What Is The Symbol Of Our Religion?


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 symbolic statue, 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”. In my home state of 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 Gordon B. 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 the members of the church, that the way they live their 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. A number of years ago 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 we all 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.

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