The Founding Fathers- Heroes or Villains?

Tad R. Callister

Emeritus General Authority and former Sunday School General President

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Deseret News July 1st, 2020.

Were the Founding Fathers heroes, or as some claim, villains? Ted Stewart, a federal judge, put this question in its proper light:

“Today, it is common to criticize the founders of America. Judging them by today’s standards of equality and justice they do fail. Some owned slaves, none fought to give women equal rights. Most were wealthy white men. …

“But there is just one problem with judging them by today’s standards and it is this: but for those imperfect founders and the sacrifices that they made and the instruments of government which they created, there would be no current, enlightened standards of equality and justice by which to judge them.”

Judge Stewart is so right. The reason the critics can freely criticize, protest, vote for change, run for office and exercise freedom of religion or irreligion as they choose is for one reason and one reason only, because the Founding Fathers made it so. America is the greatest democracy the world has ever known. Do the critics believe these liberties came about by chance or that they were spawned by evil men? If so, how do they reconcile such a position with the unerring logic of the Savior: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16).

It seems somewhat hypocritical to partake of and enjoy the fruits of liberty while at the same time criticizing the very tree that produced such fruit. The Savior made it clear: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Matthew 7:18). Lest there be any question, the Founding Fathers were that good tree that brought forth the good fruits of liberty we enjoy today.

How easily we tend to forget the remarkable sacrifices of our Founding Fathers in providing these liberties. For each of them the day of reckoning came — submit as subjects of the Crown or risk their lives in order to be free men and women as designed by God. Perhaps Patrick Henry best expressed their innermost passions and dilemma with his never-to-be-forgotten battle cry, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” These were more than the stirring words of gifted oratory; they were a stark disclosure of the choice that confronted them.

All the odds were stacked against the early colonists. They had no trained militia, no navy, no national treasury from which to pay salaries to their soldiers or to provide needed ammunition and supplies — all as history would confirm. As if that were not enough, they faced opposition by Loyalists within their own ranks.

On the other hand, there stood in contrast a nation that had a mighty and well-trained army, a seemingly invincible navy, a government with the power to tax and provide almost unlimited ammunition and supplies and finally, a kingdom united in its goal to keep America a colony rather than an independent nation.

From a worldly perspective, a revolutionary war on the part of the colonists was nothing less than a suicidal mission. It was a modern-day version of David with his slingshot against the mighty Goliath with his colossal sword and shield.

But something within drove the Founding Fathers onward — an inner vision, nay, even more, a divine assurance, that in spite of overwhelming odds, in spite of seemingly certain destruction, providence would be with them in this quest for their God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Founding Fathers could have quietly retreated to the comfort and wealth of their plantations, law offices and businesses, but they put that all at risk for their children, fellow Americans and future generations — even us. To not be grateful for their sacrifices, for their willingness to literally put their lives, fortunes and reputations on the altar of sacrifice, would be ingratitude of the highest order. They were nothing less than heaven-sent messengers who gave us the greatest liberties ever enjoyed by any people or nation on earth. And as such we should honor and respect them, and their incredibly supporting and sacrificing spouses, as the heroes they indeed are.

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