This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
On the eve of the historic vote on health care reform, my daughter-in-law provided me with a source for an amazing quote on the U.S. Constitution. "[T]he power not delegated to the United States, and the states, belongs to the people, and Congress sent to do the people's business, have all power. ..."
This is taken from a Jan. 2, 1844, letter from LDS Church founder Joseph Smith to Sen. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina as part of a correspondence seeking Calhoun's views on what he would do, if elected president, to restore the Mormons to their lands in Missouri. Smith was clearly not happy with Calhoun's states' rights theories that the federal government had no authority to act in such a matter.
This quote came as a great comfort to me as I have come to respect the Constitution and love its processes whereby "We the People" govern ourselves toward that "more perfect union" through our elected representatives. I am not sure myself that the federal government had authority to redress the grievances in Missouri, at least not until after the Fourteenth Amendment came as a result of the Civil War. Joseph Smith's interpretation goes a little farther than even I would take it, as the Constitution establishes checks and a balancing of legislative power with the executive and the courts. But the sentiment is clear in its condemnation of states' rights doctrine, as it recognizes the power of all the people is represented in Congress.
And I felt great joy and then some anger in pondering this quote.
The anger came in contemplation of my deeply held political beliefs, which are so often challenged among my own people and certainly by some in the Utah Legislature with their frenzied and irrational appeals to the Constitution for states' rights justifications of anti-federal actions when they have clearly ignored parts of it, at least the Supremacy Clause of Article VI.
The worst abuses come from those who paint a religious veneer on extremely conservative and questionable political philosophies. At least I now have a quote from someone that would seem to trump any from other deceased LDS Church leaders and certainly the views popular in some LDS circles, such as the book on unclad commies and the guy on TV who is currently peddling those books and ideas.
However, I should not let myself become so worked up about it. I fervently respect and support the current leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who are so careful to speak out only on nonpartisan moral issues and encourage our participation in government through whatever political party we choose because good "may be found in the platforms of various political parties" (First Presidency letter of March 10, 2010).
The other night my wife, two sons, and I all went to the caucuses of our respective parties. My sons went with me to our very small group where our business was accomplished fairly expeditiously. My wife was delayed by numerous votes to decide on delegates out of a much larger group in her party. When she finally got home we compared notes and enjoyed the process immensely.
I am so blessed that we are open and respectful of our differences and of the wonderful Constitution under which we participate and govern ourselves as a people united both in our family and in our great nation.
It's not "Them the People" or "Me the People." It's "We the People."
Grant L. Vaughn
lives in Centerville and is an attorney for the U.S. Department of the Interior. His views are his own and do not reflect those of his employer.