Several months ago I read an article about George Washington being visited by an angel and thought it would be a good story for Independence Day. The following story was adapted from "The Washington Hypothesis" written by Timothy Ballard and published at ldsliving.com.
Anthony Sherman witnessed a remarkable event while he was a soldier at Valley Forge. He was 99 years old on July 4, 1859, and “was one of the last remaining veteran soldiers of the Revolution.” He wanted to share his special experience with someone before he died and “asked his friend and journalist Wesley Bradshaw to meet him at Independence Hall – the place where the Declaration of Independence had been signed.”
As the two men sat on a bench inside the hall, “the old man recounted a vision and prophecy Washington reportedly had received at Valley Forge. The prophecy spoke of a series of conflicts America had faced and would face, including wars and rumors of wars, whose descriptions sounded a lot like the war for independence, the American Civil War, and other future conflicts. The point of the vision was to tell Washington that America was God’s creation and would endure and be victorious over all these conflicts.”
The memory of Sherman given to his friend in Independence Hall was put into a report titled “Washington’s Vision.” The following is an excerpt from that report.
“The darkest period we had, I think, was when Washington, after several reverses, retreated to Valley Forge, where he resolved to pass the winter of 1777. Ah! I have often seen the tears coursing down our dear commander’s careworn cheeks, as he would be conversing with a confidential officer about the condition of his poor soldiers. You have doubtless heard the story of Washington’s going to the thicket to pray. Well, it was not only true, but he used often to pray in secret for aid and comfort from God, the interposition of whose Divine Providence brought us safely through the darkest days of tribulation.
“One day, I remember it well [in Valley Forge], the chilly winds whistled through the leafless trees, though the sky was cloudless and the sun shone brightly, [Washington] remained in his quarters nearly all afternoon alone. When he came out I noticed that his face was a shade paler than usual, and there seemed to be something on his mind of more than ordinary importance.
“Returning just after dusk, he dispatched an orderly to the quarters of the officer I mentioned who was presently in attendance. After a preliminary conversation of about half an hour, Washington, gazing upon his companion with that strange look of dignity which he alone could command, said to the latter: “I do not know whether it is owing to the anxiety of my mind, or what, but this afternoon, as I was sitting at this table engaged in preparing a dispatch, something seemed to disturb me. Looking up, I beheld standing opposite me a singularly beautiful female. So astonished was I, for I had given strict orders not to be disturbed, that it was some moments before I found language to inquire the cause of her presence. A second, a third, and even a fourth time did I repeat my question, but received no answer from my mysterious visitor . . . . By this time I felt strange sensations spreading through me. I would have risen but the riveted gaze of the being before me rendered volition impossible.
“`Presently I heard a voice saying “Son of the Republic, look and learn” while at the same time my visitor extended her arm eastwardly. I now beheld a heavy white vapor at some distance rising fold upon fold. This gradually dissipated, and I looked upon a strange scene. Before me lay spread out in one vast plain all the countries of the world—Europe, Asia, Africa and America. . . . “Son of the Republic,” said the same mysterious voice as before, “look and learn.” At that moment I beheld . . . [another] angel, standing or rather floating in mid-air, between Europe and America. Dipping water out of the ocean in the hollow of each hand he sprinkled some upon America . . . . A second time the angel dipped water from the ocean, and sprinkled it out as before . . .”
Ballard stops his story about Washington and takes his readers to Salt Lake City on July 4, 1854, “five years to the day before the old man Sherman recounted his witness of what happened to Washington Valley Forge, Orson Hyde, an ordained Apostle of God, stood at the pulpit in the Tabernacle and boldly declared that the angel Moroni was in the camp of Washington. He stated:
“`It was by the agency of that same angel of God that appeared unto Joseph Smith, and revealed to him the history of the early inhabitants of this country, whose mounds, bones, and remains of towns, cities, and fortifications speak from the dust in the ears of the living with the voice of undeniable truth. This same angel presides over the destinies of America, and feels a lively interest in all our doings. He was in the camp of Washington; and, by an invisible hand, led on our fathers to conquest and victory; and all this to open and prepare the way for the Church and kingdom of God to be established on the western hemisphere, for the redemption of Israel and the salvation of the world . . . . Under the guardianship of this same angel, or Prince of America, have the United States grown, increased, and flourished, like the sturdy oak by the rivers of water.’”
Ballard then asks if this account from Elder Hyde could “corroborate Sherman’s account?” He reminds his readers that the principal angel in Washington description was a woman, but it was a male (or males) that anointed the land. Ballard questions whether the Angel Moroni visited George Washington.
“As Washington’s vision continues, the Moroni hypothesis becomes ever more interesting. After the principal angel described to Washington what sounds like yet another conflict to hit the land - `thundering of the cannon, clashing of swords, and the shouts and cries of millions in mortal combat’ – the male angel performed a familiar act, familiar to the [Latter-day Saint] student, at least.
“`Son of the Republic,’ said the female angel, `look and learn.’ Washington then beheld a male angel and, according to Sherman, told of how he watched as the angel `placed his trumpet once more to his mouth, and blew a long, fearful blast.’”
You can read the rest of Washington’s vision for yourself and come to your own conclusion. I believe that Elder Hyde’s testimony and Sherman’s witness are about one and the same angel, even Angel Moroni. What do you believe? Do you agree that this is a wonderful story to read as we complete our celebration of Independence Day?