From “The Constitution – A Heavenly Banner, by Ezra Taft Benson
September 16, 1986
The major provisions of the Constitution are as follows.
Sovereignty of the People
First: Sovereignty lies in the people themselves. Every governmental system has a sovereign, one or several who possess all the executive, legislative, and judicial powers. That sovereign may be an individual, a group, or the people themselves. The Founding Fathers believed in common law, which holds that true sovereignty rests with the people. Believing this to be in accord with truth, they inserted this imperative in the Declaration of Independence: “To secure these rights [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Separation of Powers
Second: To safeguard these rights, the Founding Fathers provided for the separation of powers among the three branches of government—the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. Each was to be independent of the other, yet each was to work in a unified relationship. As the great constitutionalist President J. Reuben Clark noted: It is [the] union of independence and dependence of these branches—legislative, executive and judicial—and of the governmental functions possessed by each of them, that constitutes the marvelous genius of this unrivalled document. . . . It was here that the divine inspiration came. It was truly a miracle. [Church News, November 29, 1952, p. 12]
The use of checks and balances was deliberately designed, first, to make it difficult for a minority of the people to control the government, and, second, to place restraint on the government itself.
Limited Powers of Government
Third: The powers the people granted to the three branches of government were specifically limited. The Founding Fathers well understood human nature and its tendency to exercise unrighteous dominion when given authority. A constitution was therefore designed to limit government to certain enumerated functions, beyond which was tyranny.
The Principle of Representation
Fourth: Our constitutional government is based on the principle of representation. The principle of representation means that we have delegated to an elected official the power to represent us. The Constitution provides for both direct representation and indirect representation. Both forms of representation provide a tempering influence on pure democracy. The intent was to protect the individual’s and the minority’s rights to life, liberty, and the fruits of their labors—property. These rights were not to be subject to majority vote.
A Moral and Righteous People
Fifth: The Constitution was designed to work with only a moral and righteous people. “Our constitution,” said John Adams (first vice-president and second president of the United States), “was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (John R. Howe, Jr., The Changing Political Thought of John Adams, Princeton University Press, 1966, p. 185).
The Crisis of our Constitution
This, then, is the ingenious and inspired document created by these good and wise men for the benefit and blessing of future generations. It is now two hundred years since the Constitution was written. Have we been wise beneficiaries of the gift entrusted to us? Have we valued and protected the principles laid down by this great document?
At this bicentennial celebration we must, with sadness, say that we have not been wise in keeping the trust of our Founding Fathers. For the past two centuries, those who do not prize freedom have chipped away at every major clause of our Constitution until today we face a crisis of great dimensions.
Source: Ezra Taft Benson. Excerpt from The Constitution – A Heavenly Banner. Ezra Taft Benson served as Secretary of Agriculture (for two terms) under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and was President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 16 September 1986 as a kick-off to the Bicentennial Celebration of the U.S. Constitution.
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Called Unto Liberty is researched, compiled, edited (with occasional commentary and introductory notes) by Steve Farrell, Founder and Editor in Chief of The Moral Liberal.
The Moral Liberal recommends Ezra Taft Benson’s: The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner