Posted by: nmontague | September 20, 2010

Fundamentals of Our Constitution

I was reading a talk given on Constitution day by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles today. It was called “Fundamentals of Our Constitution” Elder Oaks was a law professor at the University of Chicago and a member of the Utah Supreme Court before being called to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ. In fact, he was one of my inspirations for persuing a career in the law. He always has very well written and argued points.

I would encourage you all to read the speech for yourself. But there is one part in particular I wanted to discuss: Personal Sovereignty, which was the first of the fundamental principles he mentioned.

In the article, Elder Oaks stated:

“Sovereignty in the people necessarily implies responsibility in the people. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king, on a cabal of military leaders, or on some distant group of wise men, citizens who are sovereign must share a measure of the burdens and responsibilities of governing. I will say more of this later.”

I think this concept of implied responsibility is a novel concept nowadays. We have a culture that is focused on trying to avoid responsibility. A culture focused on immediate gratifications. Every day I hear excuses about why people commit crimes. People are always looking for someone else to blame for their problems. God, their parents, their spouse, their boss or coworkers, a President, or Congress, etc. There is always an excuse.

And I think many of the problems in society come from the fact that we are lying to ourselves and to others about whose fault it is. We are trying to avoid responsbility and accountability. Instead, of acting with honor, we run away from the responsibility. This isn’t good. We need to change the culture. And there is only one way to do that: We, as individuals,  pick up the responsibility we are neglecting.

I don’t know why we don’t always do what we know is right. Pride? Have we decieved ourselves? Are we embarassed and unwilling to fix our mistakes?

Elder Oaks suggested 5 responsibilities that we should practice in our lives in regards to the fundamentals of our Constitution:

1. Understand the Constitution

2. Support the Law

3. Practice Civil Virtue

4.  Maintain Civility in civil discourse.

5. Promote Patriotism.

If you want to learn more of these principles read the article. I’d like to add a few responsibilities I think we should take on to help change our culture through our actions:

1. Seek the truth of all things and hold to it. Find out the facts. Find out whether there is a God in Heaven and Hold to Him. Seek to align your life with the Truth. Not just specifically spiritual truths, but the laws of the world around us. The laws of sciences. The laws of human nature. Try to understand the human mind and how people interact with people. The Truth in politics when there is so much rhetoric and little principles. Just seek the truth. Because that is knowledge.

2. Be honest in your daily lives, especially with yourself. If you do something wrong, accept the blame. Take responsibility for it. If someone asks you a question, be honest, even if it hurts you. Train yourself to have personal integrity

3. Be humble. Determine your weaknesses. Accept the fact that these are weaknesses. Don’t degrade yourself but accept who you are and learn from the world around you. See others, even those you don’t like, as your brother or sister. If you don’t like someone, try to find one thing you do like or admire about them. Especially if its someone you don’t like because of politics. (I find those are some of the toughest).

4. Be a friend to everyone. Introduce yourself to others. Help them when they need it. learn to love them as your fellow man regardless of faith, race, creed, political party, etc. Be willing to stand up for their rights as well as your own even if they agree with you. Even if they don’t do the same for you.

5. Learn charity through personal service. Serve your fellow man. Lift up the poor. Comfort those in need of comfort. Lift up the weary and the sick. Do something yourself. Don’t just throw money at a group or organization and say you’ve done your part. (note I didnt say don’t donate at all). People need time as well as money. We need to learn charity as a society if we are to have lasting impact. Start with your family. Try to serve them in some meaningful way that is out of the ordinary.

Responsibility and individual virtue are not four letter words. In fact, they are characteristics we all need to develop to have a healthy society. Don’t let the fact that others might be slow to respond stop you from your responsibility. If you are a parent, take it seriously. If you are working, work hard and honestly. Do what you know you need to do for your family. Just be honest with yourself. I am sure you will find responsibility that you know that you have to do.


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