A Promised Land and National Covenant
George Washington is often referred to as the American Moses, and for good reason. Just as Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea, so did Washington, with the support of the Lord, lead the Americans to their own land of freedom. This pattern of God providing special lands for chosen groups and then marrying these groups to the land through covenant has recurred through history. And this pattern is part of the gospel, albeit a generally underrated part. For example, after Noah and the flood, we see the pattern repeated with Abraham.
Much has been written and discussed about Abraham and the great covenants associated with him: the Abrahamic covenant. These covenants, as outlined in the LDS Bible Dictionary, are promised to “all of his mortal posterity” and include “baptism (which is the covenant of salvation),” “the higher priesthood,” and “celestial marriage (which is the covenant of exaltation).” But remember, that is not all. There must be national protection to fight against an adversary that will seek to tear down the temple. I again quote from the Bible Dictionary: “Included in the divine promises to Abraham were the assurances that . . . Abraham’s posterity would receive certain lands.”
As the Lord has shown us through the scriptures, He will take His righteous followers to a new land of promise if deemed necessary. He will then make a nation of them—a nation blessed with powerful tools to stand up and push back against the constant threat of evil and tyranny that will inevitably strike, whether from the outside or from within. Indeed, He will not leave His prophets and priesthood unprotected and exposed. He will give them the liberty, protection, and prosperity they require to do their job.
For example, the Old Testament prophet Samuel had been chosen by God to teach His gospel, but this prophet also sought national protection for a promised land in God-fearing leaders like David. The prophets Alma and Helaman (his son) had the same priesthood authority to preach the gospel but received protection from the likes of the national leader, Captain Moroni. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young possessed the fullness of the gospel but recognized the need for the United States of America to protect it by way of righteous leaders, like Abraham Lincoln. This is the pattern.
Perhaps the most important part of this pattern, as applied to us, is the fact that it is connected to a covenant—a national covenant.
We are familiar with covenants we make as individuals, such as those we make at baptism. This is similar, but it’s a covenant made not between God and one of His children but between God and an entire nation.
He will grant His nations the liberty, protection, and prosperity necessary for temples and priesthood to do their job, but He expects something in return. He expects general obedience from His people in these special lands. He makes a covenant with these people. The leaders of these special lands need to understand this covenant so they can lead the people to righteousness and thus to the blessings of heaven—and Washington was such a leader. He did not just repeatedly ask for prayers from his soldiers and the American people. He asked for righteous living. He asked for repentance. He recognized that America was under a covenant obligation—that the blessings would be activated by righteousness.
Furthermore, just as God had written the Ten Commandments for Moses to deliver, so He did something similar with Washington and the Constitution. The Lord declared that the document contained “just and holy principles,” after which He Himself placed His stamp of approval upon it, confirming that He had “established” it (D&C 101:77, 80). Washington seemed to agree. He said, “The establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the motive that induced me to the field of battle.” He further stated, “May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”
George Washington was a powerful player in the story of the Restoration by helping to build the American nation, where Christ’s church and priesthood could be brought forth. Washington was proud that he had, under God’s direction, helped create a Constitution with religious freedom, which he said was “unrivaled by any civilized nation of earth.” He declared that the “bosom of America is open to receive the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.”
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Learn more in Timothy Ballard's new book, The Washington Hypothesis, now available at Deseret Book stores and deseretbook.com. Find this article and more inspiring stories in LDS Living's July/August 2016 issue at Deseret Book stores or on deseretbook.com.