Honored as one who "personifies the qualities of a good citizen," President Gordon B. Hinckley received the Utah Society of the Sons of the American Revolution's Good Citizenship Medal May 4.
Rodney H. Brady, former president of the society, read a citation honoring President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency. The Church leader was recognized for his respect for the Constitution and the law, love of the nation and its symbols, concern for the "self-evident" truths defined in the Declaration of Independence, active participation in self-government, and devotion to the principles of freedom.The society's president, R. Bert Carter, presented a silver Good Citizenship Medal to President Hinckley, along with a Sons of the American Revolution membership certificate. President Hinckley is a descendant of Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins. One of his forebears, Thomas Hinckley, was governor of Plymouth Colony from 1681-1692.
After accepting the award, President Hinckley spoke of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights. He referred to the Bill of Rights as "one of the most significant accomplishments in the history of all mankind."
President Hinckley read and commented on each article of the Bill of Rights. He noted it is interesting that the first item provides that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
He said, "One who stands where I stand knows something of the constant threat of the heavy hand of government against religion. It is felt at the local level, at the state level, at the federal level. In recent years it has grown in strength and the attacks have increased in frequency."
Of the rights guaranteeing free speech, a free press and peaceable assembly, he said, "The history of tyrants is a history of the muzzling of free expression and the granting of assembly." He spoke of being in a country in the 1960s when a military coup occurred. Awakened at 4 a.m. by cannon fire in the street, he turned on the radio to learn what was happening.
"It had become the first target of those taking over the government," he said. "The newspapers followed. Freedom of the press was abridged. Freedom of speech was abridged. Freedom of assembly was abridged. These were primary targets in taking control of the nation and its people."
President Hinckley said that in a time when there is so much violence in the nation's major cities, the provisions of the second article, which deals with the right to keep and bear arms, are under challenge.
The third article proclaims that no soldier "shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."
"This," explained President Hinckley, "was an expression of a fear of a large standing army which should become a threat to the people."
He spoke of the fourth article, which guarantees the rights of people to "be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. . . . "
He said people in other lands who have known the dreaded knock in the night know how precious a protection of such a provision can be.
He spoke of the fifth article, which deals in part with the matter of double jeopardy - such as one not being tried twice for the same charge and the right of a defendant to not be compelled to be a witness against himself.
"This," said President Hinckley, "covers such a universe of public justice and the protection of the citizen. . . ."
President Hinckley spoke of the sixth article, which deals with the right to trial by an impartial jury and of other rights of the individual on trial. He noted that in this article are set forth great, basic and fundamental rights that have been enjoyed by Americans for 200 years, while millions over the earth have been denied such rights.
He cited the seventh article, which deals with the right of trial by jury in civil suits, and the eighth article, which provides that excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
He said the ninth article, in effect, says that the inclusion or omission of specific rights shall not become a denial of those rights to the people.
The 10th article, he said, specifically reserves to the individual states those powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.
President Hinckley concluded, saying the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are "so basic and fundamental in guaranteeing to all citizens those natural rights which come from God, and over which the federal government has neither authority nor jurisdiction."