America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact - the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.
- Adlai Stevenson -

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

amazing grace.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.

How precious did that Grace appear

The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;

'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.

His word my hope secures.

He will my shield and portion be,

As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

These words were written in the late 18th century by a man named John Newton. Born in London, England, in 1725, John Newton served as a noble shipman for a great deal of his life. He eventually was pressed into the Navy and later became a seaman on slave-trading ships across England, Africa and many other countries around the globe.

One particular day, as Newton was traveling home from a job, a rough storm attacked his ship. At this time, fearful for his life, Newton called upon God for mercy. It was then that Newton experienced what he called the beginning of his spiritual conversion. Following the ship’s safe victory over the storm, Newton began reading the Bible and by the time his ship arrived in Britain, on May 10, 1748, Newton had fully accepted the principles and doctrines of Christianity into his life. After that miraculous journey, he discontinued his consumption of alcohol, gambling habits and use of profanities and worked to turn his life into something meaningful.

Just over 14 years later, he completely removed himself from all slave-trading practices and became fully involved in the idea of the abolishment of slavery. In 1764, Newton was ordained as a priest into the Church of England and worked as a curate in Olney, Buckinghamshire for over 16 years. It was while serving in Olney that he wrote those beautiful words to the deep and moving hymn, Amazing Grace. 

In 1779, John Newton moved back to London where he was invited to become Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth’s Church. It was after moving back to London that a man named William Wilberforce approach him.

William Wilberforce was born 34 years after John Newton, on 24 August 1759. After growing up in school across London, Wilberforce attended St. John’s College in Cambridge where he received a Masters Degree and met William Pitt, the future Prime Minister of England, a man who would be Wilberforce’s long time friend. While at university, Wilberforce became heavily involved in politics and was elected a Member of Parliament in 1780 at the age of 21 as a declared Independent. He would remain heavily involved in politics for the rest of his life.

Although born a member of the Anglican Church, Wilberforce became interested in the Protestant Church when he was just 11 years old much to the dismay of his family. However, later in his life he was converted back into the Anglican Church. This reconversion changed many of his old habits. After he began applying the Bible a great deal into his life, some called him a much happier, tactful and respectful person; however, inside he was facing a deep personal struggle.

At this time, Wilberforce was questioning his involvement in politics and wondered whether he should continue to devote his life to man or rather devote his life to God. It was upon facing this inner conflict that he met with John Newton in at St. May Woolnoth London. During Wilberforce’s visit, Newton counseled Wilberforce that he should remain in politics as he could serve both God and man at the same time. From that time on, Wilberforce worked to promote Christian views and ethics throughout the country.

On 22 May 1787, William Wilberforce introduced to the House of Commons the idea of the abolishment of slavery. Wilberforce had been meeting with abolitionists for many years and had been researching the slave trade a great deal. After much consideration and contemplation, Wilberforce believed it was the time to bring forth some change in England.

Wilberforce’s fight for the end of slave trade in England was not an easy one. Initiated in 1787, and thought of even before that, the slave-trade bill was not passed until 1807 after a long and tiresome battle.

Through opposition and a grave illness, Wilberforce was weakened by the battle and not also confident in his proceedings. However, he was able to gain support from fellow Members of Parliament and other outside sources. Together they were able to find evidences of the horrors of the slave trade to present towards the abolishment of slavery and work to sway his follow politicians towards passing the bill.

When Wilberforce first introduced the bill to the House of Commons, it was defeated by a vote of 163 to 88. In 1807, when the bill was finally passed, it won with an astonishing majority of 283 votes to 16.  

William Wilberforce was a man with passion, desire and a consistent resolve to bring good will upon the earth. Through rough battles with politics, illness, evil and unfavorable circumstances all over the globe, William Wilberforce was able to make a change in the world and remains a great example of positive progression to all people.

William Wilberforce passed away on July 29, 1833 in London. Just one month later the Slavery Abolition Act, an act that abolished slavery in a large portion of the British Empire, was passed. Wilberforced was buried in Westminster Abbey in London next to his oldest friend, William Pitt. William Wilberforce is remembered today in Britain and across the world as a leader in the abolishment of slavery and a very powerful and moving man.

In 2006, director Michael Apted depicted the hero of William Wilberforce in his film Amazing Grace. In this moving picture, Apted showed William Wilberforce, a man forever changed by John Newton and his profound hymn and devoted to the cause of fairness throughout the entire latter of his life.

This movie is a very poignant history of one of the most revolutionary movements of all time. It gives views a true access into the emotional story of the abolishment of the slave trade in England and shows the struggle thousands of people faced due to slavery across the globe.

At the end of the movie, after the anti-slave-trade bill was passed, Lord Charles Fox, stood and spoke to the House of Commons saying,

When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon - men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who's achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave trade is no more.”

William Wilberforce was truly a great man, a man full of wisdom and a strong spirit. He was a driven man influenced by the spiritual convictions on his youth. He was devoted to the movement of peace and equality through the earth and was determined to increasing morality wherever he could. William Wilberforce is a hero. He is a man to be remembered and cherished for all time. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

lincoln's second inaugural address.

On March 4, 1865, after a week full of rain, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address, a speech that would go down in history as one of the most powerful political presentations of all time.
 At the closing of a treacherous civil war, President Lincoln did not cast blame towards the Union or the Confederacy, nor did he present a hard lecture to either party. Rather, he spoke words of sadness and held a “high hope for the future.”

President Lincoln spoke saying that even with all the differences separating the North from the South, everyone is connected to God. While both sides were asking for a divine assistance in their battle, God could not fully help either side. Lincoln explained that whatever God wills, would be done and the people should have faith in His proceedings. Lincoln suggested that as a nation, the people should judge not, and strive to support their fellow citizens to ensure lasting peace with all people and all nations.

Standing in the crows during the speech was none other than John Wilkes Booth, the very man who would assassinate the President just over a month later. Unfortunately Lincoln’s strong believe in the emancipation of slaves and equal rights for all men led John Wilkes Booth to absolute hatred, ending the life of this great president far too early.
Abraham Lincoln was a great president, one of the greatest this country has ever had. I believe that Abraham Lincoln contributed a great deal to the success of the United States of America and know that this nation would not be as great if it weren’t for his ideal example.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

joseph smith and the second great awakening.

    The Second Great Awakening was a time of religious revival in America lasting from 1790 to the mid 1840’s. In the Second Great Awakening there was a mass eruption of religion all over the United States. Named after the Great Awakening, which took place over 50 years before but attempted the same religion revival. In the Second Great Awakening, freedom of religion in the States helped move the revival along. Many religions were restored and formed during this time.

One particular restoration that is important to me personally is the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1820, a young 15-year-old boy who was unsure which church he should join, had a vision of an angel sent from God and restored an ancient religion to this earth. Joseph Smith Jr. grew up at the heart of the Second Great Awakening and was surrounded by every religion imaginable. Each religion wanted him to join their church but he didn’t feel like any of the options offered were correct. So after reading James 1:5 in the Bible, Joseph Smith did what the scriptures told him and asked God which church he should join. Slowly but surely, after a chain of glorious and terrible events, Joseph Smith restored the gospel to this earth.
The Second Great Awakening made the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints possible. Because a new freedom of religion erupted throughout the country, Joseph Smith was given the liberty to restore the LDS church to this earth once again. However, I also believe that the Second Great Awakening set many challenges for Joseph Smith. For many people, it was difficult to choose a religion because there were so many options offered. All Joseph Smith had on his side was the knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel and all he could do was hope and pray that others felt what he felt.

Overall I believe that the Second Great Awakening helped the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints possible. Without this religious revival it would have been very difficult for Joseph Smith Jr., a young 15-year-old boy to restore the glorious gospel that is the LDS church.