During the period between the time when the Church of Jesus Christ established at the time of Christ was taken from the earth and the promised restoration of all things was know as the dark ages. It was a time that the Old Testament Prophet Amos called a “famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11-12). After all the apostles died, the priesthood authority that they held was also lost. Revelation ceased and there was no one on the earth that could hear the word of the Lord. The earth plunged into the dark ages. This lasted until the spring of 1820 when a 14-year-old boy entered a grove of trees and prayed to know which church to join.
Getting from apostacy to restoration was no easy task but Lord knew what needed to be done and an American Prophet wrote about it 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. He said:
And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld many nations and kingdoms.
And the angel said unto me: What beholdest thou? And I said: I behold many nations and kingdoms.
And he said unto me: These are the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.
And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the bland of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.
And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.
And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.
And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations. (1 Nephi 13:1-19)
The Lord knew that changes in religious freedom needed to happen before his Gospel could be restored. Many reformers sought for religious reforms and were persecuted and killed for their ideas. Governments and churches persecuted and killed those who worked to make changes and to bring the bible to the common person. If a restoration was to succeed, a new form of government needed to be established.
Almost 2400 years before the U.S Constitution was established; the Lord showed a prophet that Columbus and later others would come to America. He saw those who would come to America seeking religious freedom. He was shown the revolutionary war and other wars and that the Lord would bless the young nation with independence from all other nations. But before The Gospel of Jesus Christ could be restored and survive more than a new government needed to be established, true religious freedom was needed.
The Articles of Confederation did not guarantee freedom of religion. Each state had their own “state” religion and if you did not belong to that church you were persecuted. Even though the churches were not government sponsored, the people that belonged to different churches migrated to areas where common believers lived and so they might as well have been state supported.
Not until the Constitution of the United States was ratified and became law was true religious freedom guaranteed and protected by law. The first amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. The first 10 amendments were ratified on September 25, 1789. Finally, a government with a constitution was established that would allow true religious freedom.
The new constitutional government would produce the religious revivals or great awakening from 1790-1820 and would be the beginning of the restoration of all things as foretold in the Book of Acts. It is during this time when Joseph Smith and his family started attending the religious revivals in their area leading Joseph to want to know which of the many churches was the true church of Jesus Christ.
Many of the delegates that helped write the constitution acknowledged the hand of God in founding of our constitutional government. Benjamin Franklin speaking to the constitutional delegates stated: "the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth--that God governs in the Affairs of Men." "I also believe," Franklin continued, that "without his concurring Aid, we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel." (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06.html#obj145)
The Lord Jesus Christ speaking to his church on December 16, 1833 said:
“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.” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80)
The eleventh article of faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says:
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
Joseph Smith once said:
“I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.” (Joseph Smith – Religious Freedom)
These “wise men” understood that having a government that protected the right of all its citizens to worship God as they desired was important to the success of the new nation. It was important then and it is still important today; however, these freedoms are being restricted so much that the first amendment guarantees are being lost. All citizens of the United States, no matter what church they belong to, must do everything in their power to elect people that will protect the rights we were given in the first amendment. The future of our country depends on religious freedom.
Your comments and questions are welcome.