Monday, July 7, 2014

What Does America Mean to Me Anyway?

A few months back i was visiting with Ruth Patterson in her home.  During our visit she shared a talk she had given in church in 1996, part of which was a paper about America written by Josie Patterson that Ruth had used as a conclusion to her talk.  With it being 4th of July weekend i thought it would be appropriate to share, so i stopped by and asked Ruth if she would mind posting it.  She didn't feel comfortable doing it herself but said i could for her. In her words she said, "A few years ago i found this choice essay on the floor of Mama Josie's house years after she was gone.  I think it was written about the time of the second world war in the 1940's.  I think she(Josie) would have liked me sharing her thoughts on her families adopted homeland with you." 

                                 What Does America Mean to Me Anyway?
Last night I was thinking and my mind immediately was hundreds of miles away in a foreign country, Sweden; a land I have never seen, but a country where my ancestors have lived for generations.  I have in my mind a vision of a beautiful land, a country of trees, grass, and lakes.  I see sturdy, strong, hardy people; fishermen, lumbermen.  I see their fine schools, see that they are a cultured people, that they love education; they love a just government, and I imagine I can hear and see and feel the masses of the people sing their National Hymn, "From the Depths of Swedish Hearts.
I have some Swedish cousins in Salt Lake City and on the wall in one of their homes hangs a beautiful picture in color of my Grandfather's home and farm.  It is still a good place, a modest little cottage, set back among huge trees.  One large tree in front of the house, my father used to play under.  I have a little boat made from one of the limbs of this tree.  Uncle August, my father's oldest brother died in this home last summer.
I have wondered who the missionaries were who first brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to my grandparents.  How they were received? Did they accept the Gospel readily?  How great a sacrifice was it for them to leave their native land and come to a new country where customs were different, where a new language had to be learned, where people were snobbish and often laughed at the immigrant?
I have heard my father tell of the hard earned dollar that was sent back to Sweden to pay the fare of another member of the family who had to remain behind on account of poverty.  How each nickel and dime that could possible be saved was laid away for immigration. Then I have wondered, was it the Gospel that gave them the desire to gather to Utah to the Saints, or was it the wonderful land of America, the land of liberty, freedom, and opportunity that beckoned them on.
I have often thought of my my Swedish parents coming as children to America--the weeks of sailing on the ocean, then crossing the plains.  Then when newly married, of receiving a call to come to Arizona to help build up this part of America a little.  At times I have regretted my parents not teaching us the Swedish language.  I thought it was carelessness, but now I understand, it was something deeper than carelessness.  It was the thought of Americanizing us. This was our country, our home, our land, we were to learn the language without a foreign accent.
America is all I know.  It's my country.  I am a part of it.  In fact, we are America.  It offers everything, schools, a chance to develop in any line a person chooses to follow.  There are no class distinctions.  It's like the Savior, no respected of persons, equal rights for all, and these rights will be protected as long as we live up to the laws of the land--laws we make ourselves.

To Latter Day Saints it is the home of the great American religion, the thing that is the vital moving force in our lives.  This religion or ours and this government of ours makes me want to be a good citizen, makes me want my children to be God fearing people, good citizens that will help build America and help make and keep it a choice land above all other lands.  That's what we are willingly sending our boys and husbands to war for, that this land will be preserved and our standards of thought and life may go on and not me cursed.
I think I feel toward America, the land of my birth, like I feel when I go to Salt Lake City to conference, to the tabernacle and the great pipe organ and choir bursts forth in music.  It always comes to me, I feel to thank Thee Heavenly Father, that I am part of this Thy Church.  Help me to be worthy of a place here.  That's the way I feel about this land.  I thank Thee Lord that I am a part of America.
Written by Josie Anderson Patterson

Shared By Ruth Udall Patterson

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