A conversation I had with a friend today reminded me of an Ann Althouse blog post I read a while back. She’s responding to a Gary Willis article in the New York Review of Books. Mr. Willis is uncomfortable with the fact that Mormons believe the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were divinely inspired. It is somehow indefensible to believe that something so hotly debated, amended, and changed could be divinely inspired. There are a few major problems with his objections.
First, Christians in general and Mormons in particular should have no problem believing that something can be divinely inspired AND alterable. Take the Law of Moses, literally written in stone. It was a preparatory law meant to point the children of Israel towards the Lamb of God, that they might be ready to receive the higher law rejected at Sinai.
When Christ took the believing children of Israel into a different mount during His earthly ministry and declared, “it is written by them of old time…But I say unto you…” He was effectively giving the higher law. And the New Law of the Gospel was to be written upon our hearts. As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews put it,
11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
Second, Mr. Willis clearly has a different understanding of God’s dealings with His children. See here for more about Providentially directed chaos. And as Joseph Smith once said,
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priest-craft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women—all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.
~History of the Church, 5:401
We believe in progress, in improvement, and that that process is not neatly linear. Part of the majesty and inspiration of our Magna Charta is that it can be changed, perhaps even improved. That process may look like mad chaos, but polishing stones is brutal business. There’s plenty of room for disagreement about what constitutes improvement to the Constitution, but hot disputes might be just the friction required to make this country better. Despite popular belief you’ll find Mormons standing on all sides of those debates, and yet they remain faithful Latter-day Saints.