This lecture by Denver Snuffer entitled “Constitutional Apostasy” was originally recorded in Highland, Utah on June 7, 2013, in front of a live audience.
Sometimes the way you accomplish an objective is indirectly. You accomplish it as a by-product. You don’t stare into the sun. You take advantage of what the sun has to offer indirectly, because you’d get hurt staring directly at it. The clearest way to make this apparent is in our legal system. We have what’s called an adversarial system. The adversarial system has as its objective the byproduct of finding the truth. That’s not what you aim at. The adversarial system has an attorney who represents one side. And his objective is to tell you everything that is in favor of his side. And point out all the weaknesses, all the mistakes, of the other side. And the other side’s attorney has the exact same goal. Neither one of them is trying to tell you the whole story. They are employed, they are trained, and they are prepared to give you everything that can be mustered in the evidence, in the proof and in the testimony to support one side. The third party is the decision-maker. Whether that third party is a judge or a jury, the third-party decision maker listens to what both sides have to say, and they determine what is the truth. The truth is the by-product of this adversarial system. The alternative to that is an inquisitorial system. And we do not have an inquisitorial system. Because if you’re going to take directly the objective of accomplishing “the truth” then under an inquisitorial system as Torquemada demonstrated during the Inquisition – get out the branding irons, get out the rack. If we could get to the truth by an inquisitorial system then why not use torture in trying to discover the truth? So truth is not the objective of the adversarial system that we use in the United States. Truth is the byproduct of the system we use. Because you get far more truth through an adversarial system than you ever could obtain through an inquisitorial system, because people will lie to avoid the problems imposed upon them as a part of the Inquisition.
Well, the objective of the Constitution is really simple. There are a whole lot of things that are a byproduct of this one objective. But the one objective of the Constitution is to end tyranny. And so everything within the system is designed, in order to accomplish as it’s by-product, ending tyranny. Because if anyone knew what tyranny was, it was the colonialists who found it unbearable to live under a system of a foreign King ruling them and imposing taxes upon them disproportionately so that the colonialists were required to pay more taxes so that those back in the home country didn’t have to pay taxes, or pay a far less tax. Because although they were all subjects of the same monarchy, the monarch elected not to treat them equally and to tax them evenly, but to choose some to be benefited through the tax system and to choose others to punish under the tax system. And so they found that the system was intolerable. The reason why we wind up with those kinds of excesses is because of human frailty.
There is this interesting incident that happens, which we have preserved in the Doctrine and Covenants, in which Joseph Smith is in the Liberty jail. He’s been there for about five months at the time of the writing of this letter. He is groaning under the oppression of the state government that has arrested him using the state militia, accused him of treason against the state, and held him without trial in a Missouri dungeon for five months in conditions that were brutal. And in those circumstances he writes – and the writing is inspired:
D&C 121:39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
What’s interesting about what we have in Doctrine and Covenants section 121 is that Joseph Smith is confined and oppressed by a government authority. And in the extremity of being subjected to imprisonment without due process, by the government of Missouri, Joseph complained. If you read the rest of the letter he’s complaining. What he’s asking God for is to avenge the governmental oppression. And, as the Lord often does, the purpose of putting Joseph through the oppression in a dungeon is to tell him something about the priesthood. The Lord ignores his plea to lay waste to the government and instead takes the occasion to say, (paraphrasing) “Okay Joseph, now maybe you can understand something. Here’s what I was hoping you’d understand:”
D&C 121: 34-37, 41-2 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson— That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood…
You have no authority just based on holding the priesthood.
…only by persuasion…
There is your tool…persuasion. And since that is not going to work, here’s your second tool…
Which is: I can’t say “because I’m the authority…you need to do this.” “I’m the authority…the thinking has been done.” If all I’ve got is persuasion then I’d better be long-suffering because I’m not going to bring you on board with the truth anytime soon.
I don’t care how frustrated you get.
…and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul.
So these are the tools. So Joseph is suffering from governmental oppression, complaining about the government, and the Lord says “Good! Now maybe you can understand the way Priesthood works, because this crap you’re going through – if you think it’s bad when someone has a militia, Oh you just wait Joseph! As this rolls forward and people have possession of priestly office, you’ll see what happens.” We’ve been through that, it’s called Catholicism. The Lord’s focus, as is often the case, is not on the thing that Joseph was asking about. It was about what the Lord wanted us to understand.
Now there are other reasons why the Constitution matters to Latter-day Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 101: 76 tells us:
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—
So the Lord didn’t say, “based upon the Missouri persecutions, and the loutishness of Governor Boggs, dispatch Orrin Porter Rockwell and take this guy out.” He says, “importune those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you.” The solution doesn’t lie in the end of the barrel. Petition and do it:
D&C 101:77 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’s what the Constitution was designed to accomplish. And when the Lord says that it is established for just and holy purposes, we ought to be approaching constitutional issues with the same sense of the sacred, as D&C 121 talks about respecting the rights of conscience and belief. So the Constitution is just and it is holy.
D&C 101: 78-80 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.
So what I want you to know [is] that what we are told in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 101 in the Revelation to Joseph, is [that] the Constitution was established by the Lord’s hand, through men whom he raised up for that purpose, to establish just and holy principles to protect the rights of all men. But what it does not say is that having raised those just and holy men up, that you have a guarantee that forever thereafter you will have in a position of authority over you, running the government of the United States in perpetuity, “just and holy men” whom the Lords has raised up. He put it in place, he put it in operation, and he turns it over to us. Then the question is, “what are you going to do with it? What are you going to do with what you been entrusted?” That’s the question. The Lord did his part, now it’s up to us.
The Constitution gets mentioned again – it gets mentioned in the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in Section 109: 54. And Joseph says in the prayer:
Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.
Well, we have a declaration of belief on how governments ought to behave – that’s Section 134:1-2:
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, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society. We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
It’s interesting that we have in 134 reference to property. John Locke talked in terms of “Life, Liberty and Property.” In the Declaration it was reworded to be “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” You have to understand the Scottish Enlightenment and what happiness meant. That was a very specific phrase. The word “happiness” doesn’t mean, “I got an Xbox and I got a noggin full of cocaine and I’m happy now.” That’s not what happiness meant. Happiness had a highly specific meaning. It meant that you were living your life in conformity with the will of God. They believed in natural law. Natural law was ordained by God and was given to all men. And when you brought your life into harmony with natural law, with the will of God, then you became happy. So “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” means life, liberty and you are living your life in conformity to the will of God, which would bring about happiness. John Locke cut to the quick, which was property.
Well, in First Nephi 13 there is a series of verses that’s giving the prophetic foreshadowing…the foretelling of what’s going to happen when the Gentiles became the inheritors of this land. Beginning in verse 12:
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.
There’s your answer to the question, “Can people get the Holy Ghost without the laying on of hands?” This was inspired.
And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
So it wasn’t just Columbus… it was your own ancestors who were wrought upon by the Holy Ghost to come and occupy this land. Even though two of my ancestors were children in the Liverpool area who accepted a free afternoon boat ride from a captain who was loading the boat up with children, and then proceeded to sail from Liverpool to the United States – to the colonies – where he sold the children off as indentured servants. One of those was a boy and one of them was a girl who were sold to the same family as indentured servants. And when they worked their way through the indentured servitude and were free, they married one another. And so I guess the Spirit works directly on some and through captains on others.
And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten. 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; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.
Which tells you what he’s talking about is, the ones who were the designated inheritors match a specific description that fit within a certain ethnicity called “Gentile”.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them. And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them. And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle. And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.
Well, you have to know a lot about our early history to know just how very true that is. Sometimes you ought to look into the battle of New York, and how Washington managed to escape. He was the last one to leave. He wanted all of the troops withdrawn before he would leave and enter the boat himself. But for the intervening fog bank, the American Revolution would’ve ended that day. And the hand of God was throughout that. In fact Washington talked about the hand of Providence ruling throughout.
Then we have Jacob’s teaching in Second Nephi chapter 10. Jacob was the one that Nephi thought so much of as a teacher…that he gave chapters of his own writing over to his younger brother, Jacob. Jacob teaching in chapter 10 and beginning in verse 10 says:
But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land. And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles. And I will fortify this land against all other nations. And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God. For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words.
Well…we all know the story of the Book Mormon, how there were kings and there were kingmen. It doesn’t mean that there will not be, at least temporarily, those that manage to establish temporary monarchies and oppress. It just means that they can’t make it permanent, and therefore they’re gone.
So we now know what the background is. And we know that there is this effort to create systems to guard against tyranny, that have as their by-product the freedom of the people.
And so we look at the Constitution and say, “how exactly is it then, that the Constitution managed to establish a framework inside of which it is possible to preserve freedom?” Article 1 section 1 of the Constitution says that:
All legislative powers granted shall be vested in the Congress of the United States which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
Then article 1 section 3 tells us how the Senate operates:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six years. And each Senator shall have one vote.
So the Senate of United States consists of this group, two Senators, and they are chosen by the legislature of their state. Now, you might say, “Well, we fixed that.” Yes, we kind of did. Now we don’t have any problem with the idea that there are positions that are held within the United States which have extraordinary authority granted to them, but who are not elected by the people. Every United States federal judge is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Every sitting member of United States Supreme Court is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. We don’t elect federal judges. We elect men (or someday women) as Presidents who choose the judge, the Senate confirms, and none of us sit back and say, “Wait a minute! We didn’t get to vote!” None of us question the authority, or the dignity, or the legitimacy of their power. And the Supreme Court becomes the court of last resort for the country. Somehow, however, when it comes to the legislature of United States, since the United States Senate was a creature of the legislatures rather than being elected directly by the people, we found it so intolerable that we amended the Constitution in order to provide for the direct election of United States Senators.
Well when they were putting together United States Constitution and they had a skeptical public, they published a series of articles (Madison and a few of his cohorts, anonymously) called the Federalist Papers. And the Federalist Papers 62 and 63 explain the purpose behind the way in which the Senate was organized. This is just talking about the United States Senate. And the mechanism used to choose the United States Senate:
It is recommended by the double advantage to favor of the select appointment and the giving to the state governments such an agency and the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former.
“Secure the authority of the former” – the state government…
And may form a convenient link between the two systems.
The United States Senate was designed to be a link between (on the one hand) the state authority – that is the state legislature, and [on the other hand] the federal government, because the Senate was the creature that was selected by, appointed by, chosen by the state legislatures and therefore answerable to them.
The equality of representation in the Senate is another point which was evidently a result of compromise between the intentions of the large and small states. Among independent and sovereign states bound together by a simple league. The parties, however unequal in size, ought to have an equal share in the common councils. They’re trying to protect the identity of the various states as independent and sovereign. They allow each state a constitutional representation – an instrument preserving individual sovereignty – to guard by every possible expedient against an improper consolidation of the states into one simple Republic. It was never the objective to have the United States of America become correlated so that they’re all singing the same hymn, preaching the same message every week, in uniformity from sea to shining sea. That was never the intent. It was always the intent that there be independence and recognition of the sovereignty of each of the individual units who were entitled to elect their own state representatives, and then to have the representatives choose the Senator who would be at the beck and call of the legislature – to go back to Washington and guard the rights of the state. So, [it’s] a simple system if you think about it. Dividing the power is a salutary check on the government. It doubles the security of the people by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation, whereby the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient. This is a precaution founded on such clear principal and now so well understood in the United States…
See here’s the way it works. The way in which you choose the House of Representatives is by direct election. And by direct election you can be inflamed by all sorts of passions and prejudices, trends and stupidity, fads all kinds. All kinds of things can be briefly inflame the passions of those people who are elected by the public directly. But the legislature, out of which the United States Senate grows, the legislature is a completely different kind of body. The legislature in the states only turns over so often. And the legislature is the one who is holding the reins on the Senators. So when the Senators go back there, the things that they care about – the fashions of the day, the passions of the people – are quieted, are mollified, are subdued to some extent, because the Senate doesn’t have that same problem with direct election as does the House of Representatives. And this is a wise purpose, because of the improbability of sinister combinations in proportion to the dissimilarity between the House and the Senate. Therefore what you want is dissimilarity. What you want is for them to come from different gene pools altogether. What you want is the Senate to be something far different than the House of Representatives.
Now why are we trying to create such disparity between the two bodies? Because at the time of the Constitution was being discussed…
No small share of the present embarrassments of America is to be charged on the blunders of our government. And that these are produced from the heads, rather than the hearts, of most of the authors of them. A good government implies two things: First, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people. And secondly, a knowledge of the means by which the object can best be obtained. It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, [laughter] or so incoherent that cannot be understood, if they be repealed or revised before they are propagated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be the rule of action. But how can that be the rule which is little-known, unless it be fixed? Great injury results from an unstable government. The loss of confidence of the public councils dampens every useful undertaking. What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not what that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they be executed. What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors will not rendered him a victim to an inconstant government.
The United States Senate was designed to be chosen by the legislature in order to prevent the incessant changing of the law. And to provide a stability by which the government could become predictable, it’s laws known. Change would not be rapid. There could not be an agenda: “Here’s my platform. I got this here agenda. We are going to transform America. We are going to make us a new one. We are going to implement. And if we can’t get implementation in any other way…then we’re going to “executive order” our way through.”
Now wait a minute…hold on. [laughter] I thought it said that all legislative power granted, should be vested in the Congress. We are in Article 1. We don’t get to the executive branch until Article 2. If the Senate was doing its job, we wouldn’t be faced with those issues.
In the next circular of the Federalist papers, Federalist 63, it’s still talking about the United States Senate. [It] says:
The people can never willfully betray their own interests, but they may possibly be betrayed, by the representatives of the people. And the danger will be evidently greater when the whole legislative trust is laws lodged in the hands of one body of men rather than the concurrence of separate and dissimilar bodies as required in every public act.
The purpose was not merely to make them separately elected and to divide them into two terms one for two and one for six years. It was to make them dissimilar. The creature that is called the United States Senate and the creature that is called the House of Representatives [were] designed on purpose to be dissimilar. And so anything you do to break down the dissimilarity, and anything you do to create similarity between the two bodies, is designed to undermine the very purpose that the system was established and was designed to guard against.
Well, they talk about how you can transform and corrupt our country. But in accomplishing that:
It is evident that the Senate must be first corrupted before it can attempt an establishment of tyranny. Without corrupting the state legislatures it cannot prosecute the attempt, because the periodic change of members would otherwise regenerate the whole body. Without exerting the means of corruption with equal success in the House of Representatives, the opposition of that co-equal branch of the federal government would defeat the attempt. Without corrupting the people themselves, a succession of a few representatives could easily restore all things to the pristine order. Is there any man that can seriously persuade himself that the proposed Senate can by any possible means within the compass of human address arrive at the object of the lawless ambition through all these obstructions?
Yes, if you remove one of them. If you get rid of the legislative control, because then you aggregate power at the federal level, and then the legislatures of the various states become servants, not sovereigns. They become servants to a homogenized single federal unity.
The federal Senate will never be able to transform itself by gradual usurpations into an independent and aristocratic body.
The Idaho reaction to that would be…My ass!
You know, the United States Constitution was amended. In the 17th amendment of the Constitution it provides:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state elected by the people thereof for six years.
If you want to do one thing to change the course of United States, repeal the 17th amendment. Overnight the issue of whether or not the states have legislative authority and independent sovereignty would be reestablished with that one change. And it’s never going to happen. Because the monied interests at this point are so far entrenched in this system, and the political parties are so behind this manner of taxing, and the gathering, and the paying, that Washington is simply off the leash. And the leash came through [the] United States Senate. And the 17th amendment cut the leash, and therefore what we have are the exact problems that we face today.
Well, never question the wisdom of the folks that the Lord raised up. These holy men that the Lord raised up in order to establish a system. And just realize anytime you tinker with the system – any system – that God put in place, you’re going to yield… well, I was going to say “unexpected consequences.” But really you are going to apostatize from the purpose, and you deprive yourself of the intended blessing God hoped to bless you with. That’s the first point.
There’s one other point I want to talk about. When the United States of America was established, the United States had about 200 years of slavery that had been built into the core of the country when the United States was a colony, and it had no right as a colony to resist the importation of a slave class. And so when United States of America gained independence from England, slavery was an existing economic fact that had been built into the society itself. It’s interesting to read some of the debates that took place during the drafting of the Constitution. Because one of the theories was that it was impossible to produce the required educated and idle class – and by “idle class” that means someone who doesn’t have to go labor in the field with the strength of the body in order to provide the means to feed and clothe and house themselves. You cannot produce the required idle class unless you had slavery because there was no historical precedent for it. And they debated that. And the problem was that history suggested that that argument was an argument that could be made, and could be considered. So when independence was achieved, independence was achieved against the existing reality of slavery.
Now Washington, who was the only man considered to be President of the United States – in fact the office of the President was written and designed for one occupant, and that was George Washington – he was the indispensable man in creating this country. Washington was the one who presided over the Constitutional Convention and contributed almost nothing to the debates, other than his presence. And when they reached an impasse the only way they solved the impasse was when Washington let it be known which side he favored. When they took the Constitution out to sell it to the public, the salesmanship that was done was that George Washington presided over this. Everyone trusted that man. Therefore they adopted an office for that man and he filled it for two terms. And then he resigned and walked away. Something that everyone would respect by mirroring his example until it was necessary after FDR to amend the Constitution because he didn’t follow that example. Washington, when he died, freed the slaves. He didn’t do it while he was alive but he did it when he died. If everyone followed the example of Washington at the time there would have been no more slavery.
Here’s the problem, however. Since the institution had been imposed upon the United States as a colony, and since it represented wealth – it represented capital – however offensive to you it may be today, the economic reality was that slaves were capital, and they represented investment. So the question becomes how do you extract yourself from the institution of slavery when you have an economic system in which people have invested capital in human slaves? How do you bring that to a conclusion? Because quite frankly, if all you do is terminate the practice, you would bankrupt the South.
It is probable that the cotton gin alone made the end of slavery inevitable, because it became a problem with the coming Industrial Revolution, and the leading edge was the cotton gin. The coming Industrial Revolution made it no longer necessary to have human bondage to order to accomplish things. It wasn’t just the ownership of African slaves in the South, it was indentured servitude in the North. Indentured servitude and was a way to selling yourself to someone else for a period of time. And servitude was an economic means for producing goods and services. Well how do you extract yourself?
Joseph Smith published, when he was running for the presidency of United States, “General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policies of the Government of the United States” in Nauvoo in 1844, and this is an excerpt from his campaign:
Petition also the inhabitants of the slave states legislators to abolish slavery and save the abolitionists from approach and ruin and shame. Pray Congress to pay every man a reasonable price for his slaves out of the surplus revenue arising from the sale of public lands. And from the deduction of pay from the members of Congress. Break off the shackles from the poor black man and hire him to labor like other human beings. For an hour of virtuous liberty on earth is worth a whole eternity of bondage.
Joseph Smith proposal in 1844 was (paraphrasing): “Here’s how we end slavery – we buy them. We pay the purchase price, we purchase their freedom.” Now think about that for a moment as a matter of economic reality. If you are a slave owner, and someone offers a fair price to you for your entire group of slaves, and you sell them and free them, you now have capital – the capital that you spent buying them. And now with your capital, you can hire them. And the people who were formerly merely a commodity now become wage earners. But what happens if, instead of doing as Joseph Smith proposed, you simply destroy the capital of the South by saying no more slavery? Instantly you bankrupt the South. Instantly you doom the freed slave, because now no one has the capital with which to employ them. Instantly you leave the South in a position where out of economic reality what you do – since all you own is land – is you start a sharecropping system, in which the risk of crop failure falls upon those who can least afford to bear the risk of crop failure – that is, the former slaves.
What Joseph Smith proposed would not have required Reconstruction. What Joseph Smith proposed would not have caused the Civil War. What Joseph Smith proposal would’ve accomplished was the end of slavery. And what Joseph Smith’s proposal would have accomplished with the end of slavery was the economic means by which the former slaves could rise up out of poverty, through labor, because that’s all anyone was doing at that time – and through their own labor accomplish, through their employment, the dignity of holding a job and earning an income. But what we accomplished instead was another revolution that has constitutional implications.
The deadliest enemy the United States has ever faced is another American, and the Civil War proves it. There is no more effective and warlike people upon earth than the Americans. And when the Americans faced another American, and blood was shed, we punished ourselves for slavery. And in the wake of the Civil War – the Civil War amendments… If you take a look at what happened with the Civil War amendments, once again it was a power shift. The way in which slavery was designed to end was gradually. And in a way that made economic sense. The way in which it did end, imposed another century of slavery upon the liberated slaves in the South as a matter of economic reality. It just was. All you had was land, so what do you do? You let them farm the land. And with sharecropping, you doom them the poverty.
Well, if you look at what happened in connection with the Civil War, in contrast to the wisdom of what Joseph Smith suggested as an exit strategy to terminate the practice of slavery, you realize that the choice that we made between the two of them not only resulted in another century of problems following the Civil War and the freedom of slaves and bankruptcy of the Southern the slave owners, it also resulted in oppression of the former slaves. They were freed into an economic environment in which it was impossible for them to make a living from what they had to offer, which was their labor.
The amendments were designed to curtail the rights of the states and to impose upon the individual states the same due process of law through the 14th amendment that we have in the federal government. You see, Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion in the First Amendment. However that didn’t apply to the state legislature, which is why Thomas Jefferson as President of the United States refused to acknowledge Thanksgiving as a national holiday because it was religious. But when he became Governor of the state of Virginia, he not only celebrated Thanksgiving as a state holiday he also had a day of fasting – religious fasting – the day before. The United States could not have a state religion, but the states could and did. The 14th amendment ended that. What that really meant, at the beginning, was that independent sovereign and equal states could experiment. You could have the state of Utah with a state religion called “Mormonism” or “Latter-day Saintism”. And you could have, like they did with the citizens of Massachusetts, a tax that was imposed by the state, collected by the state, to be turned over to the church. You could do like the LDS church used to do with employees of ZCMI – that is they had a payroll deduction for tithing, and they deducted it directly and paid it to the Church. They could do that to all of you in the state of Utah if we still had what we had originally. And if you didn’t like that, then you could go to Idaho – because in Idaho they worship the potato [laughter]. I know because I grew up there. And if you found it detestable to worship a potato, you could go to Wyoming and worship a cowboy. But every state was intended to be an experiment in sovereignty and in freedom, and the aberrations that would appear – the strange concoctions that the states would create of themselves – is just fine, because the citizens of Vermont could say, “I am sick of this government” and they could pack up and they could move to Rhode Island. Or they could move to Virginia. Or they could go to Ohio. And sooner or later, some state – like Texas is doing now – could say, “come here! We’re not going to tax you out of existence. We’re going to issue you a side arm when you come into the state, and were going to let you shoot, out of your car, every road sign you see – and we will replace them because we have oil money and we can buy new road signs. Come to Texas!”
And so people from Massachusetts can look down their nose at the folks in Texas. And they could say, “They are ne’er-do-wells – they’re hicks.” And the people in Texas can say, “Thank God we’re in Texas and not in Massa-damn-chusetts” [laughter]. We should be so diverse, we should be so dissimilar, we should be so non-uniform, that growing up in the United States there should be, at this moment, 50 different experiments underway using the freedom the people have to choose, to design for themselves the way in which they would like to be governed. And those 50 different ways will ultimately – some fail, some succeed, some turn into Nirvana. And the states are going to look around and say, “Hey that’s good!” And they are going to form their own experiment in democracy by what they see working, and they are going to form their own experiment in democracy by seeing what’s failing, and by saying, “Well, that didn’t work! Look at that mess!”
Instead what you have is a national uniformity in which, when we make a mistake in economic policy, when we make a mistake in the way in which we try to regulate and tax and govern, when we make a mistake in taking those who are most productive and confiscate money from them in order to subsidize behavior that we would really like to see end – when we make a mistake, we make a mistake on a grandiose scale. We make a mistake that is so threatening that it is possible to defeat the sovereignty of 50 states and to defeat the sovereignty of Union itself, and that was never what the Constitution set out to accomplish. The Constitution set out to accomplish, as a by-product of a system, your freedom. Your rights. And the way in which they accomplished it has been tampered with.
Therefore, I don’t care if you’ve got scriptures as a Latter-day Saint that you can thump on and say, “The Constitution was divinely inspired!” So what! Because every time you tinker with it, every time you change it, if you are not informed by the same degree of inspiration as was evident in the original creation, uninspired men who do have a tendency to become tyrannical – uninspired men who DO want to exercise control and compulsion and dominion – can take any gift given by God to any of us, and they can pervert it into something in which savage uniformity oppresses the hearts and the souls of men, and renders it incapable of securing, for the benefit of you and your posterity, the freedom which we find in Christ – the Original Revolutionary.
Well, I’ve talked long enough. I was told by email, that I ought to allow some time for questions.
Question: Can you draw a comparison between the checks and balances of our political government and the original form of Church government that is mentioned in Section 107? What was it originally?
Answer: Joseph Smith never called, a single member of the Quorum of the 12 into the First Presidency of the Church. The Quorum of the 12 is a traveling High Council. Essentially they were missionaries. The First Presidency of the Church was a different operation. All the congregations were locally controlled, locally elected, locally governed. General Authorities came to moderate the election. It was a Congregationalist model. Common consent meant something. Instead of handing out appointments from higher-ups, the local people knew who the local people were and they chose who they wanted. The General Authority came to moderate the ballot. They would take nominations. They would usually get a slate, they would then vote, [and] whoever got the most votes, they would ask, “will you sustain him?” And if it wasn’t unanimous, they would go to number two, and they would ask, “will you sustain him?” No. They go to number three, “will you sustain him?” And if he got the votes, and this was the guy who people had confidence in, then he became the stake president, he became the Bishop, he became the whatever. Usually that guy would then ask for the other people who got votes to be counselors. And usually in an act of magnanimity everyone would say, “Well, he’s in charge – and if he wants them, I’m good with that.” It was a local model.
At the time that Joseph Smith was killed, he was presiding over the High Council in Nauvoo. The way that the Doctrine and Covenants reads, you can have the President of the Church be the President of the High Council. Now William Marks was President on a number of occasions, but it was Joseph Smith primarily who presided over the High Council in Nauvoo. Joseph Smith, presiding over the High Council [in] Nauvoo, regulated and held the Church Courts that went on in Nauvoo. When he held a Church court, he learned a lot of stuff about what was going on inside Nauvoo, because people brought in their issues. Joseph Smith gave a talk that can only be justified by what he was hearing by presiding over the High Council in Nauvoo. His intimates were the Stake High Council. His associates – the guys who knew him best during that time period – was the Stake High Council. If a guy or gal didn’t show up for their High Council court, the court wasn’t held. If someone said, “I need more time,” they were given more time. If someone’s showed up and said, “I’m sick,” the High Council wasn’t held. Almost any reason would do to get the High Council hearing continued.
Joseph Smith was killed. The Quorum of the 12 came back. If you look at D&C section 107, the First Presidency form a quorum equal in authority… If you get down through all the “equal in authorities”, you get to the High Council. And the High Council forms a quorum equal in authority to the First Presidency.
So that succession moment, the Quorum of the 12 pulled it off. They became the body triumphant. And then during the excommunication trials of Sidney Rigdon, over which Marks presided, was rather a Kangaroo Court. Brigham Young was the one leading the charge, making the accusations. But he realized he didn’t have jurisdiction to get rid of Sidney Rigdon. So it had to be the High Council who did that. And so in the Rigdon trial, in marked contrast to how the High Councils had been conducted with Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon said he didn’t feel well and he didn’t want the court held. And Brigham Young said, “We’re holding the court anyway.” The High Council went along with that. Brigham said that if Rigdon was well enough to attend a meeting earlier that day, he was well enough to attend his excommunication trial, and so we ought to proceed. And so they proceeded in the absence of Sidney Rigdon. And then after he succeeded in getting Sidney Rigdon excommunicated – because he was considered the number one rival – he said, (paraphrasing) “Well, you know, we might as well hold court and excommunicate a whole list of people who were sympathizers with Rigdon, because we are going to have to get rid of them sooner or later anyway.” So those guys didn’t even get notice that there was going to be a High Council court, and they got excommunicated too because they were guilty by association.
So things changed. And when the Quorum of the 12 became the presiding center of political authority… I mean you look at what he did: In order to move the High Priests out of the jurisdiction of the Stake High Council and the Stake President, who was William Marks, who was also considered a rival to Brigham Young, he called every High Priest on a mission. Because when you’re in the mission field you are under the jurisdiction of the 12. And so every High Priest in Nauvoo was assigned a mission somewhere in the United States. Now that didn’t mean you had to leave Nauvoo, fut they were called to that. What that did was to change the authority structure from the Stake President and the High Council into the Quorum of the 12 running things. And we’ve read articles celebrating the reorganization or the re-empowerment of the 70 by Brigham Young, which is also another political move made at the time.
The ripples from the succession crisis that occurred in 1844 is comparable in scope and magnitude to anything we’ve done with tinkering with the Constitution. And so today we don’t have a congregational model anymore. And we are savagely uniform. From Buenos Aires to Tokyo, you can feel comfortable [that] no matter where you go you are not [going] to miss the same Relief Society, Sunday School, Elders Quorum and High Priest lesson. And when we have our monthly “whatever that thing is” where we select some talk, everybody’s going to ruminate about what someone recently said. But, you know, what’s a little bit of uniformity among friends? But that wasn’t what I came here to talk about. You derailed me.
Question: Joseph Smith went to visit President Van Buren and was told, “Your cause is just but there is nothing I can do for you because I would lose the vote in Missouri.” Not only was he expressing his desire to remain President but he was also expressing the political reality at the time, because until the 14th Amendment the state could violate the civil rights of the people. So the 14th Amendment corrected what Joseph found was a fundamental flaw in the Federal Constitution.
Response: Yes. At the expense of a whole lot of other things.
Question: How would you have done it differently?
Response: You can have cheese, but you only get cheese. And you get a whole lot of cheese. And you don’t get broccoli to go with it. What we are trying to guard against is tyranny. And what we have is either separate sovereign experiments in which some things may go awry, and that’ll inform forever in the future whether or not the state of Missouri ever again gets one penny of patronage or one bit of help from an entire community – that has been alienated. An entire growing body of politically active and wealth producing and successful Latter-day Saints, by their failure to behave reasonably. Or we can just homogenize everything and now say, “The President can do anything.”
There was this incident that happened during the Korean War. President Truman sent the National Guard in to operate a steel mill during a strike by the steel workers. And the federal judge sent them home because he said the President has doesn’t have the authority to do that. Oh for the good old days.
Question: Why do you think many General Authorities think that President Lincoln was inspired?
Response: I’m certain he was an inspired…there’s no question about that.
Question: But whom was he inspired by?
Response: Well… Therein lies the rub. Look, the problem is this: What in the end do you prize the most? Do you prize all of the risks, all of the responsibilities, all of the potential for failure, all of the individual accountability? I mean, I read you the scripture a moment ago: What was the purpose of the Constitution? It was make you free so that you could exercise moral agency, and you get the opportunity to succeed or fail. The purpose of the Constitution is to set you in a position in which it was possible for you to accomplish either one, so that you become accountable, not someone back in Washington, not someone to whom you have surrendered your choice, not someone else to run your life, not someone else to tell you comings and the goings, the when’s and the where’s and the why’s. The Constitution was designed for you to become morally accountable, because you are the agent that gets to choose.
And what the original structure did. You can say it was errant, it was excessive, it was just too much freedom there, it was licentious. I mean, for goodness’ sake, look at what happened: Slavery was doomed, period. Slavery was doomed. If the Federal government didn’t do anything about it, it would’ve come to an end, and the way in which it would have come to an end would probably not have involved the loss of so many lives and so much treasure. Nor would it have propelled the country into the circumstance in which for the next century the former slaves paid a very dear price for the way in which they exited from the institution of slavery.
You know, Lincoln was a Republican, and the Republicans wanted to end the twin relics of barbarism. I mean, when he got done with the Civil War, he probably would’ve sent Johnson’s army out here a lot earlier. Look, every one is a mixed blessing. Every leadership dilemma is an opportunity for wisdom and prudence, or excess and failure. When you consider the leaders that we have in this country, there’s no question that George Washington fashioned a way of wielding power that was selfless and not self- centered. He was interested in being a servant to the people. When Jefferson became President – this is the guy who invented the embargo – he was looking for a peaceful way to obtain agreement using peacefully coercive means. The way in which the founding fathers proceeded was an extraordinary balance of prudence and wisdom, caution and daring. They proceeded through a landmine field without blowing themselves up.
Ask yourself this question: Let’s assume we have Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe… Let’s assume we have all those guys at the time of the Civil War, and we say, “Slavery’s got to end and it’s got to end now.” Do you really think the route that those men would’ve taken would be the same one that Lincoln chose?
Look, Joseph Smith had a way out. It was part of his platform when he ran for the Presidency. I mean, if Joseph was inspired as a prophet, and he chose a means diametrically opposed to the one Lincoln chose, then…?
One way was to fix things by a peaceful method – preserving life, preserving property, and creating freedom. And the other one manages to accomplish it by brute force, by the deaths of three-quarters of living Americans, and by the impoverishment of those whose capital was lost because they had to pay just compensation if they wanted to take your property. And at the time, whether you like it or not, slaves were the definition was property. So yes, I agree Lincoln was inspired.
Question: I think that the Constitution has all but been destroyed. My question to you is: In the short term of 1 to 3 years, how do you see this playing out? And in a longer view, how do you see things playing out with most of the population apparently asleep?
Response: We have a really fortunate confluence of scandal right now back in Washington. We are blessed and we are protected, not by the wisdom of our leaders, but by the foolishness and vanity of our leaders. And we have now, potentially – because of the seriousness of the groups that have been offended – we potentially have a three-year lame-duck president, which would be highly useful, because the aggregation of executive power is something that…
Look, Nixon’s the poster boy for the left to say, “Look at that – look at that excess!”, when in fact Nixon doesn’t even hold a candle to the administration we have now. I’m hoping that this confluence of scandal will hamstring them, because even still – what we have is a balance between the egos of various political offices back there, and that was one of the purposes of the Constitution. It was to establish a way in which you could take politically ambitious people and put them back there and let them fight with one another and leave us alone. So what I’m hoping is that we have enough scandal going, and enough egos, that they will brutalize one another and leave us alone. It’s like Mark Twain said, “No one is safe in their life and property while the legislature is in session” [laughter]. They may be in session…and hopefully what they are fighting over is one another so they will leave us alone.
Question: When the Supreme Court Judge Roberts made the decision on the “un”affordable healthcare, somebody said it was a wise decision because it allows the states to stand up against it. But they are not doing that. What is your opinion?
Response: Here are the horns of the dilemma I have. I am a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court and I’m not supposed to say anything that would reflect dishonor or discredit on a member of the United States Supreme Court. So I will say nothing about Justice Roberts, the Honorable Chief Justice Roberts. But I can say something about the opinion. It makes no sense at all to me. Quite frankly I believe it was motivated by the notion that if you turned it into a tax you could write the majority opinion and the tax would be so offensive that the upcoming election would be swung against Obama and the act would be repealed. I think the opinion was an attempt to engage from the bench in determining the fortunes of the next election. And it didn’t work. You can’t go to the legislative history of the enactment of Obama-care and find anyone – you can’t find anyone – that advocated it as a tax. That wasn’t the purpose. In fact, it’s a damnable lie to stand up in oral argument, as the solicitor general of the United States did, and advocate that it is an act that can be upheld because of the taxing power of the country, if the country never sought to invoke the taxing powers as the basis upon which to adopt the act. And I think Robert’s opinion is a lesson in the disadvantages of trying to be, from the bench, a politician. It’s a bad opinion in my opinion.
I understand this might go up on the web and one of the things I like to do when things are going out there is to say things like “jihad” and we are going to “avenge Waco”. “Muslim Brotherhood” and “Homeland Security…go screw yourself”.
I have a client who is in Europe right now and we talk on occasion. And whenever I’m talking to him I’ll say, “Okay I have to say something now because this is international, so I can help out our folks at Homeland Security, and I go through the list of taboo words.
Question: Do you know of anything that was compiled on Joseph Smith and his platform to end slavery?
Response: Actually if you Google “Joseph Smith Presidential platform” you’ll pickup a copy of the platform and an article in Mormon Dialogue magazine that deals with it. And it’s not a bad article. Just Google that and you’ll find the Mormon Dialogue article.
Question: You didn’t answer the second part of the question, of “where do you think we are going after three years or so?” [laughter] I’m still waiting for that part.
Response: Well you know, “Ohmmmmm” [Denver starts to hum as if in meditation] [laughter]. When the Lord says, “My peace I give unto you”, He coupled that with, “Not as the world gives, give I unto you.” In this world you get to enjoy all of the benefits of a Telestial atmosphere. Perhaps right now, for one of the first times in history, we have a politicized economy. We have a politicized stock market. All I can say is, there was a Taylor Swift concert my daughter went to – that song about trouble, trouble, trouble… Sometimes it’s like that song by Simon and Garfunkel said, “the words of the prophets are written on the subway wall”, and sometimes they are written by country-western singers. So, we are in trouble. That’s obvious, don’t you think?
Question: So we are morally bankrupt and we are about to be bucked off our horse…?
Response. Well there’s always the possibility that we repent. But the agenda suggested by the Book of Mormon is, that’s unlikely.
Question: Your talk is entitled “Constitutional Apostasy.” So, my question is: What’s the consequence of our Constitutional Apostasy?
Response: You lose the blessings. What the Lord intended to confer upon you – what you might have had – you lose. This isn’t the responsibility of God. He’s not doing this to you. He gave you, as a gift, an opportunity. What you do with the opportunity is up to you. And when you walk away from, and you decide that you would not preserve, for any reason, what it was that God had intended to bless you with, you can’t obtain the blessing without conforming to the law upon which the blessing is predicated, and that was established before the foundation of the world. And if you decide that you will not conform to the condition upon which the blessing was predicated, then you get to enjoy the absence of the blessing. And you get to mill around in darkness, because blessings confer light. That’s why they call it “enlightenment.” That’s why the founding fathers were enlightened, because they were gathering, to themselves, light. And when you throw that away, then you get less of that – and darkness. But you’d be surprised how long we can run into the darkness with just our flashlights. Until it ends.
Question: It was said that the Elders of Israel would save the Constitution. How do you see that happening?
Response: Ezra Taft Benson is making that statement in reliance upon Joseph Smith’s comment upon the Elders of Israel. If the Constitution is to be saved, it will be the Elders of Israel who did it. And the comment about the Constitution lasting on into the millennium – My view is that if the Elders of Israel have a role in preserving the Constitution, that role is not by legislating. That role is by converting people to the truth, because the Constitution is to designed to govern a moral people. It is entirely unfit to govern any other kind of people. Therefore if you want to fix what’s wrong at the Constitutional level, you need to go out and preach the Gospel and convert people and change their hearts. Because right now the hearts of this nation – the hearts of this people – are harder, are more strident, and are more resistant. I mean look: What’s the tool? Gentleness, meekness and persuasion – that’s the tool. That’s what you get to use. Why do you think the Savior took a beating and forgave them? I mean, he shows you how to use the tool. He revolutionized the world ultimately, simply because he was unwilling to return, to brutality, anything other than kindness and forgiveness that would break the hearts of anyone who hears the story of who this man was. The Elders of Israel need to convert the people.
Voice: Glenn Beck’s an Elder.
Response: Yes…just change the hearts of the people.
Question: We have a pretty big movement across the nation right now…the nullification movement. Could you tell us what they thought about nullification?
Response: The pragmatics of it are, you need enough people with the right sentiment. Right now you have a legitimate effort to split Colorado into two states because of political differences and rights issues. There’s talk about the same thing in parts of California. Texas was a sovereign nation before it joined the United States and it has the right to split into separate states. And if it were to do so, it would probably do so to increase the number of Senators. Look, I don’t think there is going to be anything dramatic or succeed politically until you get enough people who are no longer interested in the Kardashians and who become interested in the erosion of their freedom. And that’s a tall challenge.
I’ve gone longer than I ever thought I would. We need to wrap it up.
Question: You mentioned Joseph Smith’s quote about how an hour of freedom is worth a whole eternity of bondage. I was wondering what your comments are about that.
Response. We have this really unique opportunity in mortality. This is the only place where you could come, where you can bleed, and you can die, and you can sacrifice for a cause. Cowardice is unbecoming anyone who is trying to lay hold on the riches of heaven. Because down here, in this dark world, you have an opportunity to prove who you are. You have an opportunity to prove what you are. And you don’t prove that you are anything worth preserving into eternity if you don’t live with nobility. And I don’t care who it is that is pressuring you or what means they think they can employ. That statement, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country” is not the language of a slave. It’s not even the language of a captive. There is a man who is free indeed, even though he’s about to be killed. You know, we lack the fortitude – we lack the self-confidence – to hold on to our freedom. You surrender to fashion. You surrender to peer pressure. You surrender to those people who you think are respected members of society. You surrender, but you don’t have to. Freedom is still possible in this day and age. Thank you.