Principles of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is America’s first formal law. It is a binding legal document. It is an official pronouncement by the first leaders of our Republic. Not only did the Declaration announce America’s Independence to the world and list our forefathers’ grievances against the British monarchists, but it set forth the basic principles that our confederated Republic is founded upon. It is incumbent upon Americans who value their Freedom, as well as their history, to study this remarkable document. Consider this article a lesson in some of the essential principles of the Declaration.

Declaration7

We will discuss two principles of paramount significance: 1) The truth that our rights come from God; and 2) the reality that political power springs from the People and exists for the purpose of securing their God-given rights.

Perhaps the most prominent principle of the Declaration of Independence is its affirmation that an individual’s rights come from God and cannot justly be taken from him or curtailed. In its first paragraph, the Declaration refers to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” It elaborates in these terms:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Nature’s God, the Creator of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the source of our “unalienable Rights.” They do not come from man. They do not come from a collective consensus. And they do not come from government. They are not invented by legislative bodies, granted at the pleasure of a president or king, or voted upon. Our rights come from God alone. Alexander Hamilton put it this way:

The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power” (Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, February, 1775).

In 1772, Samuel Adams, often referred to as the Father of the Revolution, wrote a document titled “The Rights of the Colonists in which he expounded the very principles we are discussing today:

Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature. . . .

The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule. . . .

In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.”

America194

Each individual, upon birth, inherits his or her Liberty. Freedom is our birthright! It is the gift of Almighty God. It is an innate endowment and an essential factor in our life’s mission here on earth. This Freedom cannot be justly taken away or limited unless one has forfeited it through their infringement of the equal rights of others. The masterful Thomas Jefferson explained:

[R]ightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’; because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual” (Thomas Jefferson to Isaac Tiffany, April 4, 1819).

Only our own misuse of our Liberty can allow it to be taken from us by just laws rightly administered. Unless we violate the “equal rights of others,” the law has no hold on us. Any law that violates our individual rights is, by definition, tyrannical.

Our rights – life, Liberty, the ownership and control of private property, self-defense, privacy, due process, habeas corpus, free speech, discrimination/association, and so forth – come from God Almighty. They are, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, “sacred and undeniable.” Please always remember that your rights are God-given, that they are sacred, and that no just government can deny you your exercise of them.

The second great principle we can glean from the Declaration is that all political power rests in individuals. This power is granted by the People (that is, individuals working together voluntarily) for the specific purpose of protecting their rights. The People has no right nor authority unless an individual has the same right and authority. Working in concert does not suddenly increase authority or negate justice. For instance, if an individual cannot take money from his neighbor and give it to another person, then neither can the group take money (e.g. taxes) from members of the population and give it to others (e.g. welfare, federal education aid, foreign aid). The American People has just as much political power as the weakest individual in society has and no more.

After explaining that our precious rights come from God, the Declaration explains that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” What’s more, the Declaration makes it clear that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e. defending individual rights], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

America203

The purpose of government is to secure our life, Liberty, and property. Frederic Bastiat, writing in his classic text The Law, explained man’s essential rights, the purpose of law and government, and how collective rights are derived only from individual rights:

We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life — physical, intellectual, and moral life. . . .

Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups. . . .

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.”

When a government exceeds its authority and ceases to fulfill its enumerated purposes, it is not only the right of the People “to alter or to abolish it,” it is a duty. Again, the Declaration informs us:

[M]ankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

It is our duty, my fellow freeman, to throw off the shackles of tyranny when evil men slap them on our wrists. And make no mistake – a pattern of tyranny, such as we’ve seen in the United States for decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations, is a clear sign that there is a “design” to “reduce [us] under absolute Despotism.” That is to say, when we see a “long train of abuses,” we know for a surety that they are not mere mistakes or miscalculations, but that there is a conspiracy at work to enslave us.

Two years before he wrote the Declaration, the Sage of Monticello penned a lesser-known document entitled “A Summary View of the Rights of British America.” In it, he succinctly explained:

Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate and systematical plan of reducing us to slavery.”

America197

We see so many examples of concerted attacks on our Liberty that only one totally uninformed or maliciously complicit can deny them. Republicans and Democrats alike are angling to destroy the Second Amendment’s guarantee of our right of self-defense, violate what little privacy and due process we have left, micromanage what we can and cannot say and publish, steal the remaining wealth they haven’t already stolen, and spill American blood in unconstitutional foreign wars in which we have little to no legitimate interest. When we see this “long train of abuses,” it is our sacred duty to overturn the corrupt laws, oust the oath-breakers, and “provide new Guards” who will honor their oaths to uphold the Constitution and secure our God-given rights.

Never tolerate the violation of your rights by harboring the misguided idea that we owe blind obedience to government at all times and in all things. We do not. We owe obedience only to God, the Constitution as properly interpreted, and just laws that are made in pursuance of the Constitution. Our obedience to these, George Washington said, is “sacredly obligatory upon alland is “the duty of every individual.” However, arbitrary and despotic government merits no allegiance. “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Rather, we have a right and a duty to alter or abolish such tyranny and to support a government that secures our rights.

I turn again to the first great principle of the Declaration of Independence; namely, that our rights come from God. It is only by obedience to His divine laws, and through faith on the name of Jesus Christ, that a People can escape the destruction of their Liberty. While we must step forward to safeguard our Freedom, rescue the Constitution, and resist tyranny and conspiratorial machinations, the ultimate remedy for our ailing society is repentance. We must repent, turn our hearts to Christ, and become a righteous and virtuous People once more.

The Holy Bible makes these timeless promises to peoples which serve the Lord:

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord(Pslam 33:12).

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil. . . .

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. . . .

And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isaiah 1:16, 18, 26).

George Washington2

We must turn to God like our forefathers did. Those extraordinary patriots did not recklessly stumble into the War for Independence. They humbly bowed themselves before their Creator, petitioning Him for strength, and then went to work, having faith that their Lord would be with them and would preserve them in their just struggle. In his memorable speech, Patrick Henry proclaimed:

[W]e are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. . . .

. . . I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Surely, the Lord was with our ancestors in their bid for Independence. He presided over their conflict and gave them the victory. God is the true Founding Father of America. At the height of the fighting, General Washington was awed by God’s intervention on America’s behalf and stated:

The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations” (George Washington to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778).

The Declaration of Independence concludes with a similar statement of faith to Washington’s and Henry’s. Patriots everywhere know and cherish these iconic words:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

If we love our Liberty, then we will follow our patriot-fathers’ example. We will repent, turn to Christ, and walk uprightly. We will honor God’s laws and the principles of the Constitution. We will zealously guard our rights and ensure that our representatives honor their oaths of office and are punished when they do not. If we are freemen, we must act like freemen.

The time is at hand when neutrality is no longer an option. You must choose a side. Stand with your countrymen who are doing their utmost to defend our Faith, Families, and Freedom. Stand with constitutionalists trying to preserve the supreme law of the land and our distinct Americanist system. And fight the good fight at all times, in all ways, and in all places. I close with words from the Father of our Country. Let them echo in your ears and in your hearts from this day forward. God help us restore our Republic!

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die” (George Washington, address to the Continental Army before the Battle of Long Island, August 27, 1776).

Zack Strong,

January 20, 2020

America220

Joseph Smith – Praise to the Man

One of the most influential figures in world history began his early life as an unassuming, unlearned farm boy from upper state New York. Born on December 23, 1805, Joseph Smith, Jr. was the fourth of eleven children born to Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith. America at the time was abuzz with religious revival. The Smith family was a mixture of Methodists and Presbyterians. They attended revival meetings and church services when they could, but their primary devotions were in their home as a family. This blend of influences filled the young Joseph with a desire to find the Lord’s one true Church – a quest that would lead him to transform the world.

CU050616-001HR

As a fourteen year old boy, Joseph Smith found himself seeking advice from pastors, pondering the Gospel, and reading from the Holy Bible. He was particularly confused at the stark differences in doctrine held by all the various sects claiming to be Christian. He recalled the scenes of confusion which resulted from these irreconcilable differences:

[A]scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions” (Joseph Smith History 1:6).

Joseph wondered how he could ever learn the truth by consulting the Bible since every religious group had a different interpretation of that holy book. He observed that “the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” (Joseph Smith History 1:12).

It was during this time of confusion in 1820 that Joseph Smith came across a passage of scripture that left a profound impression on his mind and led him on a course that not only changed his life, but which continues to shape our world today. Joseph Smith was reading in the book of James when this passage lept off the page:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

The young Joseph recounted how deeply this inspired counsel affected him:

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know. . . .

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt” (Joseph Smith History 1:12-14).

Joseph Smith26

Can you see the simple faith of a humble boy reflected in these words? Joseph was a sincere person. He merely wanted to know what God wished him to do. It was his faith that if he obeyed the words of scripture and prayed in sincerity of soul, God would lead him as the Apostle James had testified He would. Joseph was therefore determined to pray and then follow any answer received because he knew that God would not lie.

Perhaps the most extraordinary event of Joseph Smith’s life occurred when he “retired to the woods” to pray to his Maker. Joseph recounted his sacred experience thus:

It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for midst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:14-17)

Joseph Smith77

What the young Joseph Smith experienced that spring day in a grove of trees is referred to as a theophany, or an appearance of God to man. The Bible records numerous theophanies, from Moses’ experiences seeing and speaking with Jehovah (Exodus 3:4-6; Exodus 19:19-20) to Abraham’s first vision of God (Genesis 18:1-3) to Jacob’s famous wrestle (Genesis 32:27-30) to Isaiah’s vision of the Lord on His throne (Isaiah 6:1) and so forth. At times, these sacred experiences were given to older men and at times they were granted to humble youths like Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4, 10, 21). The Lord even appeared to the wicked Saul who, because of this divine experience, converted to the truth and became one of the greatest Christian missionaries in history (Acts 9:3-7). Throughout time, theophanies routinely preceded and heralded the opening of a new prophetic era and the calling of an individual as a holy prophet of the Lord. And so it was in 1820 with the young Joseph Smith.

After God the Father addressed Joseph and announced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Joseph asked the question that had burdened his soul. He wrote:

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time” (Joseph Smith History 1:18-20).

Joseph Smith23

On another occasion, Joseph Smith recorded the instructions he had been given by the Lord in this way:

I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church and kingdom: and was expressly commanded “to go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known unto me” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 4, 536, March 1, 1842).

After the glorious appearance of the Father and the Son, Joseph waited eagerly for the further light and knowledge he had been promised. He waited for three years. While engaged in prayer one night in 1823, he was finally granted additional light. Joseph wrote of this experience and of others that followed:

On the evening on the 21st of September, A.D. 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of Scripture, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room, indeed the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire; the appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body; in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the Millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation.

I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me; I was also told where were deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgment of the records of the ancient Prophets that had existed on this continent. The angel appeared to me three times the same night and unfolded the same things. After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22nd of September, A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands. . . .

Joseph Smith57

In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian Era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His resurrection; that He planted the Gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings, as were enjoyed on the eastern continent, that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions, that the last of their prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgment of their prophecies, history, &c, and to hide it up in the earth, and that it should come forth and be united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 4, 536-537, March 1, 1842).

The angel that appeared in 1823 was named Moroni and was the last prophet of the Nephites, the ancient American inhabitants described above. In approximately 420 A.D., Moroni buried a sacred record of God’s dealings with the Nephites and other ancient American peoples in a small hill in present day New York. Joseph Smith was entrusted with this record for the purpose of translating it into English so that its doctrines could be “united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days.” The translated record came to be known as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, named after the Nephite warrior-prophet Mormon who served as the chief compiler and editor of the ancient record.

The Book of Mormon is an authentic book of holy Christian scripture similar to the Bible. It is a second witness to the world that the Bible’s testimony of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ is accurate and truthful. The Book of Mormon is the “stick of Joseph” that Ezekiel foresaw would be joined with the “stick of Judah” to form “one stick” in the hand of God (Ezekiel 37:15-19). It is the “book” seen by Isaiah that the learned cannot read, but which one “that is not learned” should read and cause to spring forth “a marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:10-14). This divine record supports, and at times clarifies, Biblical doctrines regarding the House of Israel, the covenants of God, the ordinances of baptism and of receiving the Holy Spirit, prayer, and, of course, the all-important Atonement of the Savior. The Book of Mormon is, at its core, a beautiful and uncompromising witness of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Mormon15

In one place, the prophet Nephi bore fervent witness, almost six hundred years before His birth, of Jesus Christ. He witnessed:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. . . .

And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out” (2 Nephi 25:26, 29).

Jacob, Nephi’s brother and fellow servant of God, also witnessed of the Messiah and His Gospel:

[B]ehold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God. . . .

O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell. . . .

And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 9:18-19, 21-23).

Jesus123

Another prophet named Alma also testified of the Son of God’s then forthcoming Atonement and the marvelous blessing it would be for mankind:

[B]ehold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all – for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people. . . .

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me” (Alma 7:7, 11-13).

The inspired Amaleki gave us these encouraging words:

I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).

Finally, in the closing pages of the record, the prophet Moroni, the same who appeared to Joseph Smith, issued a challenge and a promise to anyone who would read the record:

I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye should ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).

Jesus130

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” – John 8:12

These are the sort of passionate testimonies, doctrines, and promises that fill The Book of Mormon record. On nearly ever page of this sacred text there are references to Jesus Christ. The ancient Nephite prophets pleaded with their people, and with those of us they knew would one day read their record, to have faith on the name of Jesus, rely on His redeeming power, and join themselves to His Church. We could know with certainty the identity of that Church if we would simply pray, as James also instructed, and as the young Joseph Smith did in 1820.

Dear reader, please understand that Joseph Smith did not invent or write this volume of scripture; he translated The Book of Mormon through the power of God for the sole purpose of building up the Lord’s Church in the last days and bringing people to Jesus Christ. Please also know that I have a burning testimony of the truthfulness of that holy book. It leads me to believe in Christ, to follow Him, and to do good. It gives me knowledge that is sweet to my soul and which enlightens my understanding of life. And, most importantly, I have tested Moroni’s challenge by reading, pondering, and sincerely praying about The Book of Mormon. In response to my prayers, the Holy Spirit has touched my heart and affirmed in an unmistakable manner the divinity of that book. I love The Book of Mormon!

I also love the man who was the instrument in the Lord’s hands in bringing The Book of Mormon to light, Joseph Smith. His story no doubt sounds extraordinary – perhaps unbelievable – to someone hearing it for the first time. Joseph Smith acknowledged this when he said:

I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 6, 317, April 7, 1844).

Even though it is sounds unbelievable, it is true! And Joseph Smith suffered a life of defamation, brutalization, and persecution culminating in the murder of himself and his brother Hyrum because he stood firm in his testimony of what he had experienced and of what God had revealed to him. I have often pondered the mobbing and persecutions he and his family went through and have asked myself this question: “Would a man really suffer all of this for a lie?” The answer is a resounding “No!”Such a legacy of staunch belief in the face of bitter persecution is surely striking to even the most hardened skeptic.

One particular moment that touches my heart and demonstrates the greatness of Joseph Smith occurred when Joseph Smith and several of his fellow Latter-day Saints were betrayed by one of their own and illegally arrested by a militia and thrown into the ironically named Liberty Jail. For six months, they endured hunger and exposure and were subjected to ridicule while being denied due process under the law. Parley P. Pratt, one of those unjustly imprisoned alongside Joseph Smith, recorded that “in one of those tedious nights” in the jail, “we had listened for hours to the obscene jests, the horrid oaths, the dreadful blasphemies and filthy language of our guards . . . as they recounted to each other their deeds of rapine, murder, robbery, etc., which they had committed among the “Mormons” while at Far West and vicinity. They even boasted of defiling by force wives, daughters and virgins, and of shooting or dashing out the brains of men, women and children.” Pratt then described what happened next:

I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified, and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards; but had said nothing to Joseph, or any one else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words:

SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!

Joseph Smith94

He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards.

I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended on a breath, in the Courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri.”

What a powerful testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith! And lest skeptics think this is an isolated incident, it wasn’t. Frequently, assassins who came with the Devilish intent of murdering the Prophet were so captivated and swayed by his “unruffled” presence in the face of danger – his profound “dignity and majesty” – that they ended up having dinner with him instead. The descriptions of those who met with Joseph Smith, friend and foe alike, are quite remarkable and I recommend the reader search them out in books such as They Knew the Prophet: Personal Accounts From Over 100 People Who Knew Joseph Smith by Hyrum Andrus.

Joseph Smith’s character was such that he could not be swayed from his beliefs by unjust imprisonment, mobbing, or the assassin’s gun. He made this remark about those who persecuted him and tried to coerce him to deny what he had really seen, heard, and experienced:

It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy? . . . .

Joseph Smith66

Joseph Smith being tarred and feathered March 24, 1832

I soon found . . . that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me. . . .

I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (Joseph Smith History 1:20, 22, 24-25).

Again I ask: What would a man suffer for a lie? If Joseph Smith was lying about his experiences, as detractors then and now claim, would he have maintained his lie in the face of mobbing, being tarred and feathered, being beaten, being poisoned, being arrested and tried forty-eight times (and acquitted all forty-eight), being threatened with death, being kidnapped and unjustly imprisoned for six months in the ironically named Liberty Jail, being betrayed and hunted by former friends, watching his followers murdered and driven from state to state, and, finally, in the face of certain slaughter by a vicious mob alongside his beloved brother Hyrum? I submit that a liar, a self-aggrandizer, a fraud, a charlatan, and a false prophet would not suffer so excruciatingly for a lie. Rather, logic dictates that, as a minimum, Joseph Smith truly believed what he said; namely, that God had appeared to him and called him as a prophet to restore the Lord’s Church.

Joseph Smith10

Millions of people from all across the globe have stepped forward to testify that they know, through the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was no liar. From Fiji to Brazil to Russia to Japan, millions have witnessed that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of Almighty God, that he in fact saw God and His Son, that They commanded him to restore the Savior’s Church in its fullness, that he was empowered to translate a sacred record of a Christian people living in ancient America, that the Lord’s Priesthood authority was given anew to him through heavenly messengers, and that from his day to the present there has been an unbroken line of prophets and apostles testifying to the world of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. I include myself among those who so testify of Joseph Smith and the Savior Jesus Christ whom he loved, served, and gave his life for.

Because of Joseph Smith’s testimony, thousands of people left their homes and homelands, forsook their belongings, and faced persecution to gather with the Saints of God. They contributed their meager earthly means to help build up The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When Joseph was murdered, his influence continued to rally the Saints who proceeded to march across the plains to an uninhabited land and build up a Christian society.

Joseph Smith’s life and prophetic witness have changed and directed my own life to an enormous degree. Without exaggeration, I am who I am because of Jesus and Joseph. Because Brother Joseph restored Christ’s Church, and because the Holy Spirit has confirmed to my soul the divinity of that Church, I went to Russia for two years, struggling to learn the language and enduring arrest by the FSB and hatred by the people, to preach “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Because Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon, and because I have zealously studied that book and taken its warnings to heart, I have chosen my career field and daily raise my voice against the forces of evil and conspiracy facing us. Because Joseph Smith received revelations relative to politics and government, I revere the U.S. Constitution as inspired and ran for Congress in 2014.

The revelations and teachings delivered by and through Joseph Smith have informed my principles in everything from voting and politics to health habits to my views on marriage and family to my entertainment habits and beyond. It is impossible for me to worship Jesus Christ without acknowledging Joseph Smith as His Prophet in these final days before His return in glory. My sentiments echo those of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle of the Savior, who explained:

We bear testimony of Christ, and we do it with all the fervor and conviction and power of our whole soul, striving and laboring to do it by the power of the Holy Ghost; and as our voices echo and reecho the eternal verity that Christ is the Lord, we say also that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, a legal administrator who had power from God—keys and authority—so that he could bind on earth and have it sealed eternally in the heavens. Here, we say, is Joseph Smith, a revealer of the knowledge of Christ and of salvation for our day. We link the words together in one great testimony of eternal truth; and the reason we have power to bear witness of Christ, through whom salvation comes, is that Joseph Smith, the prophet and seer of the Lord for our day and in our day, has received eternal truth, has borne witness, has given revelation, has laid the foundation.

Brigham Young once said, “I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 458); and that is as it ought to be, because salvation is in Christ and salvation is available because Joseph Smith revealed Christ to the world. The world either accepts that witness and believes in the Lord’s prophets or goes its way and at its peril loses the hope of eternal salvation. One must believe in Adam and Christ, if living in that day; or in Abraham and Christ, if living in that day; or in Moses and Christ if living then; or, in our day, in Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, crying “Hosanna” and “Hallelujah” and “Praise the Lord” whenever their names are mentioned by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Joseph Smith: A Revealer of Christ,” BYU Devotional, September 3, 1978).

Joseph Smith68

Another time, Elder McConkie gave additional reasons why Latter-day Saints feel to cry hallelujah every time we think of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In his powerful sermon “Joseph Smith – The Mighty Prophet of the Restoration,” Elder McConkie stated:

His numerous revelations, given in the name of the Lord, set forth the wonders of eternity and the glories of the gospel as plainly and persuasively as do those of the apostles and prophets of old.

Here is a man who has given to our present world more holy scripture than any single prophet who ever lived; indeed, he has preserved for us more of the mind and will and voice of the Lord than the total of the dozen most prolific prophetic penmen of the past. . . .

Here is a man who, like the Master, whose servant he was, cast out devils and healed the sick. . . .

Here is a man whose greatness lies in the fact that he was a witness of that same Lord for whom his fellow prophets in days long past had laid down their lives. . . .

Here is a man who was a prophet in the full and complete and literal sense of the word, as all who hearken to the voice of the Spirit shall know. . . .

Here are the words of Deity, spoken to Joseph Smith, by which all men can judge the state of their own spiritual development:

““The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;

““While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.” (D&C 122:1–2.)

All men may well ask themselves where they stand with reference to Joseph Smith and his divine mission. Do they inquire after his name and seek that salvation found only in the gospel of Christ as revealed to his latter-day prophet, or do they deride and despise the Lord’s living oracles and say that God no longer speaks to men in the way he did anciently? The great question which all men in our day must answerand that at the peril of their own salvationis: Was Joseph Smith called of God? . . . .

We link the names of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith in our testimonies. And we now testify, as God is our witness, that Joseph Smith is his prophet, and we do it in the blessed name of Him who is Lord of all and of whom we and all the prophets testify, who is Jesus Christ” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Joseph Smith – The Mighty Prophet of the Restoration,” General Conference, April, 1976).

Joseph Smith93

Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s martyrdom at Carthage Jail

Surely Joseph Smith was no common man and no common prophet. He was one of the greatest men to ever live and one the greatest prophets to ever wear the inspired mantle of “prophet, seer, and revelator.” His testimony, works, and life are of such magnitude and stature that they cannot be ignored or trivialized, but must be reckoned with and accounted for by all intelligent people. Ultimately, there are only two alternatives – either Satan inspired Joseph Smith or God called and empowered him. There is no middle ground. And I testify that our Lord and Savior chose Joseph Smith to push forward His eternal work in these last days and that it was Satan who inspired a fiendish mob to murder the Prophet in cold blood just as he inspired the mobs of the past to do to ancient prophets of Christ.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred moments after his brother Hyrum was gunned down in front of him, John Taylor, who was with Joseph at the time and was himself severely injured in the hail of bullets, wrote this stirring commemoration:

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the fit and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and a name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).

It is no small thing to claim a man stands next to the Savior only in greatness, yet John Taylor, a spiritual giant in his own right who was to later become the third prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, did just that. He bore his witness. And I confirm his witness with my own. Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God, is the restorer of the Savior’s Church, Priesthood, and laws – a Church, Priesthood, and laws that had been corrupted or lost in the Great Apostasy, or, rather, in the “falling away” prophesied by New Testament apostles and Old Testament prophets alike (2 Thessalonians 2:3; Galatians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:18; 2 Timothy 3:2-5; 2 Peter 2:1; Isaiah 29:10, 13; Isaiah 60:2; Amos 8:11-12). Through repenting and entering into the ordinances officiated by the Priesthood, and living with faith in the Redeemer, we access the Atonement of Jesus Christ and are saved. The modern world, though most don’t realize it, owes much to Joseph Smith and his faithfulness in the face of adversity.

Joseph Smith37

Joseph Smith’s death mask

In 1883, the distinguished statesman Josiah Quincy, who met the Prophet Joseph Smith forty-three days before his martyrdom, gave an intriguing memorial to this great man. He was not a follower of the Prophet and had nothing to gain from making this statement, yet he wrote:

It is by no means improbable that some future text-book, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a questions something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet. And the reply, absurd as it doubtless seems to most men now living, may be an obvious commonplace to their descendants. History deals in surprises and paradoxes quite as startling as this. The man who established a religion in this age of free debate, who was and is today accepted by hundreds of thousands as a direct emissary from the Most High,—such a rare human being is not to be disposed of by pelting his memory with unsavory epithets . . . Fanatics and impostors are living and dying every day, and their memory is buried with them; but the wonderful influence which this founder of a religion exerted and still exerts throws him into relief before us, not as a rogue to be criminated, but as a phenomenon to be explained. The most vital questions Americans are asking each other to-day have to do with this man and what he has left us(Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past, 376-377).

In partial fulfillment of Mr. Quincy’s prediction, in 2015 the Smithsonian Magazine ranked Joseph Smith the #1 most influential American in itsReligious Figures” category and Brigham Young, Brother Smith’s immediate successor, was ranked #3. In addition, The Book of Mormon, perhaps the crowning work put forward by Joseph Smith who translated it with God’s power, was recently ranked through a Library of Congress poll as the fourth most influential piece of American literature. Whether people like it or not, Joseph Smith is one of the most influential figures in recent world history and is widely regarding as a pivotal figure. Indeed, few people in any age of history have accomplished what he did during his short thirty-eight years of life, nor have they exerted such a powerful influence over millions across the world nearly two centuries after their death as Joseph Smith does at present.

Though it is inexplicable to some, I can explain the “phenomenon” of Joseph Smith and the millions who follow him quite easily. Simply, his testimony is true! He was and is a real prophet of God. He really did see with his own eyes the Father and the Savior. They did in reality command him to restore the Lord’s Church with its Priesthood and saving ordinances. He really did translate an ancient record, delivered to him by an angel, that bears witness of Jesus Christ’s dealings with the inhabitants of ancient America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in actuality the Kingdom of God on the earth. And the Holy Spirit, the Testator of all truth, has borne witness to millions that these things are true. I know this is true and I would give my life before recanting.

Joseph Smith27

Dear reader, after the story of the humble Man from Nazareth who walked on water, raised the dead, suffered and died for the sins of the world, and rose from the grave thus abolishing death and conquering the Devil, the story of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Lord’s Church is the greatest story in the world. And it is so very great because it is so very true!

Joseph’s story is the ultimate confirmation of Jesus’ story. Joseph is His prophet. Joseph’s testimony is the supreme reaffirmation of the ancient apostles’ testimonies of their Lord and should be welcomed and received by all who willingly take upon them the name of Christ. Jesus taught that to know God and His Son is eternal life (John 17:3), and Joseph taught the world the true nature of the Godhead and helped us truly know who They are and what They stand for. Joseph clarified the true points of the Redeemer’s doctrine, thus settling centuries of schismatic Bible-bashing with “thus saith the Lord” revelations that are sweet to the soul and enlightening to the mind.

I thank my Eternal Father for sending Joseph to testify of Jesus. I thank the Lord for not forsaking this generation, but for calling a prophet in our day to bear witness of His holy name. My soul is filled with gratitude to know that I live in a day when literal prophets walk the earth and in an age that has the witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I love to hear and sing the words of a powerful hymn extolling his name:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!

Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.

Blessed to open the last dispensation,

Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

Praise to his mem’ry, he died as a martyr;

Honored and blest be his ever great name!

Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,

Plead unto heav’n while the earth lauds his fame.

Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!

Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.

Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;

Death cannot conquer the hero again” (“Praise to the Man,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hymn No. 27).

It is fitting that we end with a few words from the Prophet’s own mouth about our Savior, for he lived to bring people to Christ. I extract the quotes from the third chapter of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. The Prophet testified:

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

I believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and that He died for the sins of all men, who in Adam had fallen.”

Salvation could not come to the world without the mediation of Jesus Christ.”

God . . . prepared a sacrifice in the gift of His own Son, who should be sent in due time to prepare a way, or open a door through which man might enter into the Lord’s presence, whence he had been cast out for disobedience. From time to time these glad tidings were sounded in the ears of men in different ages of the world down to the time of Messiah’s coming.”

Who, among all the Saints in these last days, can consider himself as good as our Lord? Who is as perfect? Who is as pure? Who is as holy as He was? Are they to be found? He never transgressed or broke a commandment or law of heaven—no deceit was in His mouth, neither was guile found in His heart. . . . Where is one like Christ? He cannot be found on earth.”

[T]hose who keep the sayings of Jesus and obey His teachings have not only a promise of a resurrection from the dead, but an assurance of being admitted into His glorious kingdom; for, He Himself says, ‘Where I am there also shall my servant be’ [John 12:26].”

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”

It fills me with a uniquely peculiar sense of euphoria to read, speak, and think about the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Spirit testifies to me of his prophetic call as a servant of the Lord. I know he was a good man because his fruit is sweet to my soul and his teachings illuminate my mind. I know he stands as the preeminent prophet of our time because the Holy Ghost has so whispered to me. I know that when the Lord returns surrounded by His Saints, Joseph Smith, the American Prophet, the Prophet of the Restoration, will be on His right hand.

Joseph Smith62

In sincerity I say that I can approach the “throne of grace” more boldly because I know the name Joseph Smith (Hebrews 4:15-16). I am a better man for having learned of the Prophet and his humble life and immense sacrifices. I wish all could likewise know the name Joseph Smith, read his story, imbibe his testimony, and join in the same great cause of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I testify of these things and invite all to “come and see” and learn the truth for themselves (John 1:39).

When I am called by the trump of the archangel and weighed in the balance, you will all know me then” (Joseph Smith, King Follett Discourse, April 7, 1844).

Zack Strong,

December 23, 2019

I invite you to also watch the film Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xVw6PsSinI&t=2453s

Give Thanks and Mean It

Each Thanksgiving, American families gather and gorge themselves on turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. They watch football, laugh together, and then go back and eat some more. In all the revelry, how many of us stop and remember the purpose of the holiday we’re commemorating? What are we supposed to be thankful for anyway? And is our gratitude verbal only or do we show it in our actions? This Thanksgiving, I make a plea for Americans everywhere to give thanks and mean it.

Thanksgiving35

Let’s start at the beginning – the purpose of the holiday. The designation of the fourth Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving was made on October 3, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. I rank President Lincoln as one of America’s top five worst presidents and one of the biggest violators of the Constitution to ever occupy the White House. However, he talked a good talk and his praise for God often waxed eloquent. His 1863 proclamation read in part:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God . . . It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gracious gifts of the Most High God] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

From 1863 to the present, Thanksgiving has been annually observed on the fourth Thursday in November. The purpose of the holiday, ostensibly, is the same: To acknowledge that our blessings, deliverance, and prosperity come from Almighty God and to give our praise to Him for His mercy and watchful care over our People and Republic.

The practice of proclaiming days of thanksgiving, fasting, and prayer, however, dates back much earlier. They date back to the first years of white settlement in the New World. The practice became more formalized when on October 3, 1789, George Washington became the first president to call for a national day of thanks. I reproduce his presidential proclamation in full:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

George Washington1

The purpose of the United States’ first Thanksgiving was for our People to give religious devotion to “that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” We were meant to express gratitude to God for his “signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of [the War for Independence].” Americans were intended to thank the Lord for the “tranquility, union, and plenty” which they enjoyed in their blessed country. Additionally, President Washington wanted the American People to “unite it the most humbly offering of prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations” for forgiveness of their “national and other transgressions.” This first day of thanks was intended to also “promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among . . . us.”

In other words, Thanksgiving was set apart as a day of religious service for the expression of gratitude, the increase of our faith in the Lord, the spread of wholesome Christian values, and a general increase in light and knowledge. It was a distinctly Christian holiday. Jesus Christ was its center. It was in His holy name that the American People were intended to offer their thanks and devotions to Almighty God.

Americans have more to be grateful for than any other people on the planet. In his Inaugural Address of April 30, 1789, President George Washington acknowledged this fact. He stated:

No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”

God’s hand was present not merely in the War for Independence. His influence was to be seen everywhere. He poured out His blessings upon the American People, guided us in creating our unique and unsurpassed system of law known as the Constitution, blessed us with order and industriousness, gave us power and influence, planted the standard of Christianity and religious devotion in our hearts, prospered us with fields and flocks and bountiful harvest and almost unlimited resources, and made of the most blessed People on the planet.

Modern leftists claim this is a “chauvinistic” attitude, but it’s the truth: Americans are the most blessed People on earth. After spending time in France as ambassador and touring Europe, Thomas Jefferson wrote home to his good friend and future president James Monroe:

“my god! how little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy. I confess I had no idea of it myself. while we shall see multiplied instances of Europeans going to live in America, I will venture to say no man now living will ever see an instance of an American removing to settle in Europe & continuing there” (Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 17, 1785).

George Washington35

Anyone who has ever visited or lived abroad must make the same declaration. Nowhere I have ever lived or traveled, be it Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Canada, Ukraine, Lithuania, or Panama, even comes close to matching the superior blessings we enjoy in the United States. Whenever I return to my country from abroad, I feel lighter and happier. There’s a unique feeling in America. There’s a current in the atmosphere that emits hope and solidarity with the great Freedom fighters of the past. You stand on soil trod by men like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Adams, Henry, the Pilgrims, the Pioneers, the frontiersmen, and others. Yes, America is a blessed land – the Promised Land of God.

Despite our decaying culture, mob government, and imploding society – all brought about by communist infiltrators and apathy on the part of people who should be most concerned with maintaining our Republic – the United States is still the best country on earth. We have the most potential of any People. We have an unsurpassed heritage of Freedom and the example of the Founding Fathers to guide us. We have the greatest means of overthrowing the “rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12) of any nation. We have tens of millions of people in whose hearts still burn the fires of Liberty. There are millions of Americans like me who love their Faith, Families, and Freedom and who will die before surrendering them. The Establishment be warned.

Now on to the second portion of this article. How do you show that you are grateful to be an American and that you are are thankful for your unrivaled blessings? I suggest three things each of us can do to show our gratitude by our conduct:

1) Become informed, alert, and aware

2) Vote correctly

3) Turn to God

The first thing we can do to show that we are grateful for the Liberty we’ve been given and the sacrifices our ancestors have made to hand us these blessings is to become aware of them. Despite living in the technology age and having the collective learning of humanity at our fingertips, we’re woefully uninformed. We don’t know our history. We’ve lost touch with our heritage, roots, and traditions. With a few exceptions, we don’t know the names of the figures who made America great. We don’t know their stories. We don’t know the sacrifices our People made to forge a well-ordered, prosperous, and free civilization on this previously barbarous continent. We take it all for granted.

Because we take for granted our Freedom, we ignore the threats to it. After all, if you don’t understand one, you can’t understand the other. We are oblivious to the forces chipping away at our rights, sapping our wealth, stirring up division, seeking for power over us, and transforming our government into an oligarchy of Elitists in which we – the average citizens – have no say.

Thanksgiving6

It is an insult to the purpose of Thanksgiving to continue on in our ignorance. President Washington pleaded for us to “promote . . . knowledge . . . and the encrease of science” in vain if we don’t take advantage of our means of education to learn correct principles, real history, and truth. Surely an indispensable part of giving thanks for the profound blessings our country has enjoyed is to be aware of the dangers that threaten to strip us of those very blessings. We must be alert. We must awaken. We must become aware of what’s going on in our community and society. And we must take a stand against all forces which would deprive us of those things for which we unite each November to give thanks – namely, our Faith, Families, and Freedom.

The second thing Americans can do to show their gratitude this Thanksgiving is to determine to vote correctly. And yes, there is a right and a wrong way to vote. Voting for candidates of any party whose principles and personal character conflict with the founding vision of America, with the principles of our inspired Constitution, or with that which is in our People’s best interest, is the wrong way to vote. And voting for individuals of any party whose principles and character are in harmony with the founding vision of America, most importantly with our inspired Constitution and the Christian values which undergird it, is the only correct way to vote.

Resolve this Thanksgiving to do everything in your power to ensure that the blessings you enjoy will still exist for the next generation to enjoy as well. You can help bring this about by removing from office all derelict representatives from their posts and replacing them with worthy stewards of our rights. Determine now to be more active in rejecting all parties, programs, and people whose principles conflict with those values and standards which made America great in the first place and caused our forefathers to institute solemn days of thanksgiving. Instead, use your inherent power to support only those ideas, institutions, and individuals which are truly American in character.

ffdeed962a8b2a34b2f5c02aa9b5737d

Third, and most importantly, you can show your gratitude by turning more fully to God. No matter how committed you may be to the Savior, there isn’t a single person who can’t become more Christlike, more righteous, more selfless, more charitable, more loving, and more faithful. I have long been of the opinion that the only thing that can truly save our Republic is repentance. Repentance is the remedy we seek. Unless we repent, our society cannot survive.

What is repentance? To most, repentance is a scary word evoking thoughts of stiff punishment, cold tribunals, public shaming, profound embarrassment, and harsh judgment. This false conception was introduced to Christendom only after the martyrdom of the Lord’s apostles who knew better. The original sense of the Hebrew concept of repentance is “to turn.” To repent is to turn away from sin and to turn to God. It means to turn away from harmful practices – adultery, substance abuse, theft, murder, lying, and so forth – and to turn to good works, charity, compassion, faith, and love. Repentance is the most hopeful word in our language.

Repentance is not only the most hopeful word in the English language, but is also our most desperately needed act. It is the remedy to our society’s problems. Until we generously apply this remedy and become true disciples of Jesus Christ, things will continue to spiral out of control. This Thanksgiving, we can show that we are truly grateful for our blessings by recommitting ourselves to lives of purity and goodness. Our Savior “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) and so should we. Emulating our Lord’s example expresses the ultimate gratitude.

For those who are not Christian, I commend to you a quote by the great Benjamin Franklin. He said: “A virtuous Heretick shall be saved before a wicked Christian” (Benjamin Franklin, “Dialogue Between Two Presbyterians,” April 10. 1735). However, I also invite you to “come and see” (John 1:39) what the Lord’s Gospel offers. It truly offers the abundant life (John 10:10). It is the only path that leads to eternal happiness (Matthew 7:13-14).

An additional word about national repentance, or turning to God, seems prudent as our society comes together to ostensibly worship God. In ancient times, the Lord told His people that if they repented, or turned from their incorrect traditions to correct and worthy ways, He would forgive them and prosper their land. He was anxious to forgive them and bless them, but that blessing depended upon their repentance, righteousness, and faithfulness. Note the marvelous blessings the Lord promises to peoples who turn to Him:

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord . . . they are gone away backward.

Why should ye be stricken any more? . . . .

Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. . . .

Hear the word of the Lord . . . give ear unto the law of our God. . . .

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;

Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge [i.e. do justice to] the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:4-5, 7, 10, 16-19).

Thanksgiving37

Similar blessings are pronounced in the more popular declarations found in the following passages of the Bible:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

This Thanksgiving, the most important thing we can do to express our gratitude is to humble ourselves before God, turn to His Son, and commit ourselves to living lives of goodness that harmonize with the commandments. We ought to, as the Father of our Country implored, “unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” To repent is to improve and rededicate our lives to the Lord. Let’s unite in recommitting ourselves, as a People, to our great God.

My fellow Americans, we have so much to be grateful for! We have more reason to give thanks than any other group of people who have ever lived. We are richly blessed. However, our blessings are beginning to dry up because we have allowed the sickness of sin to rot our culture, replace our Faith in Christ with trust in science and the faux “wisdom” of men, destroy too many our Families, and gnaw away at our Freedom under the law. Yet, notwithstanding the serious challenges that face us, we’re still the greatest society on earth and we have, without any doubt, the greatest potential of any people to overcome our challenges and shine again.

America was founded to become a shining city on a hill. We were meant to be a refuge for the oppressed of mankind – a haven for those who want to live in peace, breathe free air, raise their families without micromanaging, and worship God as they see fit. For a long time, this vision was a burgeoning reality. Because of our apathy, historical forgetfulness, and immorality, however, we have fallen to a large extent. In order to revive America, we must: 1) Become informed about our history and alert to the dangers threatening us; 2) vote according to principle and support only individuals, ideas, and institutions that conform to the unique principles of Americanism and the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and 3) turn our hearts back to the Lord and become a righteous People once again.

Thanksgiving28

I hope you will take the opportunity this Thanksgiving to teach your family the history of the holiday. Teach your children that our national blessings come from the Lord and that their continuation depends upon our faithfulness. Teach them to rely upon God and to kneel down and give thanks to Him. Teach them that Jesus is the God of this blessed land.

This year, as you gather with your families, give thanks from the bottom of your heart for everything the Lord has blessed you with and for everything He has blessed this country with. Give thanks for your God-given rights. Give thanks to live in the most incredible and prosperous nation on earth. Give thanks for the Constitution and its sublime principles. Give thanks for the unsurpassed heritage of Liberty we have as Americans. Give thanks for your Faith, Family, and Freedom. Yes, give thanks and mean it!

Zack Strong,

November 28, 2019

Guns and God

“I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. – Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means.” – John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

Each mass shooting reminds us that we need more of two things: Guns and God. You have likely heard the saying that an armed society is a polite society. Years ago, I realized this concept needed to be amended thus: An armed and righteous society is a polite society. This article is a plea for us to add more guns and more God in our lives.

guns10

Guns or no guns, a God-fearing, decent, and righteous society will be one of peace, happiness, and security because “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). Yet, because both evil and free will exist, even good, “turn-the-other-cheek” Christians must sometimes reluctantly take up arms to defend their Faith, Families, and Freedom. It has always been this way and it will remain the status quo until the Lord returns and cleanses the earth.

For all of history, patriots and prophets alike have had to wield the sword in defense of eternal truth, God-given rights, political Freedom, public morality, and societal stability. In ancient times, it was Jehovah’s peace-proclaiming prophets and the most righteous followers of the Gospel who were the first to stand up and fight for their rights. Whether you look at Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Elijah, Josiah, or any number of righteous figures of olden times, you find men willing to fight and to risk everything in defense of their rights, relatives, and religion.

Our honorable Founding Fathers also abhorred war and bloodshed, but they did their duty to God and their countrymen. They were great lovers of peace and knew the horrors of conflict. Yet, they also understood that it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees. Patrick Henry voiced their rallying cry in these treasured words, “give me liberty or give me death!” Consequently, they waged a holy war of self-defense against the British monarchists trying to subjugate them. If we are to vouchsafe to our own children the rights handed down to use by our forefathers, we must be equally prepared to fight.

patriots3

The purpose of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was to plainly and publicly affirm that individuals possess the right of self-defense which no government can justly deprive them of. In truth, the Second Amendment is not even about guns – it is about self-defense. Whether you defend yourself with a club, machete, rifle, machine gun, or bazooka makes absolutely no difference. We focus on guns because they are the gold standard in personal self-defense, but we must never lose sight of the underlying principle of self-defense which existed before the Constitution was ratified and will exist for all eternity.

Our forefathers knew that a sure sign that a government had evil intentions to reduce its people to slavery was its attempts to disarm them. Accordingly, when the American colonists saw British Redcoats marching to Lexington and Concord to arrest Samuel Adams and confiscate their cache of firearms, they turned out with their rifles to defend their rights like real men. The “shot heard ‘round the world” happened because Christians with guns knew their rights and had the integrity to defend them at the risk of their own lives. Yes, American Liberty was won because a small band of armed Christians had enough valor to do what was required of them. They kept their guns close and their God closer.

guns11

Many Christians today believe that they cannot take up arms even in self-defense. They erroneously think it violates the Gospel of Jesus Christ to defend their rights against evil men. And they certainly do not agree with our Founding Fathers who believed that rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. Though “timid men . . . prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty” (Thomas Jefferson to Philip Mazzei, April 24, 1796), I, as a Christian constitutionalist, understand that there are times I must defend my Faith, Family, and Freedom even to bloodshed. In so doing, I stand with our Founding Fathers who proved their noble words by their valiant actions. And I stand with the laws of nature and of nature’s God.

One of the great exponents of natural law was John Locke. In his Second Treatise on Civil Government, Locke described the rationale behind the right of self-defense thus:

“Whosoever uses force without Right . . . puts himself into a state of War with those, against whom he so uses it, and in that state all former Ties are cancelled, all other Rights cease, and every one has a Right to defend himself, and to resist the Aggressor.”

Self-defense is the most natural of rights. It is the one right that ensures all the others. Our rights, emanating from God, cannot be justly taken from us. When an attempt is made to deprive us of any right, the right of self-defense becomes operative. We who have been wronged have every prerogative to resist aggressors and would-be tyrants. Yes, the surest way to protect our general Freedom is through self-defense. Therefore, when we see this precious gem assaulted, we know that we are in danger.

death to tyrants1

John Adams spoke of a People’s right of self-defense. As you read his words, please understand that a nation has no rights but those which are possessed also by the individual citizens comprising the nation. Every nation derives its powers, as The Declaration of Independence attests, “from the consent of the governed.” With that in mind, consider this statement:

“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than that to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for a worse, unless the people have sense, spirit, and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against tyranny; against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many. Let it be the study, therefore, of lawgivers and philosophers, to enlighten the people’s understandings and improve their morals, by good and general education; to enable them to comprehend the scheme of government, and to know upon what points their liberties depend; to dissipate those vulgar prejudices and popular superstitions that oppose themselves to good government; and to teach them that obedience to the laws is as indispensable in them as in lords and kings” (John Adams, “Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States,” 1787).

The right of an individual to kill a tyrant, robber, or aggressor, in cases of necessity, cannot be doubted. Our inspired Constitution has safeguarded our right of self-defense and tens of millions of Americans stand armed and ready to defend their Faith, Families, and Freedom. Yet, do we possess the morality, honesty, integrity, goodness, and righteousness necessary to balance and temper our arms? John Adams made it clear that improved morals must go hand-in-hand with the capacity and willingness to wage defensive war against tyrants and aggressors.

Speaking of the tyrannical forces encroaching upon our Liberty, the venerable Ezra Taft Benson stated:

“If America is to withstand these influences and trends, there must be a renewal of the spirit of our forefathers, an appreciation of the American way of life, a strengthening of muscle and sinew and the character of the nation. America needs guts as well as guns. National character is the core of national defense.”

George Washington18

Yes, we not only need our guns, but we need our God even more. Our moral character must be improved and cultivated as both Mr. Adams and Mr. Benson affirmed. We must become an armed and righteous society. Unless we cultivate morality at least proportionate to the number of arms we have, I fear that we will be led to turn our arms on each other in a scene of anarchy and mobocracy unrivaled in human history.

As Christians, we must lead the way to a peaceful resolution of societal differences, yet without sacrificing principle. Ours should be the loudest voices calling for peace, encouraging morality, promoting goodness, exposing corruption, and championing the Constitution. As Christians, we must show the world through our personal righteousness that an armed society really is a polite society. And, finally, Christians we must be the first to stand up in defense of Freedom – even, and perhaps especially, when it requires drawing the sword.

The Lord has not presently called His people, as a collective group, to wage war against the wicked. In fact, He tells us to proclaim peace. Yet, it is equally sure that Christians must be prepared to fight when the time comes. The moment of action may or may not come in the shape of a formal war. But it very well may come during the night as a thief attempts to plunder your home; during a worship service when a hate-filled assassin attempts to shoot up your congregation; in the office when a disgruntled employee seeks revenge; in the back alley when a rapist attempts to deprive you of your virtue; or on your drive home from work when a thug tries to victimize you. The point is that you never know when you will need to exercise your God-given right of self-defense; and you should always be prepared.

Millions of lives are saved each year because people care enough about themselves and their loved ones to keep and bear arms. How many more lives would be saved if more Americans carried weapons for their personal defense? How many families would today be enjoying the company of a loved one if they had only been prepared to defend themselves? How many more people have to die needlessly because employers and school administrators force their employees and students to be defenseless and helpless in the workplace and in the classroom? How long will America sit idly by as a small, ruthless clique campaigns to deprive us of our most important right, our right of self-defense?

guns9

In 1833, the great Joseph Story wrote that “the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a Republic” (see Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States). As the palladium, or safeguard, of our rights, the Second Amendment should hold a place of preeminence in our hearts. If it goes, our Freedom goes. And in order to properly wield the great power of arms placed in our hands, we must turn our hearts to God.

To counter criminals, evil people, and tyrants, we need more guns. We need more weapons in the workplace, in schools, in public, and everywhere there are people to be defended. And we need people trained in their competent use. Training at an early age breeds respect for the power and proper use of guns. The message that “guns are evil” only breeds fear and incompetence and, ultimately, leads to greater casualties and suffering.

Yes, I say that we need more guns in America! Yet, the proliferation of guns in our society will turn into a sore curse if we do not follow the commandments of Jesus Christ. If we are an immoral People, we will eventually be led to turn our firearms on each other in a fratricidal war. History proves this pattern as clear as any other. However, if we once again become a moral nation, our firearms will prove an extra safeguard on the evil passions and proclivities of unscrupulous men.

While most of us may not need to use our guns, doesn’t it give peace of mind to have them just in case? Which husband or father, or even wife or mother, would not rush to defend a beloved family member rather than watch them gunned down by the hand of evil? Who, in hindsight, would choose to be a helpless witness than a defender of innocence? Ezra Taft Benson once said something of the Lord’s law of chastity that is applicable to our conversation: “It is better to prepare and prevent than it is to repair and repent.”

Thankfully, we live in a nation established by Almighty God – a nation whose founding documents clearly safeguard our rights. Thankfully, we have a heritage of Freedom and can distinctly see the path marked by our forefathers. We have been given the right of self-defense, along with all other rights, and it is our solemn duty to make good use of it. How shameful it would be if we who have been given so many blessings, so much prosperity, and so much individual Liberty, threw it all away because we were not brave enough to defend ourselves and our families! Stand up and be men. Stand up and be Christians. Stand up for your rights!

guns4

In the wake of each new gun-related tragedy, the Establishment batters us with anti-rights propaganda in hopes will we grow so weary that we will surrender. The media flashes images of dead bodies and blood on our TV screens in order to shock and scare us into submission. Don’t fall for it. Don’t be victimized. Don’t be deceived by the masters of deceit. Stand for your Liberty no matter what pretext is used to persuade you to accept your chains. Know that you stand on the moral high ground when you stand with the Constitution. And keep your guns close and God even closer.

I leave you with these immortal words of Samuel Adams. It was a frank challenge to his countrymen at the outset of the War for Independence. Though he spoke more than 200 years ago, he might as well have been speaking to you and me. Ponder the words and decide once and for all whose side you’re on:

“Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, What should be the reward of such sacrifices? Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship, and plow, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

Zack Strong,

June 1, 2019

Our Majestic World

“Consider the lilies of the field. . . . even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” – Matthew 6:28-29

On April 12th of this year, I married my best friend, the gorgeous Emma Ramos. A few days later, we embarked on a two-week honeymoon to Europe. During our trip, we saw some of the most famous attractions Europe has to offer. I decided to write this article to share an observation I made years ago, but which I had confirmed and reinforced in a powerful way on this trip.

While in Europe, I saw many spectacular works of art and engineering prowess. I viewed Rome’s indomitable Colosseum, the extensive Vatican museums with their timeless treasures, the Sistine Chapel and numerous grand churches and cathedrals, Mussolini’s obelisk, the man-made island of Venice with its watery lanes and elegant gondolas, the Hohensalzburg Fortress in picturesque Austria, the iconic fairy-tale castle in Bavaria, and other incredible feats of human ingenuity, expertise, and imagination. However, the most exquisite, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring works of craftsmanship I witnessed were not those created by men, but those created by God.

As amazing as castles, cathedrals, and monuments are, nothing man has yet conceived compares with the simple grandeur of the earth our Lord organized for us. The majestic Alps of Switzerland, the turquoise rivers of Bavaria, and the perpetually green hills of central Italy eclipse in greatness, stature, and potency the towering stone walls, marble pillars, and painted ceilings of even the greatest of human inventions.

20190428_133137

Overlooking the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwanstein Castles in Bavaria

As I left behind the Romans’ grandest edifices and watched Italy’s green, hilly countryside fly passed my train window, I felt a greater stirring in my soul for nature’s loveliness than man’s cleverness. As I moved from the notable cities of Venice and Milan into the Swiss Alps, the stark contrast between human and Heavenly architecture became at once apparent. And as I hiked the mountain overlooking King Ludwig II’s stunning castles, what struck me most was not the stone and mortar below, but the Bavarian mountains, lakes, and forests stretching out in all directions in a peaceful panoramic with few equals.

20190423_184151

Mürren, Switzerland

In Switzerland, I experienced the peace and quiet I so thoroughly enjoyed while living in Alaska. Those who spend their whole lives living in sprawling cities cannot appreciate the life-giving nature of peace and quiet inherent in rural settings. You do not go to Rome, New York, or Tokyo to sit down in the street and imbibe the atmosphere. Yet, you are impelled, almost in spite of yourself, to sit down in a flower-bedecked field in the mountains and soak in the radiant peace, splendor, and pleasantness. You simply cannot buy or artificially simulate the peace and quiet of God’s outdoor sanctuaries. You must go there and experience it for yourself.

While palaces, shrines, and medieval fortresses fascinate me immensely, the feeling of wonder fades with time. However, the impressions I get while gazing at a snow-caped mountain, watching a river snake through a valley, or listening to birds sing while smelling the aroma of trees and flowers are deep and lasting. I greatly appreciate the centuries of history contained in the Egyptian museum in Vatican City, the surreal spectacles witnessed by the mighty walls of the Colosseum, and the meticulous planning required to construct the Neuschwanstein Castle in its awesome Alpine perch. Yet, what superior detail, planning, and thought must go into creating a single mountain! And that is to say nothing of an entire earth brimming with so much beauty that we can scarcely comprehend and which no mortal can ever experience in totality. What’s more, there are “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33) waiting to be explored in the future time of the Lord.

20190423_174954

Mürren, Switzerland

The human mind fails to comprehend the sheer majesty of the mountain ranges, forests, lakes, rivers, jungles, plains, deserts, and seas that beautify and give splendid variety to our world. And few recognize the eloquent sermons our Savior preaches to us every second of every day through His skies, stars, eclipses, auroras, sunsets, clouds, rainbows, mountains, streams, waterfalls, trees, flowers, and greenery. The greatest painters and photographers have tried but failed to capture even minuscule snapshots of this indescribable beauty. The best we can do is feebly imitate what the Lord has fashioned so skillfully for our satisfaction.

It is prideful and arrogant to suggest that this magnificent earth came into being through the fortuitous chance of some unfathomable “big bang.” It is still more incomprehensibly vain and arrogant to suggest that human beings evolved over billions of years through a cosmic role of the dice and that our little earth is the only one out of trillions of other planets we have observed with our relatively weak scientific instruments that has intelligent life. It is little more than ingratitude and ignorance to suggest that there is not a superintending power – an intelligent design – responsible for crafting our world, the beauty and order in it, and the ultimate masterpiece that is man to enjoy it.

20190422_142537

Spiez, Switzerland

An ancient prophet of our Lord Jesus Christ, an upright man named Alma, used the very existence of our earth to testify to an unbeliever that God exists. He said:

“And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.

“But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? . . . .

“. . . The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a supreme creator” (Alma 30:40-41, 44).

The writer of Psalms used similar logic when he testified:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1).

And Moses, having grown up surrounded by the worldly opulence of the pharaohs, marveled in these words after seeing the Lord’s creations in vision:

“Now, for this cause, I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1:8-10).

Even though man and all his fancy inventions are “nothing” when compared to our God’s simple majesty and intrinsic glory, yet we are His most prized possessions – His greatest handiwork! We are His literal children. You are a literal son or daughter of your literal, living Father in Heaven. We belong to His family and He loves us and wants to share all He has and is with us (Romans 8:16-17). You and I are created in His holy image and possess a part of His attributes and nature (Genesis 1:26). Our physical form and natural abilities show, if only in small measure, what and who our Eternal Father really is.

Christ190

Jesus Christ – Gentle Touch by Karen Foster

Our Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, also showed what we may become if we walk the path outlined by God. The path is the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all of its empowering covenants, ordinances, and blessings. And this beautiful earth which we are so privileged to live on was designed for us as a grand tutorial and a staging ground for eternity. We are here to learn how to successfully walk the only path that leads to the abundant life here and hereafter (John 10:10).

From the beginning, God has declared that “this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). His assurance has been supported by the witness of the holy prophets. Nephi, for instance, declared:

“He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. . . .

“. . . he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:24, 33).

Yes, the Lord loves us! From the east to the west, and from the north to the south, the Lord has placed masterpieces of beauty for our edification and enjoyment. The majestic mountains of Switzerland, the tropical jungles of Panama, and the fruited plains of America continuously beckon to us, encouraging us to remember God and to recognize that we are His children. The spires of the mountains and tops of the trees point upward as if telling us to look up to Heaven and point our souls to eternity.

20190425_140801

Salzburg, Austria

For all of man’s engineering marvels, and there are many which justifiably thrill us, the greatest artwork this world has to offer is not to be found in artificial cities and urban environments. Rather, the greatest sermons, masterpieces, and marvels are found in the simplicity and grandeur of nature. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” affirmed David (Psalm 24:1). It is my witness that this is true. And it is my plea that you will take every opportunity to unplug from the false reality of the internet, leave behind the concrete jungles, and soak in the majestic world God has provided for us. God bless you to appreciate whose son or daughter you are and to understand why you have the privilege of living on this expertly-crafted, endlessly inspiring, and infinitely beautiful globe we call home.

Zack Strong,

May 10, 2019.

Thank God that You Are an American

On this Thanksgiving, I want to forego all negativity and simply express my gratitude for the unsurpassed blessings we enjoy as Americans. In a letter written from France, a nostalgic Thomas Jefferson exclaimed: “My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” (Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 17, 1785). My sincerest feelings echo Jefferson’s. Fellow American – you possess more blessings, privileges, opportunities, power, and influence by virtue of your citizenship in the blessed United States than the people of any nation, kingdom, or empire now or in the past have ever enjoyed.

Thanksgiving9

America is great because of the generous blessings of Almighty God. Our forefathers were righteous men and women who worshiped Jesus Christ and lived according to the noble principles of the Bible. Contrary to what the detractors claim, America was founded as a Christian confederation – a shining city on a hill. The first Pilgrims covenanted with each other to establish a new nation “for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith.” From day one, America was dedicated by its humble settlers as a Christian country.

Because early Americans possessed a heartfelt witness of their peculiar place in history and the bounty of blessings their Creator had bestowed upon them, they lived righteously and Heaven showed her blessings upon them. Early Americans understood that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Because they were righteous and cherished public virtue, the Lord richly blessed the colonies and, later, the American Republic. Without the faith in Christ burning in their hearts, our forefathers simply would have never advanced as they did but would have become like the stagnant, degenerate, unfree fiefdoms of Europe.

Thanksgiving5

The historical record is proof that God has loved, favored, and blessed America above all other nations. Never has a nation risen to greatness so quickly as did the United States. Never has a nation achieved such global power and influence. Never before has a People claimed as many rights and Liberties as has the American People. No people has ever enjoyed the same level of prosperity and wealth as ours. Never has a land possessed so many raw resources and cultivated them into useful products. Never has a people been so industrious and consequently been placed in such a lofty position to benefit others as has ours. Never has a nation possessed a written Constitution that has provided for a stable government for so many years.

Furthermore, many of the world’s greatest inventions have come from the United States. The car, airplane, light bulb, radio, telephone, cotton gin, thresher, assembly line, suspension bridge, electric guitar, air conditioning, refrigerator, frozen food, washer and dryer, computer, CD, internet, GPS, atomic energy, laser technology, machine gun, Kevlar, fiber optics, and a thousand other useful technologies found their birth in our great nation. No nation has given so much to the world. And it all comes back to the righteousness of our American forefathers, for which they were blessed bountifully by Heaven.

Do we take these blessings for granted? Do we take our privileged and blessed lifestyle for granted? Or do we consciously acknowledge how blessed we are? Do we fall to our knees and thank God for what He has done for our forefathers and what He has done for us? Do we remember to be grateful in our daily prayers? Do we feel true gratitude in our hearts for the unsurpassed blessings we enjoy – blessings which most of the world cannot even fathom?

ffdeed962a8b2a34b2f5c02aa9b5737d

When you take to the internet to complain about your government, do you ever stop to think how blessed you are that we have a Constitution that defends our right to speak out? When you hop into your car and drive to the store, do you think how easy travel, getting food, and exchanging goods has become? When you prepare a Thanksgiving feast for your family, do you pause to reflect how all of these good foods ended up on your table and how easy it was to obtain, preserve, and prepare them? When you flip on the TV or flip a light switch, do you remember your ancestors who struggled and toiled to give them to you? Do you pause in the rush of modern life to give gratitude to God for all these things that you take for granted, but which not even the greatest kings in ancient days could have imagined having?

This Thanksgiving day, let’s remember our ancestors. Let’s remember the God-fearing Pilgrims who settled this land, the Sons of Liberty and Founding Fathers who won American Independence with their blood, and all of our forefathers who built such an amazing, unsurpassed, unequalled edifice of greatness and handed it to us on a silver platter. Let us not begrudgingly give thanks to our God for His innumerable blessings upon our People. Rather, let’s give cheerfully, for “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Thanksgiving35

On this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s turn our hearts to Jesus Christ. Let’s draw our families close around us. Let’s pray together and give thanks together for the glorious Freedom we enjoy. Let us never be guilty of ingratitude; no, not to our stalwart ancestors and not to our loving Heavenly Father. When you get on your knees to pray today both as an individual and with your families, thank God that you are an American. Thank Him that He has bestowed so many blessings upon this Promised Land, that He freed our People from European tyranny, that He has preserved us as a unified nation for all these years, that He has allowed our inspired Constitution to remain the supreme law of the land, and that He has poured out an unequalled flood of light, knowledge, and truth upon our People.

God bless America! God bless you and your family! And God preserve us in Liberty so long as we turn to Him and remember to thank Him for our daily blessings – blessings which no other nation on earth enjoys in such abundance.

Zack Strong,

November 21, 2018.

Festival of Freedom

“My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” – Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 17, 1785.

The United States of America is the greatest nation on earth! With all of our numerous flaws and serious disruptions and contentions, this Republic is still, without question, the best nation in the world and the last hope for mankind. No other country has as much raw potential as the United States. And certainly no other nation has as glorious a heritage of Freedom, rule of law, and godly society as does America. We are a blessed land with a special mission to fulfill.

In order to fulfill our singular mission, however, we must recognize and be grateful for our unsurpassed blessings, embrace our unique American heritage, revive the principles and ideals enshrined in our founding documents, and press forward in faith. We must defend our faith, families, and Freedom against all attacks – both from within and from without. We must imbibe the same spirit our forefathers possessed that caused them to risk life and limb to forge a free nation. Independence Day is the perfect time to do just that.

patriots3

During an Independence Day oration in 1826, George Bancroft referred to this exceptional holiday and stated:

“The festival which we keep is the festival of freedom itself – it belongs not to us only but to man. All the nations of the earth have an interest in it, and humanity proclaims it sacred!”

Independence Day is not just another day. It is a special day; a sacred day. It was the opening of a new epoch. This holy day marks the founding of the first free nation in modern times – a nation which grew from its humble beginnings to become the greatest nation in recorded history. America is not just another nation, and her birthday is not just another day.

BFdesign

In 1796, a full generation before Bancroft delivered his oration, John Lathrop gave an Independence Day address wherein he affirmed:

“Liberty descended from Heaven on the 4th of July, 1776. . . .

“The first promulgation of the Gospel of Liberty was the declaration of American independence . . . the Americans were elected by God to redeem from bondage the miserable victims of arbitrary power.”

America was the vessel which the Lord designed to carry Liberty to a safe harbor. When fifty-six men signed their names to the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and proclaimed their reliance upon “the protection of Divine Providence,” Freedom began to burst forth. America is the modern birthplace of Liberty and has remained its sole incubator for 242 years. Truly, Independence Day is no ordinary day.

John Quincy Adams, in an Independence Day speech delivered in 1837, rhetorically asked:

“Why is it that next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day?”

He went on to provide the answer:

“Is it not that in the chain of events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? – that it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? – that it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?”

GeorgeWashington32

To our forefathers, the birth of America was not a raucous “rebellion,” but a sacrosanct religious event. It was an act of Providence. It was a fulfillment of ancient Biblical prophecy. So many profound miracles poured forth from Heaven that General George Washington, in the heat of the conflict with tyrannical Britain, wrote to a fellow general that:

“The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations” (George Washington to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778).

Speaking in 1793, just a few years after Washington penned his letter, Elias Boudinot told an audience gathered for their Independence Day celebration the following:

“The late revolution . . . is big with events that are daily unfolding themselves and pressing in thick succession to the astonishment of a wondering world!

“It has been marked with the certain characteristic of a Divine overruling hand in that it was brought about and perfected against all human reasoning and apparently against all human hope – and that in the very moment of time when all Europe seemed ready to be plunged into commotion and distress.

“Divine Providence, throughout the government of this world, appears to have impressed many events with the undoubted evidence of His own almighty arm.”

America15

On April 30, 1789, newly elected President George Washington delivered his First Inaugural Address. In it, he stated:

“[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”

Through the intervention of Almighty God, the American Republic came into being. Without His divine aid, our War for Independence would have floundered, our Founding Fathers would have been hanged as traitors, the U.S. Constitution would have never come into being, and America would have been once more subjected to European tyranny. Yet, God did intervene, America did win her bid for Independence, and the Founding Fathers went on to draft the U.S. Constitution under inspiration and set America on the path to unrivaled greatness.

american-revolutionary-war-soldiers-randy-steele

Today, how many of us stop to remember and express gratitude for the Lord’s hand in our nation’s birth and progress? How many of us truly comprehend how significant Independence Day was in the course of world history? How many of us understand the great mission America has been given – the mission of preaching the Gospel of Liberty to mankind? How few of us thank our God for His bountiful blessings upon this special land!

As Americans, we are unique. The eyes of the world are, and truly have been, upon us. No other People has a history and a heritage like we do. No other nation boasts such a large group of Founding Fathers so thoroughly brilliant, honorable, and wise. No other nation has founding documents as inspired as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. No other country anywhere witnessed such conspicuous intervention by Deity in its founding. The American Republic is not just another nation, and her birthday is not just another day.

America12

Be proud to be an American. Be proud of your unmatched heritage of Freedom. Feel honored you were born here in the cradle of Liberty and that you have the privilege of participating in this ongoing struggle. Defend your faith, family, and Freedom against all attacks. Cherish the history of the American founding and the memory of the men who sacrificed so much for this Republic. And never take for granted this special day, this Independence Day, this festival of Freedom. Long Live Liberty!

Zack Strong

July 1, 2018.