Happy Independence Day to all! This day will be among a few July 4th celebrations that stand out in my memory. I never think of July 4th without recalling the many “Freedom Festival Firesides” we’ve attended through the years. That event has been the focus of our celebration and we haven’t missed many since they began. In an effort to create my own freedom fireside I was led to a couple of addresses that touched me deeply in light of conditions in our country today and the gratitude I feel to be an American.
President Ezra Taft Benson was a true patriot. He said, “When I contemplate the great events that have transpired here (in America) going way back to the days when our first parents were placed in the Garden of Eden, and recall that this garden was here in America, that it was here also where Adam met with a body of great high priests at Adam-ondi-Ahman shortly before his death and gave them his final blessing, and that to that same spot he is to return again to meet with the leaders of his people, his children—when I contemplate, my brothers and sisters, that here in this land will be established the New Jerusalem, that here in this land will Zion be built—when I contemplate that prophets of God anciently served here in this land, and that the resurrected Christ appeared to them—and when I contemplate that the greatest of all visions, the coming of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, to the boy Prophet in our day, took place in this land, my heart fills with gratitude that I am privileged to live here, and that I have the honor and pleasure not only of serving in the Church but also of serving in the government of this great land. I consider it an honor and a privilege.”
I also thought of the July 4th we spend at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, with some of our children and grandchildren. A Spirit of Freedom still resides there. Washington had this to say in his farewell address on Sept. 17, 1796. His words are so timely for our day. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. . . reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”
Having recently revisited Elder Oaks April 2021 conference address, I was pleased that he was honored for his service and devotion to religious freedom and the constitution. I love America and I believe in America. I trust there is still a moral majority and pray for our great country often.
Our week has been a different kind of wonderful. Monday I helped at the Seventh Day Adventists’ community center. They’ve needed extra help recently and the sisters have helped fill that need on a volunteer basis. I am blessed by rubbing shoulders with those good Christians each time I go.
Tuesday we were able to enjoy a temple session as a mission. All 13 couples were in the same endowment session that was scheduled for us. I loved being in the temple and felt the Spirit strongly in just being together. I thought how blessed I was to be there with that caliber of saints. The prayer circle included us all. It was a singular experience that I will never forget. The usual procedure had been followed and the temple worker began to pray. At one point he paused, and we felt the spirit deepen in a way that is hard to describe. He then prayed for us, those in the prayer circle. He spoke direct petitions in our behalf. Some involved our current opportunities as spouses and some for the eternal benefit of all our posterity, “regardless of the cost.” He expressed some of the inmost desires of our hearts and we felt those petitions were heard.
Wednesday is the Sisters’ day to catch up. I spent the day getting ready for family visits scheduled for July. We are so excited to have those we love come.
Darrel’s work week included weed whacking, putting siding and soffit and fascia on the duplex, and mowing. We worked together on my assigned flowerbed on Saturday. It is easy to see the growth of the plants in the past week. We can almost see the corn growing in the fields as we drive by.
Last evening, we were invited to a neighbor’s personal fireworks display. I loved a chance to be with members and non-members alike. All of them recognize and love the missionaries. This badge invites love that was not earned personally, but collectedly through the decades. There are no restrictions on fireworks in Missouri. This fellow’s show was as good as any small community’s display.
Tonight, we had a freedom fireside of our own. Our speaker was Jeremiah Joseph Morgan, a newly called area authority seventy. He is currently the Deputy Attorney General in Missouri. He was raised in Lamoni, IA, by a single mother who was a staunch member of the RLDS church. His great-great-great grandparents were baptized by Oliver Cowdery, and they were neighbors of Joseph and Emma in Nauvoo. The martyrdom was a great trial to them. They were very pro-Emma and struggled with Brigham Young. Thus, they did not cross the plains, and when the RLDS Church was organized on April 6, 1860, they joined.
His mother had a strong sense of Zion and felt an urgency to gather to Independence, MO, when Elder Morgan was 12. He came to Adam-ondi-Ahman often as a boy because his mother knew the sacred importance of this place. She believed in Joseph as a prophet and taught her son that the Book of Mormon was true. When he was 14, a world conference of the RLDS Church was held and some dramatic changes were made in their doctrine. It rocked his world and at age 16 he determined to find out for himself which church was God’s church. He had a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and he began secretly attending his Church as well as the LDS Church each week. After two months he analyzed what he felt and heard at each and determined to be baptized. His mother was not supportive and for two years he was exposed to all the anti-LDS material available. Yet, he had received a witness. He knew what he knew and when he turned 18, he was baptized and chose to serve a mission to the Micronesia/ Guam mission. He is still the only member in his family, but hearts have softened. He knows that Joseph had more than a “significant spiritual experience” in the Sacred Grove. He saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and became the prophet of the last dispensation.
Elder Morgan’s message centered on the Law of the Harvest as a central principle of the Plan of Salvation, of agency, and of freedom. He had us identify the end of the road for both the Savior and Satan’s proposed plan. Christ’s plan offered agency and therefore could result in exaltation or spiritual bondage—based on the individual’s choices. Satan’s plan offered only spiritual bondage, no agency, no freedom, no growth.
Elder Morgan spoke of that plan as it appears in the world today. It is the “something for nothing plan,” where the power of the purse becomes the power of coercion. He referenced a hallmark talk by President Howard W. Hunter given at BYU in 1966. Although it was given to students, the principles have application in solving the ills of our society today. We invite all to consider the principles of freedom taught and what challenges he accurately saw as a prophet coming for the United States. Google: The Law of the Harvest by Howard W. Hunter. Here is a quote to pique your interest.
“…There appears to me to be a trend to shift responsibility for life and its processes from the individual to the state. In this shift there is a basic violation of the Law of the Harvest, or the Law of Justice. The attitude of “something for nothing” is encouraged. The government is often looked to as a source of wealth. There is a feeling that the government should step in and take care of one’s needs, one’s emergencies, and one’s future…Satan’s entire philosophy is based on a “something for nothing” philosophy: salvation without effort—a free gift…When the responsibility for their own welfare is completely shifted from the shoulders of individuals and families to the state, a lethal blow is struck at both the roots of our prosperity and our moral growth…What is the real cause of this trend toward the welfare state, toward more socialism? It is personal unrighteousness. When people do not use their freedoms responsibly and righteously, they will gradually lose these freedoms…Righteousness and freedom are inseparable, just as responsibility and freedom are inseparable…
It is our prayer that we live our lives in harmony with the Law of the Harvest, realizing that it isn’t the easy way. It is the way of agency, personal accountability, growth, and ultimate liberty. It involves a price, sometimes a heavy price over the process of time. It involves work, resisting temptation, overcoming bad habits, developing habits of self-reliance, diligence, and industry, as well as a voluntary effort to be our brother’s keeper in relieving the suffering around us. It is something we can do to hang onto the freedoms we enjoy, particularly our freedom of religion.
- The final wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, but the first Independence Day was celebrated on July 8, 1776, and the official signing of 56 men took place on August 2.
- 2.5 million people celebrated the first Independence Day, compared to 328.2 million people today.
- The only time George Washington left the mainland of North American was in 1751. He and his half-brother visited Barbados, where George contracted smallpox. He recovered and his immunity was crucial in the American Revolution during a smallpox epidemic.
- George and Martha were married for 40 years, but they had no children together. Martha had two from her previous marriage.
Make it a wonderful week! We plan to do the same! Our love, Elder and Sister K.