My Surprise Church Talk on 4th of July Patriotism
Our LDS priesthood lesson, about the sacrifices of the Founding Fathers, got over a bit early. One of my friends in the group noted that I had been with the United States military in Iraq and suggested that it would be enjoyable to hear my testimony. I don't think they were quite prepared for what they heard, but several came up to me after the meeting and said that it was exactly what they needed to hear. Here is the essence of what I told them.
Several years ago, I contemplated leaving the military, because, if you must know, I did not support President George W Bush's incursion into Iraq. I didn't think it was appropriate for us to get involved in such an entanglement, since we have no national interest there, and we had actually helped to cause many of the problems that Iraqis endure on a daily basis.
By the time President Bush began to bang the war drums against Iraq, I had spent enough years in the military that I could have retired, so my wife and I decided to pray about whether I should retire or re-enlist. The answer came very strongly that I should re-enlist. Shortly after I re-enlisted, my field artillery battalion was called to active duty service in Iraq.
Even though I did not support President Bush, I'm glad I served in Iraq. It was one of the most beneficial experiences of my life, because I learned, in a way that I would have never been able to had I not been there, that Iraqis are children of God, too. It doesn't matter the color of one's skin--they are still a child of God. It doesn't matter whether someone is rich or poor--no matter where you go across this entire earth, every person you meet is a child of God.
America is a great nation. But not everything about America is great. The 22nd chapter of 1st Nephi in the Book of Mormon teaches that charity is what made great the nation that God would raise up in our day, a nation that would be as a nursing parent to the nations of the world.
7 after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded, that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the aGentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land;
It is not our military that makes our nation great. It is charity and reverence for God by the American people that does so. The same chapter makes clear that war and empire are not what make America great
14 And every anation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall bfall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that cfight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the ddust and great shall be the fall of it.The "great and abominable church" permeates the governments of the world, convincing its peoples to hate each other and war among themselves.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave one of the most masterful talks on charity that I have ever heard. It is this charity that we need, even in wartime. President Uchtdorf reminded us that
In truth, we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”3 We are all in need of mercy. It seems only right and proper that we extend to others that which we so earnestly desire for ourselves.
I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand.
It is unworthy of us as Christians to think that those who suffer deserve their suffering.
Evil men in high places have encouraged us, through their unjust wars against mostly innocent people, to forget this important concept. Because not everything about America is great, it's important for good men and women to be involved in the political process so that America can be restored to good government again. That's the only way that the nation of America, the last bastion of freedom, which we so desperately need, can endure.