03559_000_010Words of counsel from your friends, the General Authorities, spoken during this bicentennial year at the 146th Annual General Conference of the Church in April.
President, First Counselor in the First Presidency
We would expect every man to be loyal to his native land—the land in which he was born, the land in which he lives, works, and rears his family. I think of the words of Sir Walter Scott in “The Lay of the Last Minstrel”:
… The discovery of the Americas was not an accident. The event had been foreordained in the eternal councils. The prophets of old had it in view. Jacob foresaw it when he blessed his son Joseph, calling him “a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall … unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.” (Gen. 49:22, 26.)
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.” (See Deut. 33:13–17.) … The Book of Mormon record … tells of the Jaredites who were the first to come to America. They came at the time of the confusion of languages during the building of the tower of Babel.
Just as Noah was directed, this people was instructed to build ships to carry them on the waters. When all was in readiness, they boarded their vessels and “set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.”
“… And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.” (Ether 6:4, 12.)
Then, six hundred years before the birth of Christ, a prophet by the name of Lehi … was commanded by the Lord to depart with his family into the wilderness. … 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 and, after a period in the wilderness, they too were instructed to build a ship and sail for the promised 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.
Thus the American colonies attained their independence and set up the government of the United States, all under the divine intervention of God in preparing this land for its divine destiny.
We believe that both freedom and the continuing reformation that flourished here occurred in preparation for the restoration from heaven of the full gospel of Jesus Christ. That restoration began in the United States of America in the 1820s, through the [assistance] of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was chosen by the Lord and who, through [visits] from heavenly messengers, received … records that contained the authentic record of early American peoples and God’s dealings with them. He received the priesthood and authority to reestablish the church of Jesus Christ in these latter days.
At the time of this restoration, God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ actually appeared to Joseph Smith, as they had appeared to leaders of previous dispensations. They announced to him that Christ’s church would be reestablished upon the earth. … This restoration was the greatest event in the history of mankind since the birth, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
How can we best show our appreciation to God for these marvelous blessings of freedom, of a place where his true and everlasting gospel was restored, of the preparation and divine guidance in every event leading to that most significant event? We must remember what the Lord told the Jaredites when they were first brought to this land, “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. Italics added.)
President, President of the Council of the Twelve
Every Latter-day Saint should love the inspired Constitution of the United States—a nation with a spiritual foundation and a prophetic history—which nation the Lord has declared to be His base of operations in these latter days.
The framers of the Constitution were men raised up by God to establish this foundation of [their] government, for so the Lord had declared by revelation in these words:
“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.” (D&C 101:80. Italics added.)
Yes, this is a land fertilized by the blood of patriots. During the struggle for independence, nearly 9,000 of the colonist forces were killed. Among those fifty-six patriots who had pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor by signing the Declaration of Independence, at least nine paid that price with their life’s blood.
Who were … those whom the Lord designated “wise men” whom He raised up? … These were … men … of exceptional character.
“They were not back-woodsmen from far-off frontiers, not one of them. … There has not been another such group of men in all [the 200 years of our history], that even challenged the supremacy of this group.” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Conference Report, April 1957, p. 47.)
The wisdom of these delegates is shown in the genius of the document itself.
Constitutional government, as designed by the framers, will survive only with a righteous people.
America, North and South, is a choice land, a land reserved for God’s own purposes. This land and its inhabitants are under an everlasting decree. The Lord revealed this decree to the Brother of Jared, an American prophet, in these solemn words:
“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 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.
“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.” (Ether 2:9–10.)
Many Americans have lost sight of the truth that righteousness is the one indispensable ingredient to liberty. Perhaps as never before in [the] history [of the United States] is [that] nation … deserving of … these words [of Abraham Lincoln]:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have … forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us …” (“A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America,” March 30, 1863.)
In 1973 the First Presidency of the Church made public this statement, “We urge members of the Church and all Americans to begin now to reflect more intently on the meaning and importance of the Constitution. …”