Toronto (actually Pickering), Ontario, Canada, July 2, 2006.
I don’t have any way of actually measuring levels of patriotism, but as I sat in fast and testimony meeting this morning in my parents’ ward in Spokane, Washington, proudly wearing the American flag tie which my mother had bought for all her sons, noting the many men around me wearing the exact same tie, listening to some silly and self-indulgent, but also some heartfelt and moving testimonies, nearly all of which revolved around family, kin, children, freedom, the Restoration, and the United States of America, I found myself unable to get fervent, pious, and patriotic testimonies I heard that morning in Canada out of my mind.
We were visiting old and dear friends from graduate school, and had enjoyed a wonderful Canada Day celebration with them the day before (July 1, of course). That morning we left to track down a local ward, and arrived in time to listen to a very fine testimony meeting. The percentage of those who spoke who actually made some reference to their country and its blessings was smaller than the percentage of Americans who mentioned it this morning, but they made up for it with their passion. Not a lot of generalized stuff for them: their Canadian patriotism was specific and concrete. A older man testified of the generosity and Christian decency of his country, noting that he’d likely have died several times over from a life-long pulmonary disease if the Canadian people hadn’t committed themselves to universal health care. An African immigrant in broken English wept as she expressed her deep love for Canada, for having provided a refuge for her family and, more importantly, having introduced her to social workers and volunteers that led her to the gospel. A young woman, while testifying of the truthfulness of the church, mentioned the wonderful legacy of the Canadian Mormon communities in the western provinces; this almost inspired me to go up to the pulpit, to talk about my grandmother, Edra Young, and the trials and blessings which attended her life while growing up in Cardston. I’m glad I didn’t though, because the one arguably unfortunate note in the whole meeting came immediately after her testimony, as an American missionary from Utah stood up, somewhat sheepishly said he was feeling left out, spoke about the upcoming July 4th, and bore his testimony of the place of the United States in the restoration of the gospel. Given that he was, I believe, the only non-Canadian there besides ourselves, I thought his words were out of place. But immediately after that–confirming (as if it needed any confirmation) Canadian nice-ness–a kindly grandmother, an immigrant from Great Britain, stood up, and spoke in her testimony how the gospel had held her family together when she was a little girl during the London Blitz sixty-six years before, and how grateful she was for the Canadian and American servicemen and members she’d known at that time. All in all, it was a wonderful, both spiritual and patriotic, feast. It was enough to make me wish that Canadians were as lame as us Americans and would finish up their July holiday meetings with a rousing “O Canada!” but no; we just had an ordinary hymn. (We got three patriotic American hymns in Spokane today.)
What are your experiences with patriotism and testimony meetings? Let’s not be negative; let’s focus on the positive elements which such feelings of belonging and nationality can sometimes add to one’s spiritual witness. Or, failing that, let’s just tell funny stories about the most patriotic testimonies and testimony meetings you’ve ever experienced. Though I promise you, I don’t think anyone will beat that Sunday in Pickering, four years ago.