And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole (Alma 46:12).
This emotion-stirring quote from The Book of Mormon comes to my mind every time the United States celebrates our Independence Day. As we celebrate our independence here, we must also remember the responsibility that goes hand in hand with the freedoms we enjoy and so often take for granted. In my lifetime, I’ve seen some of our freedom disappear, and much of it is on the brink of disaster. I have often wished that Captain Moroni were here to rent his coat again and stir up our hearts in remembrance of what we hold so dear.
The United States was founded on the very principles that Moroni put on the flag made from his coat which he called the Title of Liberty. Our founding fathers relied on God to steer them or guide them. They held the freedom of the people as their top priority because they understood the importance of being able to act independently. They came here to escape religious persecution, and they relied upon God to help them ensure that freedom to worship was always part of our way of life.
The very core of our freedom is at risk. We have taken it for granted for more than two centuries, but never more than the last 50 years. We have become complacent and ungrateful. I fear that someday my grandchildren may not be able to worship our Heavenly Father openly. I’m afraid that they will undergo great persecution in their lifetime.
As we walk the path of spiritual liberty in these last days, we must understand that the faithful use of our agency depends upon our having religious freedom. We already know that Satan does not want this freedom to be ours. He attempted to destroy moral agency in heaven, and now on earth he is fiercely undermining, opposing, and spreading confusion about religious freedom—what it is and why it is essential to our spiritual life and our very salvation (Robert D. Hales, Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom, Apr. 2015 General Conference).
Elder Hales went on to state the four cornerstones of religious freedom:
- freedom to believe
- freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others
- freedom to form a religious organization, a church, to worship peacefully with others
- freedom to live our faith—free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places
Another apostle of the Lord has expressed concern.
I am one of the many religious persons who have decried the alarming trajectory of theories, court decisions, and executive actions that are diminishing the free exercise of religion (Dallin H. Oaks, Keynote Address, UVU’s Constitutional Symposium for Religious Freedom, Apr. 16, 2014, as reported by Tad Walch, Church News, Religious Freedom Still Possible, Elder Oaks Says, Apr. 24. 2014).
It is easy to become complacent about the liberty we have enjoyed for so long, but we can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand. We must learn love and compassion for those not of our faith, while protecting our right to worship as our own conscience dictates. I find it interesting that our thirteen Articles of Faith each begin with “We believe” except one—number eleven—which begins with “We claim.”
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may (Article of Faith 1:11).
We claimed the privilege back in the beginnings of the restored Church in Joseph Smith’s time, and it has now become imperative that we claim the privilege again. Claim is an action word. We claim by how we vote, how we speak, how we act, and how we mingle in our communities. We claim by being responsible citizens who are unafraid to speak truth and stand in holy places. We claim by honoring those who have gone before us; those who have pioneered, and those who have fought and died for our freedom. We honor them by continuing to fight the good fight and claim our religious liberty.
Not everyone is cut out to run for public office, but we can be active in our communities. We can set an example for those in our inner circle. We can expand our circle to include those who may in turn learn to respect our values and convictions. We have long been told to be active in our communities, and admonished to be informed voters and to exercise our right to vote. Apathy has no place in Zion.
Latter-day Saints are encouraged to be informed and participate in civic and political activities, “to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families” in accordance with the laws of their respective governments. Where possible, this includes a special obligation to seek out, vote for, and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise (see D&C 98:10). Likewise, “Church members are encouraged to consider serving in elected or appointed public offices in local and national government” and to “support measures that strengthen the moral fabric of society, particularly those designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society” (LDS.org, Topics, “Citizenship,” (quoting Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 21.1.29)).
President Ezra Taft Benson set out for us four civic standards.
And so four great civic standards for the faithful Saints are, first, the Constitution ordained by God through wise men; second, the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon; third, the inspired counsel of the prophets, especially the living president, and fourth, the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Ezra Taft Benson, Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints, Apr. 1972 General Conference).
This Independence Day, commit yourself to “rent your coat” so to speak and stir up your heart and the hearts of your family members to be more civic minded “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” Wave that Title of Liberty proudly as you serve in your communities and influence others for good. Stand up and be counted in matters that would take away even an ounce of our freedom—particularly, our religious freedom and freedom of speech. Let your voice be heard.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.