Tag Archives: religion

“One Nation under God”

COB1 2My08The two words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance when I was a boy in elementary school. My very patriotic mother made sure I had an opportunity to know that pledge before I started school, and I can still remember learning to recite the pledge with those new words in the third or fourth grade.

No one objected at the time. Everyone seemed to agree that the addition was a good idea.

It’s hard to imagine that such a change would be accepted now. I am surprised that in this era of secularism in government, the Pledge of Allegiance has not faced serious legal challenges.

It seems to me that we commonly say it incorrectly: “. . . one nation . . . under God . . . indivisible . . . .” When we separate nation and under God and indivisible, we are missing the point of those added words. If we are not a nation under God, then we will not be a nation indivisible. Only by following the moral guidance of a loving Heavenly Father can we be secure as a country and people.

We mortals each tend to look out for our own good. But this nation rises to greatness when we as individuals band together to work toward a common cause. The strength of the United States has come from individual willingness to bind ourselves to principles of morality and integrity. Greatness has come from a recognition that we are all children of the same Eternal Father, no matter what faith we espouse or what meetinghouse we attend.

We may not agree in all our thoughts, but if we want to remain free, we must be one in protecting the right to worship according to our own conscience. Each of us may enjoy this God-given right so long as we do not infringe on another’s right to pursue life in liberty. I believe that the United States was set up by divine providence to be a land where this freedom would exist.

In the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34:23), God said He would set one shepherd over His people. In the New Testament (John 10:16), Jesus Christ taught that there should be “one fold, and one shepherd.” In a modern volume of scripture, He taught: “. . . be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).

Nvoo My17_02935We become better as a nation by becoming better individuals. If we divide ourselves from God and His teachings by ignoring Him, we will not be strong enough to stand alone.

Religions in general seem to agree that we ought to treat each other as children of the God who created us. What I know of Islam suggests that in its true form it protects the rights of all believers in God our Father. I cannot believe in a god who would teach his children to hate and slaughter each other to honor him. That is the kind of teaching we would expect from the enemy of God. Anyone who tries to deprive others of liberty or life in the name of Allah or Jesus Christ or Jehovah is hijacking religion to serve his own prejudices and sadistic, criminal lust for power. Mixing hate and slaughter with religion is taking the name of God in vain.

Three times now I have left this post for further review as I tried to refine and focus its central message, which is this: If we want to maintain our freedom, we must honor and obey the God who gave us law to govern us. I pray that our sacred right to worship Him according to conscience may continue to be respected. I fear it could be eroded away because of those who are unable to acknowledge a power higher than themselves.

If that right to worship is ever lost, may God have mercy on those of us in this country who believe. We will have no effective defense, moral or physical, but to pray for safety and hope for the best.




Faith and Sawdust Carpets in the Streets

Much of the commercial and governmental activity of Guatemala has been shut down during Easter Week—Semana Santa, or Holy Week, as it’s called here. I could wish that we were so diligent in the United States about celebrating the importance of sacred things.

Guat28Mr13_284FFour of us LDS missionaries—two couples—went on Thursday to watch as hundreds of volunteers laid out carpets of colored sawdust on one of the principal downtown streets. They carefully painted pictures in sawdust honoring the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and depicting themes of their Roman Catholic faith.  I suppose there are atheists and humanist here who may say this sort of activity is foolish. I know there are people who call themselves Christian who speak in critical and mocking terms of activities like this. I am not one of them.

As we walked among the hundreds of volunteers on Sixth Avenue in the heart of the city, I struck up conversations with some of them. They were family oriented people, there to help their children participate, and to express their own faith.

I express my faith differently, and if we had talked about doctrine, there would undoubtedly have been points of disagreement. But I had to admire the devotion and dedication that went into their way of paying homage to the Savior. Whether or not I agreed with the themes expressed in those sawdust pictures, it was heartening to see so many people readily identifying themselves with Christian faith, and doing something to show it. I would much prefer to live in a community where faith is openly expressed than one where it cannot be freely acknowledged—even where the faith tradition is not mine.

Government and, to a large extent, commerce close down Wednesday though Friday of Semana Santa. City governments cooperate by blocking streets where the sawdust carpets are to be made. Volunteer municipal workers haul bags of sawdust in city trucks.

Guatemalan Scouts—boys and girls—mix together in these activities. Many young people are enthusiastically involved. Is it more social than religious? Undoubtedly there is a social element in much religious participation; maybe we get involved in religious activities because our friends do. But I’d like to think that a majority of those people got involved as a way of expressing their faith in God.

Guat28Mr13_283fOne man I met, a well-known television journalist, is an evangelical Christian married to a faithful Roman Catholic. He was there supporting his wife and children in the activity. Has their marriage been difficult, I asked, because of their religious differences? They thought it would be at first, he answered, but things haven’t turned out that way. They don’t have conflict because their family is built on love.

Perhaps we who are members of the family of God should try harder to make our relationships work the same way.

After all, when my evangelical friend, his wife, and I go to our churches this Easter Sunday, we are all going to be worshiping the Jesus who brought about the Atonement for us because he died for our sins and was resurrected so that we all may live again.