The Glorious Fourth of July!

July 4, 2004 | 28 comments

The Glorious Fourth of July!
Some of you started last night with fireworks. We celebrated last night with the traditional torrential rain and tornado warning. God’s fireworks if you will.
Today the sun shone on our remembrances. We decked our wagon in bunting and flags and put the girls on it in white sailor dresses with blue collars and red ribbons. Then we joined the parade around the University Village. The village children waved flags from their trikes and bikes. Things got a little out-of-Sabbath after that so we came back inside to read a talk from Brother Oaks on the Constitution. He is thoughtful and precise as always, and just panegyrical enough. He closed his talk with the hymn we sang today in church, the hymn that moved me, the hymn my daughter loves, the hymn that for a good Fifth Monarchy man like myself says everything I feel for this America.

My country,’ tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
land where my fathers died,
land of the pilgrims’ pride,
from every mountainside let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,
land of the noble free, thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
thy woods and templed hills;
my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
and ring from all the trees sweet freedom’s song;
let mortal tongues awake;
let all that breathe partake;
let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God, to thee,
author of liberty, to thee we sing;
long may our land be bright
with freedom’s holy light;
protect us by thy might, great God, our King.

God Bless America.

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28 Responses to The Glorious Fourth of July!

  1. sid on July 5, 2004 at 9:57 am

    Amen to that Adam!!! that is perhaps the reason that Heavenly father made i t so that I left semi-rural Indian, and moved to America and found our Church

  2. sid on July 5, 2004 at 10:07 am

    Sorry about the typos in my previous coment – “Indian” ought to have been India.
    BTW, Adam, where was this Parade at, that you attended? Provo, maybe? Please excuse my ignorance – I have never been to Utah, am a Michigan Mormon!!!

  3. john fowles on July 5, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    We also sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” as our closing hymn in sacrament meeting, and the Spirit was very strong. As we sang, my heart softened toward America (after quite a period of cynicism and criticism that I’ve been going through lately). I was reminded that we have something special here in this country and with this inspired Constitution. I have lived abroad, in Holland, Germany, England, and Lithuania and traveled to numerous other countries and have greatly enjoyed my time abroad. I have often thought that I would be happier living in Germany. In other words, I am not the type that thinks that other countries, particularly European countries, are any less free than the United States. But upon reflection, I must admit that there is something free in the very air here in the USA.

    Growing up in Dallas, I worked at Albertson’s while in High School. This was in 1991-1992 or so. One day, suddenly, there were about seven or eight Russians who began working there as bag boys. Some of them were old men, but one of them was a kid about my age. He spoke enough English to be able to chat with me and we talked about where he’d come from, etc. He was a Russian Jew, as were the others and he told me very sincerely how wonderful it was for him to be in America. He said freedom was just in the air here–that a weight was lifted off his shoulders by just getting off the plane. Singing that song yesterday brought that experience back to my mind and made me grateful all over again for the sacrifices of those who made this country and system possible. It also reminded me of how propitious the founding circumstances were–that the founders were such a unique set of individuals that were all alive at the same time and in the same place. They were truly a generation unparalleled in the history of Western civilization and who effected a revolution that indeed changed everything.

  4. Kaimi on July 5, 2004 at 12:29 pm

    I don’t know, Adam. We sang this as well (I played it). But I’ve never felt much from this particular hymn — it’s my least favorite patriotic hymn.

    Not that it’s a bad song, but it shamelessly steals the tune of God Save the King, a much older and more worthy hymn. We have enough patriotic music of our own — why can’t we leave the Brits their anthem without trying to tinker with it?

  5. Silus Grok on July 5, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    About the hymn singing… among my other callings, I am also the sacrament chorister. I chose several weeks back some fast and testimony meeting-appropriate music and purposefully avoided the patriotic music. My reasoning? As it was a worship service, and not a patriotic fireside, I thought it was more appropriate to sing songs of praise; as our ward is decidedly multi-cultural — and a mix of both citizens and non-citizens, I thought it considerate to avoid requiring folks to sing praises to a country that isn’t theirs; finally, as this is a time of war, I thought that patriotic songs might encourage jingoistic comments from the pulpit.

    Sadly, a member of the bishopric changed the closing some at the last minute to the Star Spangled Banner.

    I was disappointed, but not surprised.

    What are your thoughts?

  6. john fowles on July 5, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    I think it’s okay to sing patriotic songs in church to honor one’s country in that country. It would be inappropriate (and lame) to sing Star Spangled Banner in e.g. England during church. True patriotism doesn’t invoke jingoistic comments but rather nationalism. Patriotic songs shouldn’t have this effect on their own, but rather inspire gratitude for one’s own country. I would think that even in a multi-cultural ward, members who are not citizens would be tolerant enough to realize that the members who are citizens love their countries and would want to express that love on their country’s birthday. While studying in England, I was never offended when the congregation sang God Save the Queen or waxed eloquent from the pulpit in testimonies about the virtues of their “green and pleasant land.”

  7. Julien on July 5, 2004 at 6:08 pm

    What I find interesting is that as far as I know there are only patriotic songs in American hymn books – I’m positive there aren’t in the German and French ones. I wonder who decides that. I’m not so sure if Church services are meant for patriotism, basically for the same reason that Silus Grok mentioned about possible jingoistic comments from the pulpit.
    Anyways, a well-meant comment from a Belgian that spent a lot of time in the U.S. and loves the country – keep the country the way it was intended to be and God WILL bless America! I feel he is blessing Europe and has his hand over the children of men everywhere – He really is The Lord of all Mankind!

  8. Julien on July 5, 2004 at 6:15 pm

    I like what you’re saying john, it sounds very true, and I wish people all over the world had that kind of true patriotism of gratitude and not arrogance, mutual respect and not feelings of superiority… I guess all positive powers can be abused very easily – and I like this thing with the “green and pleasant country” of the British… ;-)

  9. Jim F. on July 5, 2004 at 6:44 pm

    I’d be more inclined to like the “green and pleasant land” business if it weren’t so inextricably connected to the “British Israelite” movement. The hymn, after all, is quite beautiful. In its most benign versions, British Israelism is silly; in its least benign versions, it is racist and anti-Semitic.

    Here is one good overview of the British Israelism.

  10. Ivan Wolfe on July 6, 2004 at 1:20 am

    I have a Thai hymn book, and it has the Thai national anthem in it. (It’s also fairly obvious which one it is, since it has a very different typeface and font than the other hymns).

  11. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 2:10 am

    I wish my sacrament chorister was named Silus Grok.

  12. Julien on July 6, 2004 at 3:05 am

    Jim, I didn’t even know that expression was from a British hymn… I have quite some problems with British Israel policies as well, especially the driving out of Arabs from Palestine in order to give Jews their land. I don’t know much about anti-Semitism in that regard, though…

  13. Steve Evans on July 6, 2004 at 10:26 am


    I don’t think you’re right about US hymnbooks being different. In France, the Marseillaise was in the back of the hymnbook (at least in the version I have). In Canada, O Canada and God Save the Queen are in there.

  14. Julien on July 6, 2004 at 11:18 am

    Good to know! I’m positive about the German one, though – I attend Church in Germany, and I don’t recall having seen the Marseillaise in France on my vacation there in April. I might just be wrong, though… Thanks for getting things straight!

  15. lyle on July 6, 2004 at 11:24 am

    Hm…maybe the LDS Church isn’t so backwards as some think.

    There is a good desnews article today on how Iraqi’s in Utah felt about the Patriotic Hymns…,1249,595075158,00.html

  16. Randy on July 6, 2004 at 11:57 am

    I wasn’t aware that the hymn book included different songs in different countries. Very interesting. I did notice on Sunday, however, that “God Save the King” is in our hymn book–it is the very last hymn. I was tempted to pick this as our opening song in priesthood meeting, but worried that people might think I was trying to cause trouble (and they would have been right). I found out from my wife later, however, that they sang this song in Relief Society. The amazing thing was that most people apprently did not pick up on the irony of singing “God Save the King” on the 4th of July.

  17. john fowles on July 6, 2004 at 12:53 pm


    Jim was not referring to British policies on Palestine with the British Israelism comment. He was referring to the nineteenth-century movement that believed that the lost tribes of Israel ended up in the British Isles when the went to the “north.”

    I have to say that I think that Jim is being a little harsh on the British saints who are enthusiastic about their homeland and who thus quote poems and sing such hymns in choir arrangements to that extent when he connects such expression with British Israelism. It is doubtful that the British saints I know in the Oxford ward who gush about the virtues of England and the British Isles in their testimonies in a similar way that many American saints do in testimony meeting are even remotely thinking of British Israelism. Furthermore, I might agree that British Israelism is a little silly, but I wouldn’t venture to say definitively that there is nothing to it.

    Also, on Julien’s side point of Britain, anti-semitism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I might point out that it is commonly accepted that the UK is bar far the most tolerant of European societies; that Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and various Christian “sects,” have all established themselves there and have achieved a remarkable degree of integration with British society–far more so than in either e.g. France or Germany. And on a personal lever, the only anti-semitism that I observed while living in England was from Arabs/Muslims living there.

  18. john fowles on July 6, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    That is, I meant when the American saints gush about the virtues of the US, of course, not the British Isles. My apologies for the hanging modifier.

  19. Jordan Fowles on July 6, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    Second what John says there. British Israelism was a term I never once heard during my own stay in the Oxford ward.

    But I did hear a lot of appreciation for England and being British.

  20. Jim F. on July 6, 2004 at 2:02 pm

    John Fowles, Jordon Fowles: I didn’t mean to suggest that the Saints in Britain are British Isreal proponents. Sorry for not being more clear. I too doubt that most many Saints who sing the hymn or who use its phrasing have that in mind.

    However, British Israelism was popular with many British converts and other 19th- and early 20th-century Saints and continues to influence both some British Saints and some American LDS Anglophiles. (Another site that gives a reasonably even-handed account of the British Israelite version of history.) It is not unusual to hear people talk about some of its basic ideas, usually without using the term “British Israelism,” in American and English Sunday Schools. British Israelism is also often combined with stories about Joseph of Arimathea and Mary going to southwestern England after the crucifixion.

    Since British Israelism is a claim about history, it is almost impossible for it to be either definitely true or definitively false. But I daresay that the evidence for it is very weak. I doubt that any mainstream historian takes it seriously.

  21. Jim F. on July 6, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    By the way, my experience in the Kings Lynn ward and the Hyde Park wards was that I sometimes heard comments in Sunday School from older members of the ward that were clearly based on British Israelite beliefs, though I doubt that those making the comments would have known the term. For them it was something they had learned in church when they were young, not doctrinal but commonly believed at that time. Few converts knew anything about it. And given the national and ethnic origins of most converts in Britain today, I doubt that many would have taken the claims seriously.

    My experience in those wards has been mirrored here in the US. At least once or twice a year in Sunday School someone will mention British Israelite history. They are usually older members with British ancestry. But a majority of the ward members don’t know what they are talking about. (I’ve even heard British Israelite remarks repeated in wards in Belgium and France, of all places.)

    Given the context in which I’ve heard these remarks, I assume that the belief is dying out.

  22. john fowles on July 6, 2004 at 4:27 pm

    The closest thing I’ve heard to it was from a burned out skinhead I worked with in a chalkboard factory when I was 18. He told me that the skinheads were the true Israelites and a lot of other silly nonsense. He wasn’t LDS though.

  23. danithew on July 6, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    I had an unusual (or slightly wacky) roommate at BYU once who for a brief period of time wore a kipa (yalmuke) because he said he was Jewish. Turns out he (said he) was a descendent of British royalty who in turn were descendants of King David(?!?!). I would amuse myself by occasionally asking him if his mother was Jewish and then discussing halakhic rules of Jewish identity.

    I also saw, while living in Israel, a book or two that attempted to discuss the issue of lost tribes that also somehow managed to bring up the British idea. The idea is out there. Whether it has any basis in reality, I can’t say. Let’s just say these works struck me as more speculative than scholarly.

  24. Jim F. on July 7, 2004 at 12:50 am

    Heck, at some point or another, _everyone_ with European ancestry is a descendant of British Royalty–as well as Charlemagne, etc. It’s just a statistical fact created by the fact that the number of my ancestors doubles each generation, but the population of Europe 1,000 years ago was at least a little bit smaller than it is now.

  25. Jordan on July 7, 2004 at 11:13 pm


    You mean that skinhead was spouting nonsense? Ever since you told me about his teachings, I have carried around the notion that skinheads were the only true Israelites… :)

  26. john fowles on July 7, 2004 at 11:19 pm

    I remember a rather interesting discussion we had about this in Lithuania. Luckily, and unlike my unfortunate comment about eating pork for breakfast, our fellow Yiddish students at the University of Vilnius didn’t hear that one. . . .

  27. Kingsley on July 7, 2004 at 11:25 pm

    I like Woody Allen’s speculation that originally the Lord only forbade the Jews from eating certain kinds of ham sandwiches, but then it got blown all out of proportion.

  28. Hellmut Lotz on July 8, 2004 at 11:51 am

    In the scriptures, Isaiah is the best example of how to live as a disciple patriot.

    Patriotism is a very problematic category. Christ did not talk in terms of patriotism. Patriotism lures us on the broad path. It inhibits us to pursue the narrow path. On the other hand, patriotism is an institution uniquely suited to facilitate cooperation. Cooperation, however, is not a good in itself.

    It is quite interesting that Mormons display their patriotism so ostentatiously. The momumentalism of Church flag polls on Temple Square or at BYU begs the question whether Latter-Day Saints feel a need to distract from a particular political philosophy that is at odds with the constitution and mainstream culture.

    It is also quite interesting that this discussion does not contain an expression of regret for the violations of human dignity in the name of America. As a German I am constantly wondering how I would have behaved in face of the Holocaust. It seems to me that disciples of Christ have an obligation to rally around the abused.

    The Fourth of July celebrates American independence. Its meaning is best explained in the Declaration of Independence, which is a wonderful document because it explains a particular situation in terms of universal values and the human condition. Like Christians, Americans have a special obligation to stand with the oppressed. Idolization of ourselves and the mainstream is a manifestation of a teinted patriotism that is easily manipulated for the purposes of suppression.

    Isaiah loved his people so much that he was not afraid to speak truth to power.

    Here are a few evaluations of patriotism by some of the most thoughtful individuals of the age of nations:

    Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it. George Bernard Shaw

    Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. Albert Einstein

    Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. Oscar Wilde

    No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots. Barbara Ehrenreich

    I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone. Edith Cavell

    Patriotism is a kind of religion; it is the egg from which wars are hatched. Guy de Maupassant

    And all people live, Not by reason of any care they have for themselves, But by the love for them that is in other people. Leo Tolstoy

    You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race. George Bernard Shaw

    Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them! Albert Einstein

    One of the great attractions of patriotism – it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous. Aldous Huxley

    What this country needs what every country needs occasionally is a good hard bloody war to revive the vice of patriotism on which its existence as a nation depends. Ambrose Bierce

    Each nation feels superior to other nations. That breeds patriotism – and wars. Dale Carnegie

    For a writer only one form of patriotism exists: his attitude toward language. Joseph Brodsky

    The excessive regard of parents for their children, and their dislike of other people’s is, like class feeling, patriotism, save-your-soul-ism, and other virtues, a mean exclusiveness at bottom. Thomas Hardy

    I saw courage both in the Vietnam War and in the struggle to stop it. I learned that patriotism includes protest, not just military service. John F. Kerry

    You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it or who says it. Malcom X

    It seems that American patriotism measures itself against an outcast group. The right Americans are the right Americans because they’re not like the wrong Americans, who are not really Americans. E. J. Hobsbawm

    A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle. George William Curtis

    When a dog barks at the moon, then it is religion; but when he barks at strangers, it is patriotism! David Starr Jordan


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