The Founding Fathers’ Temple Work

The Prayer at Valley Forge - by Arnold Friberg (1976)

Since tomorrow is Independence Day, I thought I might say a word about our Founding Fathers.  We are deeply indebted to all the noble men and women who sacrificed their lives to establish this country of the United States of America some 232 years ago, and to make this country a free land.  Through their efforts this country was set on a sure foundation of certain personal irrevocable rights and freedoms which they believed were given by God himself.  The Declaration of Independence solemnly proclaimed:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.1 

The phrase was an expansion from John Locke’s 1689 publication entitled Two Treatises of Government in which he identified these liberties as “life, liberty, and estate (or property).”  Locke further qualified this by saying that “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”  Wikipedia notes that George Mason used this tripartite motto in May of 1776 in the Virginia Declaration of Rights:

That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, … namely the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.2

Being shortly before the Second Continental Congress, this statement may have largely influenced Thomas Jefferson in his writing the Declaration.  In Mason’s draft he added, “all men are born equally free,” and hold “certain inherent natural rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity”3.  Other countries had also adopted a similar triptych such as France’s “liberté, égalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality, fraternity)4.

The existence of a belief in such endowments as these, bestowed by the “Creator” himself, seems to go back to the earliest history of mankind, even the Egyptians, as we have recently noted in our series on the ankh, who constantly portrayed the gods bestowing “Life! Health! Strength!” or “Life! Prosperity! Health!” as part of their religious rites of regeneration, resurrection, eternal life, and becoming one with deity.  Could Jefferson have been repeating an ancient formula?

One thing is certain, we believe that the Founding Fathers were raised by the hand of Almighty God for a divine purpose.  President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

The foundation of the United States of America is spiritual. We must never forget this vital truth. This country was founded on a belief in the sovereignty of God, and He, not man, granted man his rights. This was possible because the Founding Fathers of this nation were God-fearing men disposed to deliberately acknowledge the hand of God in the events that brought about the nation’s independence.

The Lord raised up the founders of the United States, sanctioned their work, and designated them “wise men.” His approbation of their work is recorded in section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80).5

In 1877 the Founding Fathers appeared in vision to Elder Wilford Woodruff, president of the St. George Temple at the time and one of the Twelve Apostles, and desired their temple work to be done for them:

Before I left St. George, the spirits of the [Founding Fathers] gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. . . . I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others.6

In the April 1898 General Conference, President Woodruff recalled this sacred experience:

Those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord. . . .

Everyone of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them.7

President Benson also added his witness:

Shortly after Spencer W. Kimball became president of the Church, we met together in one of out weekly meetings. We spoke of the sacred records that are in the vaults of the various temples of the Church. As I was soon to fill a conference assignment to St. George, President Kimball asked if I would go into the vault at the temple and check the early records. In so doing, I realized the fulfillment of a dream I had had ever since learning of the visit of the Founding Fathers to this sacred place. I saw with my own eyes the records of the work that was done for the Founding Fathers of this great nation, beginning with George Washington. I was deeply moved on that occasion to realize that these great men returned to this promised land by permission of the Lord and had their ordinance work done for them. If they had not been faithful men, if they had not been God-fearing men, would they have come to the elders of Israel to seek their temple blessings? I think not. The Lord raised them up, sanctioned their work, and proclaimed them “wise men.” Moreover, a president of the Church declared them to be the “best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth,” and testified that they were “choice spirits” and “inspired of the Lord.”8

That these men were God-fearing cannot be denied:

George Washington: “The success, which has hitherto attended our united efforts, we owe to the gracious interposition of Heaven, and to that interposition let us gratefully ascribe the praise of victory, and the blessings of peace.” (To the Executive of New Hampshire, November 3, 1789, Writings 30:453.)

Alexander Hamilton: “The Sacred Rights of mankind are not to be rummaged from among old parchments or musty records. They are written . . . by the Hand of Divinity itself.” (An Essay, “The Farmer Refuted,” 1775.) “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”

Thomas Jefferson: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.” (Rights of British America, 1774.)

John Adams: “As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation.” (In God We Trust, p. 75.)

Benjamin Franklin: “The longer I live the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth. That God Governs in the Affairs of Men!—And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?—We have been assured, . . . in the Sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this;—and I also believe that without his concurring Aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than Builders of Babel.” (Prayer during Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787.)

James Madison: “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.” (Federalist Papers, no. 37.)

Samuel Adams: “Revelation assures us that ‘Righteousness exalteth a Nation’—Communities are dealt with in this World by the wise and just Ruler of the Universe. He rewards or punishes them according to their general Character.” (Letter to John Scollary, 1776.)

Charles Pinckney: “When the great work was done and published, I was . . . struck with amazement. Nothing less than that superintending hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war, . . . could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole.” (P. L. Ford, ed., Essays on the Constitution, 1892, p. 412.)9

President Benson adds, “It was not just incidental, nor was it mere political platitude, that the name of God was mentioned in the Declaration of Independence four times and that our inspired national motto became ‘In God We Trust.’”10

This nation was founded on certain principles, chief among which was the expressed statement that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” This pronouncement recognizes God as the Creator of man and that man’s rights are an inherent gift from their Creator.

The founders further recognized that if the new nation were to survive, there must be reliance on the protection of God. The Declaration of Independence concluded with this affirmation: “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”11

I know that God had his hand in the establishment of this great country.  It was the foundation for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a base for the kingdom of God on earth to roll forth to the world.  May we always remember the Fount from whence we sprung, even Jesus Christ, for if we do not, we will assuredly be swept off (Ether 2:9–10, 12).

Notes:
  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life,_liberty_and_the_pursuit_of_happiness []
  2. ibid. []
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inalienable_rights []
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life,_liberty_and_the_pursuit_of_happiness []
  5. Ezra Taft Benson, “The Faith of our Founding Fathers,” in Faith, 20. []
  6. Journal of Discourses 19:229. []
  7. Conference Report, April 1898, pp. 89-90. []
  8. Ezra Taft Benson, “The Faith of our Founding Fathers,” in Faith, 21. []
  9. ibid., 23-24. []
  10. ibid., 24. []
  11. ibid., 25. []

13 Comments

  1. Patrick Abernathy
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Was Alexander Hamilton included in the “other 50 or so men” whose temple work was done by Wildred Woodriff in the Saint George Temple? Was he among those who appeared in Wildred Woodriff in the St. George Temple or was it only the signers of the Declaration of Independence? I do not see Alexander Hamilton’s name among the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. What information can you give me relative to his work being done along with the other founding fathers. Clearly Alexander Hamilton is among the founding fathers.

    Patrick

  2. Posted August 3, 2008 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure if we have conclusive evidence of all those who had their temple work done. I’d have to search the records at the St. George temple, which I don’t think many have access to. From these quotes we know George Washington was there, as were the other signers of the Declaration of Independence. We also know 50 other eminent men were there including John Wesley and Columbus. I see no reason why Alexander Hamilton would not have been there.

    Alexander Hamilton’s dying words, July 12, 1804: “I have tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty; through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy; pray for me.”

  3. Posted August 3, 2008 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I remember Truman Madsen’s lecture on WW states that George Washington and Ben Franklin were ordained to be High Priests as well, while the others will not. I’d have to look for more background on that.

    What I find fascinating about this is that because of these revelations, endowments and sealings by proxy began whereas before only baptisms were done for the dead. Moreover, I believe that this also ushered in proxy work for non-family members for the first time. The most interesting point, however, is that this revelation came through WW as the President of the St. George temple while BY was still the prophet. Strange that this would come through him and not through the prophet, but perhaps as the holder of keys to the temple, he was authorized to do so. I suppose this is an interesting tangent to the recent post on keys of authority in the BoM.

  4. Posted August 3, 2008 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    President Benson said:

    President George Washington was ordained a high priest at that time. You will also be interested to know that, according to Wilford Woodruff’s journal, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus were also ordained high priests at that time. (Benson, Ezra Taft, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988. 602 – 604.)

    I’d have to see Truman Madsen’s lecture to see if the “others will not” be ordained high priests.

    I agree that Wilford Woodruff was allowed to do this work because he held the keys conferred from the prophet to do temple work at the St. George Temple. These were keys of presidency and keys to perform specific ordinances.

  5. Patricia Canfield
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    I have seen a picture of these men in the Confirmation area of the Los Angeles Temple. Does any one know who painted it and what it is called? I would like to have a copy of it. Thank you.

  6. Posted November 26, 2008 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I think the painting you refer to is this one. It is entitled “That We May Be Redeemed” by Harold I. Hopkinson.

  7. Karisa Walker
    Posted July 4, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    In all that I’d seen on this, it has said that also all the Presidents of the US had their work done for them at the same time, except 3. The quote said something like, “and when their causes are just, someone will do their work for them.” Does anyone know who the 3 are?

  8. Alex Galamb
    Posted March 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Dear Karissa Walker
    Yes to answer your question in full the 3 presidents of the united states that have not had there temple ordinances performed in the st. George temple by President wilford woodruff are Martin Van buuren, James Buchanan, and Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was alive at the time of the ordinances and did not die until 1885. Van buuren and Buchanan were apparently wicked men. Van Buuren had refused to help Joseph smith with the extermination order in Missouri. Buchanan’s wickedness is unknown as to what he did. The statement is said simply “that when there cause becomes just someone will do the work for them”. For reference on this info because I don’t publish info that isn’t true see
    Journal of Discourses volume 19 page 229. Hope this helps and clears it up for you.
    Alex Galamb
    Cedar Hills Utah
    12th Ward

  9. Jennifer
    Posted June 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Alex said “Buchanan’s wickedness is unknown as to what he did.”

    President Buchanan was the one who sent the army to Utah in 1857 and President VanBuren was the one who answered the Saints plea’s for intervention and redress from the Missouri persecution with “I can do nothing for you.”

    Hans thought it “Strange that this would come through him and not through the prophet Brigham Young”
    The fact that the vision occurred between August 19-22 in the St. George Temple and Brigham Young died August 27th might also have been a major factor. Brigham Young had also been sick for a long time – so sick that he had to be carried around during the dedication of the St. George Temple on January 1, 1877. In addition, since endowments and sealing for the dead could not be performed outside a temple, these ordinances were not done between 1846 (when the Nauvoo Temple was abandoned) and 1877 when the St. George Temple was dedicated and therefore President Young could not have attended to them previously.

  10. Will
    Posted July 5, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Thomas E. Daniels actually gives some good info about this in the Ensign . Scroll down about half way to find the question about the Founding Father’s Temple work.

  11. Katie
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying to find out if Patrick Henry was one of the founding fathers present at the St. George Temple visit.

  12. Stacie
    Posted July 24, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    There is a wonderful book titled THE OTHER EMINENT MEN OF WILFORD WOODRUFF written by Vicki Jo Anderson that lists all who appeared to Wilford Woodruff and had their temple work done. It lists the signers, presidents as well as the “other eminent men and women” who appeared. She was given permission to study Wilford Woodruff’s journals and has written short biographies of the “other eminent men.”

  13. Will
    Posted July 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    This will save you the time and money: http://www.brighamyoungacademy.org/sources/eminent_men_of_wilford_woodruff.pdf

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