Brent Taylor, “‘A Mighty Nation amongst the Gentiles’: The Mission and Destiny of the United States,” in Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium 2003 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), 167–180.
“A Mighty Nation amongst the Gentiles”: The Mission and Destiny of the United States
“And it meaneth that the time cometh . . . that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation amongst the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land” (1 Nephi 22:7).
More than 2,500 years ago, the ancient prophet Nephi foresaw the foundation, by the hand of the Lord, of “a mighty nation” upon the face of the land of promise. Speaking of this nation’s destiny, President Ezra Taft Benson declared, “The destiny of this country was forged long before the earth was even created. This choice land was set apart by God to become the very cradle of freedom.”  Through the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets, the Lord has revealed much of this nation’s mission and its ultimate destiny. The United States of America was established by the Lord to assist Him in fostering, protecting, and preserving mankind’s use of its God-given agency. In addition, the prophets have taught that the elders of Israel have an important mission pertaining to the Constitution.
In order to fully understand the mission and purpose of the United States Constitution, one must first understand the principle of agency and its relation to earthly governments. President David O. McKay taught that agency is “the fundamental principle of the gospel” and that it is “essential to man’s salvation.”  President McKay also declared that “next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.”  President Marion G. Romney clearly outlined the absolute importance and purpose of agency in God’s plan: “Agency underlies all of God’s laws. It is God’s law of liberty. It is the basis of existence. God wants men to do good, but he never forces them and does not want them to be forced. He placed in and left with them the power of election. When they do good, he honors them because they could have done evil. When they are coerced, they are entitled to no such honor.” 
Agency is the fundamental principle of the gospel because it is through the free exercise of agency that man is damned or saved (see D&C 93:31–32). Men “are free to choose liberty and eternal life” or “captivity and death” (2 Nephi 2:27). God places great value on His children’s agency and hesitates to restrict it in any way. The Lord explains that even in the premortal realm “a third part of the hosts of heaven turned ... away from me because of their agency” (D&C 29:36). The Lord taught Abraham that He sent men to earth to “prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25). Men are only able to satisfy the purpose of this mortal probation through the free and unabridged exercise of their agency as they choose to follow God.
Given the fundamental importance of agency in God’s plan, and knowing that there must be “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11), it is not surprising that man’s agency has been constantly challenged. It was over agency that the War in Heaven was fought. Lucifer said to our Heavenly Father, “send me ... [and] I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost” (Moses 4:1). President Benson explained, “Christ and all who followed Him stood for . . . freedom of choice; Satan stood for . . . coercion and force.”  Satan intended to save all mankind by eliminating agency and compelling all people to be saved. In this the Lord declared, “Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him” (Moses 4:3). This led to the expulsion of Satan and his supporters from the presence of God.
President Benson declared, “The war that began in heaven over this issue is not yet over. The conflict continues on the battlefield of mortality.”  The battle for man’s agency continues in this mortal realm, and the combatants are the same. The scriptures speak repeatedly of Satan’s desire to bring all men into “subjection unto him . . . that he might chain [them] down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity” (Alma 12:6). Satan hungers for power and dominion and seeks to satisfy this desire by subjecting men unto him and destroying their agency. Satan desires that all men be “miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27) and is able to achieve this through the subjection of men unto himself. Once this terrible process reaches its final stage, “the devil hath all power over [them]; and this is the final state of the wicked” (Alma 34:35).
Agency and the Governments of Men
President Benson notes that in his quest for power and dominion “one of Lucifer’s primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of earthly governments.”  Similarly, President Romney explained: “[Agency] has been abridged by almost all governments, civil and ecclesiastical. Apostate church-men, kings, and other rulers have from the beginning arrogated judgment unto themselves. They have, contrary to God’s law of liberty, preempted man’s right, with or without his consent, to determine what would be best for them to do and by every means within their power have undertaken to force men to do their bidding.” 
Satan is able to restrict and abridge the full exercise of man’s agency through the unrighteous dominion of earthly governments. Sadly, he has been remarkably successful in this effort; brief indeed have been the fleeting moments of true liberty and freedom during man’s six-thousand-year existence on this earth. Speaking of the abundant freedoms in America, President Benson taught, “Freedom as we know it has been experienced by perhaps less than 1 percent of the human family.”  As kings, queens, and other earthly rulers compel their subjects to act in a certain manner, they restrict the ability of their subjects to exercise their agency fully and control their own destinies. For example, King Nadab of Israel “did evil in the sight of the Lord . . . and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 15:26; emphasis added). A king’s leading or forcing his people to sin is a common pattern found in the biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah as well as in the ancient Nephite and Jaredite civilizations.
King Mosiah taught that “the sins of many people have been caused by the iniquities of their kings; therefore their iniquities are answered upon the heads of their kings. And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land . . . but I desire that this land be a land of liberty” (Mosiah 29:31–32; emphasis added). He also stated his desire that “ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads” (Mosiah 29:30; emphasis added). An unrighteous king, for example, who compels his subjects to worship idols, will be held responsible for the sin of idolatry committed by each of his subjects. As he strips his subjects of their agency and exercises unrighteous dominion by forcing them to worship idols, he takes upon himself the responsibility for their sins. This defeats the very purpose of the plan of salvation, because it prevents the people from being able to consciously choose to forsake idolatry and to choose to worship the only true and living God. It also moves the responsibility for transgression from the people to the monarch. Mosiah explained that this is a form of inequality and is contrary to the principles of liberty. Everyone comes to earth to be tested and tried to see if they will remain true and faithful to the Lord’s commands, and to bear responsibility for their own sins. President Romney taught this critical principle: “The whole gospel of Jesus Christ presupposes man’s untrammeled exercise of free agency. Man is in the earth to be tested. The issue as to whether he succeeds or fails will be determined by how he uses his agency. . . . Abridge man’s agency, and the whole purpose of mortality is thwarted. Without it, the Lord says, there is no existence. (See D&C 93:30.)”  The principle of agency is absolutely fundamental to the gospel—without its free exercise we cannot be tested. Sadly, as noted by President Romney earlier in the paper, almost all earthly governments have tended to abridge man’s agency. Therefore, the Lord needed to raise up as an example “a mighty nation amongst the Gentiles.”
A Mighty Nation
As foretold by the prophets of old, the Lord raised up a mighty nation in the land of promise. Of the establishment of this nation and its constitution, the Lord declared: “That every man may act . . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another. 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” (D&C 101:78–80; emphasis added).
President Romney explained that in this declaration the Lord reveals that His purpose in establishing the Constitution of the United States was “to protect men in the exercise of their God-given moral agency.”  In these verses the Lord reveals His desire that all men stand accountable for their own sins at the last day, not that kings and rulers bear the responsibilities for their people’s sins. The Lord, knowing the tendency of most rulers to restrict agency and exercise unrighteous dominion, wisely established the Constitution of the United States. The principles of the Constitution establish an atmosphere in which people, unrestrained by unrighteous monarchs or leaders, can exercise their agency to an extent previously unknown; men are thus able to chose their path and be held accountable for their own sins.
The great laws and protections of the Constitution, however, were not designed to benefit Americans only. The Lord declared that the “laws and constitution . . . should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (D&C 101:77; emphasis added). This is the glorious mission of the United States and its Constitution: to assist the Lord in the protection of all people’s God-given right to exercise their agency.
This divine mission of America is divided into two major parts. First, the United States was prepared as the place for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the initiation of the dispensation of the fulness of times. This first part of America’s mission is readily recognized by members of the Church, and further treatment here is unnecessary. This paper focuses on the second and perhaps less-recognized part of America’s divine mission.
President Benson taught, “This nation is God-ordained for a glorious purpose. It is ordained as an ensign of liberty to all other nations.”  Similarly, President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that the United States “had the mission to teach other powers the principle of freedom and religious liberty.”  The second part of America’s mission in God’s plan is to teach other nations the principles of America’s God-ordained Constitution.
The Lord declared that the “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” (D&C 98:5; emphasis added). The Lord did not intend for the Constitution that He established to bless only Americans but all the peoples of the earth. He declared that the Constitution was established for the blessing of “all flesh” (D&C 101:77). The United States has the responsibility to teach by example and precept the principles of proper government to other nations in order that all other peoples might enjoy the full exercise of their agency. It is important, however, to understand that the Constitution of the United States does not grant men agency; agency is a gift from God. The Constitution with its guarantees of liberty and freedom facilitates the use of man’s God-given agency.
Speaking of the Constitution the Lord declared, “Pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil” (D&C 98:7; emphasis added). The United States Constitution creates a balance between liberty and government, thus providing citizens the ability to exercise their God-given agency. It is clear that the type of government outlined in the Constitution is acceptable before the Lord and that in the realm of government, “whatsoever is more or less than this” comes from an evil source. Communism, socialism, monarchism, statism, and totalitarianism all place the people in a subservient role to the government and generally to one government head—the king, party boss, or premier. Forms of government that make the state or monarch superior to the people inevitably lead to unrighteous dominion by overly powerful government leaders and thus restrict the exercise of agency.
In the American model of a constitutional republic, a balance of power is struck because the people are the ultimate source of power, not the state or monarch. The constitutional republic places power in the hands of the people and does “[government] business by the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:26), instead of placing all power in the hands of one or a few overly powerful and easily corruptible government officials. Mankind’s years of sad experience with government have shown that the wisdom of the Lord rings true: in the American model of government, as established by God Himself, man is able to exercise his agency, and “whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil.” President J. Reuben Clark spoke of this principle in these terms: “You may look at the systems all over the world where the principles of our Constitution are not controlling and in force, and you will find there dictatorship, tyranny, oppression, and, in the last analysis, slavery.”  In short, nations that have adopted and practiced principles similar to those in the American Constitution enjoy freedom, while nations that have not adopted such principles suffer under the opposite. In order to fulfill the Lord’s desire that all His children live under a government that respects agency, the United States has the mission to teach the principles of its Constitution to all the nations of the earth.
Nearly three thousand years ago, Isaiah prophesied, “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). In the dedicatory prayer of the Idaho Falls Temple, President George Albert Smith provided an interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy: “We thank thee that thou hast revealed to us that those who gave us our constitutional form of government were men wise in thy sight and that thou didst raise them up for the very purpose of putting forth that sacred document [the Constitution of the United States—see D&C 101:80]. ... We pray that kings and rulers and the peoples of all nations under heaven may be persuaded of the blessings by reason of their freedom under thy guidance and be constrained to adopt similar governmental systems, thus to fulfill the ancient prophecy of Isaiah that ‘out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’” 
This prophecy is fulfilled as nations of the earth take the Constitution of the United States as an example and establish similar forms of government. As empires, communistic regimes, and totalitarian states tumble to the earth, and as they are replaced with republics and democracies based on the American model, the ability of people throughout the earth to use their God-given agency increases. Millions of people worldwide have drawn their first true breaths of freedom as their nations have adopted forms of government based on the institutions and principles of the U.S. Constitution.
Albert P. Blaustein, internationally renowned scholar of the U.S. Constitution and professor of law at Rutgers, shares the following on America’s Constitution and founders: “The United States Constitution is the nation’s most important export. ... From the earliest days of the American revolutionary movement, its leaders were conscious that they were doing something of world-wide significance. They had convinced themselves that they were creating a new Eden, not only for America but for all of mankind.” 
The Lord prepared great and noble men to found the American republic, and they too understood the glorious mission and destiny of the United States. George Washington declared, “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, and perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hand of the American people.”  In his diary, John Adams prophetically stated that he looked upon the “settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scheme and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.”  Time and history have indeed confirmed these visionary statements and the inspiration and wisdom of the Founders. When Washington and Adams spoke these words, the United States was a small, weak, and inconsequential nation among the towering powers of Europe and Asia. However, throughout the course of her two-hundred-year history, America has grown strong and has prospered, and many nations on earth have looked to the United States for inspiration and example.
Professor Blaustein explains, “Every nation that has a one-document constitution is inevitably following the United States precedent-model. And that applies to all but six countries.”  As nations throughout the earth have adopted and applied the principles of the Constitution, people have been freed from unrighteous governments and empowered to exercise agency. As foreseen by Washington and Adams, the United States Constitution has, in the hands the Lord, been one of the most powerful forces for the temporal emancipation of mankind throughout the earth.
The Constitution has been a force for emancipation because its principles are part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. President George Albert Smith declared, “I am saying to you that to me the Constitution of the United States of America is just as much from my Heavenly Father as the Ten Commandments.”  President Clark added, “To me ... that statement of the Lord, ‘I have established the Constitution of this land,’ puts the Constitution of the United States in the position in which it would be if it were written in this book of Doctrine and Covenants itself.”  The principles the Lord established in the Constitution can rightfully be called principles of the gospel.
There is a close relationship between the spread of American constitutional principles and the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. President Romney explains, “On July 3, 1776, no government on earth guaranteed God’s law of liberty; but on July 4, 1776, in the Declaration of Independence, that law was declared anew in the earth.”  It is difficult for the gospel of Jesus Christ to flourish in an atmosphere without the free exercise of agency; people must be free to practice the gospel of their own will and choosing. Therefore, the Lord only restored the gospel after He first established an exemplar nation that guaranteed all citizens the exercise of their agency.
The gospel has generally spread to nations that have adopted, to some extent, the principles of the United States Constitution. President Brigham Young foresaw the day in which “the Elders of Israel will protect and sustain civil and religious liberty and every constitutional right bequeathed to us by our fathers, and spread those rights abroad in connection with the Gospel for the salvation of all nations.”  Speaking on the spread of constitutional ideals, President McKay said, “As thrones topple and monarchies crumble . . . people who are given their free agency will begin to appreciate the principles of self-government, preparatory to their accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the perfect law of liberty.”  The spread of these constitutional ideals to almost every corner of the globe has blessed and prepared the peoples of nations and placed them in a position where the gospel could be preached freely among them, and in which they could freely accept or reject it. Of this great preparatory mission, President J. Reuben Clark declared: “America has a destiny—a destiny to conquer the world,—not by force of arms, not by purchase and favor, for these conquests wash away, but by high purpose, by unselfish effort, by uplifting achievement, by a course of Christian living; a conquest that shall leave every nation free to move out to its own destiny; a conquest that shall bring, through the workings of our own example, the blessings of freedom and liberty to every people ... [and] weld the whole earth together in one great brotherhood ... in a reign of peace to which we shall lead all others by the persuasion of our own righteous example.” 
The Elders of Israel and the Constitution
The Lord has revealed that the Saints should support and uphold the Constitution of the United States and that the elders of Israel have a particular responsibility pertaining to it. President John Taylor prophesied the following: “The day is not far distant when this nation will be shaken from centre to circumference. And now, you may write it down, any of you, and I will prophesy it in the name of God. ... 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.”  Echoing an earlier prophecy of the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Brigham Young declared, “When the Constitution of the United States hangs . . . 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.” 
The modern Prophets and the scriptures teach us that any nation raised up on this land of promise must serve the Lord or be swept off. America has, to a great extent, forsaken the Lord and the glorious Constitution He established. Monumental changes in the scope and power of government have been made, and all aspects of religion and morality are being swept from the public arena. Profanity and immorality run rampant in all forms of media, and the words of the prophets are rejected by many people on the face of the land of promise. The prophesied time when the Constitution would hang by a thread may largely be upon us. In the October 1942 general conference, President J. Reuben Clark clearly outlined the extent to which the Constitution is now threatened: “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.”  More recently, President Ezra Taft Benson declared in the October 1987 general conference, “Unfortunately, we as a nation have apostatized in varying degrees from different Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired founders. We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith ... when ‘the Constitution [would be] upon the brink of ruin.’” 
The Elders of Israel must learn that, as President John Taylor declared, “Besides the preaching of the Gospel, we have another mission, namely, the perpetuation of the free agency of man and the maintenance of liberty, freedom, and the rights of man.”  The elders of Israel must be prepared to protect freedom, because as President Taylor also declared, “Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be.”  He also admonished the elders of Israel to “begin to understand that they have something to do with the world politically as well as religiously, that it is as much their duty to study correct political principles as well as religious.”  The elders of Israel cannot and will not save the Constitution in ignorance of its principles. President Benson outlined four things that each Saint must do to “bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” They are:
1. Be righteous and moral.
2. Learn the principles of the Constitution and then abide by its precepts.
3. Become involved in civic affairs.
4. Make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, and our advice. 
These are difficult times that face America; it is important that the Saints be committed to learning, defending and upholding the principles of the Constitution. As President McKay declared, “Next to being one in worshiping God there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States.”  The elders of Israel must not ignore this divine mandate to protect and preserve our God-given Constitution.
In these times of difficulty many wonder whether the United States will survive and fully fulfill her glorious mission. Our prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, has urged all people not to lose faith in America. He declared, “There is trouble in the land. There are problems we do not seem capable of handling. But I come here . . . with a plea that you do not lose faith in America.”  He added, “We have our crises, but we shall survive them as we have done in the past.”  President Harold B. Lee declared: “Men may fail in this country, earthquakes may come, seas may heave beyond their bounds, there may be great drought, disaster, and hardship, but this nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail. This is the cradle of humanity, where life on this earth began. ... This is the place of the new Jerusalem. This is the place that the Lord said is favored above all other nations. ... Yes, ... men may fail, but this nation won’t fail.” 
In a historic address given in 1986 to commemorate the bicentennial of the Constitution of the United States, President Benson spoke of the grave dangers facing the nation and the need for the elders of Israel to step forward; he then closed with the following prophetic utterance: “We, the blessed beneficiaries, face difficult days in this beloved land, “a land which is choice above all other lands.” (Ether 2:10). It may also cost us blood before we are through. It is my conviction, however, that when the Lord comes, the Stars and Stripes will be floating on the breeze over this people. May it be so, and may God give us the faith and the courage exhibited by those patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor that we might be free.” 
Let each take to heart the oft-repeated prophetic counsel to study, learn, and defend our glorious Constitution. Then, in the moment of crisis, we shall be ready to stand as the great Prophet Joseph foresaw when he declared, “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.” 
 Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 587.
 David O. McKay, in Conference Report, April 1940, 116.
 David O. McKay, in Conference Report, April 1950, 32; emphasis added.
 Marion G. Romney, “America’s Fate and Ultimate Destiny,” in Classic Speeches: Volume One (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1994), 265.
 Ezra Taft Benson, “The Constitution—A Glorious Standard,” Ensign, September 1987, 6.
 Benson, “The Constitution,” 6.
 Benson, “The Constitution,” 6; emphasis added.
 Romney, “America’s Fate,” 265.
 Benson, “The Constitution,” 6.
 Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, April 1966, 99; emphasis added.
 Romney, “America’s Fate,” 266–67.
 Benson, Teachings, 586.
 Joseph Fielding Smith, The Progress of Man (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1936), 462.
 J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, October 1942, 59; emphasis added.
 George Albert Smith, quoted in Harold B. Lee, “The Way to Eternal Life,” Ensign, November 1971, 15; emphasis added.
 Albert P. Blaustein, quoted in Jay M. Todd, “A Standard of Freedom for this Dispensation,” Ensign, September 1987, 16; emphasis added.
 William J. Bennett, The Spirit of America (New York: Touchstone, 1997), 382; emphasis in original.
 Bennett, Spirit of America, 366.
 Blaustein, quoted in Todd, “Standard of Freedom,” 18.
 George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, April 1948, 182.
 J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, April 1935, 93.
 Romney, “America’s Fate,” 265.
 Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 11:262; emphasis added; hereafter cited as JD.
 David O. McKay, in Conference Report, April 1917, 49; emphasis added.
 J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Some Factors in the Proposed Postwar International Pattern,” address delivered before Los Angeles Bar Association, Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, California, 24 February 1944, 8; emphasis added. Also cited in Martin B. Hickman and Ray C. Hillam, “J. Reuben Clark, Jr.: Political Isolationism Revisited,” BYU Studies 13, no. 3 (spring 1973): 440.
 John Taylor, in JD, 21:8.
 Brigham Young, in JD, 2:182.
 J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, October 1942, 58; emphasis added.
 Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, October 1987, 5.
 John Taylor, in JD, 23:63.
 John Taylor, in JD, 10:364.
 Brigham Young, in JD, 9:340; emphasis added.
 Benson, “The Constitution,” 11.
 David O. McKay, in Conference Report, October 1939, 105; emphasis added.
 Greg Hill, “Do Not Lose Faith in America, Urges Pres. Hinckley,” LDS Church News, 15 May 1999, Web Edition, Z03.
 Jennifer Toomer-Cook, “Maintain Faith in America, Pres. Hinckley Says at WSU,” Deseret News, 7 May 1999, Web Edition, B01.
 Harold B. Lee, Ye are the Light of the World: Selected Sermons and Writings of President Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974), 350–51.
 Benson, “The Constitution,” 11.
 Joseph Smith, quoted in Benson, “The Constitution,” 10.