Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day

As we take some time to reflect on the great country of which we are a part on its Independence Day, I hope we can all read, and reflect on the words of our nation's most important documents - the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.

Ezra Taft Benso
n spoke of the declaration's signers:
"At the conclusion of the Declaration of Independence, they wrote, “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.” This Declaration was a promise that would demand terrible sacrifice on the part of its signers. Five of the signers were captured as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary War; another had two sons captured. Nine died from wounds or from the hardships of the war. The Lord said He “redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80). Nephi recorded that the Founders “were delivered by the power of God out of
the hands of all other nations” (1 Ne. 13:19)." [Ezra Taft Benson, “Our Divine Constitution,” Ensign, Nov 1987, 4]

Several of the Constitution's framers wrote of the a divine hand that intervened in the country's affairs; how the document would not have come about without that divine guidance:

Alexander Hamilton, famous as the originator of The Federalist papers and author of fifty-one of the essays, said: “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which without the
finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interest” (Essays on the Constitution of the United States, ed. Paul L. Ford, 1892, pp. 251–52).

Charles Pinckney, a very active participant and author of the Pinckney Plan during the Convention, said: "When the great work was done and published, I was struck with amazement. Nothing less than the superintending Hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war … could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole” (Essays on the Constitution, p. 412)."

"During his first inaugural address in 1789, President George Washington, a man who was raised up by God, said: “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” (First Inaugural Address, 30 Apr. 1789).

Certainly, we live in a great nation. Let us give thanks to God for the freedoms we enjoy every day. Let us use those freedoms to continue improving the country each day in whatever way we can.

As the month of July opens, I also am brought to reflect on the sacrifice of our pioneer forbears. Those people that gave so much to keep the Church together, who crossed the great plains and suffered tremendous losses because of their great faith. I hope we can pay tribute to them and be grateful for their lives. Suzy, Camden, Charlize, and I have been singing pioneer songs all week, and it really is great to remember them and sing about their lives together.

I leave you with a great quote from President N. Eldon Tanner:

"It was all part of God’s plan—the coming of Columbus, the colonization, wise men raised up to frame the Constitution, Joseph Smith prepared for his part in the restoration of the gospel, even the persecution which drove the Saints to the Rocky Mountains where the Church could continue to grow.

"What does all this mean to you and me as individuals? It means that God, as our Father, made all these arrangements for you and me. We were part of his eternal scheme. And so it is not enough merely to observe these various anniversaries, but we must recommit and rededicate ourselves to uphold the convictions and the principles upon which the blessings we enjoy are predicated. We too must be prepared to sacrifice, where necessary, to keep our freedoms inviolate. My father used to say: “The true way to honor the past is to improve upon it.”

"Therefore, we should love God more. We should serve our fellowmen better. We should keep all the commandments. We should be better prepared as parents to teach our children to pray and to walk uprightly before the Lord, and to assume their responsibilities. It would be tragic if for fear of the challenge involved the descendants of those who gave so liberally and sacrificed so much shrank from the duties of their day and time.

"On the other hand, a willingness to work for needed reforms and a better world would guarantee for us a special place in history as it did for them. We should be constantly striving for improvement of ourselves and our surroundings." [N. Eldon Tanner, “Pioneers Are Still Needed,” Ensign, Jul 1976, 2]

Happy 4th of July and Pioneer Day everyone!!

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