The United States and its Constitution play an important role in Mormon apocalyptic millenarianism. From the time of Joseph Smith’s claim to prophethood in 1820 to the present, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as the Mormon Church, have extolled the virtues of the Constitution. Revelations claimed by Smith and other Mormon prophets point to the sacred nature of the Unites States and its Constitution. Mormons speak of a prophecy attributed to Smith wherein the US Constitution would one day “hang by a thread” before being rescued by Mormons. Ten Mormons, from Joseph Smith to Mitt Romney, have sought the US presidency. What, exactly, is the sacred nature of the United States and its Constitution in Mormon thought? What does it mean for the Constitution to “hang by a thread?” And what does it mean for Mormons to rescue it? Would they take over the government? While mainstream Mormons may be considered politically akin to the Evangelical Christian right, they are no more likely to take over the government than any other mainstream Christian group. However, due to the prominence of the United States and its Constitution in Mormon apocalyptic millenarian prophetic pronouncements from 1830 to 1985, and a decrease in the such prophetic pronouncements since 1985, a number of Mormons have begun to question whether these prophets are fallen.
Part I: The Beginning of the End
In the early 1800’s the restored gospel of Jesus Christ was revealed to Joseph Smith, ushering in “the dispensation of the fulness of times,” or the final period of time in which God reveals the fullness of his gospel, being “a dispensation of restoration and of fulfillment of the Lord’s plans and purposes since the world began” and including things previously unrevealed that have been reserved for this dispensation (BD 657). In 1805, Joseph Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont to Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith (Chronology of Church History). The Smiths moved to Palymra, New York in 1816. In 1818, when Smith was twelve, he became troubled by his sins. Around 1820, Smith claims to have had a vision of the Father and the Son. Three years later, Smith claims to have had another vision. This time, an angel appeared to him to give him instructions about gold plates, on which an ancient American record had been kept (Rough Stone Rolling 35; Book of Mormon).