“We look upon George Washington, the father of our country, as an inspired instrument of the Almighty; we can see the all-inspiring Spirit operating upon him. And upon his co-workers in resisting oppression, and in establishing the thirteen colonies as a confederacy; and then again the workings of the same Spirit upon those men who established the constitution of the United States.” (Lorenzo Snow1)
“The temple work for the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence and other Founding Fathers has been done. All these appeared to Wilford Woodruff when he was president of the St. George Temple. President George Washington was ordained a high priest at that time. You will also be interested to know that, according to Wilford Woodruff’s journal, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus were also ordained high priests at that time. When one casts doubt about the character of these noble sons of God, I believe he or she will have to answer to the God of heaven for it. Yes, with Lincoln, I say:
‘To add brightness to the sun or glory to the name of Washington is . . . impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name and in its naked deathless splendor, leave it shining on.’
If ever this country needed the timeless wisdom of the father of our country, it is today. How much our country could benefit by following the wisdom of our country’s first president. Here are a few among many maxims:
“Let the reins of government then be braced and held with a steady hand, and every violation of the constitution be reprehended. If defective, let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon whilst it has an existence.” 2
“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” 3
“. . . the love of my country will be the ruling influence of my conduct.” 4
“. . . a good moral character is the first essential in a man. . . . It is therefore highly important, that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous.” 5
“Let us unite, therefore, in imploring the Supreme Ruler of nations, to spread his holy protection over these United States; to turn the machinations of the wicked to confirming of our constitution; to enable us at all times to root out internal sedition, and put invasion to flight; to perpetuate to our country that prosperity, which his goodness has already conferred; and to verify the anticipation of this government being a safeguard to human rights.” 6
It would profit all of us as citizens to read again Washington’s Farewell Address to his countrymen. The address is prophetic. I believe it ranks alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
My feelings about this tendency to discredit our Founding Fathers are well summarized by the late President J. Reuben Clark in these words: “These were the horse and buggy days as they have been called in derision; these were the men who traveled in the horsedrawn buggies and on horseback; but these were the men who carried under their hats, as they rode in the buggies and on their horses, a political wisdom garnered from the ages. As giants to pygmies are they when placed alongside our political emigres and their fellow travelers of today, who now traduce them with slighting word and contemptuous phrase.” 78
Angel Moroni in the Camp of Washington
On July 4, 1854, Orson Hyde delivered in the Tabernacle. A portion of his address includes the following statement:
“In those early and perilous times, our men were few, and our resources limited. Poverty was among the most potent enemies we had to encounter; yet our arms were successful; and it may not be amiss to ask here, by whose power victory so often perched on our banner? It was by the agency of that same angel of God that appeared unto Joseph Smith, and revealed to him the history of the early inhabitants of this country, whose mounds, bones, and remains of towns, cities, and fortifications speak from the dust in the ears of the living with the voice of undeniable truth. This same angel presides over the destinies of America, and feels a lively interest in all our doings. He was in the camp of Washington; and, by an invisible hand, led on our fathers to conquest and victory; and all this to open and prepare the way for the Church and kingdom of God to be established on the western hemisphere, for the redemption of Israel and the salvation of the world. . . .
“Had the United States been as faithful a guardian to the Latter-day Saints as the angel of God has been to them, she would never know dissolution, nor be humbled in dishonor by the decrees of any foreign powers.
“I ask no earthly being to endorse this my testimony, or to adopt it as his own sentiment. A little time will prove whether Orson Hyde alone has declared it, or whether the heavenly powers will back up this testimony in the face of all the world.
“When Justice is satisfied, and the blood of martyrs atoned for, the guardian angel of America will return to his station, resume his charge, and restore the Constitution of our country to the respect and veneration of the people; for it was given by the inspiration of our God.”9
Sally Fairfax was the wife of George Washington’s good friend, George William Fairfax. Some modern historians have claimed that George Washington was “infatuated” with Sally. “Sally Fairfax was a woman deeply loved by George Washington.”10 Is there any historical merit to this claim? Did George Washington send a letter to Sally Fairfax which some historians claim indicates he was passionately in love with Sally?
The George Washington/Sally Fairfax controversy stems from several letters. One, discovered in 1877, was said to have been written by George Washington to his “votary of love”, Sally Fairfax. The document was published in the New York Herald but the following day, it was sold at auction and then disappeared, never to be found again. The authenticity of the letter was so questionable, that when John Fitzpatrick edited his thirty-nine volume, The Writings of George Washington, he seriously considered removing the letter from his collection. Ultimately, Fitzpatrick decided to include the missive, with a note of caution to the reader. (Real George Washington pg. 69) One noted author questioned, “Was the letter a forgery? Was it written by someone else? Was it quoted correctly? None of these questions can be answered . . . ”
Not only is the authenticity of the Sally Fairfax letter questioned, but the letter’s language is obscure, vague and truly ambiguous. It is almost impossible for one to determine what or who Washington was referring to, if he did indeed write the letter.
All verified letters written by Washington to Sally and her husband George Fairfax, were drafted and mailed with no evidence of any expectation of confidentiality or attempted secrecy. The last letter composed to Sally, which historians also attempt to warp as evidence of an inappropriate relationship, was drafted with the full knowledge of Martha Washington. Mrs. Washington even included a warm and lengthy post-script, expressing friendship as well as loss in missing Sally’s companionship.
Scholar Douglas Southall Freeman concluded “There survives not one echo of the gossip that would have been audible all along the Potomac had there been anything amiss in their relations.” (Real George Washington pg. 69, Freeman 1:235a; see also 2:388; 5:498)
Does it matter whether or not Washington committed adultery?
The prophet Mormon taught that a wicked man cannot do that which is good.
Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.
For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil. . . .
Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. (Mormon 7:10-11, 14-15)
Mormon is careful that not one patriot in the Book of Mormon is an adulterer. Rather the true patriots include men like Mormon, Moroni, Alma, Nephi, and Captain Moroni. The prophets in our own day concur. Prophets teach that not one true patriot is wicked. Now the argument is made that Alma and Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon were at one point very unrighteous, even wicked. This is true, but in either case we see great evidence of a transformation, of being born again. The Book of Mormon describes Alma the Younger, before his conversion, as “very wicked” and “a great hinderment” to the church. The angel of the Lord rebuked Alma for seeking to destroy the Church. After Alma was “born of God” and changed, he forsook his previous life. After his conversion, Alma the Younger became the first chief judge, he debated corrupt lawyers, he exposed anti-Christs, he lead the Nephite armies, he baptized thousands of converts and he is remembered as one of the greatest missionaries in the Book of Mormon. While they lived in wickedness they performed wicked acts. Their works were destructive. When they became righteous, on the other hand, they performed righteous works. It is always thus. Wicked men do not bring forth righteous purposes. True power comes from purity.
- Lorenzo Snow, Source: Journal of Discourses 14:304
- To Henry Lee, October 31, 1786, Writings 29:34.
- First Annual Address, January 8, 1790, Writings 12:8.
- Answer to the New Hampshire Executive, November 3, 1789, Writings 12:175.
- To George Steptoe Washington, December 5, 1790, Writings 10:123-24.
- To the Senate and the House of Representatives, November 19, 1794, Writings 12:54.
- Stand Fast by Our Constitution, pp. 136-37.
- “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History” 307-09; This Nation Shall Endure 18-19
- Orson Hyde, “Celebration of the Fourth of July”, Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, pp. 367-371, July 4, 1854.