Our Sunday School lesson for today comes from Elder Mark E. Peterson, with a special message about America, in honor of celebrating Independence Day a few days ago. It comes from the July 1976 issue of the Friend magazine. I was five years old at the time and remember the nation’s excitement of the bicentennial year, complete with special Zingers that had red white and blue frosting…ok, sorry for the tangent. Here is the message from Elder Peterson.
Dear boys and girls,
During the bicentennial year of the United States I would like to talk to you about that great country. To begin, let’s go a long way back into history so you can understand why Heavenly Father has been so interested in it. You will then see that His interest in America is directly connected with the Church’s interest. The Church is Heavenly Father’s organization, His kingdom here on earth.
I hope you have all begun to read the Book of Mormon, for it tells us about this land. When you read 1 Nephi, you will learn about the marvelous vision given to that prophet. Nephi was a man who was taught by the Lord. He was given a view of what was to happen on the earth in the latter days. Now I suggest that you read or ask your parents to read the tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth chapters of Nephi where you can learn what he saw pertaining to our times.
In a vision, Nephi saw the discovery of America and Christopher Columbus crossing the ocean and coming to this land that was inhabited by the sons and daughters of Nephi’s brothers, the Lamanites. He also saw the manner in which America was colonized. And then Nephi was shown that the colonists who had settled America were attacked by the mother country—England. In other words, he saw the Revolutionary War in this vision.
Nephi saw that blessings rested upon the Americans so that eventually with His help they obtained their independence. This was necessary so that the land would be prepared for Joseph Smith, under the direction of our Father in heaven, to later establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When the Savior was among the Nephites, following His resurrection in Palestine, He spoke of the United States as recorded in the twenty-first chapter of 3 Nephi. The Savior then said that a great nation would occupy this area in our time and be set up as a free and independent country. It is a marvelous thing when you stop to think that this country and this government were set up under the inspiration of our Father in heaven.
The Savior said that the reason for doing this was to fulfill a covenant made with the House of Israel, that through the people occupying modern America, the teachings of the Book of Mormon—the teachings of the restored gospel—would be taken to the rest of the world. So we have the Savior’s own words to the effect that America is a very special nation, set up for the distinct purpose of providing conditions under which the gospel could be restored and then be taken to all the world.
The United States provided freedom of speech and religion so that our Church could be established there and so that missionaries of the Church can travel in other countries on American passports and preach the gospel to the world.
The Lord told Joseph Smith that the federal Constitution was written by men whom God inspired. He raised up these men and inspired them to write this great document. And then, by revelation, the Lord told the Prophet that the members of the Church are to protect and guard this Constitution and that He would help them.
I have always felt that the glorious flag called the Stars and Stripes is Heavenly Father’s own banner because it represents His country. This is the one nation in all the world that He acknowledges was set up by His own hand. I don’t know of any other country in any period of the world’s history that Heavenly Father set up as a nation and for which He actually raised up men to write its constitution.
Each of you boys and girls should remember, especially in this bicentennial year, that you represent the Church. And you should also try to appreciate the fact that God helped the United States to provide the means whereby the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored.
I pray that you will all remember your responsibilities and opportunities to represent the Church well, and, if you do, I can promise that you will then be greatly blessed.