Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Steadfast Soldiers are not made out of tin.

Warning: This blog could take a week to read... but it is worth every word.

This could be a good family home evening to celebrate the Aaronic Priesthood in your home. We could always be a little more steadfast in our lives. Here's to our sweet boys and what they mean to our family. (Welcome little Seth, our newest boy. Congratulations Kathy, Scott and three of the cutest boys in Washington, DC... we love you all)
A few years ago, our family went to Jamestown, and Williamsburg, Virginia to celebrate Thanksgiving. While we were there we visited historical sites where the first American armies gathered to defend our country before the American Revolution.

To establish order, they created laws and punishments for those who were not honorable, upright soldiers. If you were to break a law, you received a label to wear...warning all who lived in your camp that you could not be trusted.

Our honorable, and trustworthy grandson, Zac, tried on one of the labels and in a few minutes, we could almost believe that he was a real thief. In this world of chaos, and deception, it would be very helpful if everyone wore a sign to identify who he or she really was.

In our family, we have three boys who have promised, as Scouts, to be honorable and true, and to do their duty to God and their country. This means that they don't just stand and watch the world go by. They are boys who can be trusted and are willing to stand up for what they believe.

President Gordon B. Hinkley once spoke to the young men of the church, reminding them who they were..He said:

"You are not 'dead-end' kids. You are not wasting your lives, drifting aimlessly. You have a purpose. You have design. You have plans that can only lead to growth and strength. When your energies are harnessed, when your dreams are focused, marvelous things happen."

A few weeks ago, Zac Wilberg celebrated his 12th birthday. You have reached a great age, Zac, a time when you have the opportunity to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. By now, you have become a Deacon and have probably passed the Sacrament in your ward.
You have begun to serve your Heavenly Father in a brand new way.

A great, righteous and honorable King Benjamin, once gathered the people of America together during Book of Mormon times. Families gathered in tents around a great tower to hear him speak.

He said: "I have (spent) my days in your service, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you....I have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes and that there should be nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne--

I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that when you are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." Mosiah 2: 12-17

Thank you for your willingness to serve others, as well as your Heavenly Father. I have heard about the talk that you gave at your cousin's baptism on confirmation. Your mom said that "the spirit was strong and many people commented that these boys are the future leaders for our church."

Your mom also described other times when you so have willingly served others. She wrote:
"Zac was student council secretary at his school for the 5th grade and also a crossing patrol in front of the school. Teachers always rely on him because he is a very responsible boy. He is a very kind big brother and very patient and loving with Zoe and Max. I rely on him a lot to help me out with the little ones. Our neighbor has hired him to help with her kids whl she is out of town so the dad can get dinner."

These little acts of service show that you are well prepared to serve the Lord as a holder of the Aaronic Priesthood. Good job, Zac.

These are my very favorite Aaronic Priesthood holders in the whole world. We now have three boys in our family who hold the Aaronic Priesthood. Davis was our first, and he is a great example to us all. His mother has described him as one of the most honest young men that she knows. He is a kind and thoughtful soul. Jonah just became a Deacon this year. He has been called to be the Deacon's Quorum President. His whole family tries to find a place in Sacrament meeting where he, personally, will be passing the Sacrament to them. They are proud of their big brother who is so willing to serve the Lord every Sunday. I can't wait to receive the Sacrament from Jonah in his white shirt and tie. I know that all of you are becoming great leaders and men who love to serve. Thank you.

There is an old statue that we pass by every night on our way home from the Church in Odense. It is a soldier standing on one foot, ready and able to serve. He stands there day and night, no matter what the weather... we can always count on him to be there. Some people call him the "Steadfast Tin Soldier."

For months I have been gathering scriptures and stories about what it means to be "Steadfast."
We have been trying to be "steadfast", our missionaries are trying to be "Steadfast", and most important to us... we have a great desire and hope that all of our family will remain "Steadfast."... willing to serve the Lord, not just once or twice, but all the days of our lives.
The good king Benjamin, when he taught families that gathered in tents around the tower, said: "I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, and that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life,
through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all."
This is quite a promise.
There are many ways to describe a steadfast soldier. In the scriptures, in the "topical guide" under the word "steadfast" you will find that a steadfast soldier is- courageous, dedicated, dependable, diligent, faithful, honest, loyal, and obedient. He never gives up. You can count on him.

Our "Steadfast Tin Soldier" statue, on one of the oldest streets in Odense, belongs to a short story written by Hans Christian Andersen about 170 years ago. He is a very famous author of childrens stories like the "Ugly Duckling" and the "Emporer's New Clothes." He was born here in Odense and the folks here are celebrating his birthday this weekend. Now back to his humble (or decide) story about the one legged "steadfast tin soldier."
(revised a little..I am sure that you would never see the original tin soldiers at a bowling alley in the white house).
Here is the story.
There once was a tin soldier who grew up in a box with twenty five brothers. They were the offspring of an old tin spoon. When they were made, they were all dressed to perfection- each had a fancy gun and the smartest red and blue uniforms.
They all looked like they were paying attention...looking straight ahead as if they were alert, and knew what they were doing.

One day, they were all given as gift to a little boy for his birthday.
He was thrilled to have twenty five soldiers to play with.
He took them out of their box and one by one placed them on the table.
All the handsome young soldiers were perfectly matched in their fancy solder's suits..but one.
He was the last brother to be made. He was all dressed up but there wasn't quite enough tin from the old tin spoon to fill his mold. He ended up with only one leg.
When he was placed on the table, he stood as tall and straight as all of his brothers even with one leg, instead of two.

The minute this tin soldier was taken out of his comfortable box, he started a life full of adventures and fame. He became so famous that we still talk about him today...he is remembered all over the world as the "Steadfast Tin Soldier."

Some people called him steadfast because he could stand on one foot without falling over. But we will see if he was courageous, diligent, and dependable. Is he really steadfast?

Adventure number one:

He and his brothers were the first tin soldiers ever invited to bowl at the white house. But they never bowled, they just stood tall in their fancy red and blue suits while the birthday boy enjoyed the company of his loyal friends.

When they returned home, the soldiers were placed high on shelf where they could see all over the playroom. There were many things to do, and many people to meet.

The steadfast tin soldier saw a beautiful paper castle with a mirror pond and floating wax swans. He stood and watched. I don't think he ever visited the castle or fed the wax swans.

He saw a charming ballerina dressed in a guaze dress tied up with a dainty blue bow. He thought that she might be a good wife for him. She was dancing on one of her legs raised so high that he thought she only had one leg, just like him. But he just stood there on the shelf never uttering a word. Where was his courage, where was his determination?
Note: A wise old man (your grandpa Wilberg) once said.."If wishes were fishes we'd all have a fry." This one legged soldier was full of wishes, and dreams but was he really steadfast because he could stand on one leg without falling over?

Adventure number two:
It was time to go back in the box with all his brothers, but he continued to stare at the fancy dancer. He was not ready to go to bed. The room was full of toys and a warm fireplace. There were too many things to see and to do.
That night the tin soldier watched as the toys all came to life. He watched them play and dance, and even fight great battles on the toy room floor. He never stepped in to help or to make friends. He just stood there and watched... but he didn't fall over.

Adventure number three:
When morning came, and the boy got up, the tin soldier was still standing on the shelf. The windows were opened to let in a little fresh air, and a gust of wind grabbed the steadfast tin soldier and "pitched him out the window." He fell at "breathtaking speed" out the window and landed on the cobblestones below. His one leg "stuck straight in the air." The housemaid and the little boy ran down to look for him. They nearly stepped on him but the soldier never called out "Hear I Am !"
He thought "it contemptible to raise an uproar while he was wearing his uniform." He was more worried about the way things looked than doing anything about the real problems of the day.
Adventure number four:
Soon it began to rain. The drops fell faster and faster, until they came down by the bucketfuls.
Two young rapscallions found him stuck in the cobblestones and decided to send him sailing. They made a newspaper boat. Then they put the steadfast tin soldier in the soggy paper boat and set him a sail on a mud puddle near the Odense River. The boys cheered as he sailed away, into a nearby gutter and then down the drain. The steadfast tin soldier never said a word. He just stood in that soggy boat letting life float him down the drain.
The birthday boy was very sad about the loss of his brave tin soldier. He didn't know that his lost friend was in the gutter below his feet being washed out to sea.
Adventure five:
Hans Christian Andersen describes the next chapter in his soldier's life. The tin soldier "stood as steadfast as ever. Never once flinching, he kept his eyes front, and carried his gun should-high." Suddenly, the boat rushed under a long plank and it became very dark in the gutter. A sewer rat popped out of nowhere and demanded a passport from the strong soldier. But the soldier did not defend himself. Everyone knows that tin soldiers don't need passports. The rat chased him until the paper boat went over a waterfall and into the Odense River. The soldier did not say a word. He just stood tall in his fancy suit...staring straight ahead.
It is almost spring in Odense. The snow has melted and the river is full. The steadfast tin soldier had the misfortune of floating into a whirlpool and down he went into the deep, deep, river. "Then the water rushed over his head. He thought of the pretty little dancer, whom he would never see again, and in his ears rang an old, old song:"
"Farewell, farewell, o warrior brave,
Nobody can from Death thee save."
The paper boat broke beneath him," and he was swallowed by a most enormous fish."

It was dark and cramped inside of the fish, "but the tin soldier still was staunch. He lay there full length, (doing nothing) soldier fashion, with musket to shoulder."
The fish flipped and flopped in a most "unaccountable way" and then it was perfectly still.
Someone had caught the fish and taken it home for dinner. Much to the surprise of the steadfast tin soldier, he was home again in the birthday boy's house. The cooks knife cut into the huge fish and found the long lost tin soldier still holding fast to his useless musket.
It was a happy day when the long lost soldier returned home. What a brave, strong, steadfast soldier he was. The birthday boy couldn't believe that his lost soldier was back. They had a homecoming celebration. Children were invited to welcome him home.
The tin soldier stood on one foot without falling and saw the paper castle, and the pretty little dancer, near the mirror pond and the wax swans. It was a grand day for someone who has the courage to be steadfast.

But just as the steadfast soldier was about to step forward to give a brave speech "one of the little boys snatched up the tin soldier and threw him into the stove. He did it for no reason at all." The steadfast soldier did not object nor did he come to the defense of his beautiful dancer, when the little boy picked her up...

and tossed her into the fire as well. Hans Christian Andersen sadly describes the last of the story.."The tin soldier stood there dressed in flames. He felt a terrible heat, but whether it came from the flames or from his love he didn't know. He lost his splendid colors, maybe from his hard journey, maybe from the grief, nobody can say. He looked at the little lady, and she looked at him, and he felt himself melting. But still he stood steadfast, with his musket held trim on his shoulder."
The next day, when a servant cleaned up the ashes, she found the melted tin soldier.

He was in the shape of a little tin heart. "But of the pretty dancer nothing was left except her spangle, and it was burned as black as a coal."

As this tale comes to a close you might ask yourself do we really have a "steadfast soldier" here? When did he stand up to defend or protect the ones he loved? What did he do when he had a chance to help and be a friend to the birthday boy and his toy friends? What did he spend his time doing? Anyone can stand on one foot without falling over.
A steadfast soldier in these last days, cannot stand around and watch the world go by. He needs to roll up his sleeves and go to work.

I am looking here, at a real live steadfast soldier. A boy who loves life. He remembers the little things. His mom says, "He always says 'Thank mom, that was good' for dinner, even when it is something like grilled cheese or scrambled eggs. A very generous, giving boy. I often think he is too good to be true."

President Monson once said: The Priesthood is not really so much a gift as it is a commission to serve, a privilege to lift, and an opportunity to bless the lives of others."
Here we have a boy ready to hold the Priesthood. He has already blessed our lives.
His mom remembers a time when he was only two years old. She writes:
"When he was about two years old we were visiting my sister's house and all the kids were in the backyard. I was in the house with the adults. All of a sudden I was up on my feet and out the door to the backyard. The Spirit had grabbed me and got me out to the backyard before I had time to form a thought or even have a prompting. Zac was in the wading pool under water struggling and I was able to get him out safely. I think we almost lost him that day so I have thought often how much I would have missed if he was not in our family. I am very thankful to know him." --Emily Sellers Wilberg

I am thankful for these three boys, Zac, Davis and Jonah. They are three young men who are willing to take on the responsibilities of the Aaronic Priesthood. Thank you for your willingness to serve the Lord. We know that real steadfast soldiers are not made out of soft metal that will melt under pressure. We are truely blessed to have real, steadfast boys in our family. Much love to our strong, soft hearted, Priesthood boys. Love from Grandma W

A final "steadfast" reminder from 2 Nephi 31: 20
"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ,
having a perfect brightness of hope,
and a love of God,
and of all men.
Wherefore, if ye shall press forward-
feasting upon the word of Christ,
and endure to the end,
Behold, thus saith the Father;
Ye shall have eternal life."
Keep up the good work, boys. Keep on "pressing forward with a brightness of hope !"

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post! Thank you so much. I need a copy to print, somehow. Our steadfast boy has not had a chance to pass the sacrament yet because of stake conference and now general conference. But we are very proud of him and the choices he has made. thanks! emily