The Importance of the United States and the US Constitution in Mormon Apocalyptic Millenarianism

Christopher Hurtado —  May 29, 2011 — Leave a comment
The Importance of the United States and the US Constitution in Mormon Apocalyptic Millenarianism | Christopher Hurtado

Introduction

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).

Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates buried in the hill Cumorah in upstate New York (near Palymra) “by the gift and power of God” (Book of Mormon) According to Smith, on September 21-22, 1823 an angel, named Moroni, appeared to him and told him about the Book of Mormon, written on gold plates and buried in the Hill Cumorah, near his home. On September 22, 1827, Smith claimed to have obtained the gold plates from the angel Moroni at the Hill Cumorah. By June, 1829, Smith had completed his translation and on March 26, 1830 the Book of Mormon became available in print (Church History Chronology). Mormons believe the Book of Mormon contains the history of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas between approximately 600 BC and 421 AD. Ancient American prophets kept records of these dealings and the prophet Mormon abridged them, writing on gold plates to be hidden where Joseph Smith would later find them (Book of Mormon).

In the Book of Mormon, ancient American prophets testified and prophesied on the rights of liberty and freedom, on taking up arms to defend those rights, on the United States, and on principles of government embodied in the US Constitution. It is important to note that Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon was not had by the people among and about whom it was written, but only by the prophets doing the writing, and that it was buried up when their civilization was coming to its end, as a result of war. They believe it was meant to come forth in our day, and that its teachings are for our times. Mormons also believe the Book of Mormon is a religious record, separate from a secular record kept by these same prophets. The secular record was not translated and therefore is not had by the Mormons. It is significant, then, that there are so many chapters in the Book of Mormon dealing with wars. These, so-called “war chapters,” Mormons believe, are meant to instruct them on how to deal with coming wars (Book of Mormon; Rust).

As a warning for our day, the Book of Mormon prophets prophesied extensively on liberty and freedom. A keyword search of the Book of Mormon reveals that 28 out of the 43 references to the keyword “liberty” in the Book of Mormon appear in the “war chapters,” which comprise about 10% of the book as measured in number of pages. These “war chapters” also contain 24 out of the 27 references to the keyword “freedom.” Most of these quotes deal with the Book of Mormon peoples’ desire to preserve their liberty, the freedom of their country, and their freedom of religion from those who wished to overthrow them, and include references to taking up arms in order to do so (BOM).

In  these same “war chapters,” Book of Mormon prophets prophesied on taking up arms to preserve liberty and freedom. Again by keyword search, there are 8 references in these chapters to taking up arms to defend liberty and freedom. However, some of the references deal with “freemen” taking up arms, not against external enemies, but against internal dissenters called “king-men” who “refused to take up arms, for they were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with the people of liberty, that they would not take up arms to defend their country” (Alma 51:53).

In the Book of Mormon, God and his prophets also spoke of the sacred nature of the United States. God, speaking to an unnamed man known as “the brother of Jared” and ostensibly speaking of the modern day United States, swears in his wrath “that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them” (Ether 2:8) “when they are ripened in iniquity” (Ether 2:9). God subsequently declared, “this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2: 12).

Ostensibly referring to the modern United States, the prophet Lehi of the Book of Mormon prophesied, about588–570 B.C.,

this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever (2 Ne. 1:7).

Nine chapters later, Jacob, another Book of Mormon prophet ostensibly prophesied, c. 559–545 B.C., “this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles” (2 Ne. 10:11).

One Book of Mormon prophet dicussed principles of government similar to those embodied in the US Constitution. After translating the record of a people called Jaredites contained in the Book of Ether mentioned above, beloved Book of Mormon prophet and “righteous” king, Mosiah, c.92-91 B.C., warned his people of the danger of an unrighteous king leading them into sin. He suggested that after his death the people elect judges to judge them according to God’s commandments –  higher judges to judge the lower judges, and a small number of lower judges to judge the higher judges according to the voice of the people (Mosiah 29:1-29).

Mosiah then declared his desire that “inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike” (Mosiah 29:32). Subsequently, the people “became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land” (Mosiah 29:38) and “they assembled themselves together in bodies throughout the land, to cast in their voices concerning who should be their judges … and they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them” (Mosiah 29:39).

Between 1823-1844 Joseph Smith received many revelations, most of which the Mormon Church has canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). The Doctrine and Covenants comprises 138 sections and an official declaration on the subject of plural marriage. Of the 138 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, 135 of them were recorded during Joseph Smith’s prophethood. The last section recorded before Joseph Smith’s martyrdom is “a Declaration of Belief regarding Governments and Laws in general, adopted by unanimous vote at a general assembly of the Church” (D&C 250). Among these numerous revelations on various topics are salient revelations on liberty and freedom, the United States in general, certain places within the US in particular, the US Constitution, and how these figure in Mormon apocalyptic millenarianism.

On August 17, 1835, Smith presiding, Mormon Church leaders met to discuss what the contents of the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants should be and decided to include “a declaration of belief regarding governments and laws in general” (D&C 134). The men declared beliefs in line with the US Constitution, while emphasizing the divine nature of the principles it embodies and freedom of religion. Immediately following their emphasis on religious freedom, the Mormon Church leaders declared their belief that men should “sustain and uphold” their government “while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected” [emphasis added] (D&C 134:5).

In the same declaration discussed above, Mormon Church leaders declared their belief that the government “should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul” (D&C 134: 4).  The men also declared their belief that “governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience” (D&C 134:5). In an early revelation given August 6, 1833, at Kirtland, Ohio, Smith had declared that “that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before [God]” (D&C 98:5).

Joseph Smith prophesied that a scourge in the form of a desolating sickness would cover the land. He indicated certain US cities that would be threatened by this scourge and called for a New Jerusalem or Zion to be built in the United States for a refuge from wars to come. He prophesied of coming wars at home and abroad and of people flowing to Zion from all the nations of the earth to seek refuge there. He retranslated the Bible, gaining new insights into the Revelation of St. John, including information about the beginning and end of the world. He also revealed that the Garden of Eden was in the United States.

On March 7, 1831, Joseph Smith prophesied that a desolating sickness would cover the land. He prophesied that in a future time of

wars and rumors of wars … the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them … And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land … But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices andcurse God and die (D&C 45: 26-32).

On December 16, 1877, a church leader, presumed to be John Taylor, the third president of the Church, saw a vision of the scourge of desolating sickness prophesied by Joseph Smith in America. He had a night vision of Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, the entire states of Missouri and Illinois and parts of Iowa desolate. This vision also included people walking toward the Rocky Mountains, which will be spared the scourge, carrying bundles (The Cleansing of America 13-15). These details also coincide with another prophecy called the White Horse Prophecy which will be discussed below.

God instructed Joseph Smith to retranslate the New Testament in order to reveal important new information. According to the same March 17, 1831 revelation, God revealed to Smith certain truths about the Second Coming and the Millennium before commissioning him to retranslate the New Testament. He then directed him to begin the work of translation so that he could prepare himself for “the things to come” and that “great things await [him]” (D&C 45: 60-63).

In the same March 17, 1831 revelation, God instructed Joseph Smith to gather the Saints and build a New Jerusalem for the gathering of people from all nations. He warned him that war would come to the United States and Mormons should pool their money to buy land to build a New Jerusalem or Zion to be “a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God” where the wicked dare not come. Zion would be the only place of safety in the world. The whole world would be at war and the righteous and those among the wicked who would not fight would flee to Zion where the wicked would dare not come against them. Nevertheless, Smith was commanded to keep word of Zion quiet until it was built (D&C 45:63-72).

In the course of retranslating the Bible, Joseph Smith received revelations explaining the Revelation of St. John. According to a revelation claimed by Smith in March, 1832 at Hiram, Ohio, Smith learned that “this earth has a temporal existence of 7,000 years” (D&C 77: 6-7), and that “Christ will come at the beginning of the seventh thousand years” (D&C 77: 12-14). It is likely that Mormon apocalyptic millenarian author, W. Cleon Skousen, discussed below, named his books, The First 2,000 Years: From Adam to Abraham, The Third Thousand Years: From Abraham to David, The Fourth Thousand Years: From David to Christ, and The 5,000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World, in light of this revelation.

On September 22-23, 1832, Smith received a revelation concerning the “plagues and cursings [that] await those who reject the gospel” (D&C 84) as the missionaries he had sent to the eastern states were returning and reporting to him on their labors. The revelation opened by proclaiming that the New Jerusalem will be built, starting with the temple, in western Missouri for “the gathering of the saints” with construction beginning “in this generation” (D&C 84 1-5). Next, the revelation called for missionary work to be carried out worldwide (D&C 84:62) to “reprove the world of all their unrighteous deeds, and to teach them of a judgment which is to come” (D&C 84:87).

In light of this revelation Joseph Smith warned the people of New York, Albany, and Boston of the plagues that would scourge the wicked who reject the message of Mormon missionaries (D&C 84: 94-97). Smith commissioned bishop Newell K. Whitney to “go unto the city of New York, also to the city of Albany, and also to the city of Boston, and warn the people of those cities with the sound of the gospel, with a loud voice, of the desolation and utter abolishment which await them if they do reject these things” (D&C 84:112-14). An August 22, 1863 prophecy by fourth Mormon Church president Wilford Woodruff, who saw many of the things John Taylor saw, forsaw a future time when Boston had already been swept into the sea and Albany destroyed by fire. Another churh leader, Orson Pratt, saw in vision New York in ruins (The Cleansing of America 16).

In 1832, Joseph Smith saw in vision the US Civil War. “I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God, that the commencement of the difficulties which will cause much bloodshed previous to the coming of the Son of Man will be in South Carolina. It may probably arise through the slave question” (D&C 130: 12-13). Smith also prayed “very earnestly to know the time of the Second Coming” (D&C 130: 14), but did not receive a clear answer (D&C 130:15-17).

Joseph Smith revealed that Adam and his descendants would gather near the site of the Garden of Eden in Missouri prior to the Second Coming. Smith revealed that Spring Hill, Daviess County, Missouri is Adam-ondi-Ahman, where Adam “shall come to visit his people” (D&C 116). This is interpreted as a “pre-millennial assembly of Adam and his faithful descendants prior to the second coming of Christ” (FAIR Volunteers). Smith also revealed that Adam-ondi-Ahman is the place where Adam gathered his sons to give them his last blessing three years before his death (D&C 107:53). Brigham Young, the second President of the Church, is quoted as saying Joseph Smith also said it is the place where Adam and Eve settled after their expulsion from nearby Garden of Eden (FAIR Volunteers).

Joseph Smith prophesied of the divine origin of the Constitution. In a revelation given by Smith on December 16, 1833 at Kirtland Ohio, while the Mormons in Missouri were being persecuted by mobs (D&C 101), God revealed to him that it was God’s will that the Mormons seek redress for their grievances from the government (D&C 101:76), “According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles” (D&C 101:77). God subsequently added, “it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another. And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 79-80).

On March 27, 1836, in a dedicatory prayer for the new temple built in Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph Smith prayed for the Constitution and the principles it embodied. In this prayer, which he claimed to have received by revelation (D&C 109), Smith uttered the following words: “Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever” (D&C 109:54)

Joseph Smith had much to say about the Constitution that has not been canonized by the Mormon Church. Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth president of the Church, compiled these sayings in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In an epistle to the Church written in Liberty Prison, in Clay County, Missouri on March 25, 1839 and signed by all of his fellow Mormon prisoners (TPJS 129), Joseph Smith heralded the Constitution as a “glorious standard,” “founded in the wisdom of God” and as “true” as God, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, The Book of Covenants, Christ, and “ministering angels sent forth from God” (TPJS 147-48). Smith also argued that the Constitution guarantees civil and religious liberty (TPJS 185, 279, 317, 326, 331–32, 344), commented on its powers (278-79), and argued that it contains provisions for making laws (278-79), and is designed to regulate groups, not individuals (279).

Joseph Smith declared himself “the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on earth,” explaining that “allowing every one [sic] liberty of conscience” was one of the first principles his father taught him as a child and that he had cultivated this principle since his childhood. He then declared that he would die to protect the rights of the “weak and oppressed” and that the only fault he found with the Constitution is its lack of enforceability. He called for capital punishment for violators of the Constitution, such as President MartinVan Buren and Governor Boggs of Missouri, who failed to protect the rights of the Mormons from “the merciless rage of popular fury” (TPJS 326-27).

In March 1838, the Church issued a “Political Motto” over the signature of Joseph Smith and other Mormon Church leaders. It reads,

The Constitution of our country formed by the fathers of liberty. Peace and good order in society. Love to God, and goodwill to men. All good and wholesome laws, virtue and truth above all things, and aristarchy, live forever! But woe to tyrants, mobs, aristocracy, anarchy, and Toryism, and all those who invent or seek out unrighteous and vexatious law suits, under the pretext and color of law, or office, either religious or political. Exalt the standard of democracy! Down with that of priestcraft, and let all the people say Amen! that the blood of our fathers may not cry from the ground against us. Sacred is the memory of that blood which bought for us our liberty (TPJS 117).

Joseph Smith, in the presence of Edwin Rushton and Theodore Turley, allegedly gave the controversial “White Horse Prophecy” on or about May 6, 1843. However, Rushton did not make this claim until many years after Smith’s death (Bringhurst and Foster 282). In his old age, up to 50 years after Rushton allegedly heard the prophecy from Smith, he wrote down his recollections of it in the interest of preserving history. The Mormon Church has several copies of Rushton’s account made by separate individuals who heard it recounted. The most frequently cited source is the March 2, 1902 diary entry of John J. Roberts of Paradise, Utah, who reportedly received it from Robert Pierce on February 28, 1902.

According to the diary of John J. Roberts, on or about May 6, 1843 after reviewing the Nauvoo Legion and complimenting them he asked for a glass of water and toasted to “the overthrow of the Mobocrats.” (qtd. in Cobabe). The next morning, a man who had witnessed Smith’s toast visited the Prophet’s mansion and verbally attacked him. After the attacker’s expulsion and departure, Smith reportedly turned to Theodore Turley and Edwin Rushton, who were standing by, and began to prophecy about the future of the so-called Mobocrats (Cobabe).

The White Horse Prophecy explicates the prophecy in Revelation on the four horsemen of the apocalypse. According to Rushton, Smith prophesied of a “mighty people” (qtd. in Cobabe) to be established in the Rocky Mountains he called “the White Horse of peace and safety” (qtd. in Cobabe), saying he would never go there himself. Persecution would follow and Congress would enact laws to destroy the White Horse of peace and safety despite petitions to Congress, continued Smith. The Constitution, “almost destroyed,” “will hang like a thread as fine as silk fiber” (qtd. in Cobabe). With sadness in his countenance, he then said, “I love the Constitution; it was made by the inspiration of God; and it will be preserved and saved by theefforts of the White Horse, and by the Red Horse who will combine in its defense” (qtd. in Cobabe).

“A terrible revolution” (qtd. in Cobabe) would take place, leaving America without a “Supreme Government” (qtd. in Cobabe) with peace and love only to be found in the Rocky Mountains. “Many Hundreds of thousands” (qtd. in Cobabe) will come “with bundles under their arms” to this Zion in the Rocky Mountains to “escape the calamities” (qtd. in Cobabe) and “will try to keep the laws and be one with you for they will see your unity and the greatness of your organization” (qtd. in Cobabe). Smith then prophesied of worldwide events and the role of the Black Horse, identified as former slaves whose doings “will be terrible” (qtd in Cobabe).

He continued:

During this time the Great White Horse will have gathered strength, sending out elders to gather the honest in heart from among the Pale Horse, or people of the United States, to stand by the Constitu-tion of the United States as it was given by the inspiration of God. In these days which are yet to come God will set up a Kingdom never to be thrown down, but other Kingdoms to come into it, and those Kingdoms that will not let the Gospel be preached in their lands will be humbled until they will (qtd. in Cobabe).

Smith prophesied that the White Horse and the Red Horse would be the “Guardians” (qtd. in Cobabe) of peace and safety in the Rocky Mountain “Zion” until the premillennial coming of the Messiah. The temple would be built in Jackson county, Missouri “in that generation” (qtd. in Cobabe). After the Chinese invade “a land beyond the Rocky Mountains” (qtd. in Cobabe), a “last great struggle” (qtd. in Cobabe) will result in the “whole of America [being] made the Zion of God” (qtd. in Cobabe) despite the opposition of Gog and Magog, led by the Russian Czar (Cobabe).

In 1844 Joseph Smith ran for president of the United States on an independent platform. Once freed from prison in Liberty, Missouri, Smith settled in Illinois and the Mormons started to build the future city of Nauvoo. Having failed to secure redress for the grievances of persecution in Missouri, Smith determined to seek redress from the federal government, invoking the Mormon’s Constitutional right to the free exercise of their religion. Smith and a small entourage traveled to the nation’s capital to petition President Martin Van Buren for redress of their grievances. Failing to secure such redress, Smith decided, on January 29, 1844 to run for president of the United States. The most important plank in Smith’s platform called for presidential power to use the army to quell mobs without an order from a governor. Smith’s brief campaign ended on June 27, 1844 when he was martyred by a mob at the Carthage Jail (Garr).

Mormon Church leaders dismissed the White Horse Prophecy as false prophesy. In October of 1918, at the Mormon Church’s semiannual General Conference future president of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, denounced the White Horse Prophecy as “proceed[ing] from darkness, concocted in some corner, surreptitiously presented, and not coming through the proper channels of the Church” (Bringhurst and Foster 289). His father, then president of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, added his own denunciation to his son’s calling it “ridiculous” and “a lot of trash” (qtd. in Bringhurst and Foster 289). In pointing out its dubious origins he added,

two of our brethren, who put together some broken sentences from the Prophet [Joseph Smith] that they may have heard from time to time, and formulated this so-called revelation out of it, and it was never spoken by the Prophet in the manner in which they have put it forth. It is simply false; that is all there is to it (Bringhurst and Foster 289-90).

Mormon Church leaders maintain that Joseph Smith prophesied that the US Constitution would one day be in jeopardy and that the Church would rescue it. Church leaders maintained that on July 19, 1840, shortly after his return from Washington, having failed to obtain any redress for Mormon grievances against the mobs persecuting them, Joseph Smith prophesied,

Even this nation will be on the verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the constitution is upon the brink of ruin this people [the Mormons] will be the Staff up[on] which the Nation shall lean and they shall bear the constitution away from the very verge of destruction (Jesse 392).

Mormon Church leaders after Joseph Smith continued to quote the White Horse Prophecy, citing Joseph Smith. In his opening address, at the 157th semiannual General Conference of the Mormon Church on October 3, 1987, then 13th president of the Mormon Church, Ezra Taft Benson asked, “Do we know what the prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it” (qtd. in Cannon)? In response, Brigham Young University Mormon Church history professor Donald Q. Cannon and a research assistant searched for the answer systematically over several months and published their findings in 1991. They found that Mormon prophets from Joseph Smith to Ezra Taft Benson had said “a lot” about the Constitution. Eight of the thirteen Mormon prophets surveyed had made statements about the Constitution “hanging by a thread”, each of them citing Joseph Smith, and all thirteen prophesied that the Constitution would be in jeopardy at some future time and be rescued by the Mormons (Cannon).

Part II: Communist Conspiracy

During the 1950’s, at the height of the Red Scare, future Mormon Church president Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon author and speaker W. Cleon Skousen worked in tandem to raise awareness of the communist threat to America. Both had previously worked in the US government – Benson as Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture and Skousen in the FBI. They both spoke and wrote extensively on the subject until their deaths in 1994 and 2006, respectively. While Benson was president of the Mormon Church between 1985 and 1994, he often invited Skousen to speak and only to have his counselors, future Mormon Church presidents Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson disinvite him (Logan).

Skousen wrote prolifically and extensively on the importance of the United States and its Constitution in Mormon apocalyptic millenarianism. He published numerous books including The Challenge of Our Times, a collection of Sunday night radio talks commissioned by the Mormon Church, in 1953; The Naked Communist, “an in-depth study of the international Communist conspiracy, based on research he had done since early in his FBI career,” in 1958; Fantastic Victory, “the story of Israel’s miraculous six-day military triumph over its enemies in June 1967,” written in three months, in 1967; The Naked Capitalist, a review of Tragedy and Hope by Dr. Carroll Quigley in 1971; The Five Thousand Year Leap, “outlin[ing] the 28 basic principles on which the American government was founded,” in 1981; and The Making of America, “which was immediately attacked by the liberal media” and “has been adopted by many schools as their standard American government text,” in 1985 (In Memoriam).

After Ezra Taft Benson’s presidency, Mormon Church presidents have spoken less of the Constitution. Two of the three Mormon Church presidents to who succeeded Benson where his the counselors who often disinvited Skousen when Benson invited him to speak. According to Latter-day Saint Libertarian, LDS Liberty blogger and former BYU Freedom Society president, Shiloh Logan, Mormons have been leaving the Church, seeing post-Benson prophets as fallen while continuing to uphold the prior thirteen Mormon prophets as true prophets of God (Logan). A more likely explanation for the decline in talk of the Constitution by Church leaders since Benson is the fall of the Soviet Union, which occurred while Benson was president of the Church.

Three major-party Mormon candidates competed for their party’s nomination in the 20th century: George Romney, Mo Udall, and Orrin Hatch. In 1968, Michigan Governor George W. Romney, ran for the Republican Party nomination for president. In 1976, Arizona Congressman Morris “Mo” King Udall competed for the Democratic Party nomination. In 2000, Republican Utah Senator Orrin Hatch ran for his party’s nomination. Each of these candidates competed for their party’s nomination “during times of extraordinary change and challenge” (Bringhurst and Foster 53). Additionally, there were five minor-party Mormon candidates in the 20th Century: Parley P. Christensen, Ezra Taft Benson, Eldridge Cleaver, Sonia Johnson, and Bo Gritz. Each of these five minor-party candidates, though holding widely divergent views, felt, in common, that the two major parties had failed to address important concerns and thus sought the presidency (Bringhurst and Foster 121).

While the threat of communist conspiracy has subsided, the threat of socialist subversion looms large on the horizon of Mormon thought. Though Mormon Church presidents since Benson remain silent on the matter, for the most part, conservative talk show host, Glenn Beck, who is a member of the Mormon Church, has resurrected Skousen’s writings and proclaimed over the air that the Constitution is “hanging by a thread.” And he has found agreement on this among Mormon politicians interviewed on his show and tacitly endorsed one of them.

Glenn Beck, host of the “third most listened to show in America” (“Glenn Beck with Sen. Hatch: ‘Constitution is hanging by a thread’ – Glenn Beck”), became a Mormon in 1999 (Lawson) and began promoting Skousen’s The 5,000 Year Leap in 2008 (“Glenn Beck: Are you a Sept. 12th person? – Glenn Beck”). Beck talked about the Constitution with Senator Orrin Hatch and presidential candidate Mitt Romney on air and tacitly endorsed Romney.

Glenn Beck resurrected Skousen’s The 5,000 Year Leap in 2008. In 2009, a 30th anniversary edition with a foreword by Beck was published. In his foreword, Beck recounted his 2007 and 2008 musings on his personal problems and the relation he saw between those problems and the problems he saw facing the United States and its people and his then lack of ability to see a solution to these problems. Then, he continued, one day in spring, while walking down the street, the answer came to him: The Founding Fathers had foreseen the problems we face today and had provided us with the Constitution as the answer. Shortly thereafter, recounted Beck, a friend sent him an unsolicited copy of Skousen’s book, telling him it contained a clear exposition of the principles upon which America was founded (The Five Thousand Year Leap: 30 Year Anniversary Edition with Glenn Beck Foreword 5-6).

Glenn Beck began promoting Skousen’s The 5,000 Year Leap in 2008 at the launch of his 9/12 Project. In it, he prescribed his five-step solution for the problems he saw facing America to his listeners. The first step he prescribed was to read Skousen’s The 5,000 Year Leap. The second step was to read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. The third step was to reconnect with God. The fourth step was to be a missionary, preaching Beck’s 9/12 Project. The fifth step was to read three more books: The Real George Washington, The Real Thomas Jefferson, and The Real Ben Franklin. As a result of Beck’s 9/12 Project, The 5,000 Year Leap became a bestseller on Amazon.com (Haddock).

Recently another Mormon ran for president of the United States. Mormon billionaire venture capitalist, Mitt Romney, was a major-party candidate in 2008 and is competing for the party’s nomination again in 2012. His 2008 candidacy was plagued by his Mormonism, resulting in his “Faith in America” speech (Goldberg). In it, he claimed that “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom” (Romney). Ultimately, ordained Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee attracted conservative Christian Evangelical voters away from Romney and Romney lost the nomination (Bringhurst and Foster 229-230). With the help of Glenn Beck, who has managed to bridge the Mormon-Protestant divide to gain acceptance of Mormons among the Christian right, Romney may have an advantage in 2012 which he lacked in 2008 (Golberg).

In a January 7, 2008 interview on his show, Glen Beck tacitly endorsed Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. (“Glenn talks with Mitt Romney about the Iowa caucus – Glenn Beck”). After declaring that “All government should be run like a business” on air on June 10, 2008 (“Glenn Beck: Government Waste – Glenn Beck”), Beck told Romney in an interview with him on January 7, 2008, “If I were running a company, I would want you to be the CEO, no questions asked because you are never going to make a mistake.  You are so good and so well put together.” After asking Romney about his weaknesses and hearing his reply, Beck adulated him again saying, “What I’m saying to you is you are so put together.  People describe it as slick.  I don’t.  I think you’re well put together.  You’re a guy who I want running my company” (“Glenn talks with Mitt Romney about the Iowa caucus – Glenn Beck”).

Glenn Beck and Orrin Hatch discussed the Constitution “hanging by a thread” on air (NPR Staff) in a November 4, 2008 interview on his show. Glenn Beck said to Senator Hatch, “Senator, do you believe — I mean, when I heard Barack Obama talk about the Constitution and I thought, we are at the point or we are very near the point where our Constitution is hanging by a thread.” Senator Hatch replied, “You got that right.” Later in the interview, Beck said, “We are so close to losing our Constitution. We are so close to losing what we have, and people aren’t thinking. The next generation our children will look to us and say, ‘You sold my freedom for what?’” To that, Senator Hatch responded, “Well, let me tell you something. I believe the Constitution is hanging by a thread. I’ve been fighting to [sic] save it for all 32 years I’ve been in the Senate and I think anybody who looks at it knows I’ve been in almost every fight that’s been saving the Constitution” (“Glenn Beck with Sen. Hatch: ‘Constitution is hanging by a thread’ – Glenn Beck”).

Conclusion

Apocalyptic millenarianism has been a prominent feature in the Mormon religion from its inception. Furthermore, the United States and its Constitution have figured prominently in Mormon apocalyptic millenarianism. However, with a decrease in the prominence of this theme during the presidency of the last three Mormon prophets, there have been instances of Mormons breaking away from the mainstream and radicalizing over what they perceive to be apostasy on the part of these prophets. This presents the possibility of fringe elements in the Mormon milieu taking matters into their own hands and entering into conflict with the US government or seeing themselves as “freemen” and take up arms against supporters of socialism they perceive as “king-men.”

Works Cited

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Christopher Hurtado

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Christopher Hurtado is President and CEO of Linguistic Solutions and Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy and Political Science at Utah Valley University. He holds a BA in Middle East Studies/Arabic and Philosophy and an MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. He coauthored Vacation Spanish: A Survival Guide for Mexico, the Caribbean, Central & South America. He is married to children’s book author and homeschool mom, Alysia Gonzalez. Together they have nine children. They are active in their church and in their community.

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