Two hundred and thirty-three years ago today, fifty-six men, appointed to represent their colonies, made a final vote to approve a document declaring our independence from our mother nation. This document declared not only our independence but the purpose of that independence – the protection of the rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” for all men and women.
It is our government’s protection of these rights, perhaps more so than our nation’s Independence, which we rightly celebrate today. Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, wrote in explaining why he believes the Constitution to be divinely inspired:
“I have always felt that the United States Constitution’s closest approach to scriptural stature is in the phrasing of our Bill of Rights. Without the free exercise of religion, America could not have served as the host nation for the restoration of the gospel, which began just three decades after the Bill of Rights was ratified. I also see scriptural stature in the concept and wording of the freedoms of speech and press, the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, the requirements that there must be probable cause for an arrest and that accused persons must have a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, and the guarantee that a person will not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. President Ezra Taft Benson has said, “Reason, necessity, tradition, and religious conviction all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights.” 11
The Declaration of Independence had posited these truths to be “self-evident,” that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights,” and that governments are instituted “to secure these Rights.” This inspired Constitution was established to provide a practical guarantee of these God-given rights (see D&C 101:77), and the language implementing that godly objective is scriptural to me.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Divinely Inspired Constitution,” Ensign, Feb 1992, 68)
A prior Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson declared:
“As expressed so eloquently by John Adams before the signing of the Declaration, “There’s a Divinity which shapes our ends.” 2 Though mortal eyes and minds cannot fathom the end from the beginning, God does.
In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Savior declared, “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.” (D&C 101:80.) These were not ordinary men, but men chosen and held in reserve by the Lord for this very purpose.”
“President Woodruff declared that “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 … [and] were inspired of the Lord.” 4 We honor those men today. We are the grateful beneficiaries of their noble work.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Constitution—A Glorious Standard,” Ensign, Sep 1987, 6)
Our government and nation has emerged as a spark that has ignited the flame of liberty, the protection of these freedoms that is slowly spreading across the globe. So our celebration becomes of greater importance than simply our nation’s independence, but our world’s adoption of liberty for all men and women.
How then do we celebrate and honor this document, the rights it proclaims, the men, and nation that conceived it and protected it both in the war of 1776 and in all wars since?
John Adams, the driving force behind in Congress for the declaration of independence, requested:
“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. You will think me transported with
Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood
and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration,
and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom
I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that
the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will
tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it,
which I trust in God We shall not.” – John Adams
And so we do – with movies, games, and fireworks. Enjoy your independence day.