Lessons on Freedom and Patriotism
Lesson No. Seven
Our Christian Heritage and the Battle to Preserve Religious Freedom
America was intended to be and was founded as a Christian nation – "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" (Ether 2:12).
The Mayflower Compact was written "For the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith." These colonists intended to settle this land and establish its government as a Christian nation.
Wisely, our Constitution prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another. But this does not mean that our government should not accommodate religion, or that we should forget our history and our Christian heritage.
The Founders knew and believed the Bible - When the Constitutional Convention was deadlocked and "groping as it were in the dark to find political truth" Franklin asked, "how has it happened that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights (James 1:14) to illuminate our understandings?" His motion for prayer referred to the Bible four times:
"I have lived, sir, a longtime, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And, if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice (Matthew 10:29) is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.' (Psalms 127:1)
"I firmly believe this; and I also believe, that, without his concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel... (Genesis 11:1-9)
"I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers, imploring the assistance of heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business; and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service" (Jared Sparks, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 1837, pp. 155-156).
The Book of Mormon tells of a time, like today, when wicked men sought “to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty” (Alma 46:10). We can learn much in Alma 46 from Captain Moroni’s encounter with Amalickiah as we face the same threat to our religious freedom:
- Moroni prepared the title of liberty or a flag on which he wrote: "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children" (Vs 12). He knew these things must be defended, and the best way to do it is to rely on the Lord and keep his commandments.
- Moroni then "bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians to possess the land” (Vs 13); and “that the cause of the Christians and the freedom of the land might be favored” (Vs 16)
- “True believers of Christ, who belonged to the church of God” were called Christians, and “they took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ” (Vs 14-15)
- Moroni and his people recognized that theirs was “a chosen land, and the land of liberty” (Vs 17)
- These Christians entered into a covenant that they would keep the commandments so that God would bless them to be able to maintain their rights and their religion. (See Vs 18-22)
Our Christian heritage and religious freedom is under attack – The battle to preserve our Christian heritage and freedom to worship the God of this land continues in a subtle and frightening way. Like Captain Moroni, we can defend our heritage by asking for the blessings of the Lord, and being worthy of these blessing by keeping our covenants. Our living prophets have also asked us to engage in the battle to preserve our heritage through education, persuasion, testimony, and righteous example.
We know from the Book of Mormon that a relatively few faithful people can protect an entire society. (See Alma 62:40; Helaman 13:13-14) If most members of the Church and other faithful Christians who live in the United States strive "to serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ" (Ether 2:12), our country will remain a Christian nation, blessed with freedom to worship the God of this land.