Does the concept of an inspired Constitution mean that additional changes cannot or should not be made?
June 1976

“Does the concept of an inspired Constitution mean that additional changes cannot or should not be made?” Ensign, June 1976, 64

Does the concept of an inspired Constitution mean that additional changes cannot or should not be made?

Noel B. Reynolds, Chairman, Department of Philosophy, Brigham Young University No. Our belief that the welfare program and other Church programs are inspired has never been a reason to freeze them at some point in time. Rather, we are delighted to see these inspired programs revised year after year to meet the changing needs of an expanding world Church.

Similarly the founders of the American Republic did not see the Constitution as a final document. They clearly recognized it as a step of unprecedented magnitude but they expected it to be revised and refined over the years. They deliberately provided for orderly changes by including in the document itself an amendment procedure. This amendment procedure was used first to establish freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and other essential liberties. It has since been used to prohibit slavery, provide full citizenship to all Americans, protect individuals from invasions of their liberty by agencies of state governments, and extend voting rights to females.

President Brigham Young once declared that both the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the framers of the Constitution “were inspired from on high to do that work.” But he then went on to ask, “Was that which was given to them perfect not admitting of any addition whatever?” His answer was a clear negative. He said the founders “laid the foundation, and it was for after generations to rear the superstructure upon it. It is a progressive—a gradual work.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 1925 edition, p. 550.)

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., a great constitutional scholar in his own right, expressed this same view when he said, “It is not my belief nor is it the doctrine of my Church that the Constitution is a fully grown document. On the contrary, we believe it must grow and develop to meet the changing needs of an advancing world.” (Vital Speeches of the Day, 1938, 4:177.)

But changes in constitutional principles would not be good. Just as the inspired welfare program of the Church is based on certain principles which never change, so the Constitution is based on certain principles of free government that should not be altered. The basic principles upon which the Constitution was founded provide that every man shall be treated equally before the law. These principles also allow every man to be responsible for his own actions inasmuch as his decisions are independent of the arbitrary control of any other man. The Latter-day Saints have been warned repeatedly of changes in our constitutional system that would compromise these great principles of liberty. The leaders of the Church have generally regarded the growth of state welfare in the twentieth century as a dangerous experiment with our constitutional form of government. Only the people can protect the principles of their Constitution as they consider which governmental proposals to support and which to reject. If the American people lose their love and understanding for the principles of righteousness and freedom, the written Constitution will never have the power to preserve itself from destruction by greedy men.