In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught to “liken the scriptures to ourselves.” We often insert our name into the text or change a pronoun to make a passage refer more personally to us. Today, I perform the same exercise and apply an ancient sacred text to America. In it, a holy Israelite prophet recounted how the Lord had delivered his faithful father and his people from physical and spiritual captivity. As you read his words, keep in mind America’s founding generation as well as our present one and ponder what principles may be applied to us:
“[T]hey were delivered out of the hands of the people of king [George III], by the mercy and power of God.
“. . . they were in captivity, and again the Lord delivered them out of bondage by the power of his word. . . .
“. . . have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrace his mercy and longsuffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delvered their souls from hell?
“Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. . . .
“. . . a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore, they were saved.
“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of [America], have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
“Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body? . . . .
“And now behold, I say unto you, my [countrymen], if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:4-7, 13-15, 26).
This history resembles remarkably the way that the American People were blessed to become the first free people in modern times. Our forefathers fled the religious and political persecutions and oppressions of Europe to plant the standard of Liberty and faith here in the New World.
The men of the Mayflower wrote and signed a mission statement for all subsequent peoples who came to this land. They said they came here “for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith.” In consequence, they “solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, Covenant[ed] and Combine[ed] [themselves] together into a Civil Body Politick, for [their] better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid.”
In 1630, the Puritan governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, famously referred to America as a “city on a hill” with a prophetic destiny. He explained:
“Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as His own people, and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness and truth, than formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when He shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, “may the Lord make it like that of New England.” For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.
“And to shut this discourse with that exhortation of Moses, that faithful servant of the Lord, in his last farewell to Israel, Deut. 30. “Beloved, there is now set before us life and death, good and evil,” in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walk in his ways and to keep his Commandments and his ordinance and his laws, and the articles of our Covenant with Him, that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it. But if our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other Gods, our pleasure and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it.
“Therefore let us choose life, that we and our seed may live, by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity.”
Later groups of settlers chose the godly life and entered into similar covenants to serve God and make America a haven of virtue, goodness, and Christianity. Their pious lives, faithful devotions, and reverent educational pursuits evidence their sincerity.
The first book published in the New World was The Bay Psalm Book. Another of the early texts was the Bible in the hieroglyphic Mi’kmaq Indian language. These early American Christians took their charge to take the Gospel to all the world and preach it to every creature seriously (Mark 16:15-16).
Americans not only evangelized the Indians, but also taught their children from the Bible. Children both at home and at school learned to read from the Bible. The New-England Primer of 1690 was used in schools for over a century. It taught children the ABCs in a Gospel context.
In the Primer, A stood for: “In Adam’s Fall We sinned all.” Adam and Eve were displayed next to a tree with the Luciferian serpent coiled around it. B was rendered: “Thy Life to mend This Book attend.” The book pictured was the Bible. J was given as: “Sweet Jesus He Dy’d on a Tree.” Christ was shown crucified on the cross. And so forth.
The book also contains an exhortation written by the first Protestant martyr under bloody Queen Mary, the Reverend John Rogers, who had been burned at the stake in England in 1555. His crime? Compiling William Tyndale’s and Myles Coverdale’s translations of the Bible. Dubbed the “Matthew Bible,” this version was sanctioned by King Henry VII, making it the first authorized English Bible. Part of Roger’s heartfelt exhortation read:
“Give ear my Children to my words,
whom God has dearly bought,
Lay up His laws within your heart,
and print them in your thought. . . .
Keep always GOD before your eyes,
with all your whole intent;
Commit no sin in any wise,
keep his Commandment.
Abhor that arrant Whore of Rome,
and all her Blasphemies;
And drink not of her cursed Cup,
obey not her decrees. . . .
Give of your Portion to the Poor,
as Riches do arise;
And from the needy naked Soul
turn not away your eyes.
For he that doth not hear the cry
of those that stand in need,
Shall cry himself and not be heard,
when he does hope to speed.
If GOD hath given you increase
and blessed well your store,
Remember you are put in trust,
and should relieve the poor. . . .
Be always thankful to the Lord,
with Prayer and with Praise,
Begging of him to bless your work,
and to direct your ways.
Seek first I say the living GOD,
and always Him adore;
And then be sure that he will bless,
your basket and your store.”
To the Gospel ABCs and Reverend Roger’s exhortation was added a catechism of faith that defined such matters as the Fall of man, Christ’s redemption, adoption and satisfaction, and the Ten Commandments. Thus, The New-England Primer, which served as a foundational text in American schools, helped establish the religion of the Savior Jesus Christ in the Americas.
Subsequent generations of Americans followed the Puritan tradition, though perhaps not as fervently. They became somewhat lax. This laxity of piety coincided with an increase of British intervention and despotism. A remarkable thing called the First Great Awakening then occurred. From the 1730s into the 1770s, America was ablaze with religious revival. Steeples defined the skyline, church bells rang out, and people became more stridently religious and patriotic.
It is no coincidence that the men who would later declare Independence and forge a new nation were born or raised during this defining period. For instance, George Washington was born in 1732, John Adams in 1735, James Wilson in 1742, Thomas Jefferson in 1743, James Madison in 1751, and so on. These men grew up in the milieu of revival, reformation, and restoration. Theirs was a Christian education and one that broke with the monarchical, top-down, aristocratic traditions of Europe.
This great spiritual and political awakening was led by the pastors and preachers of America’s Christian churches. Men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley lit up the colonies with their preaching. In History of the American Revolution, Reverence William Gordon wrote of the importance of these preachers in shaping attitudes toward not only God, but government:
“The ministers of New England being mostly congregationalists, are from that circumstance, in a professional way more attached and habituated to the principles of liberty than if they had spiritual superiors to lord it over them, and were in hopes of possessing in their turn, through the gift of government, the seat of power. They oppose arbitrary rule in civil concerns from the love of freedom, as well as from a desire of guarding against its introduction into religious matters. . . . The clergy of this colony [Massachusetts] are virtuous, sensible and learned a set of men, as will probably be found in any part of the globe of equal size and equally populous. . . . [I]t is certainly a duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times; to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and to recommend such virtues as are most wanted. . . . You have frequently remarked that though the partizans of arbitrary power will freely censure that preacher, who speaks boldly for the liberties of the people, they will admire as an excellent divine, the parson whose discourse is wholly the opposite, and teaches, that magistrates have a divine right for doing wrong, and are to be implicitly obeyed; men professing Christianity, as if the religion of the blessed Jesus bound them tamely to part with their natural and social rights, and slavishly to bow their neck to any tyrant” (Ellis Sandoz, ed., Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805, Vol. 1, xiii).
The Baptist minister John Allen gave a red-hot oration on Thanksgiving, December 3, 1772. It gives a flavor of some of the overtly political sermons that American Christians feasted upon during the period immediately before the War for Independence. The specific political controversy that occasioned the fiery thoughts was the Gaspee Affair which just had its 250th anniversary on June 9th.
The HMS Gaspee was a British ship sent to enforce tyrannical maritime laws on the colonists. The latter resented the unjust impositions and, as the Gaspee sat grounded in a sand bar, fifty-five men snuck aboard, arrested the crew, and burned the vessel. One online source said: “The Gaspee Affair was one of the earliest acts of rebellion in the colonies, and acted as a catalyst in the revolution.” Indeed, it was sometimes called America’s “first blow for Freedom.” To learn a little more, watch this lecture by author Steven Park.
I now quote from John Allen’s oration addressed to the Earl of Dartmouth:
“When I view the original right, power and charter, confirm’d, sealed, and ratified to the province, or inhabitants of Rhode-Island, and its standing in full force, and unrepealed for more than an hundred years, which is as follows: “Be it enacted, that no freeman, shall be taken, or imprisoned, or deprived of his freehold, or liberty, or free custom, or be out-law’d, or exil’d, or othewrise destroy’d, nor shall be oppressed, judged or condemned, but by the law of this colony. And that no man of what state or condition soever, shall be put out of his lands of tenements, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disinherited, nor banished (observe this my Lord), nor any ways destroy’d, or molested, without being, for it, brought to answer, by a due course of law in this colony”: Methinks, that even your Lordship, will not blame them if they stand fast in the liberty wherein they were made free.
“As a fly, or as a worm, by the law of nature has as great a right to liberty, and freedom (according to their little sphere in life), as the most potent monarch upon the earth: And as there can be no other difference between your Lordship, and myself, but what is political, I therefore without any further apology, take leave to ask your Lordship, whether any one that fears GOD, loves his neighbour as himself (which is the true scripture-mark of a christian), will oppress his fellow-creatures? If they will, where are the beauties of Christianity? . . . .
“Are not the liberties of the Americans as dear to them as those of Britons? Suppose your Lordship had broke the laws of his king, and country, would not your Lordship be willing to be try’d by a jury of your peers, according to the laws of the land? How would your Lordship like to be fetter’d with irons, and drag’d three thousand miles, in a hell upon earth? No! but in a hell upon water, to take your trial? is not this contrary to the spirit of the law, and the rights of an Englishman? Yet thus you have given direction, as the king’s agent or the agent of the ministry to destroy the rights and laws of the Americans. How your Lordship can answer for this agency of injustice before GOD, and man, will be very difficult: . . . I think, my Lord, that such men, who will take away the rights of the people, are neither fit for heaven; nor earth, neither fit for the land or the dunghil. . . .
“. . . [the King’s] attempt to destroy the rights of the people – destroys his right as king to reign over them, for according to his coronation oath, he has no longer a right to the British crown or throne, than he maintains inviolable firm the laws and rights of the people. For violating the people’s rights, Charles Stewart, king of England, lost his head, and if another king, who is more solemnly bound than ever Charles Stewart, was, should tread in the same steps, what can he expect? I reverence and love my king, but I revere the rights of an Englishman before the authority of any king upon the earth. . . .
“. . . Then, surely, that man must be a tyrant in his soul, that shall deem it rebellion in the Rhode-Islanders, supposing they should kill every man, that shall attempt to destroy their laws, rights and liberties. . . .
“. . . my Lord, there is no other idea arises in my mind . . . which is, if there is any law broke, it is the king and the ministry who have broke it; for I would be glad to know my Lord, what right the king and ministry has to send an armed schooner to Rhode-Island, to take away the property of the people, any more than they have to send an armed schooner into Brest, and demand the property of France? Know this, that the king of England has no more right, according to the laws of God and nature, to claim the lands of America, than he has the lands of France – America, my Lord, in the native rights of the Americans, it is the blood-bought treasure of their forefathers; and they have the same essential right to their native laws, as they have to the air they breathe in, or to the light of the morning, when the sun rises; and therefore they who oppress the Americans must be as great enemies to the rights of the laws of nature, as they who would (if it were in their power) vail the light of the sun from the universe. Remember my Lord, the Americans have a priviledge to boast of above all the world. They never were in bondage to any man, and therefore it is more for them to give up their rights into the hands of the Turks; consider what English tyranny their forefathers fled from, what seas of distress they met with, what savages they fought with, what blood-bought treasures, as the dear inheritance of their lives, they have left to their children, and without any aid from the king of England; and yet after this, these free-born people must be counted rebels, if they will not loose every right of liberty, which their forefathers bought, with their blood, and submit again to English ministerial tyranny – O America! O America!
“. . . Therefore, my Lord, must it certainly be, that the Gaspee schooner has committed the transgression, & broke the laws of the freedom of this country. No doubt, my Lord, but they have a right to tax the strangers, that come to dwell in their country; but to tax the children, which are free in their own native country, this will not do! Nature forbids it; the law of GOD condemns it. And no law, but that of tyranny, can desire it.
“And therefore it was, my Lord, that the children (who are by the law of GOD, and the law of nature free), looked upon the Gaspee schooner as a stranger, as such they treated her; but when the stranger attempted to gather tax of the children who are free then they looked upon her, as a pirate, who took away their property without their consent, by violence, by arms, by guns, by oaths and damnations. . . .
“If there is any law broke, it is this, that the Gaspee schooner, by the power of the English ministry and admiralty, have broke the laws, and taken away the rights of the Americans. And yet the Americans must be punish’d for it, contrary to their own laws. O! Amazing! I would be glad to know my Lord, what right the king of England has to America? it cannot be an hereditary right, that lies in Hanover, it cannot be a parliamentary right that lies in Britain, not a victorious right, for the king of England never conquered America. Then he can have no more right to America, than what the people have, by compact, invested him with, which is only a power to protect them, and defend their rights civil and religious; and to sign, seal, and confirm, as their steward, such laws as the people of America shall consent to . . . consider then, my Lord, how cruel, how unjust, how unanswerable before God and man it must be, by any violence and power to destroy the rights of the Americans. . . .
“. . . Supposing my Lord, that the Rhode-Islanders, for the sake of blood bought liberties of their forefathers, for the sake of the birthrights of their children, should shew a spirit of resentment against a tyrannical arbitrary power that attempts to destroy their lives, liberties and property, would it not be unsufferable, cruel, for this (which the law of nature and nations teachers them to do) to be butchered, assassinated and slaughtered in their own streets by their king? Consider, my Lord, that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and that it would be a cold cordial for your Lordship, at the bar of God, to have thousands of Americans rise up in judgment against you. Yet I would rather this was the case, tho’ I suffer’d death with them, than they should lose their essential rights as Americans.
“But it may be meet to let your Lordship know, that if the Americans unite (as there seems a good prospect of it) to stand as a band of brethren for their liberties, they have a right, by the law of GOD, of nature, and of nations, to reluct at, and even to resist any military and marine force, surely they must be intended in readiness for the French, and not for Americans, for can it ever enter into the heart of a mother to murder her children? of a king to kill his subjects? of an agent to destroy the rights of the colonies he represents? But suppose my Lord, that this should be the bloody intent of the ministry, to make the Americans subject to their slavery, then let blood for blood, life for life, and death for death decide the contention. This bloody scene can never be executed but at the expence of the destruction of England, and you will find, my Lord, that the Americans will not submit to be slaves, they know the use of the gun, and the military art, as well as any of his majesty’s troops at St. James’s, and where his majesty has one soldier, who art in general the refuse of the earth, America can produce fifty, free men, and all volunteers, and raise a more potent army of men in three weeks, than England can in three years . . . they will not give up their rights; they will not be slaves to any power on earth” (John Allen, “An Oration, Upon the Beauties of Liberty, Or the Essential Rights of the Americans,” December 3, 1772, in Ellis Sandoz, ed., Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805, Vol. 1, 305-314).
Revolutionary preaching of this sort filled America’s pulpits in the years leading up to 1776. Americans were instructed clearly and copiously in natural law. They knew their God-given rights. As Thomas Jefferson later expressed, these rights were self-evident and publicly acknowledged. Every true American then, and now, understood that the purpose of all government was to protect natural rights and defend Freedom. They recognized when their rights were being violated. This was due in part to the fact that pastors like John Allen raised their passionate voices against British abuses and roused Americans to take up arms in defense of their divine birthright of Liberty.
It was the Christian pastors and preachers, and their congregants, who stood up against King George III and championed religious and political Liberty. It was the Reverend Jonas Clark who, with his parishioners, grabbed their weapons and stood toe to toe with the oppressive British Redcoat troops at Lexington in 1775. Pulpit patriots inspired red-white-and-blue-blooded Americans in armed rebellion against tyrants attempting to deprive them of their God-given rights.
For all their flaws, these early Americans went forward to battle in the strength of the Lord. They had faith in Jesus Christ. They carried and read the Bible. They attended church services. They demanded and achieved a high level of public morality. Not only public, however, but private morality was common. All the sages of the day acknowledged and taught that virtue and religion were essential to free republics.
Here are a few of their statements. Record them. Remember them. Heed them:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).
“The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies” (John Adams to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776).
“We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge or Galantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (John Adams to the Massachusetts Militia, October, 11, 1798).
“Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue. On the other hand, when the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigor, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed” (John Witherspoon, “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Man,” May 17, 1776).
“I love the People of Boston. I once thought, that City would be the Christian Sparta. But Alas! Will men never be free! They will be free no longer than while they remain virtuous. Sidney tells us, there are times when People are not worth saving. Meaning, when they have lost their Virtue. I pray God, this may never be truly said of my beloved Town” (Samuel Adams to John Scollay, December 30, 1780).
“[W]e are generally apt to ascribe too much to the efficacy of laws and government, as if they alone could secure the happiness of the people; but no laws will be sufficient to counteract the influence of manners which are corrupted by vice and voluptuousness; and it is beyond the power of any government to render the circumstances of the citizens easy and prosperous, if they want the habits of industry and frugality. – Government is necessary, to preserve the public peace, the persons and property of individuals; but our social happiness must chiefly depend upon other causes; upon simplicity and purity of manners; upon the education that we give our children; upon a steady adherence to the customs and institutions of our ancestors; upon the general diffusion of knowledge, and the prevalence of piety and benevolent affections among the people.
“Our forms of government, are, doubtless, like all other institutions, imperfect; but they will ensure the blessings of freedom to the citizens, and preserve their tranquillity, so long as they are virtuous; and no constitution, that has been, or can be formed, will secure those blessings to a depraved and vicious people” (Caleb Strong, January 17, 1806, in Patriotism and Piety, 138).
“[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters” (Benjamin Franklin to Abbes Chalut and Arnoux, April 17, 1787).
“If ye be with God, become a praying and religious people, acting up to your covenant relation and engagements to him, walking in all holy obedience to his laws, and attendance upon his worship and ordinances; God will be with you, and give you the tokens of his gracious presence, in providential mercies. The name of your land will be Jehovah Shammah, the Lord is there. God’s presence with you, will be your surest defence, your highest glory, your truest felicity. This will derive a blessing upon all your labours, husbandry, merchandize, fishery, & whatever you set your hands unto – and upon all your enjoyments. This will make your governour a Nehemiah, seeking your prosperity; this will give you wise & faithful rulers, skilful and upright judges, zealous and godly magistrates; and will make your officers peace, and your exactors righteousness: this will give you holy & orthodox ministers, pure and peaceable churches, learned & flourishing academies; and, in time of war, valiant soldiers and victorious armies. Yea, if you are indeed religiously with God, he will afford his gracious spiritual presence with his word and ordinances; this will make you a holy, as his providential presence will make you, a happy people” (Samuel Dunbar, “The Presence of God With His People,” 1760, in Ellis Sandoz, ed., Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805, 229-230).
These were the types of refrains echoing in our forefathers’ ears as they contemplated Independence, as they made war to defend their Liberty, and as they erected a new nation. They humbled themselves before God Almighty and He blessed their land according to His word:
“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).
Even the most unperceptive recognized magnificent interventions from Heaven on their behalf. During the heavy fighting of 1778, as the Continental Army was being miraculously preserved time and time again, General George Washington declared:
“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).
In his First Inaugural Address, President Washington also remarked:
“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those 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.”
On July 4, 1796, John Lathrop, commemorating the Declaration of Independence, proclaimed:
“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” (See Celebrate Liberty! Famous Patriotic Speeches and Sermons, compiled by David Barton).
America is a special land. It is a promise land of covenant. It was prophesied about by ancient seers like Isaiah whose foretellings were recorded in the Bible and other holy scriptures. It is a safe haven reserved by God for a righteous people – a people that will serve Him and make Him their King. Christ is the only rightful King of America and to no other individual or authority will any real American bend the knee.
The Puritan preacher Increase Mather was right when he said:
“This is Immanuel’s land. Christ by a wonderful Providence hath dispossessed Satan, who reigned securely in these Ends of the Earth, for Ages the Lord Knoweth how many, and here the Lord hath caused as it were New Jerusalem to come down from Heaven; He dwels in this place” (Increase Mather, in Michael G. Hall, The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather, 1639-1723, 99).
Christ dwells with the righteous. “[H]e loveth those who will have him to be their God” (1 Nephi 17:40). As He said: “I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:5). He will be with the American People if they will be with Him. He will defend them if they defend His name, love Him, keep His commandments, and stand for His truth.
Again, I repeat, that America is a special land of covenant. An ancient prophet of Jehovah who lived here 1,600 years ago wrote to modern inhabitants of the land with this promise and warning:
“And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.
“For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.
“And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.
“Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written” (Ether 2:9-12).
I testify with all my strength and sincerity that this is true. Jesus is the God of this land. He is the God of the world. He honors, blesses, and protects those who serve Him faithfully. He has prospered and blessed America beyond any nation because we have traditionally been a righteous people. Our forefathers turned their hearts to Christ and were saved from British tyranny twice, from the destruction of civil war once, and from other national ailments. He has given us so many chances to be good, to deal justly, and to be a shining city on a hill for others nations.
Today, our nation is crumbling. Our light is not as bright as it once was. We have lost the full exercise of many of our rights. Our wealth has been eaten up. Our people are not as virtuous as they were in the past. Yet, it is by looking to the past that we can gather strength, motivation, and dedication for the present struggle for our Faith, Families, and Freedom.
Remember the captivity of our forefathers. They were on the brink of enslavement to the British. Their rights of jury trial and due process were being chipped away. Their wealth was being robbed through taxes. Their voice was being extinguished by top-down governance. Their weapons were targeted and the desire existed to disarm them and make them kow-tow to London.
In these desperate circumstances, they humbled themselves, called upon the Lord, and He changed their hearts. With hearts full of faith in Jesus Christ, they marched into battle. Knowing that obedience was the price of discipleship, they bettered themselves and practiced virtue. Their judges, leaders, and generals became men of God who exercised their stewardships with honor. Freedom flourished because the American People were worthy of the blessing of self-rule.
John Adams posited the idea that the War of Independence was not the main act of the American Revolution, but only a result of the true American Revolution that happened prior through the First Great Awakening and the religious revival that swept the nation:
“But what do We mean by the American Revolution? Do We mean the American War? The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People. A Change in their Religious Sentiments of their Duties and Obligations. . . .
“This radical Change in the Principles, Opinions Sentiments and Affection of the People, was the real American Revolution” (John Adams to Hezekiah Niles, February 13, 1818).
Dr. Benjamin Rush concurred and stated:
“There is nothing more common, than to confound the terms of American Revolution with those of the late American war. The American war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government; and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government, after they are established and brought to perfection” (Benjamin Rush, Address to the People of the United States, 1787, in Hezekiah Niles, ed., Principles and Acts of the Revolution, 234).
Dear reader and fellow American, the American Revolution is ongoing! You are a part of it! The war is waged anew every day. The battlefield is your mind and your heart, your child’s school and your TV, the ballot box and in the courts, on the street and in your home. You have a say in all of this. Your part is not insignificant. Could George Washington have won the War for Independence without the thousands of nameless soldiers by his side? Of course not.
The real fight is yours to decide. You can begin the fight by remembering your noble ancestors, by acknowledging what they suffered and sacrificed to make our nation free, and by studying the same ideas and principles they cherished and which made America great. You can start this journey today by sitting down and reading the Declaration of Independence. If you have children, sit them down and read it together. Teach them that their rights – such as Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness – are given by God the Creator. Teach the that government is designed with the sole purpose of securing those rights. And teach them that any government – including ours today – which fails to secure Liberty may be justly, rightly, and dutifully change, abolished, or overthrown.
Yes, remember the captivity of your fathers. Remember that they were saved from bondage by the Lord, who is Jesus Christ. Remember that He saved them because they humbled themselves, became a moral and upright people, and fought in faith for what they believed was right. Never forget that America today must become as equally righteous, humble, and devoted to Christ as our forefathers if we hope to salvage our waning Republic and restore our birthright blessings of rule of law, self-government, and Freedom.
I want to close on a personal note. This is the fifth Independence Day I have spent outside of my beloved country. I miss her and I love her! It pains my heart to think that my lovely wife and amazing daughter have not yet laid eyes on America or stepped food on our blessed soil. I wish I was there, with them, on this singular day – a day of gratitude, devotion, and celebration for the blessings of Liberty that have been secured to our People by God, our inspired Constitution, and our own goodness; a day when we sing the song of redeeming love for ourselves and our nation.
America is a special place. It is a land of promise and covenant. It truly is Immanuel’s land. There are millions of good-hearted, faithful, sincere, Liberty-loving, patriotic Americans left. Rise up, patriots! Stand on your feet, Sons of Liberty! Take back your country in the name of your Faith, Family, and Freedom! Begin today by remembering your forefathers, cherishing their sacrifices, and humbling yourself before the God of this land who has freed, blessed, and prospered our nation and who will do so again if we turn to Him.
July 4, 2022