Taking Civil Religion Too Far

28 Jun

I’m a firm believer that faith in America and the values we claim to represent (whether we live up to them or not) is a good thing. This is called civil religion. But if you say the Constitution is “divinely inspired,” you may be taking it too far.

It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired — one of my most basic foundational beliefs. For me to do that because somebody asked me to is foreign to my very being. I will not do it.

Rusty Bowers, June 21st, 2022, when speaking in front of the January 6th Congressional Hearing.

Okay, let’s walk past joking about a guy named “Rusty,” or the reason behind Bowers’s quote (which is really fascinating), and go right to the quote itself. Rusty is the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives (yeah, my state) and is a proud Mormon (not unusual–lots of LDS in Arizona). The man has morals, swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and I salute him for that. But I had to look this up; apparently, this is NOT Rusty’s personal opinion. This is a teaching by one of the current LDS apostles–Dallin Oaks–who first put it forward in 1992 and recently preached about it at the general conference last year (2021).

In his speech/article, The Divine Inspired Constitution, the argument goes something like this. God has ordained faithful men to rule us and they formed the Constitution to protect our rights, ergo, it’s divinely inspired. However, even Apostle Oaks didn’t make this leap of faith (ha, ha); this is direct from Joseph Smith’s own hand.

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.

Doctrine and Covenants 101:80

If you’re a Mormon, the D&C is just as valuable as the Book of Mormon (although some Mormons can feel free to correct me), “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17) I wrote a whole thing about granting to “Caesar what is Caesar’s,” (Mark 12:17) but since the LDS church started here, it makes a kind of sense that there would be a equating America with the Promised Land… because it literally is. Jesus will come back to Earth at Independence, Missouri. (D&C 84: 2-3)

Okay, I disagree with this view, but it does bring up some questions of faith. If you amend the Constitution, are you tampering with God’s plan? Are the Supreme Court justices also divinely inspired when they interpret the Constitution (even the ones you hate)? Do you really need to have the teleprompter give the words of the perjury oath if you’ve given it a thousand times?

The answer to the last is YES. When you’re in front of a hundred people, it’s easy to screw up your lines. Trust me – it’s always good to have your script in front of you.

Lots of potential problems here – but what do you think? Am I misunderstanding what Rusty and Dallin are saying? Do you believe the Constitution is divinely inspired? Would you name your son Dallin? Let me know in the comments below!

One Response to “Taking Civil Religion Too Far”

  1. Piano girl June 28, 2022 at 2:40 pm #

    Seems like an awfully big leap to me…

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