Friday, July 4, 2008

The Fourth of July - Independence Day

The following is from a talk I gave recently.

In Ether Chapter 2 we read:
And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop…, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.
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…
… 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.
(Selections from verses 7, 10 & 12)

My wife was recently typing up family histories and she told me how impressed she was by the sacrifices that one of her ancestors made in coming to America. Here is a portion of his story.

Robert Gardner was born March 12th, 1781, [in] Scotland… To quote from Archibald Gardner’s journal, “My father came of goodly parents, the youngest of 13 children... Father had a farm which netted him a fair profit. He was a good scholar. Times were poor, business dull, and people became dissatisfied with the government. Meetings were held by agitators even privately in our own tavern. Skirmish after skirmish took place. In a pitched battle that followed, the radicals were defeated. The English government took active measures to up root the insurrection. Jails and castles were crowded with prisoners, and many honest folk were carried away to prison who had no hand in the affair. This was the case with father. [The] factor of the town, whose great pride was hurt at being defeated in a lawsuit by my father, worked out his vengeance by reporting him a rebel. Father was taken from his business and imprisoned in Sterling Castle until the judges should arrive to try him. They came in 9 weeks. Some were tried, hanged and beheaded. Father was released, as no one appeared to testify against him. Father had often talked of going to America, and after this experience, he, wrathful and indignant, told mother he would go if he had to turn sailor and work his passage across. Before being dragged again from his home and business out of spite, with no chance of redress, he would go where he could enjoy liberty and justice. And so he left the land of his forefathers, and the hand of the Lord was over him as we have seen since.

A few days after my wife showed me this, I found a quote in a book I had been reading on John Adams that fit so well with Robert Gardner’s story. It reads:

“Let us read and recollect and impress upon our souls the views and ends of our more immediate forefathers, in exchanging their native country for a dreary, inhospitable wilderness…. Recollect their amazing fortitude, their bitter sufferings – the hunger, the nakedness, the cold, which they patiently endured – the severe labors of clearing their grounds, building their houses, raising their provisions, amidst dangers from wild beasts and savage men, before they had time or money or materials for commerce. Recollect the civil and religious principles and hopes and expectations which constantly supported and carried them through hardships with patience and resignation. Let us recollect it was liberty, the hope of liberty, for themselves and us and ours, which conquered all discouragements, dangers and trials.”

As we approach the 4th of July and the upcoming celebrations, I think another quote from John Adams is fitting. Here he is referring to the day they voted to declare independence, two days before the actual document was completed and agreed upon.

“The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

When the Bishop asked us to prepare talks based around Patriotism, I was somewhat at a loss of where to begin. When you are assigned a talk on tithing or charity or any number of gospel topics, you can find talk after talk and lesson after lesson to draw from. With this I had to think and search a bit.

Quoting from Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage, we read regarding the eleventh article of faith, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. In this article of [faith, we] declare unqualified allegiance to the principles of religious liberty and religious toleration. Freedom to worship Almighty God as the conscience may dictate, [we] claim as one of the inherent and inalienable rights of humanity. The inspired framers of our charter of national independence proclaimed to the world, as a self-evident truth, that the common birthright of humanity gives to every man a claim to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is foreign, liberty but a name, and life a disappointment, to him who is denied the freedom to worship as he may desire.

I would like to read a portion of the The Declaration of Independence that Elder Talmage just referenced. It reads:

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; …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…

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…— 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.

I am amazed by the inspired men that put so much on the line and did so much to do God’s will and establish this wonderful country.

So as I worked on this talk, I saw more and more how the restoration of the Church and the formation of the United States are deeply intertwined.

From The Great Prologue by Mark E. Petersen under the heading “Preparing the Earth for the Restoration” we read:

There was the great apostasy, then the preservation of the Western Hemisphere, next Columbus and the colonization movement, the Revolutionary War to set the colonists free, and then a constitutional form of government which guaranteed free speech and free religion, free assembly and free press.

All of these events were acts of God leading up to one thing--the restoration of the gospel.

Joseph Smith was given this great and mighty mission. What a wonderful thing it was! It was under the umbrella of a marvelous, inspired constitution that this Church was restored.

Now let’s turn to the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual to go more in depth on the necessity and importance of the constitution.

Mark E. Petersen said “Let us recall again the words of the Lord to the Nephites. Said he, in speaking of this mighty nation of the Gentiles that he said would be established on this land in latter days: ‘For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father. . . .’ (3 Nephi 21:4. Italics added.) “Without the Constitution there would be no government such as the Lord had in mind. The Lord gave us that government by providing the Constitution …. It was an act of God. It was another step in establishing the free conditions under which the gospel could be restored and then taken by the believing Gentiles to all other nations… “The Constitution provided freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly. Therefore, under the Constitution the Lord could restore the gospel and reestablish his church. The preparation of the Constitution was the work of his own hand. The restoration of the gospel was likewise his work. Both were part of a greater whole. Both fit into his pattern for the latter days. “There would be no state church in America to interfere. All men in this land now were given the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and that included Joseph Smith and his followers. “May we never forget the underlying reasons for it all: to provide a proper place for the restoration of the gospel and to allow for the worldwide preaching of that sacred word.” (Great Prologue, pp. 74–75, 78.)

Charles W. Penrose explained how the Constitution benefits all people: “In section 101 the Lord speaks about the constitution of this land. He says it was framed by wise men whom he raised up for that very purpose. What for? To maintain the rights and privileges ‘of all flesh.’ Not alone the people of this land. The principles of that great instrument are to go forth to the nations.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1917, p. 20)

I pray that we may strive to live righteously and uphold and support the constitution and the wonderful freedoms that our Father-in-Heaven has blessed us with in this wonderful land. And may we take advantage of the religious freedoms that we enjoy to live and to share this wonderful gospel we have been blessed with.

The Book of Mormon, Why?

Jeremiah asked,

"First I would like to say, I know nearly nothing about the mormon belief system. With that in mind, I would like to honestly ask, why would God have the book of mormon written, when His word was already completed with the Bible?
I hope you do not find my question offensive because I am asking out of ignorance. But what does the mormonism provide that Jesus has not already fulfilled?"

Thanks, it's a great question.

When you ask, “Why would God have a Book of Mormon written” the question that comes to my mind is, Why would God have Malachi write when Zechariah had already written, why Zechariah when Amos had written, why Ezekiel when Isaiah, Abraham and Moses had written and all the others that came before? I think part of the answer is found in Amos 3:7

Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

Another good question is, What is the Bible? We believe that the Bible is the Word of God revealed to ancient prophets and recorded by them.

So, Why the Book of Mormon? The first answer is, because God had other prophets and they also received His Word and recorded it.

John 10:16

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

We have the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon, Another Testament. A testament or a witness in this sense serves to testify and witness of the Savior Jesus Christ and His teachings and gospel.

With the Bible, many have interpreted its contents differently and as a result we had many Christian religions formed because of doctrinal disagreements while still claiming authority and guidance from the self-same Bible. So another answer to the question, Why the Book of Mormon, is to serve as an additional witness of Christ and His teachings.

In the Book of Mormon, we read:

2 Nephi 29: 7-11

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.

Also in Ezekiel 37: 16-17

Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

The Bible is the record of Judah or the Jews while the Book of Mormon is the record of Ephraim and Joseph. The Book of Mormon contains the record of the descendents of Lehi and his son Nephi, who were descendents of Joseph.

So the Book of Mormon serves not to replace the Bible, but to support, confirm and clarify all that is found in the Bible.

2 Nephi 3:12

Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.

Another answer to, Why the Book of Mormon? brings us to a discussion of Joseph Smith, the translator of the Book of Mormon.

The Lord gave the Book of Mormon as evidence of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. Here is a document that people can hold in their hands, study, question and pray about to: One, come to know that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet of God, and Two, to know that the Lord’s Church had been reestablished upon the earth.

Moroni 10: 2-6

2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.
3 Behold, 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.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would 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.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

With so many different religions all based on and using the Bible, the Lord saw fit to bring forth another testament of His Gospel in conjunction with the Restoration of His Church.

Let me know if you have more questions or if I can clarify anything that I said.


I would also refer you to two previous posts on this blog, “My Words Never Cease” and “The Council of Carthage…” The first is more discussion on the Book of Mormon, the second delves into the Apostasy and the Restoration.