Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Week of Sacred, Solemn, and Celebratory Ceremonies

Pres. Obama at the Kennedy Center 9.11.11

This week has been eventful, literally.

It began last Sunday when I had the opportunity to go to the ten year 9.11 commemorative Concert for Hope at the Kennedy Center (scheduled to take place at the National Cathedral till the Earthquake caused a bit of damage).  It was a cast full of musical and political stars  - Anderson Cooper, Alan Jackson, Denyce Graves, Patti Labelle (in an amazing golden cape), and Barak Obama.

In quoting Psalm 30:5, "weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning," and the common faith that united Americans after 9.11, President Obama sounded somewhat like a self-conscious southern preacher.  I reflected on the role of the church in American public life.  Intersections with religion are unavoidable when it comes to death and marriage.  This ceremony, which remembered so many fallen Americans, was by nature and intention a religious ceremony, yet religious with a consciousness that it could not be too much so.

I could not help but compare how my English friends across the water would commemorate their own 9.11, and whether the religious component to certain ceremonies would be required by tradition or belief, and how that would manifest itself.  Regardless, I was grateful to be there and see this President in living color (I can't count watching him on the megatron in the bitter cold of the inauguration) - thanks Courtney!

Then on Tuesday as president of The Constitutional Sources Project, I hosted David McCullough at two events for Constitution Week - one at the National Archives in the morning for students and educators, and then again that evening for Members of Congress and their staff.  Mr. McCullough taught compellingly that one benefit of understanding history is that we learn to put the hard times in perspective.  9.11, he said, was not the worst tragedy this country has experienced. People just like us, who lived in their own present, had the capacity to see adversity as the opportunity to change and improve things.  Thus history is a study in character, adversity, and human soaring.  From it, we can learn how to overcome and benefit from our own suffering.

Me with David McCullough and Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller

His teaching recalled to mind my experience as a teenager, when I learned to ignore the teasings of being a "Molly Mormon" (or a goodie two-shoes for those unfamiliar with the faith and phrase) by reading about how the prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon had encountered far worse persecution, also from members of his own faith, even in his own family.  I thought to myself, if Nephi could endure it, so could I!

On my way home from studying yesterday, I was able to take an "express tour" through Independence Hall, my own little celebration of Constitution Day.  This room, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and signed, always inspires. 

Finally, yesterday I attended the simulcast of the Philadelphia Temple groundbreaking with Elder Eyring, first counselor in the presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As it was Constitution Day (the day the Constitution was signed 224 years ago), the Founders and Framers were appropriately referenced.  When Elder Eyring told of the sacrifice our LDS forebears were called to make in building temples in their poverty, I thought of all of the sacrifices I have been called to make which have taken me years to grow into and understand.  The Lord tends to do that - to require more of us than we can comprehend.  I think that's what it means to be God - to see the infinite in the finite, inspiring the mundane to grow beyond its own conceptions into a much more splendid, eternal being.  But boy does the process hurt!

Rendering of the new LDS Temple in Philadelphia's Logan Square

Here's to all those unwitting heros who died in the twin towers, Pentagon, and Pennsylvania, and to the Forbears of my faith and my country who gave me reason to learn and celebrate this week.

1 comment:

  1. You weren't kidding when you wrote "eventful". You had some amazing experiences this week! I love that our ward had a moment of silence last week. My sister's ward in the States didn't even mention she made sure they did in R.S.! We sure miss you each Sunday. You look great, though. Thanks for posting a pic of you!