Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Declaration(s) of Independence

While there is some discussion as to which day The Declaration of Independence was actually signed, the important thing is that we have the opportunity to commemorate such an important document and its significance to the 13 original colonies, the United States of America as it is known today, and to us, her citizens.  In my opinion it is one of the most well-thought out and well-written documents.

It’s the kind of wording that if you saw some great actor with a commanding voice read it with the conviction as though he or she had personally written it, you couldn’t help but be overcome with emotion.  It amazes me that Thomas Jefferson, a man slightly older than myself at the time, penned such amazing words.  Those words have inspired people from that day all the way down to the present day…both here and abroad.  Its echo can be heard in the abolition of slavery, the women’s suffrage movement, and many causes that are still being pursue today.

When those men signed The Declaration of Independence they unanimously stated that,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

These men went on to ‘declare the causes which impelled them to the separation’ and as a final show of support relying on ‘the protection of divine Providence’ signed their names and pledged, ‘their Lives, their fortunes, and their sacred Honor.’

Since that day there have been countless numbers of young men and women willing to fight and in many instance die to advance that cause throughout the world.  I am humbled by such men and women and will be forever grateful for the sacrifices they have been willing to make.

I remember returning home from my mission and visiting the Salt Lake Temple.  While there I was stopped by the sister missionaries.  They asked me to share with them one of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon.  I told them it came from the 46th Chapter of Alma when Moroni raises the Title of Liberty in which he wrote, ‘In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.’  They told me that they had really liked that story too and went on to say that the righteous cause of just men will never die as long as there are men and women still willing to fight for that.

As I have pondered the words of The Declaration of Independence I can’t help but think of the many similarities that they have to another ‘declaration of independence.’  As those sisters so eloquently stated, the righteous cause of just men will never die.  The truth is that the ideas and ideals stated in The Declaration of Independence had been around long before 1776. 

For too long men had been subjected to the Despotic rule of the adversary or, in the words of The Declaration of Independence, ‘a Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant,’ and ‘unfit to be the ruler of a free people.  It became imperative for them ‘dissolve the bands which connected them with another.’  However, they could not do it for themselves.

The author of the original declaration of independence would sign His name by laying down His own life in defense of their agency and to free them from the bonds of sin.  The Savior became the ‘Guard for their future security.’  But, as history has shown, it is not enough to say these things or to believe them.  We have to continually fight for them.  We cannot take the freedoms we enjoy, both temporally and spiritually, for granted.

I think it is fitting to end with the words of another inspired man, Winston Churchill as shared by Jeffrey R. Holland.  In his speech before the House of Commons when he was called to the post of Prime Minister he said:

"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all our strength that God can give us. . . .That is our policy. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory—victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be

About a week later in a radio broadcast he said:
This is one of the most awe-striking periods in the long history of France and Britain. . . . Behind us . . . gather a group of shattered States and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians—upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall. [Churchill, p. 91]

Then a couple of weeks later before Parliament:
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

I hope that this day, and every day, we can remember to fight for the righteous cause of just men and to remember these self-evident truths!