Monday, June 1, 2015

Oaths and Our Word

Today is the anniversary of the first military oath taken in 1789. This was the first oath established under our Constitution.
Traditionally an oath is a promise with wording relating to something considered sacred. To swear is a verb used to describe the taking of an oath, to making a solemn vow.
A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions.
Military oaths date back to ancient Rome, where soldiers pledged loyalty to a specific general for a specific campaign. After the campaign ended, the oath no longer applied. By 100 b.c., Rome had established a professional military, and the oath became effective for the soldier’s full 20-year service. Since then, this custom has continued and expanded. For example, the kings of England in the 1500s (Henry VIII), 1600s (James I), and 1700s (George III) established oaths requiring subjects to swear loyalty to their specific king.
In the United States, oaths were a part of life from the early colonial days. In 1620, when the Mayflower landed, the Pilgrims established the Mayflower Compact- which served as an oath, a covenant, and a constitution- and then pledged allegiance to King James, agreeing to work together as a “civil body politic” for their betterment and preservation. As settlers established colonies, they developed their own version of an oath of allegiance to English royalty.
While developing the oath of office for US officers, the founding fathers had serious concerns about pledging allegiance to any specific person. For example, during the Revolutionary War, Gen George Washington issued a general order on 7 May 1778 that required all officers to take and subscribe to an oath renouncing King George III and supporting the United States. Even prior to the 1789 constitutional requirement to take an oath, this general order had significant weight. On 1 October 1779, Washington court-martialed Benjamin Ballard for “selling rum, flour, pork, hides, tallow and other stores the property of the public without any orders or authority for doing so and contrary to the tenor of his bond and oath of office”. This example shows that the oath represented more than a simple, ceremonial formality; rather, it provided overarching guidance and a standard of moral conduct, as opposed to dictating specific, limited criteria.
The first official oath of office for US military officers under the Constitution was established on 1 June 1789. The law implemented the requirement in Article 6 of the Constitution that “Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution.” This first oath was short and to the point: “I, A.B., do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we take covenants with God seriously. Our covenants are most important and we feel it’s very serious to violate or break these covenants. The oath that I took in the military went like this:
“I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
I take that oath seriously. I see nowhere in that oath where it expires. It also says nothing about the military other than mentioning officers and the UCMJ. I realize I no longer have a legal obligation to the United States military but I don’t think my obligation to defend the Constitution ends when I hung up my BDU’s. I still live up to that oath and keep it near my heart and hold it near my covenants that I made with God.
There is an evil creeping into my country. President Ezra T. Benson said:
I say to you with all the fervor of my soul that God intended men to be free. Rebellion against tyranny is a righteous cause. It is an enormous evil for any man to be enslaved to any system contrary to his own will. For that reason men, 200 years ago, pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.
No nation which has kept the commandments of God has ever perished, but I say to you that once freedom is lost, only blood – human blood – will win it back.
( Source: Delivered to the International Freedoms Conference, Philadelphia, PA October 26 1979)
This is what I fear. I am not calling for rebellion, war, or violence, but one day it may come to that. We are losing our freedoms and as President Benson said, it is a high price to pay to get it back.
I am conservative. You couldn’t tell by the name of the blog? Anyway, I’m not very pleased with the party system so I don’t really belong to one. One is pretty much as bad as the other as I see it. I vote and I consider myself active in the political process. I write letters and follow candidates. I don’t like what I see.
I advocate self-sufficiency because you can’t depend on our government. If you look at just a few natural disasters in this country you’ll fast see that our government is more interested in control than help.
These oaths and covenants should mean something to us. In the Book of Mormon we see the importance of oaths to that ancient people.
Moroni’s army had out maneuvered the larger Lamanite army commanded by Zarahemna. They had the Lamanites surrounded and told them they would let them go if they gave the Nephites their weapons and made an oath to not return to fight. This is the answer from ferocious and unrighteous warriors.
(Moroni gives one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard, and one of my favorites!) Zarahemna said:
“And now it came to pass that when Zerahemnah had heard these sayings he came forth and delivered up his sword and his cimeter, and his bow into the hands of Moroni, and said unto him: Behold, here are our weapons of war; we will deliver them up unto you, but we will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you, which we know that we shall break, and also our children; but take our weapons of war, and suffer that we may depart into the wilderness; otherwise we will retain our swords, and we will perish or conquer.”
So Zarahemna, a man who delights in the shedding of blood, is honorable. He would rather fight and die than make an oath he knows he’ll break.
Oaths have not changed, it’s men who are not what they used to be.

Semper Paratus
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