What is the Title of Liberty?
In the first century before the common era, on this, the American continent,
were a group of people called Nephites. They had become a constitutional
government, thanks to the generosity of their last king. Their government was
based on elected judges who saw to it that the laws which they had inherited
from the kingdom were upheld.
Another group of people, called Lamanites, sought to conquer the Nephites, by
force of arms. The Lamanites were being stirred up to hatred of the Nephites by
a small but vocal minority. The goal was to enslave the Nephites, those they
did not kill. As they were preparing for war, the Nephites saw the danger, and
their leaders, notably a young Captain Moroni, who was called to lead the
armies at the age of 25, began to arm them for defense.
Moroni trusted in God, and sought only for the security of his people, their
lands, and their freedom. He had his people armed, not only with weapons, but
with protective armor, as they were to face superior numbers. Moroni received
direction from God through the prophet Alma, and also gained information
gathered by spies, and was able to head off the Lamanites before they entered
the land of the Nephites.
After a great battle where many of the Lamanites were killed, and the rest were
doomed, Moroni offered them peace if they would surrender their weapons and
make a covenant with them that they would no longer come to war against the
Nephites. The Lamanite leader was willing to surrender, but not make the
covenant, but some were willing to covenant. After further battle and
bloodshed, the Lamanite leader finally surrendered with the last of his people
and made the covenant of peace.
The Nephites were very thankful to God for their victory and the peace that
followed. They soon became prosperous in peacetime. Faith also grew for a while
afterward, but they began to be proud. Dissentions soon developed, and wicked
men began to oppose the truth and the people of God. A leader arose who wanted
make himself king (after nearly 20 years without a king in the land), and to
suppress the liberties of the people. He sought and received the support of
many of the judges of the land who saw a chance to gain better positions in his
government, seeking to serve themselves instead of the people.
Now when Moroni learned of this conspiracy, he was angry. He rent his coat, an
action of sorrow and of covenant. He took a piece of the garment and wrote upon
it these words:
In memory of
our God, our religion, and
freedom, and our peace,
our wives, and our children.
He fastened this banner on the end of a pole. He put on his armor, raised the
banner, which he called "The Title of Liberty," knelt, and prayed to God for
his people. And having done so, he bore this banner about among the people and
cried out, "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
them." Many of the people came out to him having donned their armor and
carrying rent garments (a token that God should do the same to them if they did
not keep the covenant). To the best of my knowledge, the Title of Liberty was
the first American flag, and though it would not have looked like ours does
today, it stood for the same things.
When the man who would make himself king saw the response of the people, he
fled, and many of his supporters also rethought their positions. Most of those
who went with him, were captured, and those few who would not covenant to
maintain the people's freedom were killed for their treason.
You may read about this in more detail in the Book of Mormon, Book of Alma,