The setting was Kirtland, Ohio, December 16, 1833. A little more than three years earlier, Joseph Smith and a small group of those who believed as he did organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to today as Mormons.
Because of their religious beliefs, early members of the church endured much persecution — persecution that resulted in the loss of life, liberty, and property. Indeed, mobs had only recently driven the Saints from their homes in Jackson County, Missouri, but even that did not satisfy the blood-lust raging in the hearts of those who wanted to annihilate the Mormons, so threats against life and limb continued … and were numerous. Indeed, only a few years hence Governor Boggs of Missouri would issue his infamous Extermination Order against the early members of the fledgling church.
And it is this background that makes what followed so remarkable and therefore reveals so much about Mitt Romney’s affection for our Constitution.
In the face of the challenges confronting the Saints in Missouri, Joseph Smith sought answers from the only source with the power to deliver them from their enemies. And the questions themselves were certainly relevant — and needed answering: What was he to do? What direction should be given to church members? How should the church respond to the atrocities?
Those of us who are members of the LDS Church regard the answer given to Joseph Smith’s inquiry as a revelation from the Lord himself. And while non-Mormons are under no obligation to regard the text as the word of God, a proper analysis of the message does demand that even non-Mormons acknowledge the reverence afforded the Constitution by active members of the church — active members like Mitt Romney. In other words, those who doubt Mitt’s commitment to the Constitution and the principles embodied therein would do well to understand the theology that lies at the core of his soul — at least on this subject.
Here is the answer given to Joseph Smith, as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 101:
“And again I say unto you, those who have been scattered by their enemies, it is my will that they should continue to importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you—
“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;
“That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, 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, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.” (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 101:76-80)
There are seven principles clearly taught in this passage:
First, the Saints were to continue to abide by the law and seek a redress of grievances — as provided by the Constitution.
Second, God himself established the Constitution, which makes it a sacred as well as political document.
Third, the Constitution was established for the “protection of all flesh” — regardless of social status, color, creed, or location. Indeed, it was based on “just and holy principles.”
Fourth, all of God’s children were given moral agency — liberty — and every individual will be held accountable by God for his or her exercise of that agency.
Fifth, no person should ever be in bondage to another.
Sixth, God not only established the Constitution, but raised up “wise men” for this very purpose — a clear and unequivocal statement that original intent is to be taken seriously when deciding the constitutionality of any federal law or regulation.
Seventh, this land was redeemed by “the shedding of blood” — another clear and unequivocal statement … this time referring to His divine intervention in a War for Independence where we were outgunned, outmanned, and outspent.
Romney has had great success: he understands business and the free market; he understands liberty and the costs of maintaining that sacred gift; he understands that our Constitution is a legacy given to all men and women everywhere; and he understands that the Constitution — as framed by our founders — must once again become the centerpiece of our national, political life … for such is a fundamental precept of our shared theology.