In Mormon culture it’s common to talk about who’s who in Mormondom. There are even websites created for the sole purpose of letting the world know which famous people are Mormons. Many know that American Idol David Archuleta is a Mormon, that Larry King married a Mormon, and rumors continue to float that Steve Martin is one too, but did you know that America’s Founding Fathers are Mormon!? It’s true.
At the time of America declaring its independence from Great Britain, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, subsequent victory in the Revolutionary War, and later the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Christ’s Church and Gospel had not yet been restored. A great apostasy had taken place, and while the fulness of the Gospel was lacking, these and other inspired events, headed by wise and inspired men, paved the way for the restoration of the Priesthood, the Gospel, and Church of Jesus Christ, through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
If the Church of Jesus Christ wasn’t officially established until 1830, you might ask how it is that the Founding Fathers are Mormons? Only a few of the Founding Fathers, and signers of the Declaration of Independence, were still alive in 1830 (James Madison was the last to pass away in 1836).
“It was to [President Wilford Woodruff] that the founders of the American nation appeared in the St. George Temple, seeking to have the temple ordinances performed for them. That was very unusual, brethren, and those kinds of miracles and visions and revelations were rather unusual, as you would know. These men of the American Constitution had lived in a day when the gospel was not upon the earth, but they were upright, good men who were entitled to all of the blessings which come to us. (Spencer W. Kimball, ”Preparing for Service in the Church” 47)
President Ezra Taft Benson shared further details of Wilford Woodruff’s experience in his talk The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner:
“Shortly after President Kimball became President of the Church, he assigned me to go into the vault of the St. George Temple and check the early records. As I did so, I realized the fulfillment of a dream I had had ever since learning of the visit of the Founding Fathers to the St. George Temple. I saw with my own eyes the records of the work that was done for the Founding Fathers of this great nation, beginning with George Washington. Think of it, the Founding Fathers of this nation, those great men, appeared within those sacred walls and had their vicarious work done for them. President Wilford Woodruff spoke of it in these words:
“Before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights….
“I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men. (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, pp. 160-61)
“These noble spirits came there with divine permission-evidence that this work of salvation goes forward on both sides of the veil.
“At a later conference, in April 1898, after he became President of the Church, President Woodruff declared that “those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits … [and] were inspired of the Lord” (CR, April 1898, p. 89). We honor those men today. We are the grateful beneficiaries of their noble work.
“But we honor more than those who brought forth the Constitution. We honor the Lord who revealed it. God himself has borne witness to the fact that he is pleased with the final product of the work of these great patriots.”
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Special thanks to LDS Liberty and Tammy Broderick for creating an audio version of this article. Well done.