“Church Celebrates Bicentennial of U.S. Constitution,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 102–3
The Church celebrated the Bicentennial of the U. S. Constitution with several different events in recent months.
Highlighting the commemoration was the Constitutional Bicentennial Ball held at the Hotel Utah September 18, where President Ezra Taft Benson and his wife, Flora, led the opening dance.
The ball was broadcast live to meetinghouses throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, where similar celebrations were being held. The telecast was also recorded by stakes for use in Constitutional Balls scheduled later.
“Few occasions in life hold as much significance as this momentous anniversary and provide greater reason for celebration,” President Benson said.
“I thank my Heavenly Father that I have lived to see this glorious day and pray that our posterity will always live under the Constitution’s banner.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson, of the First Presidency, and their wives led a promenade to be greeted by President and Sister Benson. Others in the promenade were members of the Council of the Twelve, the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, the Presiding Bishopric, and representatives of the presidencies of the Church auxiliaries. Numerous state officials also participated.
The hour-long telecast included songs and dances illustrating the “We the
People” theme, with some four hundred performers taking part. The Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus performed “God of Our Fathers,” the official hymn of the 1887 Constitutional Centennial, and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve, chairman of the Church’s Bicentennial Committee, conducted the meeting.
“As Latter-day Saints, we should acknowledge the hand of the Lord in the writing of this great charter of liberty as well as in the founding and development of our nation,” President Benson said during the telecast. “The restoration of the gospel and the establishment of the Lord’s church could not come to pass until the founding fathers were raised up and completed their foreordained missions.
“I bear witness that our Heavenly Father raised up the men who founded this government, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of his beloved son that the people ‘should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father’ (3 Ne. 21:4).
“How fortunate we are to live when the blessings of liberty and the gospel of Jesus Christ are both available to us. How appropriate for us to be here tonight commemorating these blessings,” President Benson said.
He urged members to study the Constitution and to continue their study of the scriptures, then to pass this heritage along to the youth of the Church.
“Let us resolve to be exemplary Saints and good citizens, and to rear our youth so that they will, in their day, courageously carry and pass on the torch of liberty to the next generation,” he said.
On September 13, President Ezra Taft Benson and his wife, Flora, visited Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the historic city where the U. S. Constitution was born, to deliver a stirring fireside address to a crowd of more than five thousand people.
The meeting was held in nearby Valley Forge.
President Benson talked about the divine origin of the Constitution and urged members to study the document. He also urged Latter-day Saints to be actively involved in government.
“We must become involved in civic affairs,” he declared. “As citizens of this republic we cannot do our duty and be idle spectators.”
President Benson pointed to several eternal principles relating to the significance of the Constitution.
“The first basic principle is agency,” he said. “The central issue in that premortal council was, Shall the children of God have untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow, whether good or evil, or should they be coerced and forced to be obedient?
“The second basic principle concerns the function and proper role of government.
“The third important principle pertains to the source of basic human rights. Rights are either God-given as part of the divine plan or they are granted by government as part of the political plan,” President Benson explained.
“The fourth basic principle we must understand is that people are superior to the governments they form,” he said, noting that “the fifth and final principle that is basic to our understanding of the Constitution is that governments should have only limited powers.”
The Church has published for its members in the United States a special booklet explaining the divine significance of the U. S. Constitution and its principles.
The First Presidency has asked that the booklet be used as the subject of family home evening lessons by all member families in the United States.
The delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were inspired men the First Presidency said—men who produced a document that the Prophet Joseph Smith called “a glorious standard” and “a heavenly banner.”
In a preface to the new booklet, the First Presidency stated the purpose of the publication:
“In commemoration of this important event, we are providing this booklet, which contains three family home evening lessons, activity ideas, and a copy of the Constitution. We encourage you to prepare and teach each lesson prayerfully so that family members may feel the divine significance of the Constitution in their minds and hearts.”
Some 1.3 million copies of the booklet have been printed and are available to congregations throughout the United States. Local leaders may order copies through the Salt Lake Distribution Center.
“America, the Dream Goes On,” was the title of a one-hour variety special spotlighting the U. S. Constitution. The show was produced by Church-owned Bonneville Media Communications.
The television special featured singing by the Tabernacle Choir and Marie Osmond. LDS actor Gordon Jump portrayed Benjamin Franklin. Another prominent actor, Harry Morgan, was host and narrator. The show was televised nationally in September.
Visitors’ Center Exhibit
James Madison’s vest and a dress worn by Dolley Madison are featured in an exhibit of colonial life being displayed in the North Visitors’ Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
The exhibit features some 120 items, including historical documents, books, clothing, and other objects from America’s formative years. It traces the roots of the Constitution, beginning with the Magna Charta of 1215 and continuing through John Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into English and the voyage of Columbus.
Other items displayed include a cradle made in Virginia during the seventeenth century, a pilgrim sword, and a Revolutionary War drum. Also featured is a portrait done from a “life mask” of George Washington. The painting is believed to be the best existing likeness of the nation’s first president.
The Church is sponsoring the display as part of its observance of the U. S. Constitution Bicentennial. The exhibit will remain in the center through the end of the year. It will then be circulated to some of the larger Church visitors centers’ around the country.
Those attending the Constitutional Bicentennial Ball held at the Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City September 18 were entertained by songs and dances of the colonial period. The ball was telecast to meetinghouses. (Photography by Welden Andersen.)