The Church Of The Unknown Soldiers


If you visit Arlington National Cemetery you would find in the center of it, one of Arlington’s most popular sites, “The Tomb of the Unknowns”. The tomb contains the remains of unknown American soldiers from World War I, II and from the Korean Conflict. It is a place of great reverence. I have visited it several times during my life. The tomb is guarded twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year by the 3rd United States Infantry. It is a place where solitude is a natural by-product of its hallowed ground. The tomb stands as a reminder to us all of the sacrifices given for the freedoms we enjoy. It is a gift given by people who shall forever remain nameless. I recall visiting this tomb when I was a boy. I was struck by the formality of the uniformed white-gloved soldiers who watch over it. I was forever impressed by the changing of the guard. How dignified both soldiers looked as they made the exchange. It is no less impressive when I visited the tomb as an adult. I always left with a sense of appreciation for those “unknowns” who had so valiantly given their lives so that I might better enjoy mine.

Over the course of my life, I have seen many individuals give of their life in service so that others might benefit. It has not only been on the battlefields in distance lands, but in the halls of the different congregations I have attended where I have resided. I have seen dutiful servants of God, both men and women, go about the tasks and assignments that are most thankless. Without any recognition, they labor faithfully, day after day, year after year. They are the army of God! Some callings are visible and those that serve in them get recognized for their wonderful service. But most callings in the churches are fulfilled with little fanfare. For this reason, I think the buildings in which we worship could be called “the church of the unknowns”. It is true that service to the Lord should be given without thought for appreciation or reward, yet I believe that it is important for all members to not only be grateful to their fellow workers, but also to express that gratitude to them. So often we “think to thank”, but don’t “act to thank”.

My life has often been touched by others kind spoken words and small acts of gratitude. Notes, words of encouragement and appreciation have lifted me up in times of trial. Many years ago, I sent a baseball card to a fellow church member of a player whose style of play and photograph was symbolic of a tough time he was going through.  It was meant to convey my respect and give encouragement. A number of years later my mother passed away and I was now going through a difficult time.  A letter arrived in the mail and enclosed was the same baseball card with a note of encouragement and sympathy from this same brother.  I need not tell you that my heart swelled with joy knowing that he remembered me in my time of need.  I have never forgotten the thoughtfulness of that man. The monetary value of this card is little but the sentimental value is priceless. I treasure it and pull it out from time to time. It always brings a smile to my face and warm feeling to my heart.  I am reminded of a story told by Thomas Monson a number of years ago.

“The story is told of a group of men who were talking about people who had influenced their lives and for whom they were grateful. One man thought of a high school teacher who had introduced him to Tennyson. He decided to write and thank her. In time, written in a feeble scrawl, came the teacher’s reply:

“My Dear Willie:

I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my 80’s, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and like the last leaf lingering behind. You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has for years.” President Monson concluded, “We owe an eternal debt of gratitude to all of those, past and present, who have given so much of themselves that we might have so much ourselves”. (“The Profound Power of Gratitude,” Ensign, Sep 2005).

It is good to work together in the “tomb of the unknowns” where service is rendered from the heart and not for the glory of man. Like the Sentinels at Arlington, it is also our charge to show respect to all the “unknowns” and there are many found in our buildings.  It is only proper to express such honor to those that labor in obscurity so diligently to bless our lives.  A small note of appreciation to them might be in order because, they are “known” to us.  Perhaps such a note will arrive on a “blue, cold morning” for them which will “cheer” them up and lift them from their feelings of being alone, unknown and forgotten.  It might lift them from the darkness of the tomb to the light of a new day.  Who knows the good that can come of it!

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