This Friday we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day. All across
History chronicles the events that lead to the penning of those now immortal words by Thomas Jefferson. I’d like to recount a few of those events.
For 150 years prior to 1765 the American colonies had enjoyed limited freedom to govern themselves. Though each colony had a local magistrate appointed by the King they were free to assemble as they wanted and worship as they saw fit. They had limited freedom of press and even levied taxes on themselves as necessary. In short the seed of freedom had been planted.
The struggle culminated in early April of 1775 at
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood;
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We place with joy a votive stone,
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
O Thou who made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free, --
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raised to them and Thee.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison were not at
“The Minuteman of the Revolution!—he was the old, the middle-aged, and the young. He was Captain Miles of
This was the minuteman of the Revolution, the rural citizen trained in the common school, the church, and the town meeting; who carried a bayonet that thought, and whose gun, loaded with a principle, brought down, not a man, but a system.” (Charles Eliot Norton, ed., Orations and Addresses of George William Curtis [New York: Harper & Brothers, 1894].)
President Boyd K. Packer said of these same men, “However anonymous each may be, the great moments in history rest always on the rank and file of humankind. It was true then and it is true now. (“Except the Lord Build the House” The Spirit of
Thankfully for the all the generations that followed, they had what our hymn
One year after the shot at
Until the American Revolution, a millennium of political tradition vested powers only in monarchs and dictators. The formers of our republic simply declared the truth—that God gave all men the right to life, liberty, and property. Man, therefore, was master over government rather than the other way round.” (Ezra Taft Benson, The Spirit of America [Bookcraft, 1998.])
James Madison wrote in the Federalist, “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution.”
George Washington insisted that the “Supreme Being” had protected “the liberty and happiness of these
And so the theme would continue. In Thomas Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address, he acknowledged “that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers as
Why was the hand of
Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be afree from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but bserve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written. (The Book of Mormon, Ether 2: 12)
This land has always been “preserved for a righteous people”. This promise comes with both a blessing and a consequence. The blessing is stated from the Book of Mormon’s first pages to its last “that in as much as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land”. The consequence is most summarily stated to the Brother of Jared:
“And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should aserve him, the true and only God, or they should be bswept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.” (Book of Mormon, Ether 2: 8)
The Founding Fathers were, in the words of President Wilford Woodruff, “choice spirits who laid the foundation of this American Government”. We owe them a great debt of gratitude. Many of them placed not only their personal fortunes but also their reputations and even their lives on the altar of sacrifice to bring about the Constitution. Our Constitution ensures that which God had intended, that the power and responsibility for the weather this nation meets God’s requirement to serve Him lies with WE THE PEOPLE.
John Adams stated: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The collective morality that is required must exist in us, the rank and file citizen. Some of our leaders have and will been good some have and will strive to set us on a course that takes us away from God commandants. James Madison said that there must be “sufficient virtue among men for self-government”. The power to right our course lies with WE THE PEOPLE.
We have in the Book of Mormon a detailed record of two previous American nations. In its pages we read about the blessings showered upon them by a merciful God during those times in which they served him by way of serving one another. We too, in our day, have been the recipients of innumerable blessings as a result of goodness. However, we read next of their ultimate demise. They were swept off of this choice land, they forgot God, public virtue and morality was lost and their voices now cry to us from the dust.
How grateful I am for the prophet Mormon who also had the patriots dream to see beyond the years. Knowing that the Spirit had ceased to strive with the Nephite nation he began to pray for us. He expressed his desires for us in the following words:
“35 And these things are written that we may rid our garments of the blood of our abrethren, who have dwindled in unbelief.
36 And behold, these things which we have adesired concerning our brethren, yea, even their restoration to the knowledge of Christ, are according to the prayers of all the saints who have dwelt in the land.
37 And may the Lord Jesus Christ grant that their prayers may be answered according to their faith; and may God the Father remember the covenant which he hath made with the house of
God answered the prayers of His prophets. The book and the man that would serve as the instruments to bring forth the dispensation of the fullness of times were found within the borders of the
And yet we know that all is not well in
What are we to do? Edmund Burk once said the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Let us then something. We have the fullness of the truth and the power of liberty. Let us be patriots.
Adlai Stevenson explained “What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times?. . . A patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
We are not all required to run for office or even serve as the president of the PTA. Elder Maxwell quotes a character from JRR Tolkien’s Return of The King, it reads:
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who may live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” (Gandalf in The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I close with a quote from President Packer:
“There must be enough of us who have faith enough and who are moral enough to desire that which is right. Virtues, like love and liberty and patriotism, do not exist in general, they exist in particular. If morality exists at all, it exists in the individual heart and mind of ordinary citizens. Such virtues cannot be isolated in any other place; not in the rocks or in the water, not in trees or air, not in animas or birds. If it exists at all, it exists in the human heart. Morality flourishes when the rank and file are free. It flourishes where a conscience is clear, where men have faith in God and are obedient to the restraints He has set upon human conduct.
There is light, a “true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). This light of Christ is the ingredient which binds the whole human family together and forms something of a universal conscience.
There is nothing that is right that we cannot achieve if our individual and our national conscience is clear.
Now what are we going to do? Let me tell you:
Just go home and be decent, Sunday go-to-meeting people. Teach your children decency and honor, cooperation and tolerance, citizenship and patriotism. Teach them to be good. Teach them to have a clear conscience. Then we will produce a generation who will know what to do and have the courage to do it.
Eighty year old Deacon Josiah Haynes who fell at
You live for it! Just be decent. Take care of your family, you yourself. Don’t abandon that responsibility to the government, and don’t let them take it from you. Go where virtue and morality and clear consciences are fostered. Go to church, do your part, pay your tithes and offerings, say your prayers, read the scriptures. Be a citizen, vote; in fact, pray and then vote. Then, when the crisis comes, and come it will, you and all the rest of us will know what is right and be willing to do what is right. (Boyd K. Packer, “The Country with a Conscience” The Spirit of
--Written by James M. Turner, Copyright 2008 Mormon-Patriot. All Rights Reserved.