Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Wall of Seperation

"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. "

Those are the opening words of the declaration of independence, written 234 years ago today.  They reflect the words and thoughts of an exasperated people.  But they also reflect an important part of the minds and thoughts of the 56 men who signed that document.  It continues:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

I find these words so powerful.  Every person is endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.  The only purpose of government is to protect those rights.  As the document continues, it explains that if a government ceases to perform that function it should be abolished.  It then, of course, explains how the King of Britain has violated the people's rights in various ways.  But I want to focus on those inalienable rights endowed by our creator and protected by government.

Thirteen years after the declaration of independence, congress passed the Bill of Rights where they enumerated some of the rights that God had given us.  Within the first amendment it says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."  The first right that they felt they should list was the freedom of religion.  I think the freedom to worship how we may is very important to our Heavenly Father.  It was obvious to our founding fathers that freedom of religion was an inherent right.

This very freedom is what created an environment where a young boy seeking the truth could have an experience that would alter history forever.  It was here in the United States, where Joseph Smith was able to see our Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ face to face.  It was under the protection of the Bill of Rights that he was able to translate the Book of Mormon and restore the Church of Jesus Christ.

Later, Joseph Smith was asked to describe the basic tenets of our religion.  He wrote thirteen articles of faith, to show the basic principles on which our religion is founded.  One of those thirteen principles was, "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."  Why would Joseph Smith write that of the thirteen basic tenets of our faith, the privilege of worshipping howerver an individual sees best is one of those tenets?  Perhaps, it is because our Heavenly Father holds freedom in a very high regard.

As Screwtape put it in The Screwtape Letters, God wants us to be "creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His."  This state presupposes a freedom to choose to do the will of God.

Our founding fathers wanted us to have those freedoms.  They knew that our Heavenly Father valued the freedom to worship however we saw fit.  Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut on January 1, 1802:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, ...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus build a wall of seperation between Church and State."

The intent of his letter was to show that government would never establish a state religion.  The term "seperation of church and state" was not intended to say that the state would not allow religion within schools or public buildings.  Unfortunately, all of that changed in 1947 when the Supreme Court interpreted the phrase as requiring the federal government to remove religious expression from the public arena.  The court cited Jefferson's letter as a support for their ruling but took 8 words out of context ("a wall of seperation between church and state") and did not print the whole letter.

Why do I tell you all of this?  Because our society has lost sight of a God who loves us and who wants only to bless us.  We have shut him out of our schools and public buildings.  This shift in culture has caused people to shut him out of their homes.  Many no longer value the family as the primary unit within our society.

So, I invite you today, to tear down the wall of seperation that has been built by a government that misunderstands the purpose of that wall.  Invite God into your homes.  If you believe different than me, that's okay.  I rejoice in your freedom to see God in a different light than I do.   Many people call him by different names, but he remains our benevolent Father.  I am grateful for our founding fathers on this independence day.  And I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who values freedom, even though it means some will choose to turn from him.  Please exercise your freedom today to bring Him into your life.


  1. Love it. Gotta love the founding fathers and the freedoms that they helped to protect. Gotta love the chance to worship who and what we believe. Thanks for reminding us Jeff.

  2. Very well spoken in a time when God is oft time put aside or feared less than that of men. It is indeed a blessing that we have this freedom and right of Religion and that we have gotten to the point of the full and restored gospel because of the great founding fathers of the constitution. I also hope that people will realize how much it should still mean to us today and stand with all truth and strength to uphold it in times when there are many who would rather it not be apart of our country any more.

  3. Thank you for those words. It is very important to remember where our freedoms come from.

  4. It's amazing to me to see the power of words, and, as you explained, the power of the absence of words which may lead to misinterpretation of intent. Thank you for another eloquent essay.

  5. Thank you, I've been thinking about this same thing lately. It's true that even if God is not invited into our schools, we can still invite him into our homes. But there are still places (like Texas) that allow each child to have a moment of silence in the classroom to pray or think about God if they would like. I appreciate places like that.


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