The Mormon Constitution

Posted on June 27, 2012 by


New York Review of Books, Garry Wills recently wrote an article The Mormon Constitution. In this he expressed concerns about Mitt Romney having a theological problem with changing and interpreting the US Constitution because he is Mormon. Enter Mormon Fact Check:

As a matter of house keeping, Mr. Wills said the following:

The young man was learning Portuguese, to do his missionary year in Brazil, for which he left before graduation.

When young people go on missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the mission is 2 years long for young men and 18 months for young women. This isn’t a big deal but needs to be pointed out.

Now onto the main topic at hand, Mr. Wills concerns about members of the LDS Church believing the constitution is like unto the bible and cannot be changed.

This was not a criticism of my student’s faith, and all our dealings were cordial; but I was left wondering about the theory of inspiration as a legal tool of interpretation. Will a Mormon president treat constitutional clauses as divine injunctions? If so, what grounds will we non-Mormons have for interpreting with secular arguments what is presented as God’s will? For that matter, what right will the Supreme Court have to treat the document as anything less than a divinely inspired covenant? Does the First Amendment actually separate church and state, or does that not count, since it is merely an amendment, not the original word of God? But why, then, did a mere amendment change the first inspiration that made slaves less than full persons?

I think its important to point out that Mr. Wills might be confusing inspiration that gives us scripture speaking for and in behave of the Lord with the belief that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; The LDS Church teaches that the US Constitution, with its freedoms, separation of powers, and systems of government was inspired of God. However this is not new and even the founders who wrote the constitution said they were inspired by God in this endeavor. As evidence that the delegates of the constitutional convention were the recipients of heavenly inspiration Alexander Hamilton, wrote:

“For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interest” (Essays on the Constitution of the United States, ed. Paul L. Ford, 1892, pp. 251–52).

James Madison also wrote:

“It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution” (The Federalist, no. 37, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1983, p. 222).

Its important to remember that the US constitution defines our system of government, and is set up so changes can be made as the needs arise. Freedom and self rule is the inspiration that members of the LDS church would point to when they describe the reverence they have for this famous document. Many leaders of the church would describe the Constitution as wise, inspired and even sacred because the influence it has had on the world at large. No where has it been taught that the US Constitution cannot or should not be changed.

Finally Mr. Wells can take comfort in the following scripture:

D & C 134:9 We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

Posted in: Constitution