Changing of the guard – one prophet to another

In Arlington Cemetery, Arlington Virginia, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, one can witness the breathtakingly solemn ceremony of the changing of the guard.

It’s one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen.  Since it was built, the tomb has been guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The soldiers that guard it have been chosen with excruciating care.  They are the best of the Elite 3rd U.S. Infantry. 

They have been tested and tried; they are the most seasoned sentinels.  They have unwavering discipline, and have volunteered themselves for tireless service.  During their guard, there is no relief.  They weather any storm, regardless of how severe.  Until they are relived, their vigilance is perfect.

Before the time comes for the changing of the guard, his replacement will walk with him for a time in absolute harmony.  They walk in perfect Step, one with another, completely united.  And then, when the time comes for the first to retire, the next is there, completely ready.  The handoff ceremony is precise and pure, having been executed many times before.  And so, the precious post passes from one to the next, in an unbroken chain of protection.

Such is the changing of the guard.

On Sunday, January 27, 2008, our beloved prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley passed away.  The following Saturday, February 2, 2008, I was privileged to be at the Tabernacle, and witness the changing of the guard.

 No, it wasn’t any official ceremony appointing our new prophet, but it was my opportunity to see the mantle of the Lord settling onto our new Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, as he bid farewell to his mighty predecessor with the tender words reflecting their friendship… “Gordon, God be with you till we meet again.”

And so, the changing of the guard is complete, leaving the saints with an unbroken chain of prophetic protection.  Chosen with excruciating care, from our most seasoned sentinels, the best of the elite, our new guard is uniquely positioned to stand in the storms that lie ahead, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

President Thomas S. Monson, our new prophet.  May the Lord bless you in your service, and may our prayers sustain you through your post.

The Tomb At Dusk



Lives of great men

Lives of great men

I didn’t mention in my last post, the reference made to a poem as a tribute to President Hinckley.  I believe it was President Monson who quoted it, and in quoting it, he only mentioned a single stanza (noted by the stars below) probably because of time constraints. 

It was a poem I memorized in college as a “guide to life”, and I think it typifies the prophet completely.  It covers his “put on your shoes and go to work” style attitude, his passion for life and service, his tireless drive to be better and do more, and his commitment to the other “Be’s” he’s become so well known for.

Note the stanza’s about a heart that’s stout and brave – was there ever a braver, stouter heart than that of President Gordon B. Hinckley?  And finally (‘cause you can read it yourself and draw your own connections), I’ll comment on the “Be a hero in the strife”.  He had become nothing short of a Hero amongst the saints, what else could have prompted so many Latter Day Saint youth to spontaneously decide, through an explosion of text messages, to pay public tribute to their prophet through their scholl attire the day following his death.  He will be well missed.

A Psalm of Life
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream,
for the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, –act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

*Lives of great men all remind us
*We can make our lives sublime,
*And, departing, leave behind us
*Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Note:  This is just from memory, and so is subject to slight inaccuracies or errors in formatting from the original.


President Hinckley’s funeral – saying goodbye to my prophet

Wow, what an event.  I’m so glad I went.  It was so inspiring.  I’ve wanted to post just a few highlights and my thoughts on them…

First of all, I loved the image of hard work that Sister Pearce, his Daughter, painted about the prophet.  She said that when his wife died, he mourned deeply, then put on his shoes and went to work.  When he was diagnosed with cancer, he mourned the loss of his good health (having been so healthy all of his life), but then he put on his shoes, and went to work.  He was 97, and every morning, he put on his shoes and went to work.  He served the Lord for half of a century, tirelessly “doing his best”.  He served as apostle, seer, and revelator for nearly 50 years.  He bore the burden of the entire church as prophet for 13 years.  Almost one third of all members baptized today were baptized while he was president.  He built 75 new temples, and never tired.  Every day, he just put on his shoes, and went to work.

That was one of the legacies he left behind, that notion of hard work in the face of hardship, despite age and fatigue, he was a strong, non-complaining, hard worker. 

When I was in college I memorized a poem that I feel encapsulates President Hinckley:

Be Strong
by Maltbie Davenport Babcock

Be strong, we are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
we have hard work to do, and loads to lift,
sun not the struggle, face it, ‘tis God’s gift.

Be strong, say not the days are evil, who’s to blame
and fold the hands of acquiesce – o shame!
Stand up, speak out, and boldly in God’s name.

Be strong, it matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,
how hard the battle goes, the day how long,
faint not, fight on, tomorrow comes the song.

Sometimes I reflect on how much more diligent I can be at following in those footsteps.  Often we find ourselves complaining, paralyzed by fear, drugged by nostalgia, hindered by doubt, wallowing in laziness, or focusing on the negative, when what we really need to do, is just put on our shoes, and go to work. 

I loved hearing about the explosion of text messages across latter day saint youth, prompting them to wear their Sunday best to school the next morning, in tribute.  That kind of spontaneous unity across such a wide array of people, and over such a short period of time is inspiring and awesome.

I loved the story of President Hinckley walking into the room full of general authorities dressed in their dark, suits and saying “You all look like a bunch of penguins”, or the myriad other stories about his lightening sense of humor.  I love seeing that humor and sobriety can safely coexist.  That one bearing such burdens can look through it all and smile, and joke, and lighten the burdens of those around him, even though they pale in comparison to those weighing down upon himself.

The quote:  “Here and there, now and then, the Lord makes a giant out of men”.

And finally, after a beautiful, entertaining, and profound tribute to our prophet, the heart-felt feeling of our next prophet, President Monson, calling him by his first name – “Gordon, God be with you till we meet again”.


It is not the critic who counts

I mentioned in my last post, the tribute paid to Gordon B. Hinckley by Glenn Beck.  While the tribute was genuine and touching, it was disconcerting to go look up the video on YouTube, and to read all the atrocious, false, uninformed, and appalling comments posted after the video. 

I fail to understand how so many people can be filled with such malice to take their time to berate and tear down the memory of someone so well loved (or anyone at all) –  particularly those who do it and call themselves Christian.  How do they reconcile that incongruity?  It’s a behavior so anti-Christian that the very act testifies against the speaker, confirming the lack of authenticity behind their belief, or at least how poorly they understand their religion.

You know a tree is good if it brings forth good fruit.  If a tree is bad, it will bring forth bad fruit.  They’re very actions condemn them.  That’s sad.

To those who find themselves caught up in such actions, I suggest you try to be a builder of things, and not a destroyer of things.  My father had a quote by Theodore Roosevelt framed and hanging on his office wall.  I memorized it early and reflect upon it often, and it has more appliance now than ever…

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbles, or how the doer of deeds might have done them better.  No, the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again…  Who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”


Funeral for a prophet

Tomorrow morning I’ve got tickets to go to President Hinckley’s funeral.  Saying I’m excited is probably the wrong way to describe it, but it’s something like that.  With how much he was loved, I think the ceremony is bound to be touching and inspiring, and I’m fortunate to be able to be there.  The news today was saying that there are expected to be some 150,000 people coming to Temple Square to join the ceremony in any way they can, and today there were simply swarms of people, families, gathered around in unfathomably long lines, all waiting to get in to the viewing.

I personally find it inspiring that so many people would take time out of their day to pay tribute to the Prophet we all loved so much.

On that note, today my bishop forwarded to me a tribute from CNN talk show host Glenn Beck, where he paid a touching tribute to the prophet on live TV (click here to watch it).

I was so impressed that he would have the courage to speak out, to voice his opinion, and to make himself heard on something he thought was timely and important.  I think too often we don’t do that, we keep things to ourselves (often because we’re afraid of causing offense), and the world would likely be a better place if we all spoke out a little more.  (See my blog post on “why I keep this blog” for more thoughts on that…)

I’ll post my thoughts on the funeral tomorrow, and pay my own public tribute to such a fantastic soul.