In a recent press release, the church invited people to hear a message from Elder Oaks on the topic of religious freedom. Released last week, during the height of debate over Arizona’s SB 1062, I find it highly unlikely that this release was not meant to support that awful bill, albeit in a veiled fashion.
Elder Oaks said one of the things we should push for is “accurate accounts of great historical documents that recognize and invoke the blessings of God in the founding and preservation of this nation.” I agree, wholeheartedly.
As a Mormon, I believe that the foundation of the United States was no accident, and I believe that the founding fathers, while imperfect, were inspired to do what they did. I also believe one of the great purposes of the Revolutionary War was to set the stage for the emergence of the Book of Mormon and other truths that have had a great impact on my life for good.
One of the real turning points in this revolution was in Valley Forge. When Washington’s army was on the verge of failure, he made an appeal to God and God sent help his way in a variety of ways. He also made a promise to God that this land would serve Him, the violation of which would incur the withdrawal of that divine support.
One of the most important blessings the fledgling army received was Baron von Steuben, an experienced European military officer. He set the army right with a serious training program, enabling them to eventually defeat a superpower. Few historians would argue with the assertion that the United States would not exist today if von Steuben did not come to America. His contribution was essential to the effort and his military methods are still largely in use today.
Von Steuben was forced to leave Germany under threats of prosecution for being homosexual. Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers who invited von Steuben to come help with the war effort were well aware of his “lifestyle choices”, and it was common knowledge that he continued his relationships after joining the Continental Army. His conduct was never investigated and he was never punished for his homosexual relationships.
If God could tolerate von Steuben in a work as important as the founding of a country with religious freedom, which later enabled the church to come forth, I see no reason to infer from this period of history that our Heavenly Father would be fine with the persecution of LGBT people today in the name of religious freedom.
I do not feel that our religious beliefs should be used to lend veiled support for Arizona’s SB 1062 or any other effort to deprive LGBT people of their rights and dignity under the color of law.