I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a city-wide day of service on September 10, 2016. Members of churches and organization all over Anchorage went door-to-door to collect canned goods and other staples to fill the local food pantry. I drove the car while my son, his wife, and daughter collected the food. It was good to be a part of a huge and successful annual program.
The next morning when I went to my local meetinghouse, I found the building surrounded by American flags. The sight of the Stars and Stripes always thrills me, but it really hit me on September 11, 2016. I walked into the chapel, and my eyes immediately focused on the red, white, and blue bouquets on the podium and other places on the stand. I assumed they were there for the patriotic program scheduled for that evening, but I certainly appreciated seeing them during the church services.
Sunday evening I attended the chorale event, “God and Country,” that was held to commemorate 9/11. Prayers, music, and speakers came from many different organizations. The opening prayer was given by the local chaplain of the Alaska National Guard. The flag ceremony was under the direction of the Young Lions of the Shiloh Baptist Church and the Anchorage Police Department. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by a Boy Scout.
The first music of the evening was by a soloist singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “The Alaska Flag Song.” Other musical numbers were “America the Beautiful,” “Amazing Grace,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” “Come By Here My Lord,” “Oh Happy Day,” “My All Is Thine,” “American Hymn,” “Mansions of the Lord,” “American Anthem,” “We Will Stand,” “God Bless America,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
There was a large choir consisting of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Anchorage area. There were presentations by choirs or parts of choirs from St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Shiloah Baptist Choir, and the Midnight Sons. The combined choirs gave a powerful rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Wow!
Narration, in the form of statements from various former Presidents of the United States, was given by local and state politicians. A former lieutenant governor dressed like Abraham Lincoln to read the Gettysburg Address and a short history of the speech. Senator Dan Sullivan was represented by his wife because he had to stay in Washington, D.C., and she read a letter from him. The closing remarks were given by a local stake president. The closing prayer was given by the pastor of Grace Ministries.
The entire evening was very enjoyable, and the music was absolutely beautiful. I appreciated the willingness of people of all colors, races, religions, political parties, etc. to come together to commemorate 9/11.
I particularly appreciate the closing remarks. The stake president retold the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Then he discussed the fact that the Good Samaritan was hated by the Jews, but he was willing to take care of the injured traveler. The speaker spoke about how we are all children of God, spiritual brothers and sisters. We should be willing to come together to love, support, and serve one another.
I was very touched by the entire evening. I felt the love of God and country in the chapel. I know that the people speaking, singing, and listening were there out of love for God and country. I hoped that the events of the evening would carry us through the coming days and weeks and help to unite the people of Anchorage, Alaska.
The next morning I happened to read an article titled “After Love, Then What?” by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. President Uchtdorf states, “Love is so important that Jesus called it `the first and great commandment’ and said that every other particle of the law and word of the prophets hang upon it. Love is the central motive for all we do in the Church. Every program, every meeting, every action we are part of as disciples of Jesus Christ should spring from this attribute – for without charity - `the pure love of Christ,’ we are nothing.
“Once we understand this with our mind and heart, once we declare our love for God and for our fellowman – what then?
“Is feeling compassion and love for others enough? Does declaring our love for God and our neighbor satisfy our obligation to God? ….
“The answer to the question `After love, then what?’ can be simple and straightforward. If we truly love the Savior, we incline our hearts to Him and then we walk in the path of discipleship. When we love God, we will strive to keep His commandments.
“If we truly love our fellowmen, we extend ourselves to help `the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.’ For they who do these selfless acts of compassion and service, the same are disciples of Jesus Christ. This is what comes after love. This is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
President Uchtdorf answered my pondering question, “How can we maintain the feeling of love we feel tonight?” We can become less selfish and more willing to help others. In other words, we can become the people that God would have us be.