Sunday, November 13, 2005

Am I a Good Man?

As Veteran’s Day weekend comes to a close I wanted to throw in my 2 cents worth. Lucy and I got home from our Saturday Night Date and turned on the television to catch the very end of Saving Private Ryan as it was playing out. I’m a little hard of hearing, even with my hearing aids and so I’m not able to explain what exactly Private Ryan heard from his dying Captain there on the bridge; but it must have been something close to, “Make our sacrifice worth it” or along those lines.

The very next scene jumps ahead 50 years with Private Ryan, now old and getting closer to the “jumping off place” as he visits the WWII cemetery and ponders his life, a life which was prolonged as a direct result of all those men who lay buried beneath the rows and rows of crosses in that cemetery over in France. His family had traveled with him as he remembered all the terrible aspects of war, the suffering and the sacrifices made as he stood before the marker of his departed Captain. He turned to his wife in all humility and asked “Am I a good man? I’ve tried as hard as I know how to live up to the gift that was given me; am I a good man?” I may have misquoted a tad; but like they say in the Army when tossing a grenade, close enough.

Turning to a different time and yet the common theme of war and character as a thread, there is important information to be gained from studying those who confront such human struggles and turn them for good. Roughly 72 years prior to the birth of Christ a record of a people about to be involved in a war for survival was made in the Book of Mormon. It is found in Alma 48:15-17

“And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;

And also, that God would make it known unto them wither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”

Are we able to say in all humility that we have earned the gift that was given us by those who fought and died in the name of liberty and freedom? Saving Private Ryan was a brutal visual assault requiring a strong will to accept the necessary pains of war in order to achieve an appreciation for those horrors which accompany the fight for liberty and freedom.

There is another of my favorite scriptures from the Book of Mormon found in the book of 1 Nephi 19:22,23 which might add to the message which I am attempting to share.

“Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, did teach my brethren these things; and it came to pass that I did read many things to them, which were engraven upon the plates of brass, that they might know concerning the doings of the Lord in other lands, among people of old.

And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.”

This may seem a circuitous route; bear with me and it may become more clear. One way to liken the scriptures unto ourselves is by inserting our own name in the place of that name which is written to see how it might apply to our own set of circumstances. How would we measure up if the Lord had been talking to us or about our actions? For example, when I placed before you the information, “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”, could you easily substitute your own name for that of Moroni? What could you be doing in your own life to improve your standing?

“Am I a good man?”, Private Ryan asked his wife, pleading for the solace or peace of mind which would permit him to stand up right with some measure of justification for having been spared. Now, stand in his place as you contemplate the rows of crosses at our National Cemeteries, the graves of all those brave souls who have fought for your right to stand in a free nation where liberty abounds. Can you ask the question, “Am I a good man?” and receive comfort in your own soul for having lived a life deserving of their lives?

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

In Flanders Field the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This is my entry for Tuesday’s Carnival of Liberty being hosted this week by Eric Cowperthwaite. Drop by his site and read some of the articles submitted.

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