David Parshall. Israel Parshall. Albert Covenhoven. Tobias Saunders. Samuel Gage. Adam Overacker. Cornelia Vanness. John Fish. Michael Overacker. Michael Vandercook. Abiathar Stephenson. Joseph Lombard. Jonathan Leach. James Jones. Othniel Taylor. Benjamin Birdsall. William Day.
Sixteen men and one woman. There may well be others whose names I know but whose deeds I have not yet identified. These are my direct ancestors of the 1770s who chose to do something specific that earned for them the designation “patriot” – I could join the Daughters of the American Revolution by virtue of my descent from any of them. In very real ways, the history of America is my family history, especially if you throw in the pioneer ancestors who preceded the Revolutionary generation, the soldiers who served in every conflict from the War of 1812 down to World War II, and the wives and children left behind when those soldiers marched away. And the farmers and the carpenters and the farm wives who built this country in times of peace.
I was thinking about them yesterday, counting off their names in my mind, as I listened to ward members – some of them first generation immigrants from England, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uruguay, Spain, Holland, India, and doubtless other places I’m not recalling at the moment – bear their testimonies, mentioning their gratitude for their citizenship or student or visitor status in a country where they can worship freely. America is their country every bit as much as it is mine. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
I have another list, much shorter than the first:
Stephen Taylor. Martha Turner.
These are my direct ancestors, baptized in 1838, who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its first generation. I don’t have a wide pedigree in the Church, although it would be wider if I named the men and women who were later-comers, the first Saints in their respective family lines, from the 1880s, 1890s, and 1964, and the others who have maintained the faith and passed it on to me.
Most (but not all) of those first generation Americans in my ward, along with many American-born ward members, were the first of their generations to join the Church. It’s their Church and mine – to the extent that the Church belongs to anyone but Jesus Christ – as much as it is the Church of other ward members who can trace most of their lines back to prominent Mormons of the first generation.
Like most of you, I hold dual citizenship: I am a citizen of a political nation, and a member of the Kingdom of God. They are in no way co-terminal, but fortunately neither are they mutually exclusive in my generation. They do not call for a division in my loyalties, and, indeed, there is much in each that supports my loyalty to the other. I am both an American Latter-day Saint and a Mormon American.