Memorial Day: We Are the Twenty and Four

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11 And when they had gone through and hewn down all my people save it were twenty and four of us…and we having survived the dead of our people, did behold on the morrow, when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps, from the top of the hill Cumorah, the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down, being led in the front by me.

12 And we also beheld the ten thousand of my people who were led by my son Moroni.

13 And behold, the ten thousand of Gidgiddonah had fallen, and he also in the midst.

14 And Lamah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Gilgal had fallen with his ten thousand; and Limhah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Jeneum had fallen with his ten thousand; and Cumenihah, and Moronihah, and Antionum, and Shiblom, and Shem, and Josh, had fallen with their ten thousand each.

15 And it came to pass that there were ten more who did fall by the sword, with their ten thousand each; yea, even all my people, save it were those twenty and four who were with me, and also a few who had escaped into the south countries, and a few who had deserted over unto the Lamanites, had fallen; and their flesh, and bones, and blood lay upon the face of the earth, being left by the hands of those who slew them to molder upon the land, and to crumble and to return to their mother earth.

16 And my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people, and I cried:

17 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!

18 Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.

19 O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!

20 But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return.

Can you read this and not feel his pain?

Can you read this and not liken it unto yourself?

I can’t. I can’t help but liken us to the twenty and four, sitting on that hillside with General Mormon, seeing the hundreds of thousands of slain countrymen below. I think we also are witnessing today the slow motion destruction of an entire civilization. The twenty and four—such an increasing minority, and one that does sadly not even include very latter-day saint—watching evil overtake the country and the world. Politically, socially, economically.

Evil has always been overtaking the world, it’s true. But never before as blatantly. Satan has always worked with subtlety, ever since the Garden of Eden. But now he does not even have to hide himself. People, of their own free will, are using their agency, at his behest, to put themselves out of God’s reach. Many are making themselves irretrievable. And we, the twenty and four, have to watch it happen, unable to do anything but plead, as Mormon did to his people, to come back, to know Jesus, who was and still is standing with open arms to receive them.

But they would not.

The Book of Mormon has always been a warning. But never before has its apocalyptic arc been so apt, as we see the winds of chaos Satan has been blowing sweep across the land. Never before has our spiritual opposition seemed as overwhelming as the massive Lamanite army at Cumorah.

We are a little different than the twenty and four, of course. They all perished the next day. We, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will not perish. As a church, we will not. But as individuals, we perish all the time. For the lines between sides are getting sharper. The wheat are being separated from the tares. So many are falling, perishing of their own free will, choosing other causes to champion over the church, some running away from their duties on the battlefield and some deserting over to the other side to fight against their brothers and sisters.

The church was founded in America. But membership rates in America are not looking good. Many members in this nation, especially those of my generation pulled away by social trends, are leaving the church, even vocally, and even taking up arms against it. This nation is growing increasingly hostile, monstrously hostile, to the values we live by, the values of heaven, and traditional spheres of refuge no longer promise comfort. There is no political party or otherwise institution that welcomes the moderate Mormon view. This was also the case back in the 19th century, when both major political parties either refused to help at their best, or outright despised us and tried to kill us at their worst. And so, led by Brigham Young, we found refuge in the tops of the mountains, much like Mormon and his twenty and four. With the values of the world again pushing us as a church out, to where do we flee now?

Well, everywhere. This church is rapidly decentralizing. We are becoming a truly global church. Stakes of Zion are being established in the every corner of the world where we are welcome. As the church begins to decline in America, baptism rates skyrocket in other parts of the world.

Wherever we find safety, though, whether it’s in certain pockets in the country or outside, we look on the rest of this great and spacious building, and especially the American nation that was the incubator for this gospel and the greatest country in the history of the world for its goodness and prosperity and philosophical foundation, and see it fall. We are the twenty and four. Or we will be, very soon.

So on this Memorial Day, do not memorialize just the fallen American soldiers who died fighting for their country. Remember the Nephites, too. Their downfall. Their desertion from the divine. Remember why they fell, and give voice to the Book of Mormon, let its warning sound in the ear of our neighbor. Pray that at least a few can join the rest of us at the top of the hill Cumorah. Memorialize those who have fallen before, and remember why.

And weep for America. Because Mormon wept for the Nephites. Because Jesus wept for Jerusalem. Because God Himself weeps as He looks upon His vineyard.

And to those on the battlefield who are not quite dead, who still have hope—and there are many of them, so many in spiritual pain and anguish just waiting for help—to them, run. Run to the rescue before tomorrow comes.

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