Today I gave a talk in church for the first time in 3 years. I have given a lot of lessons but no talks. The subject was on patriotism which was challenging but in a way perfect for me because of my political science background. It has been a busy week so I prepared my talk on Wednesday and have been editing it ever since. Fortunately I decided to over-prepare and had a long talk because there were only 2 speakers and the first guy took maybe 3 minutes. This left me with 30 minutes! Quickly I added a few scriptures and the Lord blessed me to be able to fill up the time! Those who heard my talk will notice there are a few things missing- those are the items I added last minute or improved to fill time.
Despite the stress over the time I think the talk went very well. I felt the spirit while writing and delivering it. Some people are petrified of public speaking but not me. I’ve been speaking in church since I was a little girl as a youth speaker, so I’m used to it. The two things that help me the most is I try to make the talk personal or sincere and something I would be interested in hearing. If you are just reciting a bunch of scriptures and quotes it will go in one ear and out another. There has to be some passion behind the words!
So here is the talk on patriotism. I hope you enjoy it and are uplifted by it. I willl go through later in the week and put in citations for all the quotes as I got them from a number of different sources. Enjoy!
Patriotism a talk by Rachel Wagner Delivered at the Draper Riverview 7th ward 06/27/10
When I turned 18 one of the first things I did was register to vote. I’ve always had an interest in politics. When I was little my sister and I would make newspapers full of movie reviws, comics and the news of the day. I was reading one the other day and it had an update on the democratic presidential primary of 1992. What little kid besides me follows the primaries! My mother and I also have a weird part of our relationship where we love discussing issues and even engaging in debate.
Growing up I also knew that part of my duty as a citizen of the United States of America was to vote. Since then I have never missed an election- regular or primary. Even on my mission I made sure I was registered for absentee ballots and that I sent them in. When I came home I enrolled in the automatic absentee program where I get ballots sent to me before any elections. This took me about 3 minutes to register for and ever since then I have spent maybe an couple of hours in 5 years voting for the leaders of my country.
I’d like you to each think about last week. Last Tuesday we each had the chance to vote in a primary election. I submitted my ballot and had my voice heard on whom our next senator and county councilmen will be. How many of you had your voice heard?
Did you know that Utah was one of the first territories to allow women’s suffrage? The state granted it in 1870 but it was repealed by the Supreme Court. When Utah became a state in 1895 women’s suffrage was written into the constitution. Finally in 1920 the nineteenth amendment was passed, which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting. It makes me emotional to think of the thousands of women who dedicated their entire lives to giving me the right to send in that absentee ballot on Tuesday.
These freedoms were hard fought from the Colonial era onward. I recently read a great book called Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts. For years I’ve studied the life and thoughts of the founders and it amazed me how many women sacrificed great things to allow me to be free.
Abigail Adams is one of my heroes. As the wife of President John Adams she made many sacrifices for her country. To begin with she was forced to be separated from her husband for over 10 years of their marriage while he performed various tasks to help the country get started. This includes giving birth to 6 children, losing 2 of them and raising the remaining 4, including a future president, practically alone. She also cared for the family farm, John’s business concerns, managed her household, helped with the war effort and kept up a nearly constant correspondence with her husband, sister, and a ring of male and female friends- some of them prominent figures in our nations founding. Through this correspondence she had a profound impact on the direction of our country. In one letter she wrote to her husband:
“I long to hear that you have declared an independency- and by the way, in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to forment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation. “
Abigail was not extolling a mere pipe dream but she did whatever was asked of her for the cause of freedom including fighting for the education of girls and slaves:
In 1791 a free black youth came to her house asking to be taught how to write. Subsequently, she placed the boy in a local evening school, though not without objections from a neighbor. Abigail responded that he was “a Freeman as much as any of the young Men and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? … I have not thought it any disgrace to myself to take him into my parlor and teach him both to read and write.”
Remember this was over 50 years before the Civil War. Its such a cliché but Abigail Adams truly was a woman ahead of her times.
Of his family’s sacrifice John Adams said:
“Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it.”
Do we make good use of it? Has an interest in the future of our country turned into a hobby? I get so tired of people saying “I’m not interested in politics” in the same way one might say “I’m not interested in basket weaving.” Are you interested in freedom?
Abraham Lincoln once said:
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
Noah Webster added:
“If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws.”
Despite the frequent scandals, I still believe the men and women we have elected are honorable. I may not agree with them, but I still think they are good people. However, if we do not participate in our democracy this will not always be the case.
President Lincoln said:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
“It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the Offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” (“A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America,”
If they had need to do it then, oh how we need it now. I fear we have become “intoxicated with success” as a nation and just as a drunkard forgets all, we forget our duty to God, country and family.
For example, frequently I will speak with teachers that are frustrated by federal policy such as No Child Left Behind. When I ask them if they voted in the last several presidential elections they say no. How do they not see the link between personal responsibility and the policies that affect their very careers?
2 Ne 28:21 gives us a warning against lapsing into laziness:
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
So what is the solution? What can we do to keep us from slipping both as a country and as individuals. There are many answers but the two that ring the loudest for me are
- First, Enhance personal righteousness. Do all you can to purify your life. With the world getting more wicked by the day, the time for passive faith and righteousness is over.
If there is something in your life that you could or need to change- do it. Stop the rationalizing, stop the excuses. Too often I think we seek to have one foot in zion and one in the world. While we have to live in both, we cannot successfully have our heart in both.
Remember the Lord said in Revelations:Rev. 3: 16
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
George Albert Smith said:
“There is a division line well defined that separates the Lord’s territory from Lucifer’s. If we live on the Lord’s side of the line Lucifer cannot come there to influence us, but if we cross the line into his territory we are in his power. By keeping the commandments of the Lord we are safe on His side of the line, but if we disobey His teachings we voluntarily cross into the zone of temptation and invite the destruction that is ever present there. Knowing this, how anxious we should always be to live on the Lord’s side of the line.”
I love President Hinckley’s simple council to a group at BYU:
“I speak to you this morning not only about a little more effort, a little more self-discipline, a little more consecrated effort in the direction of excellence in your studies. I speak of it also in terms of your lives. This is the great day of preparation for each of you. It is the time of beginning for something that will go on for as long as you live. I plead with you: Don’t be a scrub! Rise to the high ground of excellence. You can do it. You may not be a genius. You may be lacking in some skills. But you can do better than you are now doing.”
Find one thing that you can do better and then seek to improve for one day and then another and then a week. We can all increase our righteous living and if we do so, not just us but our entire country will benefit.
- The second way to fight off Satan’s seductive call is to find a way to contribute.
Everyone has something they are meant to do in this life. It may be as simple as raising a family, working hard and voting but simple can be a grand thing if it is what we are meant to do.
President Joseph F. Smith reminded us that
“to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all man-kind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman.”
In my old job I felt unhappy, unfulfilled and depressed. This was confusing for me because I was not doing anything bad or unrighteous. It was a long lesson to learn but eventually I knew that I was not living the life I was meant to live. For whatever reason, the Lord wanted me to have my current job of running my own business. I know that with more assurity than anything else in my life.
I KNOW I AM NOW LIVING THE LIFE I WAS MEANT TO LIVE!
As a final example I would like to tell you about another colonial woman who contributed in amazing ways. Her name is Eliza Pinckney. When Eliza was 16 her father was called away on state business and she was left to manage the 3 family plantations totaling over 3,000 acres of rice. Unsatisfied with this enormous contribution she decided that the colony of South Carolina needed to be a leader in agriculture. After doing several experiments she came up with the idea of cultivating and planting indigo seeds.
After 4 years of trying and many failed attempts Eliza proved that indigo could grow in South Carolina. She then used her first crop to create seeds for other planters, leading to many others harvesting indigo. By 1745 (only 5 years after being given the responsibility of the farm) Indigo became second only to rice as “South Carolina’s cash crop and contributed greatly to the wealth of the colony. Before the Revolutionary War, indigo accounted for more than 1/3 of the value of exports from the colony”.
Eliza went on to marry, raise a family, and remain active in politics throughout her life. Her son Charles even became a signer of the constitution. She was so well loved by the nation that George Washington was a pallbearer at her funeral.
Now we are all not going to be able to single-handedly change American exports like Eliza. The point is Eliza found how God wanted her to contribute and so can you. The Lord wants us to be happy and in my life I have learned that the only way to be happy is to be living a life in-line with God’s will.
Just as He guides this great nation, Our Savior Jesus Christ will guide our lives. There is a catch- we have to do our part, we have to stand up for our freedom, we have to vote, we have to sacrifice, and we have to live righteously.
I know that as you strive to follow Him he will engulf you in His great love. He loves this country, He loves all of you and He loves ME. Turn to him, be happy and live a great life. Close.