To The Legions of ‘Forgotten Heroes’


In the summer of 1980 we were living in Maryland. That summer my parents were able to get a beach house located on the Chesapeake Bay for a few days. My wife and I, with our young son of just over a year, were excited to go and spend a few days relaxing and spending time with the entire family. Many of my brothers and sisters and their families were there as well as a couple of my cousin’s families. The house was right on the bay and had its own little dock. Between all the families there must have been 15 to 20 small children. We were packed into that house. There seemed to be kids running everywhere. One day my wife was out by the dock talking with some of the women. As she looked around she was shocked to see a small child perilously close to the edge of the pier. Suddenly the child fell off the pier and into deep waters. The child clearly was drowning! My wife quickly ran down the pier and jumped into the water to save the floundering young child. Somehow the toddler had strayed from the watchful eyes of his mother and was now in great peril. My wife pulled him out of the water quick enough so that no permanent harm was done. My cousin was grateful that my wife had been there to save his child.  This experience quickly faded from the memories of the parties concerned and I am sure that even my kids have not heard me, or anyone else tell this story before. No doubt, they do not know that their mother is a “forgotten hero.”

The reason this event is seldom told is because tragedy was averted. There is no question that, if my cousin’s child had drowned that day, it would be a memory etched in the minds of all in attendance. The course of history would have dramatically changed that day for my cousin’s family. Instead, it has become a faded memory, easily forgotten by all.  In fact, I don’t recall which cousins child fell in that day. The event is so faded that it is barely a blip in my memory. Even my cousin might not remember the  incident!

Perhaps the opportunity to avert a tragedy will never present to us as the one presented to my wife that day. However, every day, we have the opportunity to be a seldom-praised hero. The lesson you teach in church or school, the weekend you spend camping with struggling young men. The daily kind words you say to others are all opportunities to be a hero. If you listen to the prompting of the spirit you will find that you can bless the lives of many. You will often not even know of your heroic deeds as they often help others avoid tragic decisions or actions. Many of us have stood at essential crossroads in our lives and have taken the right path due to the influence of a teacher, a sibling, a parent, a friend, or an acquaintance.

In 1905, President Joseph F. Smith made this most profound statement about true greatness:

“Those things which we call extraordinary, remarkable, or unusual may make history, but they do not make real life.”

Howard W. Hunter had this to say about “true greatness”.

“After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all mankind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman.” (Juvenile Instructor, 15 Dec. 1905, p. 752.) (What Is True Greatness? By President Howard W. Hunter, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve.)

Hunter continued:

“There is no such thing as instant greatness… It requires a consistent effort in the little things in day-to-day life. Specifically, it is the thousands of little deeds and tasks of service and sacrifice that constitute the giving, or losing, of one’s life for others and for the Lord. This includes gaining knowledge of our Father in Heaven and the gospel. It also includes bringing others into the faith and fellowship of his kingdom. These things do not usually receive the attention or the adulation of the world.”

The ironic aspect of “forgotten heroes” is that most often, these “heroes” are not only forgotten but often unknown to the heroes themselves! From my vantage point, I have seen legions of “forgotten” heroes in the halls of my church. They are the everyday people of the church but they are extraordinary people of the world.  They are average as to the things of the world but their work is not common. They are those who give Christian service at a moment’s notice. They are the men and women whose names are seldom heard across the pulpits of man but whose devotion to the Lord receives the adoration of the angels.

So to all you ‘forgotten heroes’ known to and by few, may you take solace in the words of a prophet of God and know that your daily acts of heroism may go unnoticed to the world or even by yourself, but they are duly noted in the records of heaven. May this message of appreciation find its way to you from someone you have helped along the way but who has not forgotten!

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