Flag remnant from Fort McHenry

Eleven days ago it was September 14th. It was a special day. And, up until a few days ago, I never realized quite how special it really was. I always thought that the only thing worth remembering about that particular day was that 38 years ago, yours truly was born. But, as usual, something way more cool and better than me is the real reason for that day’s awesomeness.

On September 14, 1814 something vastly more inspiring than me was born. It was the birth of the Star Spangled Banner. We all know the basics of the story. Francis Scott Key saw the flag standing after a battle and was inspired to write his poem, one thing led to another, and voila, we had the National Anthem.

The back story, though, is a lot more amazing than just that little snippet we hear from the history books.

Francis Scott Key was a lawyer, and an amateur poet. He had a way with words. Because of his skills, he was sent by the Americans to meet with the commander of the British naval fleet floating in the bay outside the city of Baltimore. In this fleet, hundreds of American prisoners were being kept in cells under deck. His job was to be a prisoner exchange negotiator.

After reaching an agreement to release the American prisoners being held, the British Commander informed him that the agreement would be meaningless soon, because the war would soon be over. The war would end because of a massive impending British attack on the nearby Fort McHenry.

The British had plans to unleash all hell on the fort. The Commander was confident that as soon as the Americans realized their plight was helpless, they would be ready to surrender.

In order to give up the fight and survive, all they had to do was lower the American flag that was flying over the ramparts of the fort. If, and only if, this happened, the bombing would stop, that was the deal. The fort would then be turned over to the British, and the battle, and soon the war, would be over.

Needless to say, Key, was anxious to see how this played out. All of the American prisoners below deck were also anxious to see, and were all focused on the flag flying above the fort. In many ways, that one flag’s survival symbolized the survival of the USA, and real freedom that she had fought for and won.

Soon, at the twilight’s last gleaming, the bombing started. It was relentless, endless, and complete. All the British ships were aiming all of their cannon fire on the flag. If it fell, the battle was over. The bombing lasted all night. The flag took numerous direct hits, but somehow stayed upright. All night the prisoners were below deck anxiously hoping, and actively praying for the survival of the flag. They constantly begged for updates from Key as he watched from above deck. After a long night, and with the gleam of the morning’s first beam, the flag was still there, upright, although hammered, shredded, and teetering.

Upon his return to the fort, Key was able to get a better understanding of just what had taken place over that terrible night. Each bomb had taken its toll. The fort had been ravished.The flag had indeed fallen several times due to direct cannon strikes, only to be hoisted back up, over and over again, by individual men. These men were willing to hold it up themselves, with their hands. Doing so was a death sentence. But, they were willing to die, so that the flag would still fly.

As the bombs had been aimed squarely at the flag, the cannon fire had thus taken the lives of many of those men. Their bodies now lay strewn around the pole holding the tattered flag up at that tilted angle. Those men knew exactly what their fate would be when they volunteered to hold up that flag, and yet, they were still willing to so. It wasn’t just for the flag, but for what the flag stood for. It was their symbol of God given freedom and liberty.

Is it any wonder, that after what he had witnessed, both from the ship in the harbor, and then from the fort itself, that such a poem would be written? The same flag that had inspired those men to give their lives for its continued display, had also inspired Francis Scott Key to write an amazing few verses, that now, in turn, inspire so many of us.

Think of all the times that you have heard the National Anthem, before a baseball or football game, or special event. Remember each time that we all sing those words that describe the feelings of that day. Think about the climactic ending of the words, “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!” It instills a sense of pride to be an American. It helps us honor and appreciate the men and women that helped preserve us a nation. That is what our flag represents. It represents our liberty, and freedom. The gifts that God gave to this land.

Now lets look even further back in American history. Like about 2,089 years ago to be exact. Lets look back at the story of another inspiring flag. One that has a very similar story, and that was equally inspiring. Its pretty amazing how these stories are so similar. I guess the old adage of “history repeats itself” really is true.


Captain Moroni’s Title of Liberty

We read all about this ancient flag in The Book of Mormon in Alma Chapter 46. At this time, there is a huge uprising all over the land of the Nephites. If we look back at this story and compare it to 1814, its amazing how the stories can be so similar so many years apart.

This Nephite uprising was led by a conniving, evil man named Amalakiah. Amalakiah wanted to be king. His only problem was that the Nephites were a free people, they no longer had a king. They had recently transitioned into a free government system of elected lower, and higher judges. At this time, the Nephite people were in their 19th year of this whole no king experiment. It was then that Amalakiah decided he should be king and because of his pride and malice, caused pain and misery. But, because he was a persuasive man he had convinced most of the lower judges to side with him. They, like Amalakiah, sought the same thing. Power.

However, not everyone was on board with Amalakiah. In fact, the majority of the free Nephites opposed him. Among those who opposed Amalakiah was the famous Captain Moroni. Moroni was integral in reminding the Nephites of what was at stake, and was unrelenting in his defense of liberty.

Moroni had done this same thing time and time again. He had just led the Nephites for years against the invading Lamanites in order to preserve their lands and freedom. The Lamanites were in a near constant state of war to attack and take over the lands of the Nephites. But, this time, he found himself needing to fend off the threat of Amalakiah and his supporters from within his own people.

So how did Moroni do it? How did he manage to inspire an already war torn and weary people yet again? He made a flag. Not an ordinary flag, but a personalized, symbolic flag. He cut off his coat, and wrote on it by hand, he wrote just a few simple words, but words that reminded the people just what was at stake. He needed to inspire them to turn to God, and turn to the cause of freedom and liberty. He needed them to fight for the very thing that meant the most. The words he wrote on his flag were “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children¹”. He then fastened it to a pole and raised it to rally the people, and inspire them to join the cause.

Just as the American flag over Fort McHenry stood as a symbol of liberty and freedom attained  by sacrifice in war and loss of life, so did Moroni’s Title of Liberty. Both flags inspired men and soldiers to fight for what their flags represented. Which, in both cases, was freedom and liberty. Not only freedom from tyranny, and oppression, but freedom to worship God how they wished.

Both of these events seemed to be centered around their respective flags, or titles of liberty. As we listen to these words of Moroni, they could almost be used interchangeably to describe the times that would come 2000 years later.

“And it came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south—A chosen land, and the land of liberty²”.

“Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them³”.

This land is special. It has been special for a long, long, time. Even before Columbus was a twinkle in his father’s eye, this land was special. Long before that inspired morning’s sunlight shone on our flag in 1814. It will remain a special place for freedom and liberty for exactly as long as we treat it as such. It is a God blessed land, a chosen land for those who would honor Him. Its up to us to live up to our end of the covenant. Our blessings as a country will depend upon our collective obedience to God’s commandments.

Let’s always remember the history of this great place. This history goes back thousands of years, but seems to always have a way of repeating itself. These two stories show how a simple flag served as the reminder of the fragility of freedom and liberty. Both of these flags inspire me. They make me want to be better. They make me want to be a part of the great cause of liberty and freedom.

Amazingly, we still live under those same skies that watched the flag survive over Fort McHenry. We still live on the same land as those who followed Captain Moroni against the forces of Amalakiah. We still live under that same covenant today. Let’s try harder to be like those who sacrificed for us, and understood the necessity of liberty and freedom. Lets try harder to honor our part in the covenant. Lets try harder to keep God’s commandments so that we can be deserving and worthy of the freedoms we currently enjoy.


  1. Alma 46:12
  2. Alma 46:17
  3. Alma 46:20


Additional Note:

We are all very familiar with the first verse of the National Anthem. But, all 4 verses of this poem are amazing. Sometimes, I wish we would sing the 1st and 4th verses at least…

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!