Sunday, July 3, 2011

4th of July Weekend

I went to church today.  That, in and of itself wasn't so unusual; I go to church just about every Sunday.  But today was something pretty special.  First of all, it was the first Sunday of the month, which meant it was the Sunday reserved for members of the congregation to bear their testimonies.  The members of my church congregation are pretty eloquent when publicly expressing their love for their Savior.  Fast and Testimony meeting at our Ward is always filled with the Lord's Spirit, as the members of the congregation publicly express their gratitude for blessings and their belief in the Gospel. 

What made this Sunday a bit different was the number of people who attended today's services.  I live in a very small town, in a very rural county.  My church's congregation draws its membership from two very small towns, one with a population of 191, and the other with a population of  171.  Today, we had just over 500 people join our services.  Most of the people were visitors to the area, who had come to enjoy our natural resources (we may not have a lot a people, but we have a National Park and two National Forests within a 10 mile radius) or who were visiting family for the 4th of July weekend.  Some of these visitors also were moved to publicly declare their testimonies, as were some of the "locals."  It was extremely special to hear heartfelt thanks and declarations of belief.  It was interesting that so many of the visitors talked about how special this place is.  How they felt "renewed" by coming here.  How they came back year after year.  How they felt closer to our Heavenly Father here. 

It was interesting, because that's exactly how I feel.  I am so lucky to live here.  There is such natural beauty in the land around this place.  It reminds me, every day, of the greatness of our Creator.  Of course, the people here are part of what makes this place so special.  They are "real" here.  They know what is important:  family, friends, freedom, the land, and the Gospel. 

It was also pretty special to hear the voices of that many people raised in song.  Because it is the 4th of July weekend, our chorister chose "The Star Spangled Banner" as the opening hymn.  (Yes, it's in our official hymn book.)  For a long time now, I tend to tear up when our National Anthem is sung.  I don't know why, it just happens.  It was a real problem when I was on active duty, wearing a uniform, and was rendering a salute during the Anthem.  Trying to wipe a tear away while at attention is not easy.  Anyway, I still tear up.  Today was no different.  As the extended congregation of 500-plus voices sang this wonderful song, I cried.  I cried for those families who have lost loved ones, who gave their lives for our Nation.  I cried for those families who are not able to have BBQ, go to the lake, or go camping this weekend, because their loved one is serving overseas.  I cried for the beauty of the song and the love I hold for this Nation.  I especially cried during the third verse of the hymn: 

Oh thus be it ever, where free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and war's desolation
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Promise the pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust!"
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I wish that everyone could have the chance to sing all the verses of our National Anthem on this 4th of July weekend.  Perhaps we'd all remember....and shed at least one tear. 

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