Many Americans have lost sight of the truth that righteousness is the one indispensable ingredient to liberty. Perhaps as never before in our history is our nation collectively deserving of the indictment pronounced by Abraham Lincoln in these words:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
“It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the Offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” (“A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America,” March 30, 1863, as cited in Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents,Washington, D.C.: United States Congress, 1897, pp. 164–65.)
Unless we as citizens of this nation forsake our sins, political and otherwise, and return to the fundamental principles of Christianity and of constitutional government, we will lose our political liberties, our free institutions, and will stand in jeopardy before God of losing our exaltation. I am in full agreement with the statement made by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.:
“I say to you that the price of liberty is and always has been blood, human blood, and if our liberties are lost, we shall never regain them except at the price of blood. They must not be lost!” (Stand Fast by Our Constitution, p. 137.)
Yes, I repeat, righteousness is an indispensable ingredient to liberty. Virtuous people elect wise and good representatives. Good representatives make good laws and then wisely administer them. This tends to preserve righteousness. An unvirtuous citizenry tend to elect representatives who will pander to their covetous lustings. The burden of self-government is a great responsibility. It calls for restraint, righteousness, responsibility, and reliance upon God. It is a truism from the Lord that “when the wicked rule the people mourn.” (D&C 98:9.)
As presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention, George Washington appealed to the delegates in these words: “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.” Wise and honorable men raised that glorious standard for this nation. It will also take wise and honorable men to perpetuate what was so nobly established.
A citizen of this republic cannot do his duty and be an idle spectator. How appropriate and vital it is at the time of our nation’s 200th birthday to remember this counsel from the Lord:
“Honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold.” (D&C 98:10.)
Goodness, wisdom, and honesty are the three qualities of statesmanship, qualities this country needs more than ever before. May we be wise—prayerfully wise—in the electing of those who would lead us. May we select only those who understand and will adhere to Constitutional principles. To do so, we need to understand these principles ourselves.
In 1973 the First Presidency of the Church made public this statement:
“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.” (Ensign, Nov. 1973, p. 90.)
I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed his stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land. I testify that the God of heaven selected and sent some of his choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government as a prologue to the restoration of the gospel and the second coming of our Savior.