Ezra Taft Benson, devotional address given at BYU on 4 December 1973
Next to life, we express gratitude for the gift of free agency. When thou didst create man, thou placed within him part of thine Omnipotence and bade him choose for himself. Liberty and conscience thus became a sacred part of human nature. Freedom not only to think, but to speak and act, is a God-given privilege. [Improvement Era, October 1958, pp. 718–19]
The Constitution of the United States is a great and treasured part of my religion. . . . The overturning, or the material changing, or the distortion of any fundamental principle of our constitutional government would thus do violence to my religion. . . . My faith teaches me that the Constitution is an inspired document drawn by the hands of men whom God raised up for that very purpose; that God has given His approval of the Government set up under the Constitution “for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles”: that the constitutional “principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before” the Lord. (D&C 101:77, 98:5.) . . .
So far as my knowledge goes, this is the only government now on the earth to which God has given such an approval. It is His plan for the government of free men. [President J. Reuben Clark, Stand Fast by Our Constitution, pp. 7, 172]
Stand your ground, don’t fire unless fired upon,
But if they mean to have a war
Let it begin here.
Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote. It is true, indeed, that in the beginning we aimed not at independence. But there’s a Divinity which shapes our ends. . . . Why, then, should we defer the Declaration? . . . You and I, indeed, may rue it. We may not live to the time when this Declaration shall be made good. We may die; die Colonists, die slaves, die, it may be, ignominiously and on the scaffold.
Be it so. Be it so.
If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready. . . . But while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a country, and that a free country.
But whatever may be our fate, be assured . . . that this Declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood; but it will stand and it will richly compensate for both.
Through the thick gloom of the present, I see the brightness of the future as the sun in heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will honor it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. On its annual return they will shed tears, copious, gushing tears, not of subjection and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of gratitude and of joy.
Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, Independence now, and Independence forever. [The Works of Daniel Webster, 4th ed., 1:133–:36]
The colonists fought the threat of aggression as much as aggression itself.
With grim determination, they opposed every attempt to rob them of any liberty they had gained.
To the colonists–our benefactors–it was not so much the amount as the principles of taxation (without representation) that the colonists opposed.
Here again in this new history are also the fiery words “give me liberty” of Patrick Henry of Virginia and also his words: “If this be treason, make the most of it.”
John Hancock, George Mason, Paul Revere–John Dickinson and his Letters from a Farmer, “We cannot be happy without being free.”
The British colonies were largely settled by people who had revolted against their living conditions in other lands. They were rebels, in a sense, who had the courage to flee from want and persecution, and face the perils of a wilderness to seek a better form of life. When they found a better way, they fought to keep it. Their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren did not want any monarch to change their way of life. They had plowed their own lands, built their own homes, and made their own clothes. Who was their master? [Donzella Cross Boyle, Quest of a Hemisphere (Boston: Western Islands), p. 113]
Thus, in colonial days, did the people of the colonies stand firmly against any form of dictatorship. Thousands of immigrants came to the settlements along the Atlantic seaboard, with only a vague idea of the freedoms they were seeking, because they had not known many of them. They were pursuing a vision. Freedoms sprouted in a wilderness like flowers on a vacant lot, because each person who came had broken the pattern of life in his old country and he was starting all over again. “Something new” began to grow in the New World–a mere idea. People began to question the right of government to interfere with their freedom to come and go, to buy and sell, to own or lease, to talk or listen, to vote and elect. In other words, people began to think they had the right to govern themselves. Yet, a new nation had to rise in the Western Hemisphere before this idea gained the force of law. ” [Ibid., p. 84]
Sacred to liberty and the rights of mankind!!!
The freedom and independence of America
Sealed and defended with the blood of her sons. . . .
The framers (of the Constitution) were not political tyros (beginners) flying a political kite to keep in order the henyard, that is, the colonists. They were men widely experienced in affairs of government. . . .
The Constitution was not the work of cloistered, fanatical theorists, but of sober, seasoned, distinguished men of affairs, drawn from various walks of life. They included students of wide reading and great learning in all matters of government. . . .
The Constitution was born, not only of the wisdom and experience of the generation that wrought it, but also out of the wisdom of the long generations that had gone before and which had been transmitted to them through tradition and the pages of history. . . .
These were the horse and buggy days as they have been called in derision; these were the men who traveled in the horsedrawn buggies and on horseback; but these were the men who carried under their hats, as they rode in the buggies and on their horses, a political wisdom garnered from the ages. As giants to pygmies are they when placed alongside our political emigres and their fellow travelers of today, who now traduce them with slighting word and contemptuous phrase. [J. Reuben Clark, Jr.,Church News, November 29, 1952; Stand Fast by Our Constitution, pp. 134–:37]
Those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits . . . inspired of the Lord.
Everyone of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with George Washington, . . . called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George two consecutive nights and demanded at my hand that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the house of God for them. . . .
Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder in Israel, to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not. . . . Said they: “. . . We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” [Conference Reports, April 1898, pp. 89–90; Journal of Discourses, 19:229]
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. . . reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. [George Washington, Farewell Address,September 17, 1796; The Writings of George Washington, Ford Edition, 13:307–:8]
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites–in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity–in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption–in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite is placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. [Edmund Burke, Works, 4:51–52, quoted in Prophets, Principles and National Survival, p. 33]
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself has said,
“This is my own, my native land!”
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well. . . .
[Sir Walter Scott, "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," in The Complete Poetical Works of Scott, Cambridge Edition (Boston:Houghton Mifflin Co. [c.1900]), p. 40]
‘Tis great to see the Old World and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renoun,
To view the crumbly castles and statues of the kings;
But now I think I’ve seen enough of antiquated things.
So it’s home again, and home again, America for me,
I want a ship that’s westward bound, to plow the rolling sea,
To the land of youth and freedom, beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of freedom and the flag is full of stars.
[Henry Van Dyke, "America for Me," in The Best Loved Poems of the American People (Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Co. [c. 1936]), p. 424]
When the day comes in which the Kingdom of God will bear rule, the flag of the United States will proudly flutter unsullied on the flagstaff of liberty and equal rights, without a spot to sully its fair surface; the glorious flag our fathers have bequeathed to us will then be unfurled to the breeze by those who have power to hoist it aloft and defend its sanctity. [Journal ofDiscourses, 2:317]
How long will it be before the words of the Prophet Joseph will be fulfilled? He said if the Constitution of the United States were saved at all it must be done by this people. It will not be many years before these words come to pass. [Ibid., 12:204]
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 these challenging days, when there are so many influences which would divert us, there is a need to rededicate ourselves to the lofty principles and practices of our Founding Fathers. [Church News, September 22, 1973, p. 3]
we could have a goodly number of substantial young men growing up in our midst who would become skilled and mighty in the law, and who could go into any of the courts and set forth the true principles of justice and equity in all cases. We need more of such men. We do not want men to become lawyers, turn infidels and live for nothing but the little money they can make. We want to raise up a corps of young men armed with the spirit of the gospel, clothed with the holy priesthood, who can tell the judges in high places what the law is. [Journal of Discourses, 26:102]