"My Country ‘Tis of Thee" Homelands and Loyalty
We have just celebrated July 4th, the Birthday of the United States of America. Many here at LDSBC are from countries other than the United States. This song and my message could also for the most part apply to your country. Not only is this message about a land, but it is also about the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
1. My country,' tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside let freedom ring!
2. My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free, thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills, like that above.
3. Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.
4. Our fathers' God, to thee,
Author of liberty, to thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by thy might, great God, our King.
Each of us has a special place in our heart for where we were born and or grew up. We love to go back to our birth Place. Mine is Manti Utah. After I left home I used to love to go back and stay with my parents. I loved to go the mountains that I roamed as a boy. After sister Dyreng and I were married we took our children camping in those mountains. Even after my parents died and all of my family was gone from Manti, I still love to go back there.
We still try and go down every year to the Mormon Miracle Pageant and also my parents are buried there. I believe that everyone here feels the same way about where you were born.
Even in nature we see this process as animals return to where they were born. Salmon spawning, geese migrating, sea turtles, penguins, whales and seals among others possess a strong attraction to their birthplace.
In Scripture we find the same phenomenon. In Omni 1: 27-30 we read:
27 And now I would speak somewhat concerning a certain number who went up into the wilderness to return to the land of Nephi; for there was a large number who were desirous to possess the land of their inheritance.
28 Wherefore, they went up into the wilderness. And their leader being a strong and mighty man, and a stiff-necked man, wherefore he caused a contention among them; and they were all slain, save fifty, in the wilderness, and they returned again to the land of Zarahemla.
29 And it came to pass that they also took others to a considerable number, and took their journey again into the wilderness.
30 And I, Amaleki, had a brother, who also went with them; and I have not since known concerning them. And I am about to lie down in my grave; and these plates are full. And I make an end of my speaking.
We find another account of the same event in Mosiah 9:3-6
3 And yet, I being over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers, collected as many as were desirous to go up to possess the land, and started again on our journey into the wilderness to go up to the land; but we were smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God.
4 Nevertheless, after many days’ wandering in the wilderness we pitched our tents in the place where our brethren were slain, which was near to the land of our fathers.
5 And it came to pass that I went again with four of my men into the city, in unto the king, that I might know of the disposition of the king, and that I might know if I might go in with my people and possess the land in peace.
6 And I went in unto the king, and he covenanted with me that I might possess the land of Lehi-Nephi, and the land of Shilom.
I would expect that every man and woman would be loyal to his/her native land, the land in which he was born, the land in which he lives, works, and rears his family. There is a stanza by Sir Walter Scott in “The Lay of the Last Minstrel”
“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!
My wife Betty and I had been on a very difficult mission in a foreign land and about two months before we were to come home we were traveling from a meeting. When we got to the airport for our return back to our assignment, we saw a plane with the United States of America on the side. I cannot describe the feelings that welled up in our hearts with that sight.
What I am saying is that we all have innately in us a love of the land in which we were born. Today we are talking about the United States and its Birthday and Destiny, as well as the destiny of North and South America.
Now, this land of America or the Americas has a scriptural destiny. Many of the following ideas are taken from a talk given by President N. Eldon Tanner a counselor in the First Presidency and found in the Ensign magazine in May of 1976.
The discovery of America and, I may add, the timing of the discovery was not an accident. The event had been foreordained in the councils of heaven. The prophets of old knew of it. When Jacob blessed Joseph, he said “Genesis 49: 22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
25 Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting chills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.
Moses too made promises to the tribe of Joseph, whose land, America, was to be precious for the things of heaven and of earth and who would “push the people together to the ends of the earth.” Deut. 33: 13 ¶ And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his bland, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath,
14 And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon,
15 And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills,
16 And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren.
17 His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousand of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.
The Book of Mormon tells of the Jaredites being commanded to leave the old world and come to a Land of “Promise.” Ether 2: 7 And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, 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.
8 And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.
9 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 a 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.
10 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 fullness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.
11 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.
12 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.
Six hundred years before the birth of Christ, a prophet by the name of Lehi, who had been crying repentance to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, was commanded by the Lord to depart with his family into the wilderness. Because of the things which he had testified concerning the wickedness of the people and the pending destruction of Jerusalem, he was mocked and scorned, and the people sought to take his life. In obedience to the Lord’s instructions, he departed with his family and others, taking with him nothing save it were “his family, and provisions, and tents and departed into the wilderness.” After a period of time he also was commanded to build a ship and sail for the “Promised Land.” 1 Nephi 17:
8 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters. 1Nephi 18: 23 And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days *we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land.
The Lord is always in charge and He uses who He will to bring about His purposes. While in the wilderness Nephi, the son of Lehi was permitted to see in vision the things that would transpire concerning the destiny of America-The Promised Land. He said, 1Nephi 13:
12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the bland of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.
15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the bland for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.
16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.
17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.
This refers to Columbus, the Pilgrims, and the Revolutionary war. We know that it was not by accident that Columbus discovered America. Columbus himself, in a letter to the Spanish hierarchy, wrote, “Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my enterprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?” (Quoted in Mark E. Petersen, The Great Prologue, Deseret Book Co. 1975 p. 26)
During the voyage, after weeks of sailing with no sign of land, mutiny raised its ugly head. Finally, Columbus promised the captains of the Pinta and the Nina, both of whom wanted to turn back, that if no land was sighted in forty-eight hours, they would turn back. Then he went to his cabin and, in his words, “prayed mightily to the Lord.” On October 12, the very next day they sighted land.
Nephi saw in vision also the coming of the Pilgrims, who came to escape religious persecution. He foresaw the coming to America of peoples from many nations, their wars and contentions. As Nephi Said, they did humble themselves before the Lord and “the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle. 1 Nephi 13: 18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.
19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.
We now pay tribute to those great men who accepted and met the challenge to establish a constitution for the government of this new land, “THIS LAND OF PROMISE.” That this too was divinely inspired is attested by the word of the Lord when he said D&C101:
77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.
No constitution on earth has endured longer than this one. We seek, and usually find, the answers to today’s questions in this document of yesterday. It was and is a miracle. Both Washington and Madison referred to it as such. It is an inspired document written under the guidance of the Lord. James Madison, commonly called the father of the Constitution, recognized this inspiration and gave credit to “the guardianship and guidance of the Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising republic.” (Peterson, Prologue P.95)
One must also not the place of many who gave their lives in the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, Wycliffe, Huss, Sweendley and others. These events could not have taken place had not Gutenberg invented movable type and the printing press. He printed the Gutenberg bible which made it possible for the common man to read the scriptures. They now could plainly see that what was being taught by the religion of the day was in error.
It is interesting that so soon after the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War that the first vision happened. The sequence of these events, their fulfillment of Prophesy, and the subsequent restoration of the Gospel are not by accident.
Amazing things began to happen in the world now that the light of Christ was again on the earth. When Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden, he walked.
When Joseph went to the sacred grove and the hill Cumorah he walked. Almost immediately the advances in science were astounding.
Steam Engines, internal combustion engines, flight, jet planes, space flight, satellites, communication and the internet.
With all of these advancements, there is one purpose. That is so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can go to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.
So today as we honor and celebrate the Birthday of the United States of America, let us REMEMBER that God’s hand was in it for a wise purpose. May we know that God is in charge and may we do our part to serve the God of this land who is Jesus Christ is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.