America the Beautiful

03 Jul

When I was a young child, I had a special song that I sang during our family’s frequent singing programs at rest homes and church socials. It was a song that stirred in me feelings of patriotism and love for country — a song that many have suggested should be our national anthem.

Our patriotic program, which began during the bi-centennial of the United States in 1976 when I was two years old, included classics such as “What’s More American?” and “Freedom Isn’t Free.” But my song was entitled “America the Beautiful” or as I called it “Oh Beautiful!”


I would sing this as my solo during our program, and people would gush over how well I sang for one so young. Singing this song was my first recollection of being on the stage, and it helped cultivate my life-long love for performing for others. I considered this to be my song, and would often get upset if anyone else sang it.

As a child, I never really understood what the phrase “from C to shining C” meant, imagining in my young brain some sketch on Sesame Street involving two letter C’s covered with chrome. 🙂  I always liked singing about the purple mountain majesties and the amber waves of grain!

Anyway, I still love this song. Katharine Lee Bates wrote it back in 1893 and subsequently added additional verses. Click here to see the entire text. I’ll never forget watching Dan Rather recite the words of this song on David Letterman, just a few weeks after the attacks of September 11. He got choked up as he got to the part about “alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears…”

I am so grateful for this country and all that it stands for. During the month of July especially, I cannot get enough of patriotism and seeing the American flag waving in the breeze. (I just bought a brand new one that I proudly display in front of my house.) At Church, patriotism is viewed as a spiritual virtue. For example, last Sunday we sang “America the Beautiful” in sacrament meeting, and it struck me for just a moment that it may be viewed as odd that we were singing about a country in a worship service. Then I remembered that it’s the principles of freedom and of religious expression that are being praised, along with the rich blessings of life, liberty and the persuit of happiness. For Mormons, the feeling of patriotism is even stronger since we believe America was created as the birthplace of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through a farmboy, Joseph Smith.

As I prepare to celebrate Independence Day, I plan to remember that God’s grace truly has been shed upon this land from “sea to shining sea.”


Posted by on July 3, 2007 in Spirituality


2 responses to “America the Beautiful

  1. liz

    July 5, 2007 at 1:59 am

    I love that song too. (this is Matt– Elizabeth probably wouldn’t say it that way)

  2. robinbl

    July 5, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Isn’t funny what we thought the lyrics meant to that song as kids? I remember singing it in my kindergarten program, and I pictured “purple mountain majesties” as some sort of king and queen who lived in a mountain and wore purple robes.
    But also, I have often wondered how the church handles patriotism in other countries. Are the Brazilian mormons as enthusiastically patriotic as we are? Or are we just special because we live in the “promised land?”


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