This week we celebrate Independence Day. It’s known for BBQs and fireworks but is really so much more. The Declaration of Independence – the signing of which we celebrate on this holiday – was divinely inspired! The men who wrote and signed it were honorable men chosen by God. The events leading up to it were prophesied of in the Book of Mormon, and latter-day prophets have affirmed these truths.
In the April 1898 General Conference, President Wilford Woodruff said, “Those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men.” In this same address he went on to describe how the signers of the Declaration, along with George Washington and others, appeared to him and insisted that their temple ordinances be completed, which they immediately were. President Woodruff stated, “Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder in Israel, to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not.”
This is simply marvelous to me. We are living in a country whose founding documents were inspired by our Father in Heaven. The Founders were such noble spirits that they were allowed to appear to a prophet of God and personally request their temple ordinances be done. This can only mean that there is a divine purpose for the United States of America, and we, as citizens, play an important role. It is our responsibility to preserve the freedom Heavenly Father established here, just as it is our responsibility to help spread the gospel that He restored here.
Few things stand the test of time. It takes education and effort to know what is important and how to make it last. Brigham Young said, “When the day comes in which the Kingdom of God will bear rule, the flag of the United States will proudly flutter unsullied on the flagstaff of liberty and equal rights, without a spot to sully its fair surface” (JD 2:317). This country as founded is one of those important things which must endure in order to continue preparing for the Second Coming of the Savior.
Knowing of the divine origin of the Declaration of Independence, it is imperative that we know the principles it contains. This holiday provides the perfect time for a review of the Declaration, as well as a time to think about some important questions. Here are just a few excerpts from this inspired document.
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.
How do we measure up so far? Are we still in line with these most basic principles? Do we still believe in unalienable rights granted by God that cannot be infringed upon by government? Do we still believe that all people have the right to life? Do we still have the right to pursue happiness in an atmosphere of freedom, or do we have too many laws and regulations that restrict what we can and cannot do?
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
This is a critical point. Think about what this is saying – the purpose of government is to secure the rights of individuals! Additionally, any power that government has is granted to it by the people for the purpose of securing their rights. Does this sound like the role of government today? Is our Congress solely concerned with preserving the rights of individual Americans? Are we earnestly looking for elected officials that uphold these founding principles? Do we take time to vet policies and express our opinions to our representatives? Do we act as if the people are in charge of the government, or are we acted upon by those in elected office?
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The founders knew they were inspired by God and they were completely committed to their cause. They pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of liberty, and they carried out that pledge when called upon. How do we measure up to these founders? They were tasked with establishing this nation, but we are tasked with maintaining it. Are we committed to the cause? Voting numbers tell an ominous tale about our commitment. In the last non-presidential voting year, only 5 states had more than 50% of eligible voters turn out to the polls. The majority of states had 40% or less. Our founders pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor; we struggle even to vote.
Ezra Taft Benson said, “The Declaration of Independence to which these great men affixed their signatures is much more than a political document. It constitutes a spiritual manifesto—revelation, if you will—declaring not for this nation only, but for all nations, the source of man’s rights. . . At issue was the fundamental question of whether men’s rights were God-given or whether these rights were to be dispensed by governments to their subjects. This document proclaimed that all men have certain inalienable rights. In other words, these rights came from God” (October 1976 General Conference).
The good news is that it’s never too late to renew our commitment to these principles! What was true in 1776 is still true today. Our rights come from God. With the governmental structure established by our Founding Fathers through the Constitution, the only way for us to lose control of these rights is through our own apathy or ignorance. Anything inspired by God is worth maintaining, but it takes significant effort. Let us take time this Fourth of July to read the Declaration of Independence and make our own pledge to actively uphold its principles.
Author Stephanie Gifford lives in southeast Idaho with her wonderful husband, Jared, and their beautiful daughter. She has a passion for learning about God’s hand in American history and how it ties to the restoration of the Gospel. Stephanie enjoys horses, baseball, reading, and spending time with family.