'The hand of Providence'

Lehi's dream and divine tiesto American Revolution

There is overwhelming evidence of God's hand in the establishment of the American nation, Kenneth L. Alford, professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, said during the 40th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium held at BYU on Oct. 29. This year's symposium theme was "The Things Which My Father Saw: Approaches to Lehi's Dream and Nephi's Vision."

"By all standards, any common sense standards, with no navy, no army, no central government — we should have been wiped off the map in a matter of weeks during the revolt from the mother country," he said.

Drawing from the Book of Mormon where it describes the discovery and colonizing of America in Nephi's vision, Brother Alford spoke of the "land of promise," a "land of inheritance," that had "gone forth out of captivity" as others "gathered together against them to battle" (1 Nephi 13:14-19). He spoke of the people who were "delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations."

"Washington Leaving New York, Dec. 4, 1783," by H. A. Ogden. Many men recognized the "Providence of God" during the Revolutionary War.
"Washington Leaving New York, Dec. 4, 1783," by H. A. Ogden. Many men recognized the "Providence of God" during the Revolutionary War. Photo: Public domain image

"Nephi tells us in these verses that he sees the American Revolution, and he sees it in some detail," Brother Alford said. "As we look at what happens... we recognize God and the hand of Providence."

Brother Alford spoke about three examples of divine Providence during the Revolutionary War.

1. George Washington and the founding fathers "were placed here by our Heavenly Father in such a time and such a place. It was not coincidental they arrived when they did. I am truly amazed at what these men did."

Looking at Doctrine and Covenants 101:80, where it tells of 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," Brother Alford spoke of the type of men the founding fathers were.

Drawing from the words of President Wilford Woodruff in his April 1898 general conference address, Brother Alford said, "They were inspired of the Lord." These were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all of the men that labored for that purpose were inspired of the Lord."

Part of what made the founding fathers such an amazing group is their acknowledgement of a divine power guiding the leaders and outcome of war, he said.

Christian Inger's depiction of "Washington's Triumphal Entry into New York, Nov. 25, 1783."
Christian Inger's depiction of "Washington's Triumphal Entry into New York, Nov. 25, 1783." Photo: Public domain image

2. There was divine providence during the wartime weather.

Brother Alford spoke of many occasions where the weather made it possible for the revolutionary army to not only win specific battles, but win some without even shedding any blood. Brother Alford spoke of when Henry Knox was sent to Fort Ticonderoga to retrieve and transport cannons.

"Those were not really movable items, and the roads were terrible roads," he said. "Knox said he'd do it and in January of 1776 the weather was nasty cold. The Lord sent several feet of snow in New England and they were able to pull the cannons on ice, reaching Washington weeks before he was expecting them to arrive."

Another example Brother Alford shared was when the American army occupied Dorchester Heights. As the army set up the artillery, a fog moved in, covering the bottom half of the hill. Backward winds that night drowned out the sound of soldiers setting up the cannons, making the British soldiers unable to see or hear the fortification. As soldiers attempted to leave the city, a snowstorm hit and another bloodless victory occurred due to the weather.

3. The "West Point chain" on the Hudson River protected an important geographic area.

"If the British controlled the Hudson, then Washington couldn't move his troops," Brother Alford said.

In order to prevent British naval vessels from proceeding up the river, the Revolutionary army constructed a large chain to span 500 yards across the Hudson river. The sharp turns and narrow width of the Hudson River by West Point made it difficult to maneuver ships through the area. Creating a chain made it impossible to escape an attack, so in order to fortify the area, the soldiers needed ore — quickly.

"The God who knows all things, end from the beginning, [placed] within a few miles of West Point ... a mine of pure black ore — some of the purest iron ore in the entire world — so pure you don't have to refine it."

Revolutionary soldiers created the chain of hundreds of links in less than three months. At that same time, George Washington was at Valley Forge, where the freezing temperatures were a difficulty for the president, but the cold weather ended up being a huge blessing for those around large fires making the chain.

"The day they stretched the chain, Britain did not even attempt an attack," he said. "A most unlikely victory."

It is through these acts of Providence, or acts of God, that such a nation was able to be established in which the Restoration of the Gospel could take place, said Brother Alford.

"There is a United States only because God needed a land to have the Restoration in," he said. "It is important to recognize God's hand — the hand of Providence — in God's unique gift to America."

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