The Fourth of July is one of our family’s favorite holidays. It includes a pancake breakfast in the mountains, a parade, a barbecue, homemade ice cream and a “Driveway of Fire” with the family. The celebration is inspiring and meaningful. It is spent with people we love. Across the country, it is what founding father John Adams expected it to be.
“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).
Our children love the parade. They love the ice cream and the fireworks. I am glad they love these things. But there is more to love. I want them to love the American heroes who showed true leadership through endurance and sacrifice. I want them to love the liberties of their country and understand how they are “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence).
I want them to know that God and Country are inseparable and that their righteousness matters for the good of the United States of America. As John Adams pointed out:
“This pursuit of happiness of man, as well as his dignity consists in virtue.” (Thoughts on Government, John Adams)
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, (known as the Mormons) we believe that the founding of America was inspired and authored by God the Father through the work of these “wise men.” (D&C 101:77-80)
These men are heroes I want my kids to know and appreciate, not because of their great talents and skills (although they have many). I want my children to know their work because they all saw God’s hand in their work. They acknowledged that their “inalienable” rights came from Him. They knew that only a righteous, virtuous society could enjoy the blessings of liberty.
Forget the basketball players or pop stars. These are the real American Idols I want my children to know. They are described well in the inspiring words of America the Beautiful:
“Oh beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!” (America the Beautiful, Katherine Bates, Samuel Ward)
If our children get to know these American heroes, they will be more likely to follow the counsel of Ezra Taft Benson, Secretary of Agriculture for President Eisenhower and 13th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He said:
“We must…inspire in the lives of our children a love for eternal principles and a desire to seek out honorable men – the best possible – to stand at the head of our political governments, local, state, and federal. Only in this way can we safeguard the liberties which have been vouchsafed to us as our inalienable rights. Unless we do so, we may very easily lose them because of our indifference, because of our failure to exercise our franchise, because we permit men who are unworthy to rise to positions of political power.” (God, Family, Country, Benson, Deseret Book, 1974)
This summer, I want my children to learn the stories of these wise, steadfast, and talented men and women – true American Idols. I want them to study the scriptures that refer to the founding of this great nation. As their knowledge grows, so will their love for country, their gratitude for their Creator, and their desire to preserve the freedom they enjoy.