31) HANG BY A THREAD: What have latter-day prophets taught concerning the prophecy of Joseph Smith that the United States Constitution would hang by a thread and be saved, if saved at all, through the efforts of the Elders of Israel?
Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.
Then shall the Lord say go tell all my servants who are the strength of mine house my young men and middle aged &c come to the Land of my vineyard and fight the battle of the Lord Then the Kings & Queens shall come then the rulers of the Earth shall come then shall ail saints come yea the Foreign saints shall come to fight for the Land of my vineyard for in this thing shall be their safety and they will have no power to choose but will come as a man fleeth from a sudden destruction
But before this the time shall be when these who are now my friends shall become my enemies and shall seek to take my life and shall be m there are those now before me who will more furiously pursue me and the more dilligently seek to my life and be more blood thirsty upon my track than ever were the Missouri Mobbers You say among yourselves as did them of old time it is I & is it I But I know these things by the visions of the Almighty. 1
Hence we say, that the Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner: it is to all those who are privileged with the sweets of its liberty, like the coaching shades and refreshing waters of a great rock in a thirsty and weary land. It is like a great tree under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of [oppression’s] son. 2
(as recorded by Mosiah Hancock)
The United States will spend her strength and means warring in foreign lands until other nations will say, “Let us divide up the lands of the United States”, then the people of the U.S. will unite and swear by the blood of their forefathers that the land shall not be divided. Then the country will go to war, and they will fight until one half of the U.S army will give up, and the rest will continue to struggle. They will keep on until they are very ragged and discouraged, and almost ready to give up — when the boys from the mountains will rush forth in time to save the American army from defeat and ruin. And they will say, “Brethren, we are glad you have come; give us men, henceforth, who can talk with God”. Then you will have friends, but you will save the country when its liberty hangs by a hair, as it were. 3
When the Constitution of the United States hangs, as it were, upon a single thread, they will have to call for the “Mormon” elders to save it from utter destruction; and they will step forth and do it. 4
How long will it be before the words of the Prophet Joseph will be fulfilled? He said if the Constitution of the United States were saved at all it must be done by this people. It will not be many years before these words come to pass. 5
Will the Constitution be destroyed? No: it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, “The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.” It will be so. 6
Every organization of our government, the best government in the world, is crumbling to pieces. Those who have it in their hands are the ones who are destroying it. How long will it be before the words of the prophet Joseph will be fulfilled? He said if the Constitution of the United States were saved at all it must be done by this people. It will not be many years before these words come to pass. 7
The present Constitution, with a few alterations of a trifling nature, is just as good as we want; and if it is sustained on this land of Joseph, it will be done by us and our posterity. 8
“When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States, the elders of Israel will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men and extending the hand of fellowship to the oppressed of all nations. This is part of the program and as long as we do what is right and fear God He will help us and stand by us under all circumstances.” 9
It would appear that we have reached that era in our history, so long foretold, when the Constitution of the United States would hang by a single thread, and the Elders of Israel alone would contend for its preservation. 10
Need we be surprised that men, as the scriptures say, “should wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived?” No. We have preached it—I have preached it upwards of forty years in this nation and in other nations.
Need we be surprised that they should trample under foot the Constitution of the United States? No; Joseph Smith told us that they would do it. Many around me here knew long ago that they would do this thing and further knew that the last people that should be found to rally around that sacred instrument and save it from the grasp of unrighteous men would be the Elders of Israel!
When, therefore, we see these things progressing need we be astonished? I do not think we need be. Some of our people you know, who are a little shaky and get how? Why a little astride of the fence, and say “good Lord and good devil,” not knowing into whose hands they will fall; when they see some of these things transpiring they are filled with amazement; but men who understand themselves, and who are in possession of the gift of the Holy Ghost and the Spirit of the living God, are looking for such things and they are not at all surprised. 11
“Again in regard to political matters, where is there a nation to-day, under the face of the whole heavens that is under the guidance and direction of the Lord in the management of their public affairs? You cannot find one. It is true that the founders of this nation, as a preliminary step for the introduction of more correct principles and that liberty and the rights of man might be recognized, and that all men might become equal before the law of the land, had that great palladium of liberty, the Constitution of the United States, framed. This was the entering wedge for the introduction of a new era, and in it were introduced principles for the birth and organization of a new world.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “The Constitution of the United States was given by the inspiration of God.” But good, virtuous and holy principles may be perverted by corrupt and wicked men. The Lord was opposed by Satan, Jesus had his Judas, and this nation abounds with traitors who ignore that sacred palladium of liberty and seek to trample it under foot. Joseph Smith said they would do so, and that when deserted by all, the elders of Israel would rally around its shattered fragments and save and preserve it inviolate. But even this, good as it was, was not a perfect instrument; it was one of those stepping stones to a future development in the progress of a man to the intelligence and light, the power and union that God alone can impart to the human family. And while we acknowledge, as citizens of the United States, the laws and institutions thereof (which by the way are very easily complied with), we have a higher law, more noble principles, ideas that are more elevated and expansive; principles that reach to the whole human family, and which he will continue to reveal to us.
Does that prevent us from obeying the laws of the land? Certainly not. But then, is that a perfect system? I do not think that many of you will say it is, nor do I think that the people of the United States of any political party will tell you it is. I do not wish to cast any reflections or refer to any events that have taken place; I am merely speaking on religious principles, and principles too in which we as Latter-day Saints are interested. We are united, then, as a body politic, as an integral part of this Government, and it becomes our duty to submit to the laws and institutions of that Government—to all that are constitutional, framed and based upon correct principles, and not in violation of what the fathers of the country instituted.” 12
“We see a policy being introduced to listen to the clamor of mobs and of unprincipled men who know not of what they speak, nor whereof they affirm, and when men begin to tear away with impunity one plank after another from our Constitution, by and by we shall find that we are struggling with the wreck and ruin of the system which the forefathers of this nation sought to establish in the interests of humanity. But it is for us still to sustain these glorious principles of liberty bequeathed by the founders of this nation, still to rally round the flag of the Union, still to maintain all correct principles, granting the utmost extent of liberty to all people of all grades and of all nations.
If other people see fit to violate these sacred principles, we must uphold them in their entirety, in their purity, and be patriotic and law-abiding and act honorably toward our nation and to its rulers. It is truly deplorable to see our President, the President of this great and mighty nation, one of the greatest rulers in the world stricken down by an assassin. Yet these things we have to mourn over. But in all cases it is for us to be true to our God and to our religion, to obey the laws of God, cleaving to correct principles, letting purity, virtue, honor, truth and integrity characterize all our acts, that we may be the blessed of the Lord.” 13
“We will trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe. We will do right, we will treat all men right, and will maintain every institution of our country that is according to the Constitution of the United States, and the laws thereof, and we will sustain them. By and by, you will find they will tear the Constitution to shreds, as they have begun now; they won’t have to begin; they have started long ago to rend the Constitution of our country in pieces; and in doing so they are letting loose and encouraging a principle which will re-act upon themselves with terrible consequences; for if law-makers and administrators can afford to trample upon justice, equity, and the Constitution of this country, they will find thousands and tens of thousands who are willing to follow in their wake in the demolition of the rights of man, and the destruction of all principles of justice, and the safeguards of the nation; but we will stand by and maintain its principles and the rights of all men of every color, and every clime; we will cleave to the truth, live our religion and keep the commandments of God, and God will bless us in time and throughout the eternities that are to come.” 14
Joseph Fielding Smith
“CONSTITUTION TO HANG BY A THREAD. The statement has been made that the Prophet said the time would come when this Constitution would hang as by a thread, and this is true. There has been some confusion, however, as to just what he said following this. I think that Elder Orson Hyde has given us a correct interpretation wherein he says that the Prophet said the Constitution would be in danger. Said Orson Hyde: “I believe he said something like this—that the time would come when the Constitution and the country would be in danger of an overthrow; and said he: ‘If the Constitution be saved at all, it will be by the elders of this Church.’ I believe this is about the language, as nearly as I can recollect it.”
Now I tell you it is time the people of the United States were waking up with the understanding that if they don’t save the Constitution from the dangers that threaten it, we will have a change of government.” 15
Harold B. Lee
“It is no wonder that the Prophet Joseph said—even though he knew he would suffer martyrdom in this land—“The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner.”
“Yet, according to his contemporaries, he foresaw the time when the destiny of the nation would be in danger and would hang as by a thread. Thank God he did not see the thread break. He also indicated the important part that this people should yet play in standing for the principles embodied in these sacred documents—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.” 16
Ezra Taft Benson
I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. But it will not be saved in Washington. It will be saved by the citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened members of this Church — men and women who will subscribe to and abide the principles of the Constitution. 17
I testify that the God of heaven raised up choice spirits to lay the foundation of this government, and he has sent other choice spirits to preserve it. 18
No nation which has kept the commandments of God has ever perished, but I say to you that once freedom is lost, only bood-human blood-will win it back. 19
To all who have discerning eyes, it is apparent that the republican form of government established by our noble forefathers cannot long endure once fundamental principles are abandoned. Momentum is gathering for another conflict — a repetition of the crisis of two hundred years ago. This collision of ideas is worldwide. Another monumental moment is soon to be born. The issue is the same that precipitated the great pre-mortal conflict — will men be free to determine their own course of action or must they be coerced?
We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: “Even this nation will be on the verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction. Are we reading the Constitution and pondering it? Are we teaching its principles to others? Could we defend the Constitution? Do we know what the prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it? Have we studied the Federalist papers? It is our sacred responsibility to see that the Constitution is perpetuated so that the Church may more easily flourish in the future. I reverence the Constitution as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God. I testify that God sent some of His choicest spirits to lay the foundations of the government, and he has now sent other choice spirits to help preserve it! 20
For years we have heard of the role the Elders could play in saving the Constitution from total destruction. But how can the elders be expected to save it if they have not studied it and are not sure if it is being destroyed or what is destroying it. 21
Now where do we stand in this struggle, and what are we doing about it? The devil knows that if the elders of Israel should ever wake up, they could step forth and help preserve freedom and extend the gospel. Therefore the devil has concentrated, and to a large extent successfully, on neutralizing much of the priesthood. He has reduced them to sleeping giants. His arguments are clever. Here are a few samples.
First: “We really haven’t received much instruction about freedom,” the devil says. This is a lie, for we have been warned time and again. No prophet of the Lord has ever issued more solemn warning than President David O. McKay.
Second: “You’re too involved in other church work,” says the devil. But freedom is a weighty matter of the law; the lesser principles of the gospel you should keep, but not leave this one undone. We may have to balance and manage our time better. Your other church work will be limited once you lose your freedom, as our Saints have found out in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and many other nations.
Third: “You want to be loved by everyone,” says the devil, “and this freedom battle is so controversial you might be accused of engaging in politics.” Of course, the government has penetrated so much of our lives that one can hardly speak for freedom without being accused of being political. Some might even call the war in heaven a political struggle—certainly it was controversial. Yet the valiant entered it with Michael. Those who support only the popular principles of the gospel have their reward. And those who want to lead the quiet, retiring life but still expect to do their full duty can’t have it both ways.
Said Elder John A. Widtsoe: The troubles of the world may largely be laid at the doors of those who are neither hot nor cold; who always follow the line of least resistance; whose timid hearts flutter at taking sides for truth. As in the great Council in the heavens, so in the Church of Christ on earth, there can be no neutrality. 22
Fourth: “Wait until it becomes popular to do,” says the devil, “or, at least, until everybody in the Church agrees on what should be done.” But this fight for freedom might never become popular in our day. And if you wait until everybody agrees in this church, you will be waiting through the second coming of the Lord. Would you have hesitated to follow the inspired counsel of the Prophet Joseph Smith simply because some weak men disagreed with him? God’s living mouthpiece has spoken to us—are we for him or against him? In spite of our prophets’ opposition to increased federal aid and compulsory unionism, some Church members still champion these freedom-destroying programs. Where do you stand?
Fifth: “It might hurt your business or your family,” says the devil, “and besides, why not let the gentiles save the country? They aren’t as busy as you are.” Well, there were many businessmen who went along with Hitler because it supposedly helped their business. They lost everything. Many of us are here today because our forefathers loved truth enough that they fought at Valley Forge or crossed the plains in spite of the price it cost them or their families. We had better take our small pain now than our greater loss later. There were souls who wished afterwards that they had stood and fought with Washington and the founding fathers, but they waited too long—they passed up eternal glory. There has never been a greater time than now to stand up against entrenched evil. And while the gentiles established the Constitution, we have a divine mandate to preserve it. But unfortunately, today in this freedom struggle, many gentiles are showing greater wisdom in their generation than the children of light.
Sixth: “Don’t worry,” says the devil; “the Lord will protect you, and besides, the world is so corrupt and heading toward destruction at such a pace that you can’t stop it, so why try?” Well, to begin with, the Lord will not protect us unless we do our part. This devilish tactic of persuading people not to get concerned because the Lord will protect them no matter what they do is exposed by the Book of Mormon. Referring to the devil, it says: “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, and they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” 23
I like that word carefully. In other words, don’t shake them—you might wake them. But the Book of Mormon warns us that when we see these murderous conspiracies in our midst, we should awaken to our awful situation. Now, why should we awaken if the Lord is going to take care of us anyway? Let us suppose that it is too late to save freedom. It is still accounted unto us for righteousness’ sake to stand up and fight. Some Book of Mormon prophets knew of the final desolate end of their nations, but they still fought on, and they saved some souls, including their own, by so doing. For, after all, the purpose of life is to prove ourselves, and the final victory will be for freedom.
But many of the prophecies referring to America’s preservation are conditional. That is, if we do our duty we can be preserved, and if not, then we shall be destroyed. This means that a good deal of the responsibility lies with the priesthood of this church as to what happens to America and as to how much tragedy can be avoided if we do act now.
And now as to the last neutralizer that the devil used most effectively—it is simply this: “Don’t do anything in the fight for freedom until the Church sets up its own specific program to save the Constitution.” This brings us right back to the scripture about the slothful servants who will not do anything until they are “compelled in all things.” Maybe the Lord will never set up a specific Church program for the purpose of saving the Constitution. Perhaps if he set one up at this time it might split the Church asunder, and perhaps he does not want that to happen yet, for not all the wheat and tares are fully ripe.” 24
You and I have heard all our lives that the time may come when the Constitution may hang by a thread. I do not know whether it is a thread, or a small rope by which it now hangs, but I do know that whether it shall live or die is now in the balance. 25
If we do our duty we can be preserved, and if not, then we shall be destroyed. This means that a good deal of the responsibility lies with the Priesthood of this Church as to what happens to America, and as to how much tragedy can be avoided if we do act now. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared it will be the elders of Israel who will step forward to help save the Constitution, not the Church. Brethren, if we had done our homework and were faithful, we could step forward at this time and help save this country. 26
It is the devil’s desire that the Lord’s priesthood stay asleep while the strings of tyranny gradually and quietly entangle us until, like Gulliver, we awake too late and find that while we could have broken each string separately as it was put upon us, our sleepiness permitted enough strings to bind us–to make a rope that enslaves us. 27
My great concern is whether we have time enough through the legislative route and the great lack of support for sound principles to get the job done, because of the rate at which the subversive program is closing in on us. 28
Eliza R. Snow
I heard the prophet Joseph Smith say if the people rose up and mobbed us and the authorities countenanced it, they would have mobs to their hearts’ content. I heard him say that the time would come when this nation would so far depart from its original purity, its glory, and its love for freedom and its protection of civil rights and religious rights, that the Constitution of our country would hang as it were by a thread. He said, also, that this people, the sons of Zion, would rise up and save the Constitution and bear it off triumphantly. 29
It is said that brother Joseph in his lifetime declared that the Elders of this Church should step forth at a particular time when the Constitution should be in danger, and rescue it, and save it. This may be so; but I do not recollect that he said exactly so. I believe he [Joseph] said something like this – that the time would come when the Constitution and the country would be in danger of an overthrow; and said he, If the Constitution be saved at all, it will be by the Elders of this Church. I believe this is about the language, as nearly as I can recollect it.
The question is whether it will be saved at all, or not. I do not know that it matters to us whether it is or not: the Lord ill provide for and take care of his people, if we do every duty, and fear and honour him, and keep his commandments ; and he will not leave us without a Constitution. 30
J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
You and I have heard all our lives that the time may come when the Constitution may hang by a thread. I do not know whether it is a thread, or a small rope by which it now hangs, but I do know that whether it shall live or die is now in the balance. 31
Goudy E. Hogan
…In this meeting he said that North and South America would become Mount Zion and that the constitution would hang on a single untwisted thread and that the Latter Day Saints would save it. 32
George Q. Cannon
At the present time, in the western States especially, men are greatly concerned about the element known as Communism, which has taken possession of the minds of a numerous class of the people. The working classes are becoming very dissatisfied, and men are trembling for fear of what will come upon the nation.
One of the strongest arguments that was made in favor of keeping up the United States army up to its present numbers was, that there would probably be riots in large cities and in populous centres, which would require the presence of the military acting as police to quell. And had it not been for this evil the army would have been cut down. But a good many men were anxious to have it increased, deeming it necessary for the preservation of life and property. When we reflect upon this it shows how changed have become the affairs of our nation, when it is deemed necessary to appeal to military power to maintain good order in the Republic.
There can be no surer sign of the decay of a republic than when human life and property and liberty cannot be sustained by the masses of the people, and the military power, the ranks of which are filled with hired soldiers, has to be appealed to sustain good order in the midst of the people. Let such a state of thing continue and there would soon be an end of true republicanism.
In this respect we also have our difficulties. The business of furnishing employment for our poor people so that our streets shall not be filled with idle men and boys, has no doubt pressed, and will continue to press itself upon the minds of the leading men of this Territory. But in comparison with the magnitude of this question elsewhere, it seems to sink into insignificance here. It is a matter of small moment, comparatively speaking, in this Territory; because the great bulk of the people have employment, and can easily furnish themselves with employment. However, this is a matter that should receive attention and from those, too, who care for the people and have their welfare at heart. No doubt everything will be done that should be to preserve good government throughout this Territory, and throughout all these valleys which are inhabited by the Latter-day Saints.
The fact is, the time will come, concerning which there has been so much said in the past, when it will devolve upon the people of these mountains to maintain good government, to uphold constitutional rights; and we are receiving the training necessary to fit and prepare us for that great and glorious destiny. I have no doubt that the day will come, and come speedily, when Utah will be looked to, as an example of good government, and that the condition of affairs in this Territory will be pointed to as a example for other communities and other societies to imitate with advantage to themselves and the country at large. There is every inducement therefore for us, as Latter-day Saints, to continue to persevere in the direction in which we are going. 33
… I expect to see the day when the Latter-day Saints will be the people to maintain constitutional government on this land. Men everywhere should know that we believe in constitutional principles, and that we expect that it will be our destiny to maintain them. That the prediction will be fulfilled that was made forty-four years ago the seventh of last March, wherein God said to Joseph Smith-“Ye hear of wars in foreign lands; but behold I say unto you, they are nigh, even at your doors, and not many years hence ye shall hear of wars in your own lands;” but the revelation goes on to say that the day will come among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor, must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
A portion of that revelation has been fulfilled, the remainder will be. The causes are in operation to bring it about. We are not alone in the thought that the republic is drifting steadily in that direction; that we are leaving the old constitutional landmarks, and that the time is not far distant when there will be trouble in consequence of it, when there will be civil broils and strife; and, to escape them, we believe, men will be compelled to flee to the “Mormons,” despised as they are now… 34
Jedediah M. Grant
We are friendly to our country, and when we speak of the flag of our Union, we love it, and we love the rights the Constitution guarantees to every citizen. What did the Prophet Joseph say? When the Constitution shall be tottering we shall be the people to save it from the hand of the foe. 35
- 19 July 1840, as recorded by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray; ms. in Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City; Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Historical Archives, Box 1, March 10, 1844 Also: D. Michael Stewart, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, June 1976, 64-65 ↩
- Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol 3, p. 304 ↩
- Joseph Smith, as recorded by Mosiah Hancock in his autobiography ↩
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:182; Latter Day Prophets Speaks, p. 230 ↩
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 12:204; Latter Day Prophets Speaks, p. 230 ↩
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 7: 15. ↩
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 12: 204 – 205 ↩
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:324 ↩
- John Taylor, JD 21:8, August 31, 1879 ↩
- John Taylor Papers 2:464. ↩
- John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 20:318. ↩
- John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 21: 32. ↩
- Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 22: 144. ↩
- Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 26: 39. ↩
- Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, p. 326 and Conference Report April 1950, p. 159 ↩
- Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, October 1952, p. 18 ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, CHB 28-31 ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Constitution–A Heavenly Banner, p. 31 ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, “A Witness and a Warning,” Ensign, Vol. 9, No. 11, November, 1979, p. 33. ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Constitution–A Heavenly Banner, p. 27 and Conference Report October 1987 ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 313 ↩
- Conference Report, April 1941, pp. 16-17 ↩
- 2 Ne. 28:21 ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 385. ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1948, p. 85 ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report April 1965 ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, BYU speech, October 1966 ↩
- Ezra Taft Benson, July 28, 1976 ↩
- Eliza R. Snow 556 ↩
- Orson Hyde, “Self-Government, etc.”, Journal of Discourses 6:152 (Jan. 3, 1858) ↩
- J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report, October 58, 1942 ↩
- Goudy E. Hogan, “History of Goudy Hogan, from Diary in his own Hand,” typescript copy, BYU Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah. ↩
- George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses 20:35-36 ↩
- Elder George Q. Cannon, delivered at the 45th Annual Conference of the Church, Salt Lake City, April 8, 1875, recorded in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols., 18:, p.9 – 13 ↩
- Jedediah M. Grant quoted in Tyler, The Mormon Battalion, p. 350 ↩