Lessons on Freedom and Patriotism
Lesson No. Ten
The Doctrine of the Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson condensed the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence to 56 words: "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." President Ezra Taft Benson called these words the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence. He said: "The doctrine of that crowning document, the Declaration of Independence, is this: That the Creator, God, endowed all men with basic rights, and that governments derive their power form the consent of the governed....The formers of our republic simply declared the truth - that God gave all men the right to life, liberty, and property" (Provo Freedom Festival, 29 June 1986).
The power of God was required to establish the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence - The history of the world has been a history of repressive and tyrannical governments willing to do whatever is necessary to maintain power. To change this required the power of God.
As recorded in 1 Nephi 13, Nephi was shown in vision some of the most important events in the last two thousand years of the world’s history. Included in these events was the founding of the United States. Nephi saw that our forefathers “had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of Lord was with them" (Vs 16). After describing the War of Independence Nephi again emphasized that "the power of God was with them" and that they "were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations" (Vs 18-19).
The Founders humbled themselves before the Lord – I love Arnold Freiberg's painting showing Washington knelling in Prayer at Valley Forge because it shows his feeling of dependence on the Lord.
The Founders recognized the reason they were successful against the greatest military power on the earth was because they were delivered by the power of God. Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address was typical. There he acknowledged "that Being in whose hands we are, who lead our forefathers as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life, who has covered our infancy with his Providence and our ripe years with his wisdom and power."
Testimony - The cause of freedom has always required a willingness to sacrifice. The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew they were in a very real sense putting “our Lives, our fortunes and our sacred Honor” on the line. If England would have been able to put down what it considered to be treason Benjamin Franklin described the consequences to the other signers when he said “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
The sacrifice required of us is different but also essential. The Lord has commanded: "Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness" (D&C 58:27). We should be anxiously engaged in teaching our families the doctrine of freedom as set forth in the Declaration of Independence. This doctrine is an essential part of the gospel. If we humble ourselves before the Lord by keeping his commandments and acknowledging his hand in our lives then our contribution in maintaining our freedom will be as acceptable as was the Founder’s contribution in obtaining it.