Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Testimony of the US

This post is directed towards the Mormon readers of our blog. If you have any questions about Mormon specific terms or lingo, leave a comment. Thanks.

Like I said in an earlier post, I bore my testimony on Sunday about my feelings for the US. I know no one in the church would say they have a testimony of the US, but judging from what I heard in Church the past to Sundays, and looking at my own past, I would say that a lot of members of the Church do have a testimony of the US in some form. Please feel free to contest.

I think, looking back, I did have a testimony, or a belief in the special spiritual status of the United States. I say that looking back and mainly from the feeling of absence where that testimony used to be. What I am trying to say is that the United States and being a citizen used to mean something very different to me then it did before. I still feel very lucky to be a citizen of this country, but a lot more like how I feel lucky to be a part of my family, because they're mine and a part of me, but not because they're better than other families. It's no longer the feeling of being on a winning baseball team, like it used to be.

I think the idea of American exceptionalism runs very deep in the church. We've taken scriptures and teachings which seem to me designed to teach the early saints not to hate the country that was doing nothing to stop and sometimes encouraging their persecution and turned that instead into a belief that America has some sort of divine privilege or favor above any other country on earth. Much less excusable, I think, is taking promises out of the book of Mormon that were applied to America as a whole and as a land, and even more particularly to the native peoples that our ancestors drove to near extinction and then applying them directly to the political state that is the United States.

Even if God had designated the United States as some kind of privileged group or people, which I find highly doubtful, it is foolish, I think, to assume that God intentionally wanted one group of his children to be favored higher than another, rather than using one group to further his purposes, which is to spread his love to all God's children. There is no denying that the US played an important part in preparing a land in which Joseph Smith could start a church, but he also allowed it to be filled with enough evil people as to drive the Saints out of the country. Missionary work was very strong in the US early on, but even then, outside sources like the UK and Scandinavia were providing a lot of converts. Today its not even close. South America is exploding (especially the parts that maintain a significant Native American population).

Overall, I think the greatest danger here is that we, like ancient Israel, or like the Jews of Jesus time, hold onto our imagined or temporary favored status and miss out on the blessings that come from being a part of a worldwide church. Or perhaps even worse, we run the risk of turning away honest seekers from other lands by insisting that this is a church designed to be guided by the privileged "American" saints.

I love the United States. I love it because it is a core part of who I am and of the identity I've established. I love it's beautiful vistas and diverse and fascinating people. But I love it because it is mine, not because it is superior.

Yesterday We

I ran the Hobbler Half marathon in the morning while Cait slept in and took the guy to the farmers market. Then naps and cleaning. Later in the afternoon we went on a hike to Bridal Veil Falls which was a challenging but short hike with a cool misting waterfall on top. Then we went and got dinner at Iggy's Sports Grill with a gift certificate we have and realized why we don't eat out more often: The guy doesn't sit still and greasy food makes us sick. Then we came home and watcwhich movie and went to bed, late again.


  1. It's a good thing you don't think of this as a winning baseball team, because this post is so... -ahem- ..."off base" you might have cost your team the game.

    I, along with those members of the church who have born testimony of the U.S.A., do not think I am better than other people. I do know that the constitution is one of the greatest code of ethics the world has seen and was inspired by God. God can "favor" a people but love them all equally. Those that are favored must help those less favored. One person can be mind-blowingly stronger than another person, but the strength should be used to help others.

    God gave power to this nation, that doesn't mean no other nation has anything to contribute. Truly believing in the principles that this country was founded MEANS that you think you are equal with all men! That is an eternal principle as well. We want to end oppression and persecution. And since we are the symbolic leader in this pursuit, we CAN NOT think we are better than others, we have just been blessed. I love the United States because it is mine AND because it is one of the leaders in spreading freedom to the entire world, and that is God's desire and that means "superiority".

  2. Thanks so much for this post, Tim. After hearing a disconcerting number of political testimonies on the Independence Day weekend, I have been thinking about these same things. That's a great way to put it, that you love the US because it is yours, not because it is better. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of how it's not quite right for people to apply things in the Book of Mormon to the current US, especially when the Book of Mormon is meant for the entire world. I was just saying to a friend the other day that I believe if/when we receive scripture from other parts of the world, they will have the same exact sentiments about the land being a choice land and a promised land for those who are righteous. Hopefully, church members in other parts of the world won't be infected with the same damaging sense of exceptionalism that some US church members are.