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What Does it Mean to Love America?

Does loving America mean loving the people living there? I think so. And from my own experience, it’s not just soldiers we can thank for patriotic service to our nation.

We are all familiar with the dimension of Patriotism which honors Americans who have fought in defense of our freedoms, even going overseas to fight for those who are not free, in order to make safe our distant shores. 

I come from a long line of family who have served in just such a manner—my grandfather and both of my parents served in World War II.  My late husband also served for nearly 30 years and went overseas for 2 tours of duty during the Vietnam War. All 3 of our sons served in the various branches of the military and today I have 2 grandsons serving. One daughter-in-law also served 2 tours in Iraq.  

“A thoroughfare of freedom beat,” it states in the great national hymn, America the Beautiful—a hymn that says a lot about our responsibilities as citizens. 

During the time my husband was in Vietnam, I remained at home. I admit, saying goodbye and watching him leave to go to war was the hardest thing I have had to do in my life. 

But I had to keep moving forward, doing all of the mundane duties required to maintain our home.     

So, I prayed. And I wrote him a letter every single day. Even when nothing new was really happening, I thought of something to write so he would get mail. (We did not have cell phones or FaceTime or Skype! We had pen and paper and those beautiful envelopes with red, white, and blue stripes around the edge. (And when I say beautiful, I truly mean it. I loved seeing those in the mail! True, the news in them was old news, usually 2 weeks but sometimes more,  but each of those letters was a gift).

I watched the news every night to see what had happened during the day because that was the best way at that time to get current updates. Like others waiting at home, I dreaded the possibility of seeing someone in uniform come to my door.   

So, I prayed more.   

My husband went to Vietnam twice. On the first tour, we were newly married and had no children. I continued going to college.  When he left on the second tour, we had our first child who was 7 months old.  I attended to her needs and the many things that seemed to go awry each day.    

And, I kept praying. During that year, I continued to learn and live the teachings of the Gospel. We had been baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ about 4 weeks before he left, so I was learning a lot. And I had to face the opposition and criticism of our families who felt very strongly we had made a very poor and foolish decision, as they tried their best to convince me.

Holding my own was no easy task.  So, I PRAYED harder.  I’ve learned that praying is the very best work we can do, and it leads us to know the next step!

After getting through the long months of separation, I truly felt that I had also served my Country, even though I’d remained at home.  I had just served in a different way.

I believe that to improve our own individual life we MUST look beyond our own selves and reach out in love and kindness to help lift others

This is the aspect of patriotism I have felt prompted to write about today—the responsibilities we each have every day, as citizens of this blessed nation and the many ways we serve. We are all Patriots, Soldiers, if you will, in the fight for our freedoms. We teach in our families how to balance rights and responsibilities and how to take turns, how to be more patient, how to be more tolerant, how to be more understanding, how to be more generous, how to be more kind, how to be more willing to give of our time. We try to live and work so that we create a better community and a better world. True patriotism takes the long view of our country’s needs. It means we look beyond our own time to the needs of future generations.

“Patriot dream that sees beyond the years” (America The Beautiful).           

Several years ago in a Freedom festival address,  Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:

Whatever the dimension of patriotism, it requires that America have and maintain a spiritual core in order that our hopes are not in vain.  Without this spiritual core, our liberties will fail. The way to improve the quality of life in America is to improve the quality of our own individual lives and our own neighborhoods.

I believe that to improve our own individual life we MUST look beyond our own selves and reach out in love and kindness to help lift others.

“More than self their country love and mercy more than life” (America The Beautiful). 

In Second Nephi, chapter 1,  Lehi prophesied of this American continent:

But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord. Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord. Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.

“Crown thy good with brotherhood(America The Beautiful)

Abraham Lincoln said “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Our Constitution was established by the Lord.

Section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants is a declaration of Latter-day Saint beliefs regarding government and laws. The first verse reads:  “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”

Our Constitution was established by the Lord. And in Section 101 of the same sacred book, we read the Lord’s declaration —”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.”

A divine constitution demands more. It calls for people who will receive and respect that constitution and function within the parameters it establishes. 

“Confirm thy soul in self-control” (America The Beautiful).

President Dallin H. Oaks taught earlier this year in April general conference:

Our belief in divine inspiration gives Latter-day Saints a unique responsibility to uphold and defend the United States Constitution and principles of constitutionalism wherever we live. We should trust in the Lord and be positive about this nation’s future. What else are faithful Latter-day Saints to do? We must pray for the Lord to guide and bless all nations and their leaders. This is part of our article of faith. 

Here again, prayer is some of the best work we can do. 

It’s worth repeating a list of “8 requirements for accountable citizenship” that were given in a 1998 devotional by BYU professor Stan Taylor:

  • Appreciation and respect for the concept of government.
  • A well-established and orderly government to prevent anarchy, terror, and dictatorship.
  • A willingness to participate in political affairs and to be accountable for one’s political actions.
  • A willingness to withhold judgment and to honor and respect those involved in civic affairs whether elected, appointed, or volunteers.
  • A willingness to obey, honor, and sustain the law.
  • Considerable self-sacrifice and respect for the needs of others and for the common good.
  • A good dose of community spirit animated by healthy volunteerism.
  • And a respect for the distinction between church and state.

Yes, patriotism is “love of country.”  But the word “country” doesn’t mean just the ground we walk on and the beautiful natural wonders within its borders.  It means we love the people who live in the country and all of our neighbors throughout the world. America is a beacon—a hope to all the world—when we, her citizens, live up to our individual responsibilities.

As patriots and as disciples of Christ, each of us is responsible to strive each day: 

  • To do a little better than the day before,
  • To be a little more patient,
  • To be a little more kind,
  • To be a little more loving,
  • To be a little more selfless,
  • To be more merciful, more forgiving,
  • To keep on the covenant path,
  • To be more like our Savior, Jesus Christ
  • To serve others, and to make the world better, by making our lives, our homes, and our community better. 

“God mend thine every flaw” (America The Beautiful). 

These are my prayers, and my testimony as well—wishing a happy weekend of celebration to all the many others, from so many different backgrounds, who love this great nation.

About the author

Georgia Seals

Georgia Seals is a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, as well as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. She is also a lover of nature and a dabbler in art.
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