This Nation Under God

Elder Thorpe B. Isaacson
Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles
Thorpe B. Isaacson, Conference Report, October 1964, pp. 52-56

Thorpe B. Issacson Photo







My dear brothers and sisters and friends as always I deeply need the blessings of the Lord, and may I please plead with you to have a silent prayer in your heart for me.

This great choir always touches us and lifts us up—a great credit to the Church. Many millions every weekend enjoy their beautiful music. It would be difficult to tell how many lives they have truly affected.

We miss President McKay very much, but I know we have his blessings and his prayers and his support. He has taught us very well. Those of us here assembled and those following the conference by radio and television greatly appreciate his leadership and his example. Yes, we recognize him as a prophet of God. Truly, there is a prophet on the earth. There is a prophet in our midst, and we pray for his well-being.

American Citizenship

I ask each of you now to consider with me for a few moments one of our most precious possessions—our citizenship in the United States of America, this nation under God.

A very fine man who came to the United States a few years ago from a foreign country and who now has his citizenship papers remarked to me that next to God and his loved ones, he considered his citizenship in the United States as his most precious and priceless possession. Yes, his most precious and priceless possession! He said he loved the United States and was grateful for the freedom that it afforded him, because, you see, he had lived in a country where he did not know that freedom. When he said that he loved the United States and that he thanked God for his citizenship in this country, he said it with every fiber of his soul. He said he would fight for this country and this freedom, even if it meant his own life. He said that every citizen of the United States ought to feel that way; and if he did feel that way, talked that way, and loved that way, we would have no problem from within and no fear from without. Yes, this nation under God means exactly what it says.

Let me quote from the Doctrine and Covenants:

“Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land” (D&C 58:21).

The Constitution an Inspired Document

The Constitution of the United States is a document from inspired men. On August 6, 1833, the Church received a revelation that has gone far to establish a fixed attitude toward the Constitution and laws of the United States. Then came the word of the Lord:

“And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them” (D&C 98:4).

On December 16 of the same year the Lord again made it known to his people that the law should not be taken into their own hands, and that “. . . it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another” (D&C 101:79)

Man could not so act save he live in a land of law, for only in a land of law can there be freedom as we know it.

“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80).

This revelation has a powerful influence in shaping the views of Latter-day Saints toward the Constitution of the United States, and it should also have a great influence on every citizen, for the Lord suffered it to be by the hands of wise men.

Section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants declares the need for civil governments and the necessity that we honor and uphold such governments.

“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

“We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

“We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same . . .

“We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it . . . but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

“We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience” (D&C 134:1-5).

Government of Laws

One of our great United States Senators had this to say regarding the laws of the land:

“It is a form of anarchy to say that a person need not comply with a particular statute with which he disagrees. Ours is a government of laws, not men, and our system cannot tolerate the philosophy that obedience to law rests on the personal likes or dislikes of any individual citizen whether he supports or opposes the statute in question.” (Senator Richard Russell of Georgia.)

Now quoting from the Doctrine and Covenants again: “I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free” (D&C 98:8). Note the stress constantly placed on the word free.

“Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold” (D&C 98:10).

This nation under God cannot condone communism in the least degree. There is not such a thing as “a little communism.” It is the greatest threat to America today. Belief in God is the foundation of America. Oh, how proud we should be of our Pilgrims, Puritans, and pioneers. It was their belief in God that drove them forward, for without that faith and that belief they could not have continued.

One Nation Under God

One great man recently dreamed of a country where there would be no north, no south, no east, and no west, but where all would be united in the country, where the principles would be for the benefit of all the people.

Recently, there was published the following editorial in the Deseret News, and I quote:

“This nation’s reliance on a Supreme Being has been acknowledged in such historical documents as the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, our National Anthem, and the constitutions of 49 of our 50 states all included direct reference to God.

“More recently the words ‘under God’ have been added to our Pledge of Allegiance.

“Now there is a proposal before Congress to acknowledge the divine guidance of our nation’s Constitution by adding these same words—’under God’—to its preamble. This would be a proper change.

“Lately there has been altogether too much talk about eliminating any reference to deity from our public life. Those who support this notion have received considerable encouragement from the recent United States Supreme Court rulings against Bible reading and the use of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools.

“But this must not be allowed to make us forget that we are a nation under God and a nation founded on vital Christian principles. Indeed some 2500 years ago a prophet declared that America will remain free and prosperous only so long as its people are righteous . . .

“Adding ‘under God’ to the preamble to the Constitution would be a fitting reminder of the need of spirituality in our public affairs.” (Editorial entitled “One Nation under God,” Deseret News, August 29, 1964.)

Communism does not so agree, and therefore we cannot accept communism in any degree. This is no doubt the feeling of representatives and candidates of both major political parties in this country. They feel the same way. Communism has caused us a great deal of anxiety and concern, and today it is the greatest threat facing the world. We cannot accept or uphold communism in any degree, shape, way, or form.

“Our nation was founded by bold and brave men who were unafraid to speak out.” We should not forget that those men were raised up by God himself at that time to perform this great service, which has proved to be such a bulwark of strength to this country.” We should not forget that those men who signed the Declaration of Independence were by that act endangering their property and even their lives . . .

“I often wonder what has become of the great voices of our Judeo-Christian tradition—voices like those of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Daniel and Micah, who fearlessly assailed national evils—and specifically, not in generalities. Voices like that of Nathan, who condemned a king’s wrongdoing to his face (2 Sam. 12:1-15). Voices like that of John the Baptist, who denounced the immorality and corruption of a royal court, even though he knew it might cost him his head (Matt. 14:3-12).

“Christianity grew because its adherents were not silent . . .”

Perhaps we as Americans might ask ourselves whether we are displaying moral courage equal to the crying condition of today. “The world is changed by those like Martin Luther, who cried, ‘Here I stand. I can do no other.’

“The power to speak out is ours for the taking. The same Simon Peter who cringed before the servant girl’s accusations that he was one of Christ’s disciples (Matt. 26:69-75) later became one of those who, the record says, ‘turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6)'” (“A Time for Moral Courage,” Billy Graham. Reader’s Digest, July 1964, p. 49).

“A Land Choice Above All Others”

Now quoting from the Book of Mormon:

“For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.

“Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it [Listen to this promise] shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written” (Ether 2:10,12).

“And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.

“And I will fortify this land against all other nations” (2 Ne. 10:11-12).

Take note of that promise. That is why we cannot accept communism.

Quoting again from the Book of Mormon:

“And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.

“For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words” (2 Ne. 10:13-14).

In the Declaration of Independence our founding fathers deliberately specified why we as individuals have rights:

“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.”

Powers of Government from the Consent of the Governed

Based on the concept that rights of every individual man, woman, and child on the face of the earth come from God, not from the state, they enunciated that the purpose of government is to protect the God-given rights of the human being. (Not governments as masters, but governments as servants.)

Shortly after the Constitution was signed in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, September 17, 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin:

“What have we got, Dr. Franklin?”

He replied, “Madam, we have a republic.” Then he hesitated and said, “If we can keep it.”

We speak of peace. “Peace is God on both sides of the table in a conference. It is putting the power of good will to work. It is sanity, maturity, and common sense in human relationships. It is patience. It means keeping our tempers and rising above petty irritations . . . It is a mighty faith in the goodness of God and the potential greatness of man” (The New Book of the Art of Living, “The Art of Peace”).

Here is a creed that perhaps every one of us might adopt.

An American’s Creed

We believe in the United States of America without reservations. This nation under God is my home, my country, my hope, and my concern. Here I work and rest and pray, and here I build and dream. Here my toil is rewarded by an unmatched abundance for my well-being. Here I have freedom to live, to think, to worship. That freedom is mine yet, guaranteed by the law in this nation under God. Here I am a part of the government, able to vote, to serve, and to carry my share of the common load.

God grant us wisdom and strength to safeguard our country’s welfare and to develop a devotion to measure up to this country’s greatness.

God bless America. May we live in such a way that next to God and our loved ones, as my good friend said to me, this country, this nation under God, will be nearer and dearer to us, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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