I grew up with the vague idea that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were kind of the same thing. Or at least I thought they were written at the same time. Now that I know more, I want my children to know and understand better the background and history of each. This way they can better appreciate what our Founders set up, why they did it, and at what cost.
This year I ran across the following quote, which sparked an even greater desire to learn and teach:
“If American freedom is lost, if America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, cheer Fourth of July speakers–normally good Americans, but Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free
– Americans who have been lulled away into a false security...
If America is to withstand these influences and trends, there must be a renewal of the spirit of our forefathers, an appreciation of the American way of life, a strengthening of muscle and sinew and the character of the nation. America needs guts as well as guns. National character is the core of national defense.” –Ezra Taft Benson
Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee... seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." James Madison Aug 4, 1822
The lesson is below this photo.
Of course, your family may only need some of these pieces, or something different, or a shorter version, or longer. Pray to know what they need. God cares about what we learn and teach!
lesson on The Declaration of Independence
Sing a song
: God Bless America, or My Country, 'Tis of Thee
Have an opening prayer
Introduce the topic
: Hand everyone something little like pennies (or pieces of cereal, or jelly beans). Give them several, based on how much they helped today, or if they did all of their chores (so they feel ownership). Tell them they are like the 13 Colonies, and you’ll be England. Take some of the pennies back and give all of them to one person. How do they feel?
Explain that when a government takes money from you without you getting to have a say in where it's used, it's called "taxation without representation". The colonists knew it wasn't right, England's own Constitution even guaranteed them a say in how tax money was spent. (With older children, you can explain more about the Stamp Act
of 1765, or the Boston Tea Party
in 1773.)Have someone read D&C 134:1-2
, the LDS Statement of Belief on government:
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.
We believe that no government can exist in peace
, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free
exercise of conscience
, the right and control of property, and the protection
What was wrong with how the colonies were treated?
The colonies had been fighting with England for a couple years already. At first they were fighting for their right to be treated fairly, but by the summer of 1776 they decided that the only good solution was to become their own nation.
July 4th, when they finalized the Declaration of Independence, became the birthday for The United States of America. It was the beginning of our nation but the bigger deal was how our leaders claimed that right- not from men, but from rights given to all mankind by God.
“The Declaration has three parts—the famous Preamble, a list of charges against King George III, and a conclusion. The Preamble summarizes the fundamental principles of American self-government. The list of charges against the king presents examples of the violation of those principles. The stirring conclusion calls for duty, action, and sacrifice.” ( -The Heritage Foundation
- great article!!)
_________________Read The Declaration of Independence
! (see a photo of the original here
Words you might need to explain or discuss:self-evident
-they prove themselves trueunalienable
-cannot be given up or takenpursuit of happiness
- living to your full potential, bettering yourself and your situationevinces
-shows or provesDespotism
-(1828 Webster’s: ‘Absolute power; authority unlimited and uncontrolled by men, constitution or laws, and depending alone on the will of the prince)____________
:Read or relate
the following: John Adams
wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
(Note: A rough draft of the Declaration of Independence was written in June 1776; July 2nd
is the date the Continental Congress unanimously voted for separation from Great Britain. The Declaration was modified a little, then read and approved on July 4, 1776, though it may not have been signed until August.)Have someone read 1Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Ask:
How can you show that you remember and are grateful for our nation and freedoms?
Bear your testimony of the great blessings God has given us.Closing song
: America the Beautiful
-----------------Choose one or more activities (or do one of these each day for a week)
:-Make paper pinwheels
-Watch a Mormon Messages video
: What Freedoms Are you Grateful For?
-Ring a “Liberty bell”
- Hang a bell from a rope. Take turns telling each other some blessing that you’re grateful for; each person gets to toss a beanbag or ball at the bell for every blessing mentioned.
If you don’t have a bell, you can make one out of cardboard or cardstock, or punch two holes in the bottom of an empty soup can (run a piece of yarn, string, or a twist tie through the two holes; you can hook onto something for a clapper at the same time), or make a bell from a porcelain or glass cup.
One of my children drew a large bell, taped it to a thread, which was tied onto the ceiling fan pull (I asked him to draw a bell and find some way to hang it someplace) ... the game was a big
hit with them! (I did have to remind them the goal was to RING the bell, not DESTROY it.)-Write a Family Creed-Make and hang a sign saying "Remember" over the inside of your front door.-Decorate your table, living room, or porch with flags and red, white, and blue.-Eat red, white, and blue foods
Blue and white tortilla chips with salsa (red!)