to the other.
To do this, we must sanctify the land as well as ourselves. America is the Lord’s land and he will not allow it to be desecrated. In fact, the Lord declared to the Book of Mormon prophets:
“For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fullness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.” 6
Then there follows the word of the Lord to the people who occupy America today:
“And this [warning] cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God — that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fullness come, that ye may not bring down the fullness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.” 7
America is Very Sacred to the Lord
America is very sacred to the Lord.
It was here that the Garden of Eden was planted.
It was here that Adam and Eve established their home at Adam-ondi-Adam after they were cast out of the Garden of Eden.
It was here they were first taught the gospel.
This is where Cain killed Abel.
This is where the City of Enoch was built, apparently comprising millions of people in a vast network of model cities. After 300 years this whole nation was translated. Paul refers to it in Hebrews 11:5.
This is where Noah built the ark and tried to warn the people of the great flood if they did not repent.
When Noah was 600, the Great Flood struck. According to Genesis chapter 5 plus Genesis 7:11 we know the flood engulfed the earth in 2344 B.C.
After the Great Flood, American continued to be the most choice part of the earth even thought it was not separate from the rest of the continental terrain at that time. The Book of Mormon makes this clear when it says:
“After the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof.” 8
But around 2250 B.C., in the days of Peleg, there was a great division of the tectonic plates which divided the land into continents and islands, so that America was thereafter considered a huge island by itself.
The Americas are the “Isles of the Sea”
The Book of Mormon says the prophet Isaiah knew about America and the Israelites scattered on the isles of the sea. In his book he frequently addresses himself to the “isles of the sea.” A typical example is Isaiah 49:1.
The Book of Mormon prophets were well aware that they were on an isle of the sea or a continent that had been separated from the mainland. As Jacob said:
“We have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.
“But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren.
“For behold, the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure.” 9
Three great migrations to America occurred after it became an “island.” First the Jaredites came across the Atlantic around 2200 B.C. Then the Nephites came across the Pacific around 600 B.C., and were followed by the Mulekites who came across the Atlantic a few years later. The Jaredites killed themselves off in civil war around 250 B.C. and the Nephites amalgamated with the Mulekites a short time later.
After Christ established a Zion society among the Nephites, they prospered for nearly 300 years just as the City of Enoch had done, however, the Nephites were not translated. They collapsed into seventy years of civil war just like the Jaredites. Their civilization was devastated, but those who survived gradually spread out across the continent until they numbered several million people. But they had lost their heritage and a curse descended on them as the prophets had foretold. From that time forward America was virtually a lost continent. Concerning this epoch of America history, the Lord had told Lehi:
“And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.” 10
The Discoveries of America
During the centuries which followed, America was discovered many times — by the Asiatics, the Chinese, the Scandinavians and the ancient sea kings. But none of these colonized this land. They came, made a few settlements, and then went away.
III. Nephi sees a vision of the coming of the Gentiles to America. He says:
“And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren….
“And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
“And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles … and it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise….
“And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance.” 11
Jesus had told the Nephites about these Gentiles and the great mission he had in store for them. He had said:
“For it is wisdom in the Father that they [the Gentiles] 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.” 12
It is significant that the Lord was compelled to set up a “free people” before he could restore the gospel. There was no place on the face of the earth where the restoration of the gospel could have survived. In fact, it barely survived in America.
IV. When the gospel was first restored it was called three things:
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
2. The Kingdom of God.
All three of these terms were used loosely to refer to the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
However, by 1833 Joseph Smith was beginning to realize that the Church and the Kingdom of God were not the same thing even though the Lord was in charge of both of them.
The Church was established by open revelation, the ministering of angels, and the laying on of hands by those in authority.
The Kingdom of God emerged through God’s inspiration but without open revelation, without the ministering of angels, and without the laying on of hands.
The Prophet Daniel Sees The Latter-day Kingdom Established
Clear back around 600 B.C. the Lord had revealed to Daniel how it would happen. You recall that the Babylonian emperor, Nebuchadnezzar had a nightmare in which he saw a terrible image with a head of gold, a chest of silver, a belly of brass, hips and legs of iron, and toes made of iron and miry clay. The Lord told Daniel that the image represented what turned out to be around 3,000 years of brutal, bloody dictatorships. The first would be Babylon represented by the head of gold. Then came Persia represented by the chest of silver. Next came Greece under Alexander the Great represented by the belly of brass. Finally came Rome, the kingdom of iron, which divided into the two legs of the Eastern and Western Roman empires. Out of the Roman empire developed the smaller weaker kingdoms represented by the toes of iron and miry clay.
Now, after all this, here is what the Lord told Daniel to relate to Nebuchadnezzar:
“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.
“Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” 13
The U.S. Constitution Is a Precursor for the Kingdom of God on Earth
The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, the development of the Kingdom of God cut out of the mountain without hands would go through two stages.
The first stage would be its emergence under inspiration without the laying on of hands. This would be the basis for the raising up of a “free people” under an inspired Constitution so that the gospel could be restored.
Then the gospel would be preached to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, 14 but the gospel could only “roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountains without hands shall roll forth.” 15
In other words, a wave of passion for freedom would have to permeate each nation before the gospel could be successfully preached among its people.
The Lord then revealed to his prophet that eventually catastrophic circumstances would be such that the entire fabric of Constitutional principles would be seriously threatened with extinction and the terrified people would begin to turn to those who had honored the Law of the Covenant for leadership and guidance. Joseph Smith was told that this would happen when the Constitution would be “on the brink of ruin.” In the midst of this crisis the prophet said the people of the covenant “will be the staff on which the nation will lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” 16
After that, the servants of the Lord will be in charge and set up a “general council” containing representation from both the members of the Church and those who are not. This general council will take the place of our present political parties to select the best qualified people for various positions. The names of these candidates will then be presented to the people with whom they will be working for approval. Joseph Smith received a revelation on exactly how this political system will work when the Kingdom of God is operating under the inspiration of God’s chosen servants.
V. In the light of this knowledge it will be better appreciated why the General Authorities have been urging the members of the Church to diligently study the Founding Fathers and the principles they were inspired to put into the Constitution.
Joseph Smith said: “The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner; it is to all those who are privileged with the sweets of liberty, like the cooling shades and refreshing waters of a great rock in a thirsty and weary land. It is like a great tree under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of the sun.” 17
Our Responsibility to Study the Constitution
President McKay said: “No greater immediate responsibility rests upon members of the Church, upon all citizens of this Republic and of neighboring Republics than to protect the freedom vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.” 18
President Kimball said: “We urge members of the Church and all Americans to begin now to reflect more intently on the meaning and importance of the Constitution, and of adherence to its principles, in giving strength not only to this country but to the entire family of nations…. There is a need to rededicate ourselves to the lofty principles and practices of our founding fathers.” 19
President Benson said: “We must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers…. 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.'” 20
The Remarkable Story of Christopher Columbus
It is interesting that from the very beginning, the spirit of inspiration whispered to various leaders that something marvelous was going to happen in America. For example:
Columbus told King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that his expedition that led to the discovery of the America was guided by the Lord. He wrote: “I came to your Majesty as the Emissary of the Holy Ghost.” 21
Columbus said that during his dangerous expeditions he felt the power of God giving him courage and strength: “The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and he bestowed upon me courage and understanding…. Our Lord with provident hand unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my enterprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed, but who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?” 22
Nearly 2,000 years before Columbus was born he was seen in vision by the young prophet, Nephi. He wrote: “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.” 23
Columbus is Aided by Moroni
The angelic companion of Columbus on his historic mission was the angel Moroni. In 1854, Apostle Orson Hyde gave a memorable address as part of the Fourth of July celebration. In one place he said:
“That same angel of God that appeared unto Joseph Smith, and revealed to him the history of the early inhabitants of this country … was with Columbus, and gave him deep impressions, by dreams and by vision, respecting this New World. Trammelled by poverty and by an unpopular cause, yet his persevering and unyielding heart would not allow an obstacle in the way too great for him to overcome; and the angel of God helped him — was with him on the stormy deep, calmed the troubled elements, and guided his frail vessel to the desired haven.” 24
Orson Hyde called Moroni “the guardian angel of America.” 25
In his journal, Columbus wrote: “Neither reason nor mathematics nor maps of the world were of any help to me…. But the words of Isaiah were completely fulfilled…. If you have faith, you may be very confident of victory.” 26
Isaiah seemed to sense what the Book of Mormon later verified, that much of Isaiah was about America and events of the last days. The parts he felt specifically applied to him as well as others, were these passages:
“Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from afar; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name…. I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth…. Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, and the silver and gold with them…. Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come to mind.” 27
It is interesting that Nephi, the most authoritative commentator on Isaiah, said Isaiah’s words should be interpreted as applying to the reader where appropriate. 28
After the discovery of America, Columbus thought perhaps the opening up of this wonderful new land would bring about the great new age referred to by Isaiah and John the Revelator. Columbus wrote in his journal:
“Of the new heaven and the new earth which the Lord made, and of which St. John writes in the Apocalypse, as the Lord told of it through the mouth of Isaiah, he made me the messenger, and he showed me the way.” 29
There is no doubt that Columbus was well aware that he was in on something big. When others would ridicule him he would repeat the words of St. Matthew:
“I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” 30
Columbus Hears the Voice of Moroni
Insofar as the record shows, Columbus was never allowed to see or converse with his angelic guardian, but he did get to hear his voice. Peter Marshall and David Manuel, the co-authors of The Light and the Glory, describe the incident as follows:
“In the basement reading room of Beinecke Library [at Harvard] we made the discovery which would prove to be the most exciting of the entire project. In Columbus’s journal, he described an incident which took place on his fourth and final voyage…. He heard a stern voice strongly rebuke him for self-pity. The voice reminded him that the Almighty had singled out him, of all the men in his age, for the honor of bearing the Light of Christ to a new world, had given him all that he had asked for, and was recording in heaven every event of his life!” 31
Here are the actual words which Columbus recorded concerning this remarkable vision. Columbus says the angel spoke to him on April 6, 1503 with a “compassionate voice,” and said:
“O fool, so slow to believe and to serve thy God, the God of all! What more did He do for Moses or for His servant David? He has had thee in His care from the mother’s womb. When he saw thee a grown man, He caused thy name to resound most greatly over the earth. He gave thee the Indies, which are so rich a part of the world, and thou hast divided them according to thy desire. He gave thee the keys to the gates of the Ocean, which were held with such great chains. Thou wast obeyed in many lands, and thou hast won a mighty name among Christians.
“What more did He do for the people of Israel when He led them out of Egypt, or for David, that shepherd boy whom He made king in Jewry.
“Turn thyself to Him, and acknowledge thy sins. His mercy is infinite. Thine old age shall not prevent thee from achieving great things, for many and vast are His domains.
“Abraham was more than hundred years old when he begat Isaac; and Sarah, was she a girl? Thou cried for help, with doubt in thy heart. Ask thyself who has afflicted thee so grievously and so often: God or the world?
“The privileges and covenants which God giveth are not taken back by him. Nor does He say to them that have served Him that He meant it otherwise, or that it should be taken in another sense; nor does He inflict torments to show His power. Whatever He promises he fulfills with increase [interest]; for such are his ways. Thus have I told thee what the Creator has done for thee, and for all men.
“He has now revealed to me some of those rewards which await thee for the many toils and danger which thou hast endured in the service of others.”
“I heard all this as if in a trance, but I could find no reply to give to so sure a message, and all I could do was to weep over my transgressions.
“Whoever it was that had spoken ended by saying: ‘Fear not, but have faith. All these tribulations are written upon tablets of marble, and there is reason for them.'” 32
Had Columbus only known it, the angel, who obviously appears to have been Moroni, was better acquainted with suffering and sorrow than the great Admiral of the Ocean Seas. It is interesting to contemplate what it must have been like when Columbus met this angel just a little over two years later. Columbus died on Ascension Day (forty days after Easter), 1506.
America is the “New Israel”
Not only did Columbus consider America “a new heaven and a new earth,” but so did many prominent leaders of Europe and America during the next three centuries.
Nearly all of the early settlers repeatedly stated that they knew they were on a mission and that America was the “new Israel” where the preparation for the millennium would take place.
Bishop Berkely in Ireland wrote a poem referring to the fact that the four major events spoken of by Daniel had already taken place, so it was now time for the stone cut out of the mountains without hands to roll forth.
Thomas Jefferson predicted that the original gospel of Jesus Christ would be reformed and restored in America. His only regret was that it would not occur in his lifetime. He made this statement in 1820.
It was anticipated that the New Jerusalem would be built in America.
These early Founders considered America to be the main base of operations for the Lord as he prepared the world for the ushering in of the Millennium.
It is interesting that the Lord said in 1833 that it was “for this very purpose have I established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this purpose.” 33
Notice that the Lord says: “I established the Constitution.” The Founders were merely instruments in the hands of the Lord. In fact, the Framers of the Constitution did such a superb job that the Lord commended them and said, “Anything that is more or less than this is evil.” No higher compliment could be paid a body of political engineers.
The Founders felt the Lord’s Spirit and talked about it. In his inaugural address George Washington said: “At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, Washington had called the final product a miracle. Madison also called it a miracle.”
Now the members of the Church are committed to three things:
1. Strengthen the Church.
2. Building up the Kingdom of God.
3. Establishing Zion.
Everyone will appreciate that up until recently it was assumed among the general membership of the Church that supporting and strengthening the Church was automatically Building up the Kingdom of God and establishing Zion. Now we learn that they are three different assignments. and the Church is under condemnation because we have not embraced the new covenant set forth in the Book of Mormon which tells us how to set up a righteous government and how to establish a Zion culture.
Strengthening the Church
VI. Strengthening the Church.
A. Strengthening the Church is threefold:
1. Getting the Saints to live the gospel by cleansing the inner vessel.
2. Perform the vicarious ordinances for those who are dead.
3. Perform the task of taking the gospel to the four corners of the earth, and flooding every nation kindred tongue and people with the Book of Mormon and the message of the restoration of the gospel. We have 39,000 missionaries in the field as of 1989. Before long the Church will need 100,000.
a. The opening up of Russia.
b. The opening up of China.
c. Opening up of Eastern Europe — Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Austria.
d. Opening of the Moslem world.
e. Opening of India.
f. Opening of Africa.
B. Preparing the Saints for leadership roles.