One of my favorite American artists is Minerva Teichert (1888-1976) who was a renown female painter who focused primarily on the themes of the Western USA, and Mormon subjects. She was a remarkable woman, ahead of her time, filled with faith and a fascinating life story. She managed to raise five children while running a ranch, and a career in painting magnificent works of art. She has a very distinctive style which I’ve always been fascinated and moved by.
Teichert’s painting called “The Title of Liberty” depicts one of my favorite stories [among many] from the Book of Mormon. It is a story about keeping faith and saving freedom.
Captain Moroni and The Title of Liberty
In approximately 62 BC a great nation on the American continent found itself being infiltrated by a powerful and charismatic man named Amalickiah. This man’s true goal was to abolish the governmental system and become a King. First, he convinced many wealthy citizens and leaders to follow him with promises of important powerful positions once he became King. He is described as being a very “large” and dynamic man, “cunning” and filled with “flattering words“. He made promises that got the crowd excited. He believed that the established laws of the land should be updated, improved upon, or discarded altogether. He stirred people up to believe changing everything and making him king would actually be a really great idea.
Others did not agree. So, there were angry “dissensions“, between a divided nation calling themselves the “Kingmen” or”Freemen” groups. They began to fight vehemently with each other. Internal chaos spread across the land. Amalekiah also did not believe in the church or the faith of this land. He encouraged an atmosphere of religious intolerance and persecution of believers. The truth was, Amalekiah did not actually believe in anything except himself.
Despite all the red flags from this guy, many people were “led away” by his cunning ways and deception, and they did not recognize the “exceedingly precarious and dangerous” situation their country was in.
Now, there was another man – a respected citizen and veteran warrior – by the name of Captain Moroni. He did recognize the danger! He found himself feeling desperate and distraught, in anguish, and mourning what was happening to his nation. But, he didn’t sit in a corner wringing his hands for very long. He took action! Moroni “rent his coat” [tore it in half] and wrote words on the cloth to inspire his fellow citizens – to remind them who they were, of their faith, and the ideals that their land was built on.
“IN MEMORY OF OUR GOD, OUR RELIGION, AND FREEDOM, AND OUR PEACE, OUR WIVES AND OUR CHILDREN.”
He hung this banner on a pole and then he said a prayer for God to help him.
Moroni carried his banner throughout the streets and cities with a rallying cry. He raised his voice against Amalickiah, and for freedom. He warned his friends and neighbors and all the people. They basically needed to wake up and defend the liberties of their land or they were going to lose everything. He pleaded with them to reject the ideas that were threatening their independence and freedom.
The people began to hear Moroni. They looked at the banner, they read the words, they remembered all the good about their principles and their land, and they turned away from the dangerous and deceiving Amalickiah.
Those who joined Moroni also tore their clothes and made banners, as a symbolic pledge they would remember their freedom, and stand together to defend what was right and true.
The stories in the Book of Mormon were written for today’s modern world to read and learn from. I believe all nations of our earth are facing these similar threats, and are simply in various stages of the story.
- Some nations have fallen under dictatorships and have already lost their freedoms, and must start fighting to restore them.
- Some nations are in a more stable situation and are working on preserving their freedoms.
- And some nations are involved in an epic struggle among their citizens choosing whether they will be “freemen” or replace their liberty with something else. Their future and freedom is hanging in the balance.
In America, we find ourselves right now in an “exceedingly precarious and dangerous” situation. There is great “dissension“, and many basic freedoms we have always taken for granted are threatened or hanging by threads. We also have our own Title of Liberty with inspiring words symbolically written – reminding us what our nation stands for:
“…TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION, UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”
THE GOOD and NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS
Just like the people who followed Moroni, we can learn that surviving and thriving is possible. The majority of the people who followed Amalekiah started to see his true colors, and listen to Team “Freemen”. Eventually, as he began to lose hold on the crowds and his popularity tanked, the coward fled the country. His remaining staunch followers were given a trial, and a choice. They could choose to enter into a covenant to “support the cause of freedom” and “maintain a free government“, or they could be put to death.
Not surprisingly, very few refused opted out of supporting the cause of freedom, and maintaining the government! (I’ve always been rather shocked that there were a few who opted for death). You can read the full story of Amalekiah and Captain Moroni as told in the Book of Mormon HERE.
Now, there are many more stories in the Book of Mormon – which covers a thousand year period from 400 BC to 600 AD – which tell us about small and large societies and even great nations who came and went and did not have as happy an outcome of Captain Moroni’s people. When faced with threats to their freedom, they chose to forget their blessings, and follow a dictator who did not have their best interests at heart. They soon fell apart, either from without or within. Sometimes, they were so focused so much on fighting with each other, their defenses were weak, and they became easy targets for an enemy takeover. More often, they simply destroyed themselves through civil war, homegrown terrorism and gang violence.
We can learn so much from history – ancient and modern. And knowledge is power.
When the citizens of a nation are humble and remember the sacrifices that have been made to give them the freedom – they thrive. When they are prayerful and United in purpose – with commitment to defending goodness, liberty and justice for ALL – then they can stand strong against all “precarious and dangerous” ideologies.
However, when citizens of nations are prideful and forgetful of their history and blessings, they falter. When they choose to follow leaders who are equally prideful and forgetful – when they become divided in their purpose and ideals – when they resort to violence and prejudice and hatred, they lose everything.
Like the Great Titanic, no nation is impervious to destructive forces lying hidden below the surface. Even the greatest, most powerful nations in the world, can sink.
BUT THERE’S HOPE
The Book of Mormon offers this simple yet powerful secret of liberty:
The Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Freedom. (see Alma 48:61)
When we turn to God in humble prayer and we submit to his laws and direction, then we are building the Spirit of Freedom in our hearts, our homes and our nations.
I do not think it is a coincidence that the LDS Church leadership has been tirelessly focused on defending Religious Freedom. An official webpage for Religious Freedom has been created. Talks and speeches abound. A new seven-part series on international religious freedom is being published on the Mormon Newsroom site. Because, when there is The Spirit of God [religious freedom] – there is also The Spirit of Freedom, which can create a world of peace and understanding.
Research has shown that “Countries with more religious freedom have more peace. And countries with less religious freedom have less peace.” [see here]
“Societies are made of majorities and minorities. Whether by choice or by birth, people belong to groups. We live our lives and express our purpose through religious, racial, political and cultural communities. All of them are different. All have their place. But not all have equal power. Some are bigger, older, richer and better connected than others. This imbalance pits belief systems against each other, but a peaceful society puts the strong and the weak on a level playing field…
…by bestowing dignity on our beliefs, religious freedom ties us all together, including those who profess no religion…
…Religious freedom only for some is really religious freedom for none.”
Each of us have a choice what voices we will listen to, what ideologies we will embrace, and how we will act. Each of us have a choice to promote dignity, peace, and understanding, and defend “justice and liberty for all.”
Each one of us have different gifts and strengths we can bring to the table. All of us are needed to stand up as Captain Moroni did, and raise our Title of Liberty. – MoSop
DISTANT LAND – A PRAYER FOR FREEDOM by John Rutter – LYRICS
I see a distant land: it shines so clear. Sometimes it seems so far, sometimes so near.
Come, join together, take the dusty road; Help one another: share the heavy load.
The journey may be long: no end in sight; There may be hills to climb, or giants to fight:
But if you’ll take my hand, we’ll walk together t’ward the land of freedom. Freedom.
I hear the distant song: it fills the air. I hear it, deep and strong, rise up in prayer:
O Lord, we are many; help us to be one. Heal our divisions: Let thy will be done.
I know the time will come when war must cease: A time of truth and love, a time of peace.
The people cry, ‘How long till all the world can join the song of freedom?’
I touch a distant hand and feel its glow, the hand I hoped was there: at last I know. Swords into plowshares:
Can it all come true?
Friends out of strangers:
start with me and you.
I see another time, another place where we can all be one, one human race.
The walls will melt away, we’ll come together on the day of freedom.