Friends in Philadelphia

by Brian Kelly and Ralph Reynolds

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    On these pages young Latter-day Saint Philadelphians Joana Stephenson, Denalee Call, Randy Bryant, Sue Malbica, and Mark Snyder take us on a little tour of their nation’s beginnings. That’s easy in Philadelphia, because you can see so much history without ever leaving a little red brick building known as Independence Hall. And so in the golden hours of an October afternoon, they walked down a flowering walkway and paused behind a wall of stone and ironwork to look back on the springtime of their republic. Then they went through the fence and into the past.

    Arriving in Colonial Philadelphia, they found themselves in front of State Hall, later to be known as Independence Hall. They checked out an old water pump where Philadelphian Benjamin Franklin might have stopped for a drink, waiting his turn behind George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and just about any other great early American you could name. They went inside the hall that saw the United States struggle into existence. Here the Continental Congress met. Here the Declaration of Independence was signed. Here the Constitution was hammered out.

    “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” They read the inscription on the Liberty Bell in silence, thinking their own thoughts and letting it take them back to when it was a young bell—23 years old. On July 28,1776, that young bell united its iron voice with the other bells of the city in announcing the Declaration of Independence, signed just four days earlier. Its proclamation, from Leviticus 25:10, [Lev. 25:10] still seemed to ring in the stillness. Outside again, the young people strolled through a sunlight-and-shadow forest of arches, each arch representing one of the original colonies.

    Back in the present, Denalee and Sue enjoyed the peaceful beauty of the autumn flower gardens, but things were not always so peaceful in the shadows of Independence Hall. There was little time for flowers in the cold May of 1775 when the Second Continental Congress met under the burden of a rather hopeless war to name George Washington the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Philadelphia was occupied by British troops during that war and played her part in the final victory. She was later to serve for a decade as the nation’s capital. These young people from the City of Brotherly Love have good reason to be proud of their heritage.

    In May 1787 carriage wheels clattered daily over these cobblestones in front of Independence Hall, and from the carriages stepped men with an important mission. They had been called to revise the Articles of Confederation, but when they were finished, they had created the Constitution of the United States.

    Before leaving the past, however, they took one last look at the clock that ticked away the first seconds of their country’s independence, hoping it would continue telling the time in peace and liberty. We thank them for their tour.

    Photos by Brian Kelly and Ralph Reynolds