Author John Fea wrote this week concerning the faith of our grandest founding father: “I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about Washington for my book on Christianity and the founding of the American republic. In a chapter entitled “Did Washington Pray at Valley Forge?” I explore his religious beliefs and wonder whether or not we can truly call him a Christian. Washington’s faith is not easy to pin down.”
From a distorted 21st century point of view it is not easy to pin down. Fea’s article lays out current thought from modern historians and authors on Washington’s faith (Read John Fea’s article here). Of course many religions are trying to claim Washington as their own. Even some Latter-day Saints will mistakenly jump into the frenzy, claiming he is a Mormon.
In no way am I minimizing or ridiculing the 1877 account of Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Temple (learn more here ). I believe many of the Founding Fathers appeared to president Woodruff and asked for their ordinance work to be completed. They sought the blessings of the gospel through ordinances and covenants and became fully aware of the restoration of the gospel in the world of spirits (for an artist’s depiction of the event click here).
President Ezra Taft Benson who studied the account and records of Wilford Woodruff’s experience said: “God raised up the founding fathers of the United States of America and established the inspired Constitution. This was the required prologue for the Restoration of the gospel. America will be a blessed land unto the righteous forever and is the base from which God will continue to direct the worldwide latter-day operations of His kingdom.” And so they were key players in the restoration of God’s kingdom and rightly deserved to be part of God’s covenant people. A way I like to view it and a way described in scripture.
Fea concludes his article by stating: “There is a lot to celebrate about George Washington: his leadership, his courage, his civility, his morality [sounds like a Christ-centered life to me]. But we must show due prudence in celebrating him as a Christian. His religious life is just too ambiguous.” I am starting to feel a connection with Washington. Being a “Mormon” some say I am not a Christian. I must say I like the connection.
When did the Savior preach an ostentations religious life? Given the spiritual condition of Washington’s day and the absence of the Lord’s church, I would have left meeting early too! Salvation and exaltation are not about social positioning. Something this God fearing man understood. “Work out your own salvation,” Paul counseled, “with fear and trembling.” Something Washington personally applied according to the knowledge granted him.
President Lorenzo Snow said he was “inspired instrument of the Almighty; we can see the all-inspiring Spirit operating upon him.” If we are looking for a label—why don’t we just simply say: “He was God’s instrument.” God and His Son know George Washington and George Washington knows them. That is not very hard to pin down.