This is fascinating.
I did not know this about Mormons. In hindsight, it explains a lot of what we have seen from Glenn Beck, Mitt Romney and Egg McMuffin over the past year or so:
“Ever since, Beck has imagined himself as a sentry perched on the national ramparts, warning of looming disaster. Usually, that disaster manifests itself as a threat to the Constitution. Which, given Mormon history, makes perfect sense. Many Americans revere the Constitution. Mormons, however, consider it sacred. In Doctrine and Covenants, a book of Mormon scripture, God says, “I have established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.” According to polling by David Campbell, a Notre Dame political scientist, 94 percent of American Mormons believe that the “Constitution and the Bill of Rights are divinely inspired.” That’s only two points lower than the percentage who believe that the Book of Mormon is.
But Mormons don’t just consider the Constitution sacred. They believe that its violation has allowed their persecution. Why did the governor of Missouri in 1838 call for Mormons to “be exterminated or driven from the State”? Why were Mormons forced to travel halfway across the continent—leaving the borders of what was then the United States—in order to find sanctuary in Utah? Because America’s leaders disregarded the country’s sacred texts.
Today, many Mormons see defending the Constitution the way many Jews see opposing genocide: as a way of honoring their ancestors and affirming their identity. In recounting his own religious conversion, Beck told me about a parade that he claimed Mormon settlers held upon reaching Utah, after having been expelled from the United States. “The women carried the Declaration of Independence and the men carried the Constitution,” he said. “And the whole point was that people may let you down, people will violate the principles, but the principles are true.” Such a parade likely never happened. Two scholars of Mormonism told me they had never heard of it. But the story nonetheless illustrates the Constitution’s centrality to Beck’s identity, and to the identity of many Mormons. According to legend, the Mormon leader Joseph Smith prophesied in 1843 that the Constitution would one day “hang by a thread” and be saved by “the elders of Zion,” by which he meant Mormon men. Church authorities say the quote is apocryphal. Campbell’s polling, however, finds that a majority of Mormons believe it’s true.
And yet, Campbell argues, Mormons tend not to accentuate these views publicly. Mormon culture, he told me, emphasizes a “moderate way of speaking.” Think Mitt Romney or Orrin Hatch. Campbell, who is Mormon himself, says that’s in part because many Mormons are desperate to be accepted by a mainstream that has long rejected them. They’re fearful of looking like fanatics or nuts.
Beck is not. Perhaps because he converted to Mormonism as an adult, he never imbibed his co-religionists’ anxiety. He has publicly invoked Smith’s alleged prophecy at least five times, most recently in March. Warning Utah voters of the threat Trump posed, Beck reminded them that “the body of the priesthood is known to stand up when the Constitution hangs by a thread.” More problematically for liberals, Beck invoked the prophecy three times in late 2008 and early 2009 to describe Barack Obama. …”
As a White Southerner, I have a completely different take on the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.
From my perspective, the American South is older than either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, and organically grew out of the Atlantic seaboard colonies. We’re older than the United States. In fact, the origins of the Deep South trace back through South Carolina to the British Caribbean.