Do Mormons Celebrate the Fourth of July?
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons) believe in the Book of Mormon. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. At the beginning of this sacred text we learn of a family that was led to the Americas before Jerusalem was destroyed nearly 600 years before the Lord Jesus Christ was born. In their account we learn from the father of the family (and prophet of God), “Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:6).
Mormons recognize and understand that America is a blessed land. Some 2,000 years after Lehi and his family were led to America, we know that there was another who was led to this great land—a man of faith and determination, Christopher Columbus. In the Book of Mormon we learn about Columbus and his divine mission, from a vision of Lehi’s son Nephi,
And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land” (1 Ne. 13:12). President Gordon B. Hinckley (former prophet of the LDS church) said of Christopher Columbus:
It was he who in faith lighted a lamp to look for a new way to China and who in the process discovered America. His was an awesome undertaking—to sail west across the unknown seas farther than any before him of his generation. He it was who, in spite of the terror of the unknown and the complaints and near mutiny of his crew, sailed on with frequent prayers to the Almighty for guidance. In his reports to the sovereigns of Spain, Columbus repeatedly asserted that his voyage was for the glory of God and the spread of the Christian faith. Properly do we honor him for his unyielding strength in the face of uncertainty and danger (“Building Your Tabernacle,” Ensign, November 1992).
Just as we know that Columbus had a divine mission to “discover” America (perhaps his greatest contribution was establishing a colony on nearby islands from where exploratory expeditions could launch), we also know that our Founding Fathers had a divine mission to found the country itself. It was not by coincidence that these wise and courageous men (George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, etc.) were all born around the same time, were introduced to one another, and that they all had an indescribable passion and zeal for the land of America to be founded under God. President Ezra Taft Benson (late prophet of the LDS church) said this,
I testify that America is a choice land. God raised up the founding fathers of the United States of America and established the inspired Constitution… America will be a blessed land unto the righteous forever… (“I Testify,” Conference Report, October 1988).
Noted historian, Barbara Tuchman, said,
The product of a new nation, George Washington, was a leader who shines among the best. While Jefferson was more learned, more cultivated, a more extraordinary mind, and unsurpassed intelligence, a truly universal man, Washington had a character of rock and a kind of nobility that exerted a natural dominion over others, together with the inner strength and perseverance that enabled him to prevail over a flood of obstacles. He made possible both the physical victory of American independence and the survival of the fractious and tottering young republic in its beginning years.
Around him in extraordinary fertility political talent bloomed as if touched by some tropical sun. For all their flaws and quarrels, the Founding Fathers have rightfully been called by Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., “the most remarkable generation of public men in the history of the United States or perhaps of any other nation.” It is worth noting the qualities this historian ascribes to them: they were fearless, high-principled, deeply versed in ancient and modern political thought, astute and pragmatic, unafraid of experiment, and—this is significant—“convinced of man’s power to improve his condition through the use of intelligence.” That was the mark of the Age of Reason that formed them, and although the 18th century had a tendency to regard men as more rational than in fact they were, it evoked the best in government from these men.
It would be invaluable if we could know what produced this burst of talent from a base of only two and a half million inhabitants…. the Founders remain a phenomenon to keep in mind to encourage our estimate of human possibilities, even if their example is too rare to be a basis of normal expectations (The March of Folly: From Troy to Viet Nam, 18, 19).
A day never to be forgotten is that of July 4th, 1776. This was the day that our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. And to answer the question in the title of this article “Do Mormons Celebrate the Fourth of July?” the answer is a resounding, Yes! American Mormons honor and celebrate this day with fun and games and patriotic observances, just as other Americans. And we also celebrate it with singing hymns in church, giving thanks to God in our personal, family, and public prayers, and we simply celebrate it by honoring with reverence the great momentous occasion that it was—a day that was consecrated by God Himself.
A unique belief of Mormonism is that one pivotal reason for the foundation of America was for the re-establishment of Christ’s Primitive Church, now known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the “Mormon Church” by friends of other faiths). After Christ died, the priesthood power (the name Mormons give the power and authority of God) gradually disappeared with internal doctrinal disagreements developing within the Christian community. That priesthood power needed to be brought back, and it was, because of the rights and freedoms that came into effect on March 4, 1789, with the Constitution of the United States of America. Like Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and other key players of the founding of America, Joseph Smith Jr. had a divine mission from God. Just 44 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, he saw God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ in a vision, wherein they told him that he was to be an instrument in bringing about this great work. All of these events were not by coincidence; God designed them.
Each Fourth of July, I am reminded not only of the blessing it was to have our country become independent from Great Britain, but I am also reminded of God’s powerful hand in all things. I know that America was founded under God, and that indeed it is a blessed land.
Following are the words of President N. Eldon Tanner (former member of The First Presidency of the LDS Church):
We are all a part of America’s future. Our job is to learn and benefit from the past and to go forward in righteousness, keeping the commandments of God. In this connection the prophet Lehi said, “Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Nephi 1:7). (“If They Will But Serve the God of the Land,” Conference Report, April 1976).
Read a talk by a modern day apostle Elder L. Tom Perry titled, “God’s Hand in the Founding of America”