As boys who would grow to become citizens of this nation, we repeated the scout oath including these words; On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country. Now that is even being challenged in the courts of the land. According to the Wall Street Journal, the state of New Jersey last year passed a law banishing the mention of God from state courtroom oaths. Following this action by the legislature, a county just decided to ban Bibles for such oaths because, “You know who is mentioned inside.”
Without acknowledgement of deity, without recognition of the Almighty as the ruling power of the universe, the all important element of personal and national accountability shrinks and dies. Are we so arrogant as to believe that we can get along without Him? We see the manifestation of that arrogance in the great host of social problems with which we deal these days: teen pregnancy, abandoned families and broken homes, failure to recognize the property and rights of others, gangs of young people aimlessly cruising the streets of our cities, and many other problems like these have resulted in substantial part at least, from failure to recognize that there is a God to whom someday, each of us must give an accounting.
The wars in which this nation has been involved during this, the most bloody century of all time have resulted from the greed, the avarice, the arrogance, the conceit, and egotism of men in power who sought to enslave and exercise dominion over others. Their very attitude has been totally incompatible with recognition of the Almighty to whom each of us is accountable.
There can be no doubt of the sickness in our society today. We cannot build prisons fast enough to accommodate the need. Humanism has replaced worship in the lives of so many. We are forsaking the Almighty and I fear He is forsaking us. We are closing the door against the God, whose sons and daughters we are. We sang, “My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.” We need to sing again and again the fourth verse of that hymn:
Our Father’s God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing
Going back to George Washington’s first inaugural speech, he voiced the hope, “that the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality.” He went on to say, “…there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained.” The psalmist of old wrote, “The counsel of the Lord standeth forever. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Paul the apostle declared, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
I believe we are paying a very high price for our increasing secularism. Jefferson said, “God who gave us life, gave us liberty.” Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift of God?
Lincoln declared, “What constituted the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts; our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirity which prized liberty as the heritage of all men in all lands everywhere.”
We go back to the prophetic words of Alexis de Tocqueville, who came here from France as a young man in the early 1800s. After traveling widely he said, “I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors, in her fertile fields and boundless forests, in her rich minds and vast commerce, in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic congress and in her matchless Constitution, but not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and her power. America is great because America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
I am convinced that if we are to continue to have the freedoms which came of the inspiration of the Almighty to our Founding Fathers, we must return to the God who is their true author. We need to worship him in spirit and in truth. We need to acknowledge his all powerful hand. We need to humble ourselves before him and seek his guidance in all that concerns matters of state. Do we believe in the separation of church and state? Of course we do, but that belief does not preclude a petition to the Almighty for wisdom and guidance as we walk through these perilous times.
We celebrate the freedom of our nation. We hold this festival in remembrance of this greatest of all boons and blessings. May we look to him as the author of our liberty. Is it too much to expect that prayer, public and private, be once again established in our national and private lives? Then with a general acknowledgement of the God in whom we put our trust, we may expect a diminution in our social problems, an increase in public and private morality, and a renewed sense of freedom and liberty. I realize that after the choir sings we shall have a benediction on this sacred service to be offered by Senator Bennett, but if you will bear with me, I wish to conclude my remarks with a few words of solemn prayer. I invite all of you to lower your heads and close your eyes.
Oh God, our Eternal Father, thou who presides over the nations and their people, we come unto thee in prayer. We thank thee for this great and sovereign nation of which we are citizens. Touch the minds of those of our Congress that they shall stand tall and independent in defense of the liberty of the people. Bless the chief executive. He is our president. Let thy spirit move upon him to bring to pass those measures which will lift the burdens of government from the backs of the people and keep this nation under God, a citadel of freedom standing as an example to all the world. Bless the Supreme Court of the United States which in recent days has declared unconstitutional a measure designed to secure the religious liberty of the people of this nation. May a way be found under thy divine inspiration to bring to pass another measure which will be sustained by the court. May thy peace rest upon this nation. May we as a people look to thee and live. May the benevolent hand of the almighty protect us from the evil forces of the world. May humanism and secularism bend to an increased knowledge of these our Father and our God. May a spirit of brotherhood spread throughout the land. As we pray to thee, we do so in our manner and respect the prayers of others who speak after their manner. That thou wilt hear us all as we lift our voices in behalf of our beloved nation. Almighty Father, hear us, guide us, protect us, make us both strong and benevolent before the world. Forgive our erring ways. May we turn back to thee in our search for wisdom, for guidance, for direction, we humbly ask in Jesus’ sacred name, Amen. 1
Gordon B. Hinckley – Freedom Festival 1997 – Watch on ZionTube!