About 400 people who gathered this week at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stake center in Gilbert got a refresher course on why the U.S. Constitution holds such a revered place in Mormon faith.
“Next to being one in worshiping God, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States,” read a quote by LDS President David O. McKay on a display at the lecture.
The Constitution Fireside was led by Shane Krauser, LDS author, national speaker on the U.S. Constitution, and adjunct professor of political science, who
asked the audience what the Constitution is designed to do.
Whispers of, “restrains government,” were heard throughout the congregation.
The Constitution is designed to limit tyranny, Krauser said.
Mainly, he argued, because rights aren’t given to citizens by the government; instead, rights are given to people from God.
“There is no such thing as Constitutional rights,” he said. “It’s a misnomer. Rights come from God.”
To the many of the Mormon faith, the Constitution is more than just a great piece of paper written by intelligent, deeply philosophical men; it is a piece of divinely inspired work.
At one point, a screen behind Krauser read: “The members of the church are under divine commandment to revere the Constitution as a heaven-inspired instrument,” a quote attributed to LDS President Wilford Woodruff.
When you look at the number of highly intelligent men in the small area of Colonial America, it must have meant something, Krauser said.
“When you look at these men, it’s hard not to think that God had a plan laid out for them,” he said. “And people may say, ‘There he goes again, talking about politics,’ but I say, ‘No, I’m talking about the word of God.’”
For Krauser and members of the Mormon Church, the Constitution should only be changed in extreme cases.
“Our Constitution has longevity,” he said. “Other countries have had numerous constitutions.”
What makes our constitution different is it allows for free agency, he said.
“At the end of the day, we allow people to do things that we may not agree with,” Krauser said. “We try to be a voice for good, but we don’t force people to make choices.”
That’s why keeping the document in its original form is so important, he said. By keeping it in its original form, it doesn’t pervert or change the original intention of the document.
Sunday’s fireside discussion was also attended by members of other local faith communities and groups. Luke Narducci, LDS public relations member, said other community members were invited to speak as well, including the Chandler City Council, Temple Beth Shalom, St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church and Grove Bible Church.
Fireside discussions occur about four or five times a year, said Scott Palmer, president of Chandler Arizona East Stake.
“Firesides are important because they allow us to talk about specific topics in addition to religious needs,” Palmer said. “They’re important because we share common beliefs and values, and with firesides, we can work together to uplift those principles.”
The talks usually have a guest speaker who is well versed on the topic, and topics of discussion can range from how to have a stronger marriage to how to juggle personal finances, Palmer said.
Perhaps what made this fireside so different was that many children, teenagers and adults of all ages attended the event.
“I don’t think about the Constitution enough and I take it for granted,” said Gabriele Larson, stake relief society president. “I’m reminded that I need to teach my children more about it ... I want them to understand that it defends our freedom.”
Krauser pointed out that on the back of George Washington’s chair during the National Convention, there was either a rising or setting sun.
“General Washington said that he thought it was a rising sun,” Krauser said. “And I believe that the sun still rises on America and that the best days are still ahead.”
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