It is believed by many Christians that America’s founding fathers –- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others — were divinely inspired to form the “more perfect Union” called the United States of America. These men have been revered, and rightfully so, for over 200 years. Growing up in America, one comes to see these men as nearly perfect. About 20 years ago it became general knowledge that Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, had fathered children with one of his slaves. This shook people up on two fronts.
- There is no way he had slaves. After all, he was the man who wrote, “All men are created equal.”
- Even if he might possibly, in your wildest dreams, have owned slaves, there is no way whatsoever that he had children with one of them. He was one of the founding fathers after all.
The first one, the fact that he owned slaves, was quickly and easily laid to rest. Historical documents proved very clearly that he did.
The second one was a much bigger pill to swallow for many people. People seemed to be able to reluctantly accept that he had been misguided by social norms and fallen into the ugly practice of slavery, but it was just inconceivable, and, frankly, a vicious lie that he ever committed adultery with one of his slaves.
Even when historical documents, many in Jefferson’s own hand, proved that not only did he have a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings, but that it was a fairly well known relationship, people still refused to believe it. Today, after DNA tests on Sally’s descendants have confirmed the fact, most people have reluctantly accepted it.
The real challenge for most people was the misguided idea that good things can only come from “good” people. In many minds it was impossible for someone like THAT to be divinely inspired. However, scripture is full of documented cases of the Lord working through imperfect people. In fact, the only known case of Christ working through a perfect person is…um…. that one time…. no, he wasn’t perfect…. Oh, there was…nope, not him either…let’s see, there has to be one…hmm, interesting; it seems that the Lord works his miracles through imperfect people.
There is no reason to discount any of the good the founding fathers did on account of the faults they had. The “Miracle at Philadelphia” is no less miraculous because of the flaws of those involved.
THE ENTIRE BOOK
There are a lot of people out there doing a lot of great things and we should not reject the good a person does simply because he has a major flaw in some area. Joseph Smith understood this as well as anyone. Often people who revered him as a Prophet expected him to be close to perfect, if not actually perfect. In his journal he recorded, “I told the brethren I would forgive them their faults if they would forgive me mine.” Knowing his personality, he would have forgiven them theirs whether or not they forgave him his, but the point is made. We are all imperfect.
God looks at our lives as complete stories, not as random chapters. Shouldn’t we afford others the same courtesy?
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LDS General Conference Talk: The Power of Goodness (Source: lds.org)
LDS General Conference Talk: What Greater Goodness can We Know: Christlike Friends (Source: lds.org)