STERLING WARD WARD
ASHBURN, VA STAKE
Brothers and sisters, Bishop Hale has asked me to make a few remarks to conclude this memorial sacrament meeting. I appreciate the two previous speakers who have taught us good doctrine about the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation. I pray that the Spirit may also guide me as I speak.
II. THE TRAGEDY OF LOSS
We have seen many heart-rendering images over the last week. We have seen the terrible destruction of property. Worse, we have seen the terrible destruction of families. We have seen children lose their fathers and mothers. We have seen husbands lose their wives, and wives lose their husbands. We have seen parents lose their children. We have seen family members lose their brothers and sisters. We have see people lose their friends. We grieve for and with those who have suffered these loses. We feel extreme sorrow at the magnitude of the loss. In addition, we feel deep vulnerability to evil designs. And in addition, we feel great humility at the fragility of life.
Of all the tragic scenes I have witnessed this last week, the worst for me was a man about 30 years old mourning the loss of his girlfriend. This is because the tragedy of a lost life is the tragedy of unfinished business--unfinished spiritual development for the individual who has gone and unfinished human relationships for those who remain behind. This young man's tragedy was the unfinished business of not having married his girlfriend. He is left with nothing to bind her to him. There is no hope of reparation of their separation. That is the most profound tragedy--to be left without hope.
III. THE RESPONSE TO TRAGEDY
We have also witnessed this week the response to the bombing. We have seen charity abound. We have seen good will toward men. We have seen the pure love of Christ. We have seen the Holy Ghost bring out the good in people. We have felt it ourselves. Many in our country have prayed like they have never prayed before. As a nation we have wanted to give and have given. We have wanted to help and have helped. We have wanted to share and have shared. We have seen incredible selflessness. It has been awe-inspiring.
This should come as no surprise to us. We know that grief generates the Spirit. We know that humility generates the pure love of Christ. We know that vulnerability generates a desire to help. We know that sorrow generates the desire to share. It is unfortunate that it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to humble our nation enough to have the Spirit rest over all the land; to have compassion and charity be a way of life; to have sharing and helping be common practices. We have all felt the Spirit in this tragedy. We know that humility brings out the best in people..
III. THE MEANING IN TRAGEDY
As Tuesday wore on and the loss was having a deeper and deeper impact on me, I searched for meaning in the tragedy. I was having a personal reaction to the bombings. So, what did the bombing mean to me? I was reminded of several verses in the scriptures. In D&C 1:35 it says that "peace will be taken from the earth." I also remembered D&C section 29. In verse 15 it says that during the last days
DC 29:15 - And there shall be weeping and wailing among the hosts of men;
which we have seen this last week. Now skip to verse 17. This verse gives the reason why there will be terrible things happen in the last days before the second coming.
DC 29:17 - And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full; for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.
The bombings were a wake-up call for me. My spiritual alarm was going off. I wondered if I were part of the problem or part of the solution. I did not want my wickedness to be the cause of someone else's loss. I concluded that the bombings were a sign of the times (cf. Matt 16:3). The bombings were a reminder that I am not yet prepared for the Second Coming. Moreover, the tragic loses I saw others suffer reminded me that I am not prepared either for the loss of my own life, or for the loss of the lives of my close family members. I, too, have much unfinished business in my own spiritual development and I, too, have much unfinished business in my relationships with my family. The meaning of this tragedy for me was that I needed to repent. As I knelt down in prayer Tuesday night, I picked out one sin of which I could repent and began the repentance process.
IV. RESPONSE TO ATTACK
[Do this part only if I have enough time]
Our national leaders have described the airline bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as an attack on America, an attack on our values and our way of life, an attack on freedom, and indeed it is. This attack, however, pales in comparison to other attacks we have seen in the last 60 years: the German attacks on Poland and the Soviet Union; the Japanese attack on China; the Khmer Rouge attack on Cambodia; the Serbian attack on Kosovo, and the Hutu and Tutsi attacks in Rawanda, for example. We have heard it said that life as we have known it is forever changed in the wake of the World Trade Center attack. This is true. It was so much more true in Poland, the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Kosovo, and Rawanda.
I would like to take us much further back into history. At time when a different nation was under attack and even more severely than the ones I have just mentioned. The very existence of the nation was at stake. Not only would the nation be changed forever, but would it cease to exist altogether.
Please open the Book of Mormon. Let's turn to Mormon chapter 6, starting in verse 1.
Mormon 6:1 - AND now I finish my record concerning the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it came to pass that we did march forth before the Lamanites.
Now let's skip to verse 7 and 8.
7/8 - And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them. And it came to pass that they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers.
And finally, let's jump down to verses 16 to 18.
16-18 - And my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people, and I cried: O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you! Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.
Brothers and Sisters, that was the end of the world as Mormon knew it. His whole ethnic group, his whole nation was destroyed. Several years before the destruction of his people, he could see the end coming. I imagine it depressed him. See what he says three chapters earlier, in chapter 3 starting in verse 11.
Mormon 3:11-15 - And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination. Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them; nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts. And thrice have I delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and they have repented not of their sins. And when they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren, behold the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth.
From this verse can we tell which was more disturbing to Mormon: that his people were going to be killed, or that they did not repent of their sins? I think so. Mormon was more disturbed that they did not repent. They had gone into a state of apostasy. I suspect President Hinckley and President Brown and Bishop Hale are like the Prophet Mormon--they are more worried about what sin will do to us, than they are worried about what terrorists will do to us.
Again, what did Mormon believe would save his people from destruction? Did he believe preparing for war and engaging in brilliant counter-attacks would save his people? No. Mormon believed repentance would save his people. Early in the war, Mormon had hoped that the attacks on his nation with the attendant loss of life and personal tragedy would bring his people to repentance. Eventually that hope faded. And his nation was destroyed.
So what should our response be to the attack on America? Should we give money to the Red Cross. Of course. Should we pray for the families of the victims? Absolutely. If we were to learn from Mormon's experience, however, the best thing each and every one of us could do would be to repent of our sins and live a righteous life.
[Continue here if previous section was skipped.]
V. BEYOND THE ATTACK
Is the World Trade Center bombing the last we will see unspeakable horror? No. We will see a general deterioration of the world as we know it as we get closer to the Second Coming of Christ. There will be plenty of natural and man-made horrors. We had a Y2K scare a couple of years ago. We have come to know El Niño and La Niña. We see the increasing violence in Northern Ireland and in Israel and Palestine. We see the rise of organized crime in Russia. We have hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanos, and ozone holes. We see the virtual take over of the government in Columbia by narco-traffickers.
There will also be plenty of natural and man-made wonders. Just three weeks ago I saw a meteor streak across the sky as I was coming home from work. Brother Tucker has a hand held computer. We saw the Shoemaker-Levy comet that crashed into the planet Jupiter. We see orthroscopic surgery as commonplace. We see the most amazing photographs from the Hubble Telescope. We see artificial organs and genetically engineered food.
All these things are a reminder that we are coming every closer to the Second Coming. They are all reminders that we have unfinished business in our own lives. They remind us to improve our spirituality. They remind us to improve our relationships with our family members. They are our wake up call. They are our spiritual alarm clocks.
Let me challenge each of us to pick a sin we can live without and repent of it. Wouldn't it be nice when someone asks us, "What do you think of the bombings?" we could answer,"The tragedy I saw in the lives of my fellow citizens as a result of the bombings was a wake up call for me to be a better person and improve my family relationships." In this way, when losses come into our live--as they inevitably will--they will not be quite so tragic. We will have hope, through the Atonement of Christ, of being reunited together forever.
Finally, let me bear you my testimony. Our Heavenly Father is real. He stands ready to help us if we ask. His Son is the Savior of the World. He has suffered for our sins that we might cast our burdens upon Him. The Holy Ghost really can guide our lives and comfort us through perilous times..
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.