It is the Sabbath, and on this evening we meet to do honor to those who have given their lives in the service of their country—to those who have been killed in action, to those who have been declared missing in action, to those who have been prisoners of war, and to the many who have sustained injuries, some of whom are confined to military and to veterans’ hospitals.
We recognize those also who have suffered injury to their minds or who have fallen victim to the other dangers that always seem to attend armed conflict. Some of them have become casualties quite as much as those who have given their lives. There are those who fell victim in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, and now those who have fallen in the Vietnam conflict. The passing of time perhaps erases some of the pain, but it does not diminish the significance of the sacrifice they have made.
It is our hope that this service will bring comfort to the parents, to the families, to the wives, and to the children of those who have been killed in action or who have otherwise been afflicted in these conflicts.
We have prepared a roster—a roster of honor—for those of our number who have fallen victim in Vietnam. Though our list is not complete—some units have not yet reported—this roster now holds the names of 536 killed in action, 27 missing in action, and 7 who are held prisoners of war.
It would be well if we explained to you something of the program that is now operating to help members of the Church as they enter military service. It can be said that we now have moving into operation the finest program to sustain and comfort members of the Church entering military service that we have ever devised. In its finest performance, it offers to young men entering military service most of the benefits of Church activity and advancement that they might have in civilian life.
It begins with the home and with the family where strength is established, where character is formed, so that these young men might meet the challenges of life. It is sustained and supplemented by the organizations of the Church, all calculated to immunize the young man against the dangers attendant to military service, so that though he may, as we have noted, by chance fall a victim to mortal conflict, he will not be a moral casualty.
The program begins with a preservice orientation held for men entering military service. These orientations are held on a regular basis with experienced teachers at many places across the country. At all of the basic training centers, for all branches of the military service, we have an intensive inservice orientation. It is given during the time allowed for religious activity. It is carefully structured to provide the spiritual needs in such circumstances, and is taught by experienced and able teachers.
We have twenty-eight chaplains serving across the world. Presently there are three in Vietnam. We have servicemen’s groups, branches, wards, and indeed a stake made up entirely of service personnel. Even in the battle zone the members of the Church are organized into branches and districts.
From the ugliness of armed conflict have come some of the finest spiritual experiences, moments of spiritual heroism in which Latter-day Saints—some who are not listed on the roster of honor—have been tested and have not been found wanting. It is to honor these that this memorial service is held, and to bring comfort to those bereft of a loved one.
There are many things in mortal life difficult understand, many things that tear at the heartstrings and test the temper of the human soul. These are the perplexities of life. We live in perplexing days. And yet, there comes promise that if we will be faithful to Him and teach his word, we can come to know peace.
“Teach ye diligently,” he admonished, “and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
“Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad”—and then this: “the wars and the perplexities of the nations. …” (D&C 88:78–79.) Even this we can come to understand.
There are a few lines of verse in which I have found great comfort. They tell of a mother and a message:
“Alone she waits by the window
For her lad of twenty-one.
Alone she had built her castles
In the future of her son.
“… Her dreaming is rudely shattered.
A gentle rap on the door—
‘A telegram, ma’am,’ he whispers,
And the lad moves on once more.
“Alone with the yellow missive.
Alone with the fear she had.
Alone with her cherished memories
And the tender thoughts of her lad.
“‘Killed in action—in line of duty.’
Blind went her eyes with pain.
A moan of mortal agony,
Then all became still again.
“‘O God! My God! Where were you
When my son was being slain?’
And scalding tears of bitterness
Drenched her cheeks like a summer rain.
“But a soft voice seemed to whisper
In the twilight’s afterglow:
‘I had a son—at Calvary
Two thousand years ago.’”
God bless the memory of those who have given their lives in the service of their country, and God bless those who languish in prison camps. May he sustain and bless them, those of every faith, and hasten the day of their release. God bless those whose bodies have been broken and whose minds have been injured, and particularly may he bless those who have fallen casualties of the moral ugliness that abounds when men will not live in peace. May he sustain those of you who have been bereft of a loved one, and speak to you of peace—that peace which surpasseth understanding.
I bear to you a witness that those who have gone beyond the veil yet live, that there will be that reunion, that the resurrection is a reality, that he is our God, our Father, and that he loves us. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.