Constitution Hang by a Thread

by / Monday, 18 January 2010 / Published in Doctrine, Editorial
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There have been reports that the prophetic statement that the “Constitution will hang by a thread” is not accepted by the Church. These reports associate such prophetic statement with the “White Horse Prophecy.” It is true that the prophetic statement is included in the “White Horse Prophecy” and as well is given as a prophetic statement by several other prophets, seers, and revelators.

Part of the campaign platform for Idaho GOP gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell is to defend the Constitution of the United States. He says that saving the U.S. Constitution requires God’s help:

“To think that we can save the Constitution without God’s help when the government of the United States is corrupt is absurdity. We are in America’s second Revolutionary War to save our freedom, which we paid for with blood. We need God’s help and I’m not ashamed to ask for it. I do not believe this responsibility lies solely on the shoulders of the LDS elders, but I do believe the LDS elders will play a significant role in it, and I believe I am one of those elders. I am tired of people telling me that I can’t bring God and the Constitution into my campaign speeches.”

What does it have to do with the White Horse Prophecy? Absolutely nothing! But the media (including the Church’s newsroom) will try to integrate the prophetic statement that the “Constitution will hang by a thread” with the White Horse Prophecy as being one and the same. For seekers of truth, here is the following accepted “doctrine” concerning the prophetic statement that the “Constitution will hang by a thread.”

Mosiah Lyman Hancock, Life Story of Mosiah Lyman Hancock, p. 29 (BYU library):

In connection with the attack on the United States, the Lord told his prophet there would be an attempt to overthrow the country by destroying the Constitution. Joseph Smith predicted that the time would come when the Constitution would hang, as it were, by a thread, and at that time this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction. It is my conviction that the Elders of Israel, widely spread over the nation, will at that crucial time successfully rally the righteous of our country and provide the necessary balance of strength to save the institutions of constitutional government.


Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:182

Brethern and sisters, our friends wish to know our feelings towards the Government. I answer, they are first rate, and we will prove it too, as you will see if you only live long enough, for that we shall live to prove it is certain; and when the Constitution of the United States hangs, as it were, 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.


Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses 6:152

It is said that brother Joseph in his lifetime declared that the Elders of this Church should step forth at a particular time when the Constitution should be in danger, and rescue it, and save it. This may be so; but I do not recollect that he said exactly so. I believe he said something like this — that the time would come when 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 about the language as nearly as I can recollect it.


Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:15 (1854)

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.


John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 23:239 (1882)

And if other people trample upon the Constitution and pull it to pieces, we will gather together the pieces and rally around the old flag, or what is left of it, and proclaim liberty to the world, as Joseph Smith said we would.


Joseph Fielding Smith, CR-4/50:154,159

Now I tell you it is time the people of the United States were waking up with the understanding that if they don’t save the Constitution from the dangers that threaten it, we will have a change of government.


Moses Thatcher, Journal of Discourses 26:334

There is no power in this land to turn this people against the government of the United States. They will maintain the Constitution of this country inviolate, and although it may have been torn to shreds they will tie it together again, and maintain every principle of it, holding it up to the downtrodden of every nation, kindred, tongue and people, and they will do it, too, under the Stars and Stripes.


L. Tom Perry, “God’s Hand in the Founding of America,” New Era, Jul 1976, 45
Adapted from an address delivered on February 24, 1976, at BYU

I look around me and find some very definite signs of the decay that is beginning to occur. Corruption, crime, dishonesty, immorality, pollution, laziness, devotion only to special interests — these are signs that precede the fall of great civilizations. We see so much evidence of these signs before our eyes. Yet I realize the promise that has been given to us in this great land of America. I also remember the prophecies concerning our great responsibilities to preserve that which we have been blessed with by God. The Lord has promised to sustain the truth in this land.

Our commitment to America has been testified to by many, but I will point out to you special witnesses who have indicated our responsibilities to this land.

First from Brigham Young, second president of the Church: “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 this 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.” (Journal of Discourses, 7:15.)

Now another witness, John Taylor, third president of the Church: “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 and equal rights to all men, and extending the hand of fellowship to the oppressed of all nations.” (The Gospel Kingdom, Deseret Book Co., 1943, p. 219.) This is part of the program.

A final witness is from George Q. Cannon, former member of the First Presidency, who said that “the day will come when the Constitution and free government under it will be sustained and preserved by this people.” (JD, 23:104.)

Now, I declare to you that if we are not in the beginning stages of the fulfillment of this prophecy, we are at least in the stages where we are preparing for its fulfillment.



D. Michael Stewart, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, June 1976, 64-65

D. Michael Stewart, Brigham Young University, Department of History The documents show that Joseph Smith did prophesy a number of times that the United States and the Constitution would be imperiled and that the elders would have a hand in saving them. The first known record of the prophecy dates to July 19, 1840, in Nauvoo, when the prophet spoke about the redemption of Zion. Using Doctrine & Covenants 101 as a text, he said, “Even this nation will be on the verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the Constitution is on 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.” (Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Historical Archives, Box 1, March 10, 1844.)

There are also other documents in Church History files that show that five different early Saints recorded some remarks by the Prophet Joseph Smith on this same prophecy, perhaps voiced by the Prophet a number of times in a number of ways after 1840. Parley P. Pratt wrote in 1841 that the prophet said, “The government is fallen and needs redeeming. It is guilty of Blood and cannot stand as it now is but will come so near desolation as to hang as it were by a single hair!!!!! Then the servants goes [sic] to the nations of the earth, and gathers the strength of the Lord’s house! A mighty army!!!!!! And this is the redemption of Zion when the saints shall have redeemed that government and reinstated it in all its purity and glory!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (George A. Smith Papers, Church Archives, Box 7, Folder 5, January 21, 1841.)

James Burgess related that the Prophet, while addressing the Nauvoo Legion several miles east of Nauvoo in May 1843, said that “the time would come when the constitution and government would hang by a brittle thread and would be ready to fall into other hands but this people the latter-day saints will step forth and save it.” (James Burgess Journal, 1818-1904, Church Archives, vol. 1—found among loose sermons.)

Orson Hyde recalled that the Prophet predicted that “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.)

In a Pioneer Day celebration in Ogden in 1871, Eliza R. Snow said, “I heard the prophet say, ‘The time will come when the government of these United States will be so nearly overthrown through its corruption, that the Constitution will hang as it were by a single hair, and the Latter-day Saints ‘the Elders of Israel’ will step forward to its rescue and save it.” (Journal History, MSF 143 #28, July 24, 1871.)

Jedediah M. Grant, during the dark days of threatened invasion of Utah by a federal army, referred to the Prophet’s utterance as he addressed a Mormon Battalion gathering in Salt Lake City, February 6, 1855.

“What did the Prophet Joseph say? When the Constitution shall be tottering we shall be the people to save it from the hand of the foe.” (Deseret News Weekly, January 19, 1870.)

On various occasions, Joseph Smith referred to the Constitution, the country, and destiny of the nation; and there is clear evidence that he anticipated future peril. Furthermore, he pronounced the prophecy at various times and places. Perhaps he himself interchanged the simile “on the brink of ruin,” “hang by a brittle thread,” “hang by a single hair,” etc., to describe the anticipated crisis. It is also clear that the redeemers or rescuers of the Constitution were to be either the Saints generally or priesthood officers specifically.

Since no particular time was given for fulfilling this prophecy, members of the Church have often wondered about its timing. The prophecy clearly indicates a single, identifiable episode yet to come. However, it is helpful for us to constantly be on guard against threats to the central elements of the Constitution. It is not wise to sit by and think that the protection of the Constitution is the problem of someone else at some other time.

In support of this view of “constant vigilance,” it is most instructive to note that Church leaders have seen the Constitution imperiled a number of times. Brigham Young, reflecting on the prophecy of 1868, expressed: “It would not be many years before these words come to pass.” (JD, 12:204.) President John Taylor in 1884 declared: “It may be nearer than some of us think.” (JD, 25:350.) President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., warned in 1942: “Whether it [the Constitution] shall live or die is now in the balance.” (Conference Report, October 1942, p. 58.)

Students of history and the Constitution know that the Constitution has been imperiled a number of times in its history and has been saved a number of times both by vigorous political action and by vocal public opinion.

Thus, rather than simply wait for the one time when the Constitution shall hang by a thread, Latter-day Saints must continually be vigilant. Our commission to save the Constitution is, like salvation, a continuing task, and Church leaders have pointed out the tools available: analysis of constitutional principles, personal study of the history of our nation, reading the Constitution to children at home and in schools, teaching them self-sacrifice ‘the principle that makes freedom possible,’ teaching them their obligations as mature citizens, recognizing and resisting ideologies that threaten constitutional principles, and developing loyalty to principle rather than to men or parties.

Politicians and statesmen must grapple with tough questions, painstakingly familiarize themselves with vital issues, and be decisive; but finally, an antidote to abusive government, to corruption, and to constitutional peril lies in private character. Humble people in prayerful homes will contribute immeasurably to a lasting constitutional government. And it should be apparent that consistent efforts in these areas will prepare us both to continually protect the Constitution and to prepare us for possibly a yet future rendezvous with our Constitution’s destiny.

6 Responses to “Constitution Hang by a Thread”

  1. [...] Gradually, our rights under the Constitution of the United States are becoming null and void. The Constitution is literally hanging by a thread. Free speech (anti-obama bumper stickers)? Gone. Gun rights (in some states and cities)? Gone. [...]

  2. Berit says :

    Mosiah:
    Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.

    And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

  3. Frank Mathias says :

    Even tiny encroachments on the constitution will weaken it just as chipping away at a tree will eventually cause it to fall. When a chip is removed without the tree toppling, those who want security more than liberty will point to it and say, “See, that didn’t cause any harm. We can remove other chips and give ourselves more and more. We can have all these entitlements and still have plenty of liberty!” Not so! Every time a liberty is removed, regardless of how small, someone, somewhere is less free. We must keep (and in some cases restore) the liberties of the constitution in FULL effect at ALL times.

  4. neal churchill says :

    We must make every effort to defeat those that are working to destroy our Constituion.

  5. josh grant says :

    we the elders and high priest of the lds church will save our country,we will get rid of harry reed and orrin hatch.2 dishonest lds seneters from utah and nevada and congressman jim mathasen and rob bishop that sell there votes for money and support oboma 90% of the time..we will put mia love and some one else in office..we have told our prophet that we want our church to quit supporting the illegal mexican drug runers bring drugs into our country for the church to quit hireing them on farms that the church owns..we need to start obaying the laws of our land like we say we do..our children and grand children deserve a free country like we had..listen prophet we are speaking to you

  6. John Lemon says :

    Since Obama took office he and his Marxist advisors have undermined the Constitution by going around Congress and governing by executive fiat. Starting with the 2nd Amendment he has whittled away the Bill of Rights to the point that they have no relevance to our government anymore. I think Romney, though not the perfect candidate, (There has been only one perfect person and we all know what happened to Him) he is the one who can lead all religious and free thinking people under a title of liberty to take back our country from the godless communists who have enslaved our country under the guise of government knows best.

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