I Want to be Proud to be an American

Growing up in a reasonably conservative household in Mormon-saturated Southern Idaho, I think that my first experiences with patriotism were very similar to those of most LDS people in the area: an affection for patriotic hymns, an opinion that the Stars and Stripes was the coolest flag ever, and a general opinion that America was…the best (It never really occurred to me to define further what specifically America was the best at; just that it was “the best.”) The 4th of July represented the same things to me that it does to many other people in our country–baseball, hot dogs, fireworks, and freak-nasty pancakes with cold syrup at the stake center.

Thoughts of the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, the Constitution, and other symbols of America’s patriotic history were not really a part of my world, partly because of my age and immaturity, but also because they just seemed very distant and unconnected to anything in my life. As I have gotten older, while my understanding and appreciation for those events and documents has grown considerably, I have nevertheless struggled increasingly with the concept of patriotism for several reasons.

When I was called to serve a mission in Finland, my views on “Independence Day” changed dramatically. Unlike the mid-summer holiday filled with BBQ and baseball in the USA, the Finnish Independence Day is in the middle of winter–December 6–when that part of the world is cold, dark, and somber. More importantly, it is a commemoration of a war and events that took place recently enough that some Finns who fought in Finland war of independence freedom were still alive when I served there. In each city, rather than hot dogs and parties, there is a very simple parade, wherein every Finn who has served in the military (which, due to conscription, is virtually every male) is invited to dress in uniform and march–organized by age–through the town, ending at the local Lutheran cathedral where a short sermon is given.

My first Independence Day in Finland was in the city of Tampere, and it was an absolute blizzard–huge, swirling gusts of wind and snow and freezing temperatures. In the middle of that, my companion and I watched as row after row of uniformed Finns marched past us in the street, seemingly oblivious to the miserable weather. I was struck by the solemnity of the procession, and while it was very clear from the outset that this was a moment of national reverence, I was not prepared for the sight of watching as the most senior servicemen–those who had fought in one of the two wars over independence from Russia, and who were over 90 years old–covered in white snow and marching with unmatched pride and sisu, their bayonets held firm in position and keeping pace with the 18 year-olds ahead of them. I was emotionally overcome at seeing not just veterans, but the veterans–those who had actually earned, and not just defended or expanded–the freedoms that the Finnish people enjoyed. As we took our seats in the cathedral and listened to the legions of uniformed soldiers, young and old, reciting the Lord’s Prayer in unison, I found my own country’s Independence Day festivities sorely wanting for depth and meaning.

When I returned my from mission and embarked on my journey into university education, I found myself in love with economics and markets and, in a word, a largely libertarian philosophy that began to dominate my political views. One consequence of my libertarian leanings is a disdain for nationalism, which, while not synonymous with patriotism, shares some of the same attitudes and behaviors. My earlier opinions that “America is the best” had transformed into statements about comparative advantages in production and trade and an appreciation for limited forms of government that allowed markets to function with less intervention. My Fathers were not George Washington and James Madison, but rather Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Where I had once thought of national borders as something great to preserve a cultural heritage, I now saw them as arbitrary lines drawn on maps that prevented free labor flows. Moreover, I saw them being protected, not out of a love for that culture, but out of political desire to maintain an advantage over those who were trying to compete with domestic sellers; in economic terms, I began to see the protection of national borders as little more than rent seeking.

Another difficulty I’ve had with patriotism stems from the fact that I am married to a foreign national. Because we have, to this point, anyway, made our home in the United States, where my wife’s culture and language are constantly under threat of being drowned out, we make every effort to preserve them: We speak her language at home, we celebrate all the holidays, we eat all the foods that are culturally hers, and not mine. More importantly, I have tried my very best over the 7+ years of marriage to never impose “American” attitudes or traditions on her. Independence Day, with the requisite song-singing in church meetings, flag waving, and neighbors playing Lee Greenwood songs, is by the far the most awkward day of the year for me. This has improved mildly as our marriage has matured and my wife has become more comfortable with American institutions like baseball and BBQ spareribs, but there is always a hesitance in our house on the 4th of July, and I am never surprised when one of our kids unexpectedly needs a diaper change during Sacrament meeting just before the congregation is supposed to sing the Star Spangled Banner.

Without question, however, the biggest barrier to me being comfortable with patriotism has been the change that has taken place in the United States since 9-11. Whether a person loves or hates, rejects or supports President Bush and President Obama, with their various policies, there is no question in my mind that the words “American,” “Freedom,” and “Patriot” have taken on significantly different meanings than they held when I was a younger. These phrases have become politically loaded and carry so much baggage that it is nearly impossible to hear or consider those words without my mind being instantly filled with imagery of war in Iraq, protests on college campuses, angry letters to the editor, and a bitter polarization of the American people down political lines.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. This morning, at our ward’s pancake breakfast, as I stood with my little girl and gazed around the scene while an older gentlemen stood at a microphone and spoke about patriotism, freedom, American history, and the Constitution, I couldn’t help but feel that the those sitting around in chairs and listening were of a different demographic and political persuasion than those who were hanging around the back edges, shuffling their feet or pretending to be interested in the utter grossness of the scrambled eggs that were still in the bottom of a serving dish.

Perhaps I have misjudged, or perhaps I am just a pessimist, but it breaks my heart to see such a division, and it wrenches my own that I feel uncomfortable standing with either crowd. I believe I am just one of many people–inside and outside the LDS Church–who has major difficulties and objections with many, many American policies, both new and old, but yet wants so badly to be included in the ranks of those who are proud to be an American.


I Want to be Proud to be an American


  1. I completely agree. My wife is Canadian, and like you, 4th of July sacrament meetings have always been awkward. What makes it even worse is the fact that I study Arabic and the Middle East, the current sworn enemy of the US. The fact that we live in Egypt only compounds that awkwardness many of my relatives feel towards us, since we are “unpatriotic” citizens in bed with “the enemy.”

    Additionally, studying the history of invented Middle Eastern nationalisms has also pushed me to the margins of American nationalism/patriotism.

    Some day I hope to reconcile the differences between faulty American foreign policy and the desire to be patriotic, hopefully after the rhetorically super-charged terms of “freedom,” “democracy,” and “liberty” lose some of their violent polarization.

    Excellent post. Thank you!

  2. Well said, I thank you for your words. In the end all the political bickering gets us nowhere and when people can focus on the issue and remain respectful in their comments we can achieve much.

    I am guilty of this label-throwing from the left. But the one word I think I should endeavor to remove from partisan commentary is the word “American.” We are all Americans, left or right. Americans with vastly different opinions on government and society.

  3. Scott,
    The Stars and Stripes is cool but the Union Flag is cooler.

  4. Ronan,
    My opinion that the Stars and Stripes is the coolest has long since disappeared. Perhaps it was my mission in Scandinavia, but my love for protestantism has made me appreciate the simplicity of the flags over the northern countries–especially the bi-colored Finnish, Swedish, and Danish flags.

  5. At the recent MHA conference there was a very good presentation on the history of the Carthage jail, it’s transformation from a hated space of tragedy to a holy site. This took multiple generations. I suspect that there’s something much more profound about the feelings of revulsion that Joseph Fielding Smith felt when compared to the feeling you or I might feel when we visit. Does that make us, our feelings, or our visit any less worthwhile? I don’t think so. Likewise, I think that its wrong to denigrate our festivites that are 200 years removed based on those observed in a country with fresh wounds.

    It’s also interesting to read what Bertrand Russell wrote about being an Englishman. A man who criticized nationalism and criticized his country as vociferously as anyone, English or othewise, yet he wrote that he was proud to be an Englishman and proud of his culture.

    I think it’s pretty pathetic when I hear or read people who try to sound tortured about their feelings about their country. What it tells me is that they’re either pretty stupid (you need to know something about your country to be really proud of it — that’s why history is important), or they’re too superficial to reject the intellectual fashion that everything must be equivocal to be informed.

  6. A generation ago I had to consciously split my nationalism into two pieces: the political/economic/partisan side, and the cultural/can-do/give-a-hand-to-your-neighbor behavior of the people. I’m frequently cynical about the first, and whole-heartedly part of the second … except when it conflicts with my Mormonism, as it does too often. Life has changed a lot since I was voted “most valuable citizen” in the 8th grade.

  7. I remember the first real surge of patriotism I had–when my family and I were returning from Guatemala in 1975, and crossed into Texas. There was a Mexican flag on one side and an American flag on the other. We all cheered when we were on the American side.
    I’m also thinking about a note I got from a missionary serving in a 3rd world country. He was quite a political activist before his departure, and wrote, “I never thought I’d say this, but God bless America!”
    In thinking about these two shouts of patriotism, I wonder what made us feel like crying at the sight or thought of the American flag. Did it have to do with the fact that people in America speak English, so we didn’t have to deal with the EFFORT to understand? That there were big grocery stores on the American side, and all of the fast food restaurants we were familiar with? That we fit in?
    I listened to Matt Holland’s recent talk about Abraham Lincoln yesterday and found myself deeply moved by the ideals Lincoln embodied—“with malice toward none and charity for all…” Right now, my husband is playing Pres. Obama’s inauguration speech from our family computer. (This just seemed a good day to play it.) I was struck again by Pres. Obama’s opening line: “My fellow citizens…” The Dred Scott decision, made about 150 years ago, would have denied Barack and Michelle Obama citizenship because of their ancestry–had we not as a nation evolved and revised our constitution. (And thank God the founders had the foresight to provide for revisions!) Of course, it cost good blood for us to make that step our “better angels” led us to, but we did it.
    As we note the travesty of Iran’s stolen election, the ongoing genocide in Darfur, the tyranny in other hot spots of the world, there is good cause to be patriotic–or at least grateful that we’re here and not there. But it must be a contemplative patriotism, fully aware of the good and of the evil we are capable of.
    Thanks, ScottB, for this excellent post which gives us much to think about.

  8. Ted Lee says:

    As a Korean American, I can relate. It’s difficult living in the Utah hegemony sometimes when people question how “American” you are simply because you picked up different values systems. When you’re raised with 1st generation immigrant parents, you are bound to develop and pick up different traditions and values. My parents stressed that for us children our duty was to assimilate into American culture first and foremost, but, inevitably, I hold very different ideas than some of my Utah American counterparts about community and family and independence because of my parents’ teachings.

    And re:#5, it may seem pathetic to you, but patriotism and its cousin nationalism are complex subjects. Feeling “tortured about their feelings about their country” is not merely ignorance or an “intellectual fashion.” Sometimes, a country fails to live up to its own principles and values and it can disappoint a citizen or leave the citizen feeling betrayed. As someone who has both grown up with the high minded ideals of freedom and democracy (and heartily believed in them and still do) who also has experienced senseless racism that supposedly doesn’t exist anymore or is no longer a problem to some Americans, the tumult of emotions concerning your place in that country is real and not something to be taken lightly or flippantly.

  9. Natalie says:

    While I think patriotism can be a good thing when it inspires more care for collectively held values, I do think it is a problem when Americans begin to take for granted the institutions and history that they have. Perhaps that is why I find your description of the Finnish Independence Day so moving. It makes me wish that we would redefine our Independence Day so that we had more opportunities on it to review the Constitution, serve, etc.

  10. Natalie says:

    “Sometimes, a country fails to live up to its own principles and values and it can disappoint a citizen or leave the citizen feeling betrayed.”

    This comment I feel nails what is vexing about the current use of the term “patriotism.” While pride in our ideals can be a positive thing, the word patriotism has in the recent past been used to conceal how we have sometimes betrayed the very ideals that as patriots we profess to hold. It is the tendency to appeal to nationalism and patriotism to engage in things counter to some of our values or to separate some Americans from other “real” Americans that is so difficult.

  11. DKL–
    You’re such a charmer. Nevertheless, I salute you on this day of horrid pancakes and lousy hot dogs.

  12. Ted Lee says:

    As a friend of mine once wrote, sometimes patriotism is best expressed in righteous indignation. :)

  13. Bro. Jones says:

    I’m very proud to be an American, and I consider myself very much a patriot. That doesn’t mean I’m not bored by so-called “patrotic” music and pageants, or that I’m not put off by ostentatious flag-waving.

    For me, July 4th is like Christmas: I don’t even try to link the holiday to my deeper feelings, because then I’d be disappointed. I scarf down my hot dogs, watch the fireworks, and try and relax. And I get peeved with people who insist that I need to celebrate it a certain way.

    You want to see the opposite of flag-waving, check out Republic Day in India: nobody cares one bit about what day it is.

  14. Proud Canadian/American says:

    Patriotism and love of country are less noble when framed as comparisons with other nations or countries. I love the U.S. of A. and I love Canada. When Utah immigrants arrived in Canada in the 1880’s they retained their patriotism for the U.S. but also quickly adopted a healthy patriotism for their new land. At meetings and special events, they sang “God Save the King” with the same fervor as they had sung “The Star Spangled Banner”. It wasn’t about comparing one land to the other – it was about gratitude and love for the land that sustained them and gave them hope.
    I try not to let it grate when I hear people from either side of the border try to express their love of one country through ill-considered superlatives that imply a denegration of all others.

    Sorry, no, your country is not “the best”. But I’ll accept that you love it as though it were.

  15. nesquik405 says:

    I think patriotism is a good thing. I don’t think of it as flag-waving. Sharing the same root as the word “patriarch,” I think it means a proper regard for what our fathers — and mothers — built. Yeah, it’s not a perfect country, but every thing good about it took years of effort. Patriotism means “I hesitate to tear down what they left for me.”

    I think this definition crosses borders well.

    Not that I’ll be thinking “proper regard for . . .” while I’m waiting to see if tonight’s baseball game and fireworks are rained out. I’m as willing as anyone to use a national holiday as an excuse for fun.

    But that’s what the word means to me.

  16. This reminds me of the movie line, “A fish can marry a bird, but where will they make their nest?”

    7 years will turn into 30 years. By then, you’ll find a nest.

  17. It was 27 years ago this day that I arrived in the United States with my sister and my mother from Romania. We arrived on July 4, 1982. My father had escaped three years earlier by locking himself in a crate on a freight train to Austria. My mother was taken by the Securitate (Romania’s Secret Police) after my father escaped, and they “questioned” her about how he got out. They got her to agree to spy for them on anyone she knew. Eventually, she was able to convince them that she wanted to spy on America for the Secret Police. Oblivious as they were, they gave her and her two children passports to leave Romania out the main airport. We flew first to Rome, and then to New York, and then to Houston, where our father waited.

    I’ve been forever grateful for the freedom we have here in America, and was pleasantly surprised to see Romania’s Ceausescu and his awful wife executed on Christmas Day in 1989. I went back on my mission to Romania in 1995 and love the direction Romania has been taking over the past 20 years.

    My home, however, is here. This is a wonderful country. It has its warts, it has its problems, it has its weaknesses and frailties, but it is one that has done much good in the world, brought much hope and renaissance to otherwise dark times.

  18. Chris H. says:


    Thanks for sharing that.

  19. Perhaps I have misunderstood your post, but I don’t understand why one would be uncomfortable during a congregation’s singing of the national anthem, or speeches about the Constitution, freedom, and other traditional July 4 activities.

    The only way you grow to be proud of America is participating; your sentiments seem (to me, at least) to express more of a disassociation with those of us who do derive pride and pleasure at the achievements of a great, albeit imperfect nation. Much like we ourselves are subject to constant course correction in an effort to better ourselves, so is our nation.

    There is no torture in this, there is only a challenge. You can take it up, or you can dig deeper into your plate of food at the back of the room.

  20. Mike M. says:

    Thanks for the post, Scott. I read D&C 135 last night as part of my scripture study. It certainly is America-inspired, but I hope it is in the sense of being the best-of-American-inspired. Kind of like patriotism. A person can be proud of the good things about his or her country while also being outspoken about the bad things.

    I think patriotism will most likely always be associated with war in some degree because it is tied to political freedom and wars of independence. But that also means it will be associated with whatever is the most recent war.

    Serious thoughts aside, this part was the best:

    “I now saw them as arbitrary lines drawn on maps that prevented free labor flows.”

    I’ve never before read such a line that so deeply and directly revealed someone’s soul.

  21. Last year our Sacrament service closest to the 4th was supposed to be a patriotic service. It wasn’t. I remember how one speaker, a woman in her 80s talked about how what was wrong with politicians was that when they unzipped their pants, their brains fell out. The other speaker, her husband, talked about Zimbabwe, and how it was the fault of the people of Zimbabwe that they were suffering, because their opposition leader was such a coward that he backed out of his electoral challenge against the dictator. After which we were all told to stand and sing the national anthem. Would you have felt like singing, after a fiasco of a “worship” service like that? I didn’t.

    But then I didn’t much feel like singing a closing hymn, either, after a lesson like the one we had in Relief Society two weeks ago, which culminated in the reading of a prophecy by Merlin the Magician, about how Camelot would be destroyed by the Saxons because the temple in England (the one built by Mary Magdalene and Jesus’s daughter, doncha know) had been violated by covenant breakers.

    So maybe my distaste for mingling patriotism and worship has less to do with the particular brand of patriotism than it has with the particular brand of non-worship worship we too often have.

  22. Jana,

    Yes, I think you misunderstood my post a bit, but that is my fault, not yours. Inevitably after a person hits the “post” button, it becomes clear that certain parts could have been written better.

    In this case, the point I was trying to make was not that I am unpatriotic, but that certain terms and expressions of patriotism seem to have been unfortunately stolen for political purposes. I am not disassociated with any group here–rather I am dismayed that there is such a partisan-politics-based disassociation in existence.

    Also, I was not among those sitting and listening, but neither was I among those staring at the eggs. Rather, I was trying to find an open door so my child who is in the midst of potty-training could find a toilet. It was while I was walking back that I made my observation about the division.

  23. Mike,
    >>I’ve never before read such a line that so deeply and directly revealed someone’s soul.

    Yea, it is true.

  24. namakemono says:

    re #19 “a congregation’s singing of the national anthem, or speeches about the Constitution, freedom, and other traditional July 4 activities”
    and #21 “Last year our Sacrament service closest to the 4th was supposed to be a patriotic service”

    so, do all American LDS congregations do a patriotic sevice on the Sunday closest to July 4th? Do LDS congregations in other countries do this too?

  25. re 24-
    It’s not written in stone, but it’s definitely the norm in the U.S. Actually, in my current ward, we have two of these services–once for Memorial Day, and once on Independence Day.

  26. Chris H. says:

    I do not say if I would call it the norm. I have lived in many wards and many states, and I have never been in a patriotic service on the Sunday nearest Independence Day. This is partially because the 4th is usually close to Fast Sunday…so no speaker. Sure, we are more likely to sing the Americana hymns, but most of my bishops avoid such topic like the plaque. My current bishop feels that only trouble can come out of it.

  27. Chris H. says:

    That first sentence should read: “I do not think that I would call it a norm.”

  28. I guess service outside the U.S. has different effects on different people with respect to their impression of the U.S.

    My service as a missionary in Mexico many years ago did not increase my appreciation for the greatness of the U.S., although that service did increase my recognition of the extreme wealth of the U.S.(a culture shock to me when I returned). I learned, while serving, that the world does not revolve around the U.S., much as we might think otherwise. My parent shared with me a similar observation upon their return from serving a senior mission in southern Africa.

    I think there are many, many great things about this country; I am proud to be a citizen, and proud of my country (even though I am not proud of everything this country has done).

    I think many on the right of the political spectrum have attempted to co-opt the notion of patriotism. Those of us on the political left (with respect to international or other matters) can be just as devoted to the ideals of this land, as much as those who may cry “My country, right or wrong.” Criticism (or dissent) is as patriotic an act, perhaps more so, than silence.

    Thus, I really enjoyed tonight’s Fourth of July program of A Prairie Home Companion. In particular, I was impressed by John McCutcheon’s patriotic song, “Our Flag Was Still There”, from a slightly different viewpoint. http://george.loper.org/~george/trends/2002/Nov/74.html

  29. Living in Mormon-saturated Eastern Idaho for a short while, I was dismayed to find an enormous American flag hanging from the ceiling in the front of the chapel during sacrament meeting on my first Sunday there–the Sunday that fell closest to July 4th. No pictures of Jesus are allowed during that time, but a flag is?
    I’m worried that, for some members of the church, “patriotism” has become a more important God than the one true God.
    I’m grateful for the missionary program, where I had a chance to fall in love with a different country, and where I could truly learn what I loved about my own.

  30. Naismith says:

    “The only way you grow to be proud of America is participating…”

    Don’t even go there. I am an Army veteran, so if anyone has “participated” in patriotism, it is me. But I still tend to be an egg-starer in recent years, because of the way those terms like “true American” have been co-opted by neoconservatives to push their agenda.

    That’s a point that I concur with from the original post. However, I don’t understand the discomfort of having a spouse who is a foreign national. I’ve lived in two other countries, and was happy to observe THEIR holidays when I was there. Why would there be discomfort in celebrating the holidays of the host country? It’s not one that puts down other countries, just reminds of our heritage.

    This morning I had a sweet 4th of July. We were flying back to the US from South America, and waiting in the long customs line at Dulles, I looked around, and smiled. It was so impressive to see the diversity that was represented in the “citizen only” line. There was a woman in a Burqa, all kinds of orientals, another muslim wearing a scarf, people of all skin colors. It made me appreciate how wonderfully different we all are. Unlike Scandanavia or India, there is no predominant American ethnicity. We are a mosaic of immigrant traditions.

  31. Without having read any of the comments, I have to say, these last couple days my family participated in serious big-tent patriotism. We spent the last two days at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, celebrating Latin American music yesterday and African American storytelling and music today. (Wales was also included, but I have to confess that the Welsh music and storytelling was dull compared to everything else that was going on.)

    We accidentally ran into the parade, which had marching bands from various states, as well as Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Peruvian groups. (There were probably also other non-U.S. groups, but we didn’t see the whole thing.)

    We spent a lot of yesterday hanging out with a Colombian family we met who were also enjoying the celebration.

    I used to be conflicted about patriotism, but I don’t see where my patriotism inherently detracts from my appreciation of and love for non-U.S. cultures. If it did, the Fourth would be a bad thing. But we managed to celebrate both the U.S. and lots of other cultures today, and the other cultural celebrations didn’t do anything to detract from my appreciation of the U.S. (Except the country music; we need some other genres to write a couple patriotic songs so that I don’t have to listen to Proud to Be an American ever again.)

  32. Norbert says:

    I am Bizzaro Scott, living in Finland, trying to preserve a measure of American culture for my family. It has led me to consider what elements of American culture I want to bring into my family. While I agree that the language of patriotism can be politically loaded, being an expatriate has allowed me to define my own feelings for my country in isolation and try to help my children understand what it might mean for them to be American. (There’s a long post about this somewhere … maybe next year.)

    So on July 4 we got out the flags, ate homemade hamburgers with corn on the cob (imported from Spain) and watermelon. We listened to Aaron Copland. I had a few sparklers horded from New Years Eve, and we lit them, but of course it is still light out here until 11 pm, so it was less than spectacular. Hyvää usa:n itsenäisyyspäivää.

  33. I don’t in the slightest dispute that folks on the right of the political spectrum have co-opted many of the phrases being discussed in my OP and in the comments. However, I want to redirect here a little bit, because I don’t give the left side’s treatment of these terms a free pass either. One bad behavior is hijacking the term; another bad behavior is reacting poorly to such a hijacking.

    Naismith–the awkward discomfort comes from watching a person sitting next to me in a room, where all worship is the fundamental purpose, and the proscribed action is to sing praises to a land they hold little love for. Awkward to sing false praises, and awkward to abstain and be the only person not singing.

  34. Sam B–yours is an apt description of the equilibrium my wife and I have found in recent years–celebrating “freedom” generally, not just “American freedom” on the 4th of July.

    Bizzaro Scott (Norbert)–I actually thought about contacting you to do a post together today about this issue, but got lazy and didn’t jaksaa to figure out the time differential.

  35. Let’s discuss this topic tomorrow after Sacrament meeting and see how we feel about the relationship between cultural Mormonism and American patriotism/nationalism. :)

  36. Mark D. says:

    I don’t see any general reason to be more uncomfortable hearing the national anthem of the United States in an American congregation than the national anthem of the corresponding country in any foreign congregation.

    The way I look at patriotism, it is similar (not quite) to loyalty to members of your own family. That doesn’t mean you despise anyone who is not related to you, it simply means that you have a special obligation to those closest to you because they are the ones closest to you. Dispensing with the ideal of patriotism and citizenship is about as practical as dispensing with the ideal of parenthood and family. In blunt terms, it is a division of labor thing.

  37. Mark D.,

    I agree. As far as I’m concerned I’ve got the best family in the world. I’d have no other — warts and all. That’s how I feel about America. I love it.

  38. Mark D…my thoughts exactly. I am pretty damn proud to be an american and think that we are, overall, a great country that has done a great deal of good throughout the world. Having served in the military for almost a decade (doing a tour in Iraq), I still get choked up during patriotic hymns — America the Beautiful being the most powerful to me.

    I am not ashamed of my patriotism, but I am not ignorant to its warts.

  39. I just thought I should point out that co-opting the trappings of patriotism is not anything new (not even since 9-11). “American: Love it or Leave it” was a Vietnam Era slogan after all. That said, the tendency to conflate a love of country with a certain set of political values is just weird. I think it originated in the Cold War (where the left was sometimes perceived as being influenced by the USSR) and the right as opposing those values. In the modern iteration, it appears that the same accusations are being made, but they appear to be less founded (who is America’s competition nowadays? A dude in a cave who actively wants to kill you?)

  40. Naismith says:

    “the awkward discomfort comes from watching a person sitting next to me in a room, where all worship is the fundamental purpose, and the proscribed action is to sing praises to a land they hold little love for.”

    The thing is, all LDS should hold SOME love for America, because it is there that the political climate allowed Joseph Smith to restore the gospel. And it makes a difference whether that “proscribed action” is taking place in America, or outside it. Those USAmerican songs are not in the hymnbooks in the foreign countries where I have lived; it is not like we try to inflict our history on other cultures. (Point taken about Ronan’s Mother’s Day call.)

    And I think that singing the respective national anthem of ANY church congregation is appropriate from time to time, because any country that allows people to worship according to their conscience ought to be celebrated. There are so many places in the world where the gospel cannot be practiced openly.

    I was surprised when a stake conference choir in Brazil sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic–but they see that as a song about the gospel going forth, not a USAmerican civil war song.

    I agree that this could be overdone, and if we have right-wing “patriotic” speakers for Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day AND July 4, it could be a bit much.

  41. I think the worst thing about the political misuse of patriotic expression is that so many of us now (myself included) second guess all patriotic expression whether it be speech, flag display, song or whatever. We can’t help but wonder if what we hear and see is just a sincere expression of love and gratitude for our country or if there is a political agenda somewhere in it.

  42. Mike M. says:

    You’re all too kind to correct me. I obviously meant D&C 134.

  43. Peter LLC says:

    Nice post. Being married to a foreign national does help to change one’s perspective, but I have to admit that I still get a lump in my throat when I see Mike Ness or Bruce Springsteen pay their tributes to America on stage in this continental town.


    I think it’s pretty pathetic [blah, blah]. What it tells me is that they’re either pretty stupid … or they’re too superficial [blah, blah].

    July 4, 2009: Where DKL, the Great Thinker of Our Times, commits the either/or fallacy.

  44. Molly Bennion says:

    Peter, the refrigerator repairman, set the stage for this 4th for me. He and his family escaped from Communist Poland, spent time in a refugee camp in Europe and emigrated here for political and economic freedom just as had my great grandparents, also from what was then Germany and now is Poland, in the 1880’s. He asked me if I appreciated being an America. The US is far from perfect, but it was easy to say yes. And many nations, like Poland, are far better places to be than they once were. In many ways, so is the US.

  45. Peter LLC says:

    I don’t see any general reason to be more uncomfortable hearing the national anthem of the United States in an American congregation than the national anthem of the corresponding country in any foreign congregation.

    Don’t you think it’s odd to think of congregations of the same church that prides itself on its homogeneity* in terms of “American” or “foreign”?

    Anyway, you aren’t going to hear a congregation outside of the US sing their national anthem at church. It just isn’t done.

    *Who hasn’t heard the refrain on Fast Sunday from some visitor from far off: “It’s so great that the church is the same wherever you go!”?

  46. Peter LLC says:

    He asked me if I appreciated being an American. The US is far from perfect, but it was easy to say yes.

    Indeed, it is. And it becomes even more apparent when you leave the country but still enjoy tremendous advantages over other immigrants just because you have an American passport. Try claiming you’re from West Africa if you want to see what I mean.

  47. I remember going to a fourth of July breakfast/flag raising put on by the ward and community. There was one speaker who spoke briefly. He had served in Vietnam and he said something that I have remember even though I heard it as a kid. He solemnly told us that we really need to be grateful that we live in a country where our children are surrounded by peace and don’t have to grow up with war going on all around them.

    I feel that we should observe Independence Day a lot like Thanksgiving. We need to express our gratitude to the Lord and to those who have sacrificed for our good. You can’t go wrong doing this.

    When I served my mission (outside the US) I observed a lot of patriotism among the members. It usually wasn’t in-your-face but in their prayers they expressed their gratitude to live in a peaceful free land where the gospel was permitted. They also expressed gratitude that there were no hungry in their land. I agreed with their sentiments. Their thankfulness helped me love and appreciate their country as well.

  48. >He had served in Vietnam … He solemnly told us that we really need to be grateful that we live in a country where our children are surrounded by peace and don’t have to grow up with war going on all around them.

    Wow. The irony is almost overwhelming.

  49. Mark D. says:

    Don’t you think it’s odd to think of congregations of the same church that prides itself on its homogeneity* in terms of “American” or “foreign”?

    If I was in a Korea, America would be a “foreign” country. I attended Seoul Foreign School (a school for foreigners) after all. There is nothing wrong with that,

    Anyway, you aren’t going to hear a congregation outside of the US sing their national anthem at church. It just isn’t done.

    To the degree that is true, that is their loss. British congregations (not necessarily LDS) certainly sing “Jerusalem” on a pretty regular basis. e.g. “a Church of England spokesman defended the hymn, which he said was “widely-loved. It is firmly fixed in generations of hymn books and has its rightful place in Church of England worship.” (Times Online, April 10, 2008). “Jerusalem” is not the official anthem of course.

  50. Mark D. says:

    The paragraph beginning with “If I was” should not be in italics. Tag mismatch…

  51. I am a UK citizen married to a US citizen living in the states. For the last 10 years I have attended our ward activity on independence day and expect some healthy ribbing (for some reason I should have some feelings about “your” kicking “my” butt, at least that’s what the bishop wondered as I didn’t participate in the pledge of allegiance and national anthem). Over the years I have been referred to as a terrorist (only half-jokingly) and been otherwise questioned as to why I do not participate in all things American so I understand the awkwardness. I love living in the States but I didn’t come here because I love the country I came here because I love my wife and it was the right choice at that time. I feel that my native country is just as free and good as my host country and some of the Americans I associate with just cannot understand it.

    FWIW, today I ducked out of sacrament meeting with my daughter as they bastardized my national anthem (though I love the dig in the last line of the last verse of My Country Tis of Thee).

  52. Ron Madson says:

    Appreciate your internal conflict and desire for it to be simple. I believe it will be simple when we finally rid ourselves of the false worship of the nationalism and even patriotism.
    Personally, I subscribe to the words of Heber Kimball which apparently his grandson Spencer picked up on in his address “False Idols/Gods that we Worship”:
    “I am not national or sectional, and God forbid that I should be, for I have that spirit that delighteth in the welfare and salvation of the human family. And when I have that Spirit about me, can I be national? You never knew that feeling to be in me for I abhor it. I will not bow my head to that national spirit, nor to any spirit that is not of God.” (Heber C. Kimball JD 4:278).

  53. tdanray says:

    I’m in the military, and have done my fair share of personal study on the historic and philosophical beginnings of our nation. I am patriotic, but it’s a conditional patriotism. I’m willing to lay my life down for the ideals that I believe this nation espouses while I’m saddened by their dilution through things like the Patriot Act. I’m proud to be an American, but embarrassed by certain cultural and ideological features of my nation. Nor is my patriotism exclusive of love for other nations, I’m a Francophile (an isolating characteristic in today’s military) but that doesn’t reduce my pride in my nation. Crucial to my vision of patriotism, is my willingness to point out the structural defects that threaten to compromise it—like ships on the international sea, each nation is built differently—though I’m glad to be on this ship, and think that it’s one of the best built, that doesn’t mean we couldn’t do better. An important American ideal is the individuality required to disagree with the shipbuilders and the rest of the nation, and is an important part of my patriotism.

    19: “The only way you grow to be proud of America is participating [in the singing and speeches]” Even though that might be an effective way to come to feel an emotional attachment to a group, it is no good way to develop a deeply personal logic-based love for one’s nation. If patriotism is being willing to chant the pledge of allegiance along with a crowd (something I’ve always found creepy) then many of us who fight for our freedoms are not patriots.

    Patriotism is a willingness to act to preserve the ideals in which you believe. Whether these actions take the form of teaching those around you about economics, sharing your love of history, engaging in direct military action, voting, or abstaining from voting, the patriotism is no less valid.

    It’s unfortunate that politicians co-opt patriotic terms for their particular group, and unsurprising that the resulting divisions extend into the church you love. I suppose you could provide perspective to your coreligionists. But that would require talking about politics AND the divisional elephant in the room; both things that one must never do in church.

    31. I agree, can we just pretend like that whole country music thing never happened?

  54. Matt A. says:

    I am a Canadian, and as July 1st is Canada Day, we typically (here in Alberta) sing O Canada, and often God Save the Queen on the closest Sunday to that date. To be honest, I have always enjoyed this tradition.

    As I was sitting in church today, however, with the opening hymn being God Save the Queen, I wondered whether national anthems were really the best choice of songs in a meeting devoted to the worship of Jesus Christ.

    Now, I love my country, and I am grateful for the many benefits I gain from my citizenship, and I can certainly agree with expressing that gratitude to God. I can also see, however, the possibility of nationalistic feelings overshadowing one’s worship.

    An interesting question. Thanks for a thought provoking post, Scott.

  55. Peter LLC says:

    Mark D,

    To the degree that is true, that is their loss.

    And what might congregations be losing by not mixing nationalism with their worship?

    I’m not sure what your experience as a foreigner in Korea* has to to with dividing the church into American and foreign congregations, distinctions that have everything to do with passports, visas and birth certificates and nothing to do with baptism, the Holy Ghost and temple recommends.

    *Surely one of the world’s most proudly homogenous nations, by the way.

  56. tdanray says:

    54. But if we don’t sing patriotic songs in church, how can we thank the almighty for supporting us at the expense of our dastardly enemies?!

  57. Mark D. says:

    I’m not sure what your experience as a foreigner in Korea has to to with dividing the church into American and foreign congregations

    The point is that references to “foreign” and “domestic” are no more some sort of indvidious discrimination than “here” and “there”.

  58. Mark D. says:

    But if we don’t sing patriotic songs in church, how can we thank the almighty for supporting us at the expense of our dastardly enemies?!

    The slightest acquaintance with the Book of Mormon will demonstrate that the support is conditional, i.e. if we don’t deserve it, there won’t be any. In some cases, the support may go the other way.

    There is nothing in the scriptures in favor of the proposition that divine support for any nation is unconditional. In fact far more time is spent discussing the times when Israel, et al deserved and received divine disfavor, even from the hands of those rather undeserving in other respects due to various iniquities. If there is anything that religion can bring to patriotic remembrances, is the renewed recognition of that moral reality.

    It is no accident that Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional, better known in these parts as “God of our Fathers, Known of Old” was one of Ezra Taft Benson’s favorite hymns. And if President Benson cannot be relied on to supply a leftist caricature of jingoistic Rah Rah Americanism, who can be?

  59. Mark D. says:

    Link should end after “Recessional” of course.

  60. Today (in small-town Utah) we sang, “America, the Beautiful.” It is a wonderful hymn, full of gratitude for our blessings and balanced by a humble, hopeful prayer to become better than we are.

    It is a hymn anticipating Zion, resonating with the Lord’s prayer asking the Father that his kingdom come.

    “God shed his grace on thee”
    “Crown thy good with brotherhood”
    “God mend thine every flaw”
    “Confirm thy soul in self-control”
    “May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness and every gain divine”

    “O beautiful, for patriot dream
    That sees beyond the years,
    Thine alabaster cities gleam
    Undimmed by human tears!”


  61. Natalie says:

    How do you think our affiliation with Boy Scouts of America contributes to the link between patriotism and Mormonism?

  62. Natalie,
    I think that my first reaction to your question is that it secures such a bond, but the more I reflect on my own experiences in scouting, I really don’t think there was much of a tie to American patriotism. While it was an organization called BSA, it could just as easily have been BS-Preston 9th Ward and it wouldn’t have made the experience any different for me.

    Perhaps others disagree?

  63. I believe in a separation of church and state.
    I feel bringing patriotism into the church, by song or sermon, is a slippery slope to avoid.
    We already have way too much Christianity in our government and military. We have seen too many times disaster mixing the two.
    Go to your government fireworks..fine. Go to your military parades..fine. But keep patriotism out of the church.

  64. Clair I noticed those same phrases today!

    One of my first experiences on my mission was a South African Elder thanking me for coming to serve in his country…it completely changed my perspective on state-side missionaries. I have since made it a practice to thank missionaries for serving my country.

    I think the founding of America is amazing. The principals surrounding the Declaration of Independence are astoundingly brave and insightful. I feel it is part of being a good Christian to be a good citizen, an informed voter, and student of history.

    There are times my Independence Day has been 90% remembering the past and 10% enjoying the present.

  65. Ashley M says:

    Scott –
    I thoroughly enjoyed this essay and can see where you’re coming from (probably would more so if I had your educational background). My husband and I have been discussing a disdain for this kind of patriotism a little bit lately. I love what so many have said about the freedoms that are available to us in this country because of the fundamental ideas considered and recorded in the writing of the constitution. I am patriotic about these ideas and the lifestyle that they provide for myself and billions of others. I am grateful that these same ideas now permeate other cultures, offering a greater number of people greater freedoms, more influence, more voice, more equality etc. But, like you, I don’t like the whole “best, #1 (one-true;), keep it for ourselves and don’t let anyone else in, look out for #1” mentality. I like to think of us as a globe of equals, all people with rights, souls and lives worth living fully no matter what nationality you are. I too sometimes see borders as arbitrary lines drawn for who knows what purpose but, I ask, could we live successfully as such a huge body of people, the entire world as one ridiculously large culture with one government? Is that possible? I think about that question sometimes. Thanks again for your thoughts.

  66. I ask, could we live successfully as such a huge body of people, the entire world as one ridiculously large culture with one government? Is that possible?

    I suppose it depends a little bit on what exactly you mean. For example, do you mean “live” politically? Economically? Religiously? In my view, the gospel of Jesus Christ demands exactly that–whether it is politically feasible or not, the gospel requires us to open our hearts to all people in all places as the opportunity arises.

    For me personally, I also believe that we should work for that politically and economically to some extent, though my views on that represent the very large can of economist-crazy in my soul, and this is not the time or place for that discussion.

  67. Mark D. says:

    I think the whole idea of there being only one true and living God, infinite and eternal implies that there is ultimately only one government for the entire universe, federal divisions though there may be.

  68. Scott, this is timely for me. I’ve been thinking about some of these same issues this week. I wondered whether I consider myself a Mormon American or an American Mormon. Nations, after all, are transitory compared to the work of God. Even so, I am very grateful to be a citizen of my country, and I suspect it’s another either/or fallacy anyway.

    For the record, I have never seen a fireworks display quite like last night’s. We went to our church building, which is located on the hill just West of Renton (Washington, USA) Municipal Airport at the southern tip of Lake Washington (see the view here especially with the Visibility cloak option on). The City of Renton put on a decent fireworks show from a barge on Lake Washington, but they were barely noticeable for all the other fireworks shooting up from at least 30 spots within view. Four were within a few blocks of the church, and a few were at least 10 miles (16 km) away. It wasn’t necessarily stirring for me, but it sure was fun to watch (and hear)!

    In a possibly related note, the entire city seemed covered with haze this morning.

  69. I agree there is a difference between nationalism and patriotism. Nationalists are moved by love of country. Patriotism is moved by love of an ideal.
    Our nation was formed differently than many others, due to the fact that it was not an issue of conquest, but of seeking freedom. I am an avid history nut, and I’m amazed at how the world was transformed because the USA broke away from the most powerful nation on earth.
    Our break with England encouraged the liberation of France, Portugal, and Latin America from kings. The desire for freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, etc., have grown throughout the world. I just don’t think that Reagan would have caused the Berlin Wall to come down if it were just an issue of nukes or economics. Rather, it was his engaging the world in a discussion of liberty that opened the hearts and minds of regular people in the Soviet Bloc. He said that America was the city on the hill, shining its light of freedom for all the world to see, and it worked.

    Now we see the same desire in Iran occurring. This isn’t because we are nationalists, but because we are founded upon certain principles of liberty. And everyone wants that.

    I’ve lived or visited several countries in the world over the years. I’ve studied up on many more. Liberty is still rather rare in most places. And it is being lost in many places more. Hugo Chavez is stealing liberty from many Latin American nations with his money, and is now attempting to steal democracy from the Hondurans. Sadly, our own president has not yet realized that he is on the wrong side of that argument – supporting the guy who willfully tried to trash the Honduran constitution.

    With the USA in decline, will we see democracy decline, as well? I hope not, but I fear that is the direction the world is going to be taking over the next 20 years.

  70. For patriotism is simple. Here in this land my ancestors helped establish thru war a largely peaceful republic. Where for 230 plus years my family has generally prospered minus a period from 1830-1850. Here my people are buried and babies born. Many of my family members including now have fought, bled, and some died. I am grateful to be an American and proud of the role that the US has played in bringing and defending freedom to much of the rest of the world.

  71. rameumpton,

    you’ve got it backwards dude. Patriotism is love of country, and nationalism is love of an ideal/community. What we see in America, particularly on the right, is nationalism, where the love of the ideal is greater than the love of the country. This is self evident when particular individuals who claim to stand for that nationalistic ideal criticize those who disagree with them as “anti-“. Patriotism allows for differing ideas on love of country, but nationalism doesn’t.

    As for Honduras, don’t blame Chavez. Blame the Supreme Court, the Congress, and the military of Honduras, who are still not fully understanding the role of the rule of law in their country. They may not have liked Zelaya, but forcing an elected president is not democratic or the signs of a free society. It spits in the face of the voters. If they truly found him acting against the Constitution of Honduras, then try him and find him guilty. Don’t just kick him out of the country and put someone else in power! And even if you do kick him out of the country, at least give the ability to choose a new president back to the people! Don’t blame Chavez for this.

    The US was in decline thanks to a certain someone who shall not be named, but now that someone else is in power, we are showing the world that we actually do care about democracy and about what people think, even if we disagree with them.

  72. In effect, rameumpton, let me ask you this, what would you think if the Supreme Court, the Congress, and the United States military forced out Barack Obama and then put up as president someone who they wanted. You may not like Barack Obama, but is that in any way a democratic thing to do?

  73. I guess service outside the U.S. has different effects on different people with respect to their impression of the U.S.

    I think this is basically true. I know that my experiences living outside the US have significantly influenced the way I look at events like 9/11.

  74. aloysiusmiller says:
  75. aloysiusmiller says:

    I AM proud to be a citizen of the greatest most moral most benevolent country in the world the United States of America. May God keep us free from the tyranny of those who want to fix others.

  76. Steve Evans says:

    Aloysius, I am sure the pride goes both ways there.

  77. I am proud to be a citizen of the country which invented the comma.

  78. TacomaGal says:

    I guess I would consider myself a patriot as well as a nationalist. I love this country, and I love the idea of what we could be. (Or what could have been.) My great-grandparents came here for a better life for their children and grandchilden, and I am proud to say that nowhere else is better than America.

    When I first stumbled onto this blog, I felt a breath of fresh air concerning some of the stagnant and stale things that occur in the LDS church. I certainly appreciated many of the posts, and could identify with the feelings of the writer. This post, however, has changed my opinion of this blog, and what I once felt has now turned to distaste. I won’t be visiting anymore.

    There are several points that I think are ridiculous, but I will only address two because I have 3 small children who need me more than I need to be doing this.

    Point 1: I feel that you have denegrated the service of our men and women in uniform simply because they themselves have not personally “earned, and not just defended or expanded” our freedom. How dare you. These men and women leave behind their families, and in some cases pay the ultimate sacrifice in order for all of us to maintain the freedoms and lifestyles we have grown accustomed to, and most of the time fail to recognize as remarkable considering no one else in the world has as much freedom as we do. I’m sorry that you don’t see that. But good thing for you, you won’t be imprisioned or tortured for your words and feelings about this country.

    Point 2: I think it is lame that you feel uncomfortable and awkward during the singing of patriotic hymns during Sacrament Meeting, and that your wife feels the need to excuse herself. Get over yourselves. What your feelings of awkwardness prevent you from learning is that each one of those songs was written by someone who loved this country, and some knew firsthand what it took for us to become an independant and free nation in the first place.

    I guess the bottom line is this: If you don’t have a lot of love and devotion to America the Beautiful, no one is keeping you here. That’s the great thing about freedom. Sounds like you love Finland, and feel quite patriotic about it. By all means, pack up and move there and make room for those who wait years (sometimes generations) to come to the greatest nation on Earth.

    I hate to be harsh, but I can’t abide by someone speaking about MY country this way. I love it here, and I leave you with a quote from our beloved prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley:
    “I believe in America. I am grateful for the Constitution under which this nation lives and moves and has its being. I am profoundly grateful that somehow for more than two centuries of time we have existed as a nation and grown to become the strongest and most free in the entire world. I am grateful for those men whom the God in Heaven raised up and inspired and who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to establish this nation and its government. I believe in America — one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. We are, of course, not without fault. We have more than our share of crime and of every other evil to be found on the earth. I fear that we have become an arrogant people, but when all is said and done, there is no other nation quite like this one.” [Bonneville International Corporation Management Seminar, February 10, 1991; quoted in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley p. 13]

  79. Ronan


    It looks like you’re a Greek/Byzantine

  80. see Rameumpton,

    TacomaGal shows us an example of nationalism, not patriotism. “I can’t abide by someone speaking about MY country this way,” she says. That would be nationalistic, not patriotic.

  81. Kristine says:


    Scott can certainly speak for himself, but I think your point 1 reflects a slight misreading. My understanding of what Scott was getting at with the part about those who had earned freedom was simply awe at being close to the first generation of patriots who had fought for freedom, the way one would feel at finding himself seated next to Revolutionary War veterans in our country. You’re certainly welcome to be offended, but it would be a pity to be offended by something Scott didn’t mean.

  82. Questioning the value of singing the national anthem at church = no love and devotion to America = get your ungrateful sorry ass back to Finland (or somewhere else that’ll take it)


  83. TacomaGal, by jingo.

  84. I agree with your post Scott and relate to many of your points.

    My country is good and bad. It’s a country of freedom and also a country of hate. There are recent civil rights where once lynchings were legal. We have fought for freedom here and abroad – we have also been guilty of puting our own into detainment camps. We have the constitution. That constitution also allowed for slavery. It’s a land of oportunity. It’s also a land where those opotunities are available to some more than others.

    There is nothing positive than can come from sugar-coating our past and celebrating a selective history. I find value in the whole truth that America has some great things about it – but that’s the same as any country and culture in the world. I also take offense at the loaded use of the term “patriotic” and the idea of “God Bless America (and let the rest sort themselves out)”

    Rather God bless humanity!

    I am not proud, but humble to have the rights and privledges I have – and I do not acredit all of those things to being American, for there are many in America who do not have the same life I have. So God bless them.

  85. Steve Evans says:

    We’ll miss you TacomaGal! Thank you, at least, for breaking the illiterate stereotype of Tacoma residents. I would also hope that you are not a meth addict and/or prostitute, but alas you are gone, and we shall never know for sure.

  86. “When I first stumbled onto this blog, I felt a breath of fresh air concerning some of the stagnant and stale things that occur in the LDS church.”

    So, we can talk about “stagnant and stale things” within the Church but not stagnant and stale things in America. Hmm.

  87. The feelings this post stirred in me the other day have been stewing. I’ve had trouble understanding them. The best explanation I’ve come to so far is this:

    When I’m at a national celebration, I can throw myself into patriotic feelings and songs with no reservation. I can join in prayers and hymns — I have no trouble presenting my country to my God and asking for His blessing. Even TacomaGal might approve of my flagwaving and tear bedewed cheeks.

    But somehow, when it is the other way around — when it is a church service for the worship of God rather than the worship of country, I have trouble singing some of the same songs. To some extent I can sing “America” as a way of “counting my many blessings.” But for the past few years I haven’t been able to abide singing the Star-Spangled Banner, mostly, I think, because so many of the people standing next to me sing the national anthem with greater fervor than they ever sing a sacrament hymn. The idea, the feeling, the certainty, that the congregation is, even for those few minutes, devoting themselves to a thing of this world, no matter how noble that thing be, unsettles me. I can’t place country before God, which is what those patriotic shows during church seem to be demanding.

  88. My problem with the Star-Spangled Banner is not an issue of patriotism or nations: It is just not a very pretty song. My Country Tis of Thee is likewise rather unpleasant. I much prefer the Battle Hymn of the Republic, though I find is curious that the Battle Hymn is not grouped with the other “patriotic” songs in the LDS Hymn book.

  89. Steve Evans says:

    My beef with My Country, ‘Tis of Thee is that it’s an intentionally irksome song, thumbing the nose at the British Empire. Why would we want that in Sacrament?

  90. My problem is with that song is that I was never really a big fan of America’s rills.

  91. I sang God Save The Queen in my heart while the rest of the ward sang my country tis of thee

  92. Steve Evans says:

    Nobody beats Kubla Khan when it comes to rills. He put the SIN in sinuous rills.

  93. At least one of our greatest patriotic songs doesn’t have Satanic mills.

  94. satanic mills, gst. Pay attention to cases.

  95. Noted.

    But in British English, don’t you also capitalize words that begin a sentence? please advise.

  96. Wikipedia (hallowed be its name) says capitalized Satanic mills.

  97. They can have their Satanic mills as long as we hang onto our foul footsteps’ pollution.

  98. Scott,
    Wiki lies.

    GST (sic),
    I admit it, yes.

  99. Mike Mills?

  100. Terrakota says:

    Brother Matsby,

    “God Bless America (and let the rest sort themselves out)”. Rather God bless humanity!”

    Thank you!

    With all respect, sometimes what I hear reminds me of Zoramites (“And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people” – Alma 31:18). And that I’m, somehow, to feel inferior and less blessed for not being an American.

  101. Peter LLC says:

    The biggest problem of relying on American songs for LDS worship services is the paucity of German women, German loyalty, German wine and German song to be found therein.

  102. My problem is the insistence that a lot of Americans have that everything about America is better than anything else any other country can come up with. And to believe otherwise means you are some what mentally deficient. I have attended church in other countries and most of them have gone along with singing the SSB or MCTOT good naturedly when called upon, but have seen outright refusal to sing God Save the Queen or the like while here.
    My best advice is to have a daughter born on July 4th – good enough for the Obama’s, good enough for me – it really helps make the holiday more special. Plus the party planning is simple. One year we had a guy get loudly angry that we sang Happy Birthday to her at the BBQ but had not sang Happy Birthday to America. He was extremely obnoxious about it.
    Satanic Mills – is that Hayley?

  103. TStevens–
    I’m sorry—WHAT? Wards in other countries sang SSB and MCTOT?

  104. TStevens, if you do not think that “everything about America is better than anything else any other country can come up with”, then you are unpatriotic and anti-American.

    I got a call from the NRA last night. Complimenting me for being “patriotic” and asking if I trusted the “gun hating Congress to uphold (my) rights”. When I objected to her phrasing and asked if she thought the wording of the question was leading people to the answer they wanted to hear, she said “no comment” before quickly trying her hardest to get me off the phone… and then eventually hanging up on me.

  105. aloysiusmiller says:

    We do have the German national anthem in our hymn book but completely different words. Guess the number.

  106. #284?

  107. Wards in England next to a military base on July 4th – Over 50% American including the Bishop.

  108. Terrakota says:

    I’ve just noticed that we have “In Our Lovely Deseret” in our Russian hymn book with the following words: “There is no better place in the world for the Saints than Deseret”. Oh, maybe I do need to feel inferior. Or does that exculude everyone outside of Utah?

  109. Brother Matsby (#104),

    I got that same call from the NRA. See here.

  110. interestingly, Be Still My Soul is based off Finlandia, Jean Sibelius’s patriotic tone poem.

  111. Steve Evans says:

    #105 – it’s #46. Gotta wake up early to stump BCC with hymnbook trivia!

  112. Steve Evans says:

    Dan, don’t use the term “interestingly” so lightly.

  113. Steve,

    I only say “interestingly” because Scott B.’s post here is about his experiences in Finland. And now we’re talking about our hymns taken from patriotic songs of other nations…it’s interesting. :)

  114. Steve Evans says:

    Dan, I know why you’re saying “interestingly.” I’m telling you, it ain’t.

  115. *shrugs shoulders*

    whatever you say dude.

  116. Dan, perhaps what Mr. Evans is getting at is the fact that saying that BSMS is based on the Finlandia Hymnal is akin to saying that Come, Come Ye Saints was written during the trek West. I.e., Yep!

  117. I’m at work. I am supposed to be answering phones. The phone started ringing right as I read “Dan, don’t use the term ‘interestingly’ so lightly.” I was laughing so hard I couldn’t pick up the phone for like 30 seconds. Then when I did, you could still hear it in my voice. She probably thought I was crazy.

  118. Matsby, please tell the customer service story you told me yesterday. Sure it’s off-topic, but Scott B. doesn’t care. Go ahead.

  119. Yes, Matsby–please share it.

  120. Hehe. Okay. Though it doesn’t necessarily reflect very positively on me.

    A lady didn’t like our policy so she asked…

    LADY: Is there someone more important than you I can talk to?
    ME: There’s no one more important than me in the world, Ma’am.
    LADY: That’s not true
    ME: Yes it is, ma’am. I don’t esteem any man over another.
    LADY: I mean a supervisor.
    ME: Well you can certainly talk to my supervisor, but I just want to let you know up front that they are not more important than me.

    GST said she got great customer service and also learned a life lesson.

  121. aloysiusmiller says:


    284 Cute but wrong. The right answer has been given.

  122. Peter LLC says:

    We do have the German national anthem in our hymn book but completely different words.

    Interestingly, it would be more accurate to say that we have the Austrian Emperor’s anthem in our hymn book. Clearly the Germans are not the only Volk to recognize a good thing when they see it.

  123. Mark D. says:

    In effect, rameumpton, let me ask you this, what would you think if the Supreme Court, the Congress, and the United States military forced out Barack Obama and then put up as president someone who they wanted. You may not like Barack Obama, but is that in any way a democratic thing to do?

    Yes. They are called articles of impeachment. Congress is the sole judge of what are the legitimate grounds. In fact, there could hardly be anything more democratic than the exercise of such power.

  124. Excuse me Mark, but does the articles of impeachment state that the Supreme Court, Congress and the military get to put whoever they feel like it in place of the president they just impeached?

    and is impeachment what the Honduras Congress, Supreme Court, and military did the guy they didn’t like? Com’on Mark, this isn’t that hard.

  125. Mark D. says:

    I am afraid I am not an expert on the Honduran Constitution. However, it is worth mentioning that the head of the Honduran Congress was appointed acting President. In the United States, it would be the Vice President, followed by the Speaker of the House.

    Also, it is worth keeping in mind the vote in the Honduran Congress was unanimous. In the U.S., a two thirds concurrence of the Senate would suffice.

  126. Hmm, good post. I remember being really uncomfortable in Sunday School when they discussed the campaign and Mitt Romney like he was the obvious choice. I was already firmly in the Ron Paul camp, but beyond that, it was irritating that many people seemed to want to vote for him just because he was Mormon. Voting is such a waste anyway, when the outcome is all but predetermined. Now that I am living in Germany, I am relieved not to do the fireworks/BBQ thing, and just think about something else. Sure America was a great country, but that is rapidly changing…

  127. @tacomaGal– my, my, those are some fascist sentiments. “If you don’t like it here, just leave”
    I have lived in a number of countries, and they all have good things to recommend them. Currently, germany, where I would say the people are certainly no less “free” than Americans, and are certainly less arrogant about their nation’s role in the world.

  128. charlene says:

    In Nov. 2001, 2 months after the 9-11 attacks, I taught a RS lesson that is one of the most memorable I’ve ever taught. The topic was “Patriotism and Citizenship” and I did not follow the manual nor the then-prevalent US rah rah. I had several members who had not been born in the US speak about their feelings on the topic. Some were vigorously pro-American, but all were genuinely still affectionate for their country of birth. Most touching were the feelings of those who, although being in the US for many years, had chosen not to become citizens, and their reasons for this choice. My conclusion, on the history of Veterans Day (or Armistice Day) attempted to instill a feeling of “citizen of the world.”
    My favorite 4th of July story is when the chorister opened up time for people to choose their favorite “patriotic” hymn, and my English friend quickly requested “God Save the King.”
    I’m grateful to be an American, while I struggle to avoid ethnocentrism and try to keep my heart open to embrace others of God’s children.

  129. aloysiusmiller says:
  130. aloysiusmiller says:
  131. aloysiusmiller says:
  132. The article linked to in 131 is one of the funniest things I have ever read.

  133. Enough about Honduras already!

  134. aloysiusmiller says:

    Obama, Castro, Chavez, Zelaya, and Clinton are always good for some guffaws.

  135. Kenny Brassen says:

    No.: 128

    The hymn “God Save the King” is actually about Elvis.

  136. Steve Evans says:

    Late but great comment, Kenny.

  137. I know I’m very late on this but I know one American attitude we need to get rid of is automatically assuming that every person in those countries is this country’s enemy. They’re normal people like you and me.

    In fact, a recent story I heard says it completely. A visitor in Cuba was riding a taxi and the cabdriver had nothing but nice things to say about the country.

    Visitor: “What’s all this? I thought you guys hated America.”

    Driver: “Oh no, we love Americans, we just hate your government.”

    Remember, it’s the government and its lust for power that divides us against our fellow men. Never forget that wars were started in the Book of Mormon, especially in Alma, by men who wanted to be king and stirred the people up to anger. Isn’t that the same propaganda we hear today?