As Latter-day Christians, we believe the constitution of the United States was established by The Lord (D&C 101:77, 80). This does not, however, mean the constitution contains a fullness of the Lord’s views on government. While we believe the constitution was an inspired document, we also believe in continuing revelation. The heavens are not closed. The political kingdom of Christ is not yet come, and political utopia will not manifest itself until after Christ comes in His glory. When the political kingdom of Christ, a theocracy, is established it most likely will be very different from the constitutional republic the founders of the US constitution envisioned.
The reality of the matter is, as Jim Reeves so eloquently wrote; “This world is not my home. I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door. And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
Constitutionalists like to quote D&C 98:5-6, but what does it really mean?
D&C 98:5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
The Lord uses the word “constitutional” which is an adjective in this context, not a noun. The type of government established by constitution which establishes freedom, rights, and privileges is what the Lord approves of. The Lord is not placing His seal of approval on the September 17, 1787 version of the document, not even the framers of the constitution approved of it then. They went back and added the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, on September 25, 1789. The Lord said the rights, agency, protection, freedoms, and privileges of all mankind was what had his stamp of approval. No man / woman should be in bondage to another (D&C 101:77-80) The civil rights act guaranteeing those rights to many of our US citizens was not passed until 1964. The Equal Rights Amendment was never passed. The idea, the concept of the constitution is what the Lord approves of. The document in its 1787 form is not canonized scripture.
Joseph Smith in particular was of the opinion the constitution needed change, and the planks of his presidential campaign detail his views on the matter. Based on his understanding and experience with habeas corpus Joseph wanted to limit states rights. He wanted to expand the power of the executive branch, establish a central bank, create bigger government through the nationalized, state sponsored, socialized purchase of slaves from slave holders, he wanted power to send federal troops against American citizens, and promoted social programs such as prison reform. None of these ideas fit particularly well with the conservative brand of politics espoused by those on the right side of the spectrum, or with the personal views of some prominent conservative general authorities in the past. Brigham Young, however, said the founders of the constitution “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.) All of this of course is anathema to the doctrine of founder intent.
The over riding concern of the Lord here is freedom, free agency. The agency to choose and act for oneself is the reason the war in heaven was fought. Free agency is why a third part of the hosts of heaven were dammned to eternal hell (D&C 29:36-38). Free agency is why we are here on earth. Free agency is one of the two defining characteristics of our mortal existence, mortality being the second. The Lord will not take this away.
Constitutionalists frequently clothe their remarks with patriotic fervor. The constitution is hanging by a thread and needs us to save it. The only problem is the constitution has been hanging by a thread or rope since 1942 (J Reuben Clark, Conference Report, Oct 1942, p.58), and no can agree just what that thread is.
Orson Hyde’s version of the infamous Joseph Smith quote was, “the time would come that 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.” (JD, 6:150.) Orson Hyde’s version is different from other accounts due to the inclusion of the word “if.”
President Benson said the events in the Book of Mormon preceding the first coming of Christ were a parallel of our days and His second coming (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Keystone of Our Religion”, Ensign, Jan. 1992). Mormon has a lot to say about good and bad government, but what happened to the Nephite form of government? It was overthrown. It seems to me (my opinion) the same will happen here in the United States, in our day.
Brigham Young on the other hand said, “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.” (JD 7:15, Brigham Young, July 4, 1854)
In short, is the Constitution of the United States a “Heavenly Document,” inspired of The Lord? Yes. Is it sacrosanct, holy, unchangeable, and inviolate? No.