When I was in third grade, I remember singing with my school class "America the Beautiful" and being touched to the verge of tears when I pondered the words describing how God had shed his grace on America and how patriot dreams would be undimmed by human tears. From any early age, I seem to have been keyed into the importance of America as a beacon of freedom (which is why I am so dismayed currently by the rise of both American Empire and the United States of Welfarica).
One of the things I remember noticing in my early readings of the Book of Mormon was this vignette:
12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 13:12
I thought as a boy that it was pretty cool when my mom and dad taught me that the scriptures talked about Columbus. That was before I found out all of the lies that James Michener and others told about Columbus, so Columbus is still a great man in my book!
I was surprised, however, when we were reading this same chapter of scripture last night for family scripture study, that several of my family members said, "I've never heard that before!"
1st Nephi Chapter 13 in the Book of Mormon turns out to be a very interesting historical summary of the early years of America, but the United States was yet centuries in the future when it was prophesied about by ancient American prophets. This chapter doesn't just teach that Columbus was inspired by God to discover America. It also talks about how the Pilgrims, Puritans, and others, came to America so that they could worship God freely according to their consciences.
13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and they were exceedingly fair and beautiful.
16 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.
The Book of Mormon also teaches that the hand of God was upon the founding of America. It is difficult to imagine how George Washington's rabble of soldiers won even some of the major battles in the Revolutionary War, let alone the entire War for Independence--unless we believe that they were protected by God in their efforts. In this regard, the Book of Mormon says:
17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.
18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.
19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.
I don't think that America as a whole is doing a very good job these days of being deserving of the protections of God, but it is interesting that the discovery and founding of America were in God's plans, and that it was such an important series of events that ancient American prophets were allowed to see and prophesy about it.
Did you know that?