17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Celebrating the Fourth of July Better

When it comes to holidays like Christmas and Easter, I am very aware of the commercialization that surrounds them. Because of this, I make an extra effort to strip away that commercialism (at least for a time) and focus on the real meaning of the holiday. It didn’t strike me until I was sitting in church on Sunday that The Fourth of July has fallen into the very same trap where it’s original meaning has become overshadowed by BBQ’s, Fireworks and Old Navy Flag Tees.

While a few peoples' testimonies had patriotic themes, what struck me most, was standing and singing our national anthem for the opening hymn. We all know the first verse very well, but rarely do we get the opportunity to get to the last verse:

    Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
    Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
    Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I was taken back at the emotion that came bubbling up from within my body and escaped as tears from my eyes and a crack in my voice. Fourth of July is a time to reflect upon the history of America and offer a prayer of thanks for this country which was originally built by people who knew God, sought after his guidance and acknowledged His hand.

This fourth of July, I hope to place more focus on the birth of this country and better “praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.”

Here are a few of my ideas on how I might accomplish this:

  • Make a collection of patriotic music and play it leading up to the 4th and throughout the day. This list includes some non-traditional "patriotic" songs to add to the ipod.

  • Take time to read through the Declaration of Independence and Washington's First Inaugural Address.

  • Take a refresher course on flag etiquette.

  • I would love to find a book to read to Princess (almost 4) about the birth of America or about one of the founding fathers. Any suggestions?

  • Get the hardware needed to be able to fly the American Flag (I already own) outside my home. And fly it with a spirit of thanksgiving.

I found an article on Deseret Book that gave lots more ideas. Here are synopses of my favorites (with added links):

I guess the reality is that these ideas are a little late in coming this year and I probably won't get around to doing all I want (I still have to grocery shop for the bbq, clean the house for our guests and figure out where is the best place to watch the local fireworks) but at least I'll be ahead of the game for next year.

I would love to hear any other ideas of bringing meaning back into Fourth of July celebrations.


  • I really like your ideas, especially about listening to patriotic music and singing all the versus. My family likes to sing patriot songs while we wait for fireworks to start, but we end up mushing up all the words and singing "la la" through half the verses. So this year I'm trying to compile a small songbook with words to several patriotic songs (care of a Google search) to take along with us. We'll see if I finish it in time!
    posted by Blogger Brittany at 7/03/2006 12:40:00 AM  

  • Carrie, i'm glad to know I'm not the only who cried while singing the national anthem on Sunday. My patriotism always surprises me, mostly because it arose later in my life. (Um, thanks 9/11?)

    I love your ideas, i am sure I will be looking at this post next June (along with many other readers!) and thanking you for pulling together all these resources and ideas.
    posted by Blogger marian at 7/03/2006 06:11:00 AM  

  • I am looking forward to reading over all the links. Yesterday amid the madness and tantrums of my baby I did have a moment when I was touched, and I think this year it was because I know we are at war, and the effect that is having on so many families. And I am just grateful that the plan of having CHOICE is not only God's plan but our country's plan as well. And I don't know if we would know that if it weren't for the freedoms we have here.

    Ps I didn't get my invitation to the BBQ at your house?
    posted by Blogger Kage at 7/03/2006 07:54:00 AM  

  • The national anthem always make me tear up, but the song that really did me in was "My Country Tis of Thee". Specifically the last 2 verses:
    "Let music swell the breeze,
    and ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song;
    let mortal tongues awake;
    let all that breathe partake;
    let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.
    Our fathers' God, to thee,
    author of liberty, to thee we sing;
    long may our land be bright
    with freedom's holy light;
    protect us by thy might, great God, our King."
    It reminds me that I love my country for it's freedom and the ideals it was founded upon, regardless of hiccups in the actual government. Not everyone gets to have what we do, but we try to make the world a place where we "let ALL who breathe partake". The 4th isn't JUST about us, it's about everyone, everywhere getting the opportunity to have freedoms we take for granted. What is real freedom? I think that's a good subject for discussion with the family.
    (And I like the flag tees, they're cheap)
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 7/03/2006 08:56:00 AM  

  • I much prefer My Country Tis of Thee to the national anthem. We also sang The SSBanner in church yesterday, but I don't remember having sung it at church before (except for an Eagle Court).

    I had conflicted feelings when singing yesterday. I do love the idea that this land was preserved by God as a place for freedoms to develop that didn't exist elsewhere. And I believe that divine inspiration and help were a large part of our country's independence.

    But, when singing yesterday, the thing that made me squirm in my seat was thinking about the current context of our country. While I believe that "our cause was just" for war in times past, I don't necessarily think that is the case now. The fact we have been privy to God's help before doesn't mean that we can justify modern-day engagements with rhetoric that God supports us, as the current administration has done.

    Anyway, great ideas Carrie. I love this country and am grateful to have time to reflect on its blessings for me and my family and like it's a great time to teach kids its history.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 7/03/2006 10:06:00 AM  

  • I warned Carrie that it was politically incorrect to be patriotic these days.

    The history of America is not without its blemishes to be sure. Though I am not as quick as some to assert that fighting for the freedom of others is a cause God can't or won't stand behind, I think we all must admit that the current context of America has been fraught with (even defined by) mistakes. But patriotism does not imply a belief in perfection.

    Whatever mistakes have been made in the history of this great country does not weaken my view that God has watched over this land and continues to do so. If I can believe that God walks beside me and uplifts me individually despite all of my faults and weaknesses, then I see no reason to doubt that He will do so for us as a collective nation.

    I simply cannot reap the many fruits of living in this great country without recognizing the hand of divine providence in its creation and sustenance. To me, the 4th of July is a time to reflect on and appreciate the benefits each of us have received from living in America, and to thank God for all he has done for us here.
    posted by Blogger Todd L. at 7/03/2006 11:38:00 AM  

  • Hi Todd,

    We agree, then, that patriotism does not suggest a perfect country or perfect actors representing the country. I would also suggest that a patriot need not profess or believe that a country is infalliable in order to have a deep and abiding love of the country and the freedoms that are enjoyed as citizens.

    I consider myself to be patriotic, but I'm simply not sure that we are involved in a just cause. I don't think the two are incompatible.

    And I'm glad that C brought this topic up, because it has prompted me to plan a discussion with MJ about how our country was founded.

    Have a great holiday and bbq tomorrow.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 7/03/2006 04:22:00 PM  

  • Michelle,

    I didn't think we really disagreed on anything here. I certainly didn't intend to question your patriotism or your love for the country, and I apologize if it came across that way, as it obviously did.

    But I did want to defend the idea that one can choose to be patriotic - to well up with tears at the singing of the national anthem or to acknowledge God's hand in our country's development and sustenance - without having to qualify it all the time. There are 364 days for national self-flagellation, why not take one day to simply honor our country without qualification and to recognize the hand of divine providence in our national affairs despite our (many) collective mistakes and faults?

    My defensiveness on this probably stems from spending too much time with people who act as if acknowledging God's role in the country makes you a simpleton who has been duped by the Republicans. There are those who, out of fear that we have become overly nationalistic, would like nothing more than to excise any mention of God from our national discourse. I think we have a duty to vigorously fight this trend. But my overly defensive reaction is no doubt colored by my circle of friends and colleagues. Perhaps I just need to get out a little more.

    Boy, can we push each other's buttons or what? : )

    I hope you have a great Independence Day.
    posted by Blogger Todd L. at 7/03/2006 06:45:00 PM  

  • Todd, I really like singing the national anthem in lots of contexts, just not in Sacrament Meeting--especially if we really mean it when we say we want to be an international church, we need to be really careful about making people of all nationalities welcome when they come to take the sacrament. I've known several immigrants who found it very painful to hear the Star-Spangled Banner in church.

    It's a little better now that we've excised the 2nd verse--"their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution" was particularly offensive to British converts, I imagine :)
    posted by Blogger Kristine at 7/04/2006 11:43:00 AM  

  • Well I guess if you want to take God's role out of the formation of this country, then singing the National Anthem at a ballgame instead of at church (on Independence Day) does seem more appropriate.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/04/2006 12:10:00 PM  

  • This isn't so good for little kids, but older kids (9+?) may enjoy the musical "1776." It's long, but can be watched in segments--it's a fun introduction to John & Abigail Adams, Ben Franklin, and tells the story of why we celebrate on the 4th of July. (I think I was probably at least 10 before I knew that July 4 wasn't the day the Revolution was won...)
    posted by Blogger Kristine at 7/04/2006 12:37:00 PM  

  • Anonymous, one doesn't have to want to deny or ignore God's role in the founding of our country to believe that Sacrament Meeting should be about God's redeeming love for all of His children everywhere.

    I think singing the national anthem in priesthood meeting or relief society, or even stake conference, if it happened to fall on the 4th, would be perfectly appropriate.
    posted by Blogger Kristine at 7/04/2006 03:55:00 PM  

  • Kristine,

    I understand your concern, and I would agree that we shouldn't sing the national anthem or other American hymns every week. But the fact remains that our church believes America had a unique role to play in the restoration. And the Star-Spangled Banner is primarily a song praising God that this "land of the free" was able to emerge as an independent nation against almost insurmountable odds. So I think it is perfectly appropriate to sing during church.

    Your first comment seems to indicate that you don't think we should sing the national anthem in church at all b/c that particular song might be painful to immigrants. I can't agree with that for the reasons noted above. But your second point about sacrament meeting is more interesting to me. The Star-Spangled Banner was the opening hymn in our sacrament meeting, and I think that your are probably right that it would have been more appropriate to keep sacrament meeting focused on Christ and his redeeming love for all mankind. At least until after the sacrament is served. After the sacrament, the rest of the meeting often focuses on a wide variety of topics, doctrines, and testimonies. If the Star-Spangled Banner was an intermediate hymn, or the closing hymn, that would seem okay to me because it would have been appropriate to the meeting as a whole (especially if tied to a good talk or testimony about the subject).

    Still, I appreciate your final point.
    posted by Blogger Todd L. at 7/04/2006 05:24:00 PM  

  • I was wondering if non-English versions of the hymn book contain other national anthems. Only if they too believe that they had divine help in establishing their country and their anthem references this? And do British, Austrailian, Irish, etc members of the church use the same version of the hymn book that we do?

    Just curious if anyone knows...
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 7/04/2006 05:49:00 PM  

  • Todd, I should have been clearer the first time--I don't think it's never appropriate to sing patriotic hymns in church, and I think that we ought to be more careful generally about what we sing for Sacrament Meetings. "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel," for instance, really isn't a hymn at all--it's a terrific, rousing 19th-century gospel song, meant for tent revivals and vigorous Sunday School opening exercises, not for a worship service.

    /end snotty high-church-Episcopalian accidentally born Mormon rant/

    I think I could live with the closing hymn compromise. I also wish we still had Sunday School music practice time--I used to spend July doing all the national hymn tunes that are in the book (Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Austria...)

    Michelle, when the green hymnal was first published (yeah, I'm old enough to remember--sigh!) there was a cool stick-in page with "O Canada" that came with it. I haven't seen that recently. As for non-English hymnals, the only one I know about is the German one, and it does not contain the German national anthem (but that may not be indicative of common practice--the German national anthem is somewhat sullied, or at least deeply complicated, by the use the Nazis made of it, and many Germans are still very uncomfortable hearing or singing it.)
    posted by Blogger Kristine at 7/04/2006 07:05:00 PM  

  • I know this thread has gone to a place where Todd and Michelle both know I am not smart enough to go....but I thought I would just add a few things that happened yesterday through the improvisation of my 4-year-old.

    We played I SPY of red white and blue. It was not limited to flags, we would try to find objects of those colors that happened to be next to each other. If I had known what the colors represented, that would have been a good opportunity to explain. My plan was a little foiled when the Italians started their world cup celebration and suddenly my daughter saw red, white and GREEN and wanted to know if she was Italian.

    Katie provided her with a star to paint red, white and blue too.

    We also all dressed in the patriotic colors.

    AS I am writing this, I realize this might be the obvious commercialism that Carrie is trying to avoid...but for us it really made for a patriotic conversation. We also happened to be reading about Korihor arriving in the BOM and there were some great scriptures about freedom of religion that we tied into America's birthday!
    posted by Blogger Kage at 7/05/2006 05:43:00 AM  

  • Thanks Carrie for posting this. My husband and I had the same feelings as we sang the anthem in Sacrament Meeting (fyi - we sang it as the closing hymn). I feel very blessed to live in this country and appreciate your thoughts on how to celebrate it better and help our kids understand what the 4th of July means.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 7/05/2006 08:55:00 AM  

  • haha. I laughed a lot at Todd's remark about it not being politically correct about patriotism, so true.

    Nonetheless I too have always felt a little weird singing the national anthem in Sacrament Meeting (I could definately bend for the ending song as long as it was on topic and along with the spirit of the talks). Although I understand that mormonism is the quintessential "American" religion, I feel that it is more than that and would love to focus more on unity than the sometimes elitist patriotism sometimes given off in 4th of July/Memorial Day sacrament meetings. Just my opinion.

    I too have wondered about the Star Spangled Banner and other american patriotic hymns being in other countries hymnbooks. I do know it is is New Zealand's hymnal - I asked my husband. Anyone know if our national songs are in other hymnals?

    Don't get me wrong, its not that I'm not patriotic. I was born on an army base and am a member of USAA, etc.! I do Memorial stuff day every year and really feel the spirit. I just, personally, at least in church, wish that church talks during the patriotic holidays were more focused on gratitude for living in this country than "american pride." I think its sends off a little more Christ-like spirit. My pet peeve is not mentioning Christ in sacrament talks. I once had non-members ask if we believed in Christ because when they had attended sacrament meeting the only mention of Christ was in the songs!

    Just my feelings! I appreciate everyones remarks on here. I really liked Carries ideas on how to bring back the true spirit of our national holidays.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 7/05/2006 09:19:00 AM  

  • Thanks everyone for the great ideas and fun conversation. When I made this post, I didn't really think it would go where it has gone, but it has made for an interesting and thought-proking read.

    As for a little follow-up on my Independence Day plans, it seems like they were foiled at every turn.
    I made my collection of songs, downloaded them to my ipod only to have the battery give out 30 seconds into the fireworks presentation.

    I went to 3 different stores searching for flag hardware with no luck. I finally had to give up because it was like 100 degrees and we were all getting cranky.

    I didn't hear about any good books for Princess and didn't have time to make it to the library - because I had to go to 3 stores to find flag hardward.

    I did read through the Declaration of Independence and the First Inaugural address. Some of it's sort of drab, but there are parts that are very moving and give me renewed hope in striving for a better America.

    And lastly, I did review my flag etiquette. Did you know that you can fly the flag upside down as a sign of distress? And when a flag becomes worn out (beyond repair) it should be destroyed by being burned in a dignified manner?

    Maybe I'll have better luck next year in accomplishing my goals. I will say that my mind was in a better place this year and by BBQ tri-tip was AWESOME!
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 7/05/2006 11:32:00 AM  

  • funny. i laughed out loud when i read todd's part about patriotism being politically incorrect, too.
    posted by Anonymous brenbot at 7/05/2006 10:12:00 PM  

  • I think a lot of us are trained by political correctness to be ashamed of our American heritage. We're taught a form of multiculturalism that says a clay pot made by an aborigine is as important a contribution to the world as the computer. We can't say we're great because it will hurt someone's feelings, oh no!

    We have a special heritage in this nation, if for nothing more than (as Todd pointed out) the fact that the Lord prepared this nation for the restoration of his gospel. All church members who believe the BOM should realize this. Most non-American LDS I know are cool with that, but secure enough to love and appreciate their own nations or cultures as well.

    And why would an immigrant come to this place if singing along with our national anthem is so darn painful?
    posted by Blogger Squiddy at 7/06/2006 08:57:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home