This past weekend I was archiving files on my computer, and I discovered some photos I took in July 2008. One image in particular has captured my attention. If a “picture is worth a thousand words” then this one certainly tells a beautiful story. It symbolizes all that I am personally thankful for – evoking words such as:
God. Family. Home. Country. Freedom. Worship. Life, and Eternity.
I remember that walk. It was a beautiful late summer afternoon. I lingered, and eventually the light began to fade. As I walked past the cemetary, I happened to turn and look back toward the LDS Temple nestled on the hill. At that moment, I saw the rays of the setting sun shimmering through the American flag, and the temple prominently settled in the background. I snapped a photo. At some point I downloaded the image to my computer, and then forgot about it. Until today.
This photo makes my heart swell with gratitude. I am grateful to our forefathers who sacrificed everything, including their very lives to build a country where men and women would be free to worship according the dictates of their own conscience. Through their courage & determination, and with divine assistance, they made that dream a reality. Likewise, I am grateful for my Mormon ancestors who sacrificed everything, including their very lives, to build a haven in the West. They desired a place where they could worship according the the dictates of their conscience, and raise their children free from persecution, terror, mob violence and fear. Through their courage & determination, and with divine assistance, they made that dream a reality.
If those pioneers and forefathers could have seen into the future, to our day, what would they have thought? Certainly, they could be amazed at how our nation has grown, and at our advances in medicine and technology. They could marvel at all of our modern conveniences, our tall buildings and rapid transportation. However, perhaps they might see something less impressive, and disconcerting. They would see that beyond all of our surface comfort and wealth, there lies a collective soul in bankruptcy.
Where is our courage and determination? How are we safegarding the religious freedoms they fought so hard to establish and preserve? What personal sacrifices are we making on behalf of our future generations? What legacy are we striving to leave?
In general, as 21st Century beings, we have become so distracted by our “pursuit of happiness”, we seem to be forgetting the things that matter most.
The current conventional wisdom is that more is better and less is usually undesirable. For some, the pursuit to acquire more of this world’s goods and services has become a passion. For others, more of this world’s wealth is necessary just to sustain life or raise living standards to a minimum level. The unbridled desire for more often has tragic consequences…
It is hard to say no to more, when you can afford to say yes. Parents are rightfully anxious about the future. It is difficult to say no to more sports equipment, electronics, lessons, clothes, team participation, et cetera, when parents believe more will help children thrive in an increasingly competitive world. Young people seem to want more, partly because there is infinitely more to catch their eye. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimated that American children see more than 40,000 commercials a year. – Bishop H. David Burton, – “More Holiness Give Me” Oct. 2004
One of my favorite hymns was penned by the revered Evangelist composer Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876), entitled “More Holiness Give Me“. It is found in many congregational hymnbooks – including the Latter-day Saints. The song is written as a plea to heaven for a list of virtues.
The virtues expressed in “More Holiness Give Me” fall into several groups. Some are personal goals, like more faith, gratitude, and purity…Others center on adversity, [such as] patience in suffering, and strength to overcome…The rest firmly anchor us to our Savior…more blessed and holy; and more, Savior, like Thee. More of these virtues is better. Less is not desirable.
As I gaze at my photo, I can hear this hymn clearly in my mind. There is a certain line that particularly stands out…”More Freedom From Earth-Stains“… I offer a prayer in my heart for my family, my country and its citizens whom I love so much, and for the entire world to receive More Freedom. Oh, how I pray we will seek more of holiness, and we will turn to the One who can cleanse, heal and protect us in this time of great need. The truth is undeniable:
More Holiness offers More Freedom.
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An Arrangement of Phillip Paul Bliss’ hymn by Michelle Willis. Performed by the BYU-Idaho Womens Choir, directed by Kathryn Ricks Willis.