Statue of Liberty

The Symbol Of Our Religion

 

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A few years ago I took the opportunity, with my family, to visit the city of New York. What I most remember from that visit is looking at the Statue of Liberty from the Jersey City side. It is an impressive piece of art made more so by the stories surrounding its history. It stands as a symbol to the world for freedom, liberty and of the United States open arms to all. One immigrant who arrived from Greece by boat recalled,

” I saw the Statue of Liberty. And I said to myself, ‘Lady, you’re such a beautiful! (sic) You opened your arms and you get all the foreigners here. Give me a chance to prove that I am worth it, to do something, to be someone in America.’ And always that statue was on my mind.” (Wikipedia).

Thousands of immigrants have passed through Ellis Island in coming to America. It continues to serve as an inspiration to many who risk their lives in search of religious and political freedom as well as in search of a better life. Of course the statute itself has done nothing to actually help anyone. It is nothing more than metal shaped to the image of a woman holding a torch! It simply serves as a symbol of the lofty goals and high ideals of man. But symbols are important in giving man the inspiration to put ideals into action. And even though I didn’t actually go to Liberty Island, on which it stands, I found my view of it to be awe-inspiring and uplifting. It automatically lifted my heart and mind to a higher place.

There is another statue that is symbolic, this time of something more divine than the attributes of man. I’m sure you have seen a picture of it, or perhaps you have visited the Salt Lake Visitor Center of the church where it is housed. In it you will find a replica of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s masterpiece “The Christus”. Here in Maryland, a replica also is found at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Thorvaldsen was a Danish sculptor who was born in Copenhagen. He died at the age of 73 in 1844. The original resides in his hometown. His sculpture of Jesus Christ, like the Statue of Liberty, has now served for over a century as an inspiration to millions who not only seek a better life in this world, but in the worlds to come. Many years ago I visited the visitor center in Salt Lake. I recall walking up a ramp to find myself at the feet of this great work of art. I thought at the time that it was awe-inspiring. Unbelievers may think it an exaggeration that a chunk of marble could invoke such spiritual feelings. Yet, it is true. Whether on the physical or spiritual, symbols can inspire! And so it is that I recall the words of President Hinckley who when asked by a Protestant minister what was the symbol of his religion replied, “…the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith, and in fact therefore, the symbol of our religion” (“The Symbol of Our Faith,” Liahona, Apr 2005).

I was most impressed with President Hinckley’s answer. He, in essence, was not only answering an important question but he was also telling us, as members of the church, that the way we live our lives is the symbol of the restored gospel. I never fancied myself to be as awe-inspiring as the “Statue of Liberty” or “The Christus” but nevertheless, the charge has been given. While my life may fall short of “awe inspiring’, I have known others who have lived lives such that they uplift and inspire others just as much or more than great works of art. Recently the wife of our stake patriarch passed away. She was not made of steel or stone but was divinely fashioned after the prince of peace. She didn’t  just “stand” as a symbol, but spent her life reaching out and helping others.  She, and many others,  prick our hearts and make us better people. They are true saints who reach down and lift those that are in desperate need. May all of us live our lives such that others feel beckoned to the Savior. Such that they may feel in their hearts words reminiscent of the silent mouth of liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (Emma Lazarus)

The golden door of salvation and eternal life that Christ has to offer is open to all. May we fulfill a prophet’s voice and be symbols of the great restored gospel and make all feel welcome to feast at the Savior’s feet.

 

declaration of independence

A (De)Secularation Of Independence

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As it has become increasingly difficult to raise our families under the basic tenants of our Christian beliefs due to the secularism of the day, and as the ballot box seems to fall victim to judicial fiat, we the people, still declare our rejection of secularism that is fast  becoming the core of our society. We support this declaration and share it,  “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” (The DOI, last paragraph)

While we support the rule of law by our leaders, we feel as did the founders of this great country:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” (Declaration Of Independence, July 4, 1776)

While we reject the secularism imposed upon us, we are convinced that the words of President George Washington wax eloquently true when he said:

“We are persuaded that good Christians will always be good citizens, and that where righteousness prevails among individuals the Nation will be great and happy. Thus while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government it’s surest support.”

jesus prayer

Have You Tried Prayer?

 

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“We live in troubled times. Doctors’ offices are filled with individuals who are beset with emotional problems as well as physical distress. Divorce courts are overflowing because people have unsolved problems. Human resource administrators in government and industry work long hours in an effort to assist people with their problems.

One human resource officer assigned to handle petty grievances concluded an unusually hectic day by placing facetiously a little sign on his desk for those with unsolved problems. It read, “Have you tried prayer?” What he may not have realized was that this simple counsel would solve more problems, alleviate more suffering, prevent more transgression, and bring about greater peace and contentment in the human soul than could be obtained in any other way.

A prominent American judge was asked what we as citizens of the countries of the world could do to reduce crime and disobedience to law and to bring peace and contentment into our lives and into our nations. He carefully replied, “I would suggest a return to the old-fashioned practice of family prayer.”(Thomas S. Monson, “Come unto Him in Prayer and Faith,” Liahona, Mar 2009, 2–7)

If there was one practice in my house as I was growing up, that had a stabilizing force, it was eating dinner together as a family, preceded by prayer. The prayer was rotated among the family members. With ten children and my parents, saying the family prayer presented itself to each member about three times a month.  Life does get hectic and the temptation is to forget to pray. We need to do it more often. All of us know this, but taking the time to commune with God somehow takes a backseat to more “important” things, as if there is such a thing.  Prayer has a way of “grounding” us. It is the anchor of our lives. It stabilizes our emotions and lifts our spirits. It has a healing influence in families. It is inspiring and elevating!

Once, many years ago, I had a conversation with one of my uncles.  I told him that every night my two youngest sons prayed for him because he suffered from diabetes. I will never forget the look on his face. He was humbled, speechless! Most of all, I could tell that he was touched! Praying for someone else is perhaps the ultimate gesture of love that one can show. I know that when it comes to my attention that someone else is praying for me, I can’t help but be humbled and feel closer to God and to that person.  How could we not draw closer to someone who is petitioning deity on our behalf. How amazing that someone would love us enough to do so!

Despite all the good things that come from prayer, it is a habit that can easily be lost. Let us be diligent in gaining the blessings that come from prayer.

 

image

When We ‘Winter’ At Valley Forge

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Several years ago my brother, Father, and I walked around the sacred grounds of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. A blessing you get by visiting such sites is gaining perspective of historical events. In the case of Valley Forge I learned that not only did the Continental Army suffer through the winter of 1778-1779 with disease, famine, and cold, but that they came out of that horrible experience a better army. Not only had the army bonded by shared suffering but for the first time they were trained in the art of war. Carrying a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, no longer in the Prussian Army, offered his services to General Washington who had chosen Valley Forge as winter quarters.

“Washington saw great promise in the Prussian and almost immediately assigned him the duties of Acting Inspector General with the task of developing and carrying out an effective training program. He was a drill instructor, he was full of energy, and he taught the soldiers how to fire their guns faster.
Von Steuben shocked many American officers by breaking tradition to work directly with the men. One officer wrote of Von Steuben’s “peculiar grace” as he took “under his direction a squad of men in the capacity of drill sergeant.” From dawn to dusk his familiar voice was heard in camp above the sounds of marching men and shouted commands. Soon companies, regiments, and then brigades moved smartly from line to column, column to line; loaded muskets with precision; and drove imaginary redcoats from the field by skillful charges with the bayonet…Washington, with Von Steuben’s aid, had made an army of the Continental troops.” (Wikipedia).

The training and preparation of the army was invaluable and became a turning point in the war for independence. Prior to this I had known of the great suffering that the army had endured at Valley Forge but it was news to me of the invaluable services given by Baron Von Steuben in training the army.

I mention the above account because we often know of “miracles” that occur in history, like the independence of our country, but we seldom dig deeper into the background of the miracle. When we do so, we usually find that, while God does work miracles in the founding of countries, or the lives of individuals, it is often after great sacrifice, suffering, and effort by the recipients. In this case, The Continental Army suffered much, yet they didn’t just suffer at Valley Forge; they worked through and overcame their pain! They did it by having faith in their leaders, and following their inspired leadership. In the end they were victorious, but only after years of faith and devotion. For many however, death came first. They understood that God requires all that we have, before He will intervene. I am sure that prayers were plentiful from both the leaders and the enlisted men.

As we celebrate our independence this week, let us remember that miracles were wrought by the hand of the Lord in bringing forth our Nation. However, never let us forget that much sacrifice and blood was given in order to bring that miracle to pass. On an individual basis, each of us will symbolically spend winters holed up in a “Valley Forge.” When that cold winter comes upon us may we learn from those men who endured and came out of their dark days, better trained and prepared for the long war ahead! May we too come out stronger and better prepared for our lives, when we find ourselves ‘wintering’ at Valley Forge.

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