Sunday thought: Remembrance and reconciliation

3rd Sunday before Advent; Remembrance Sunday

Amos 5:18-24

Today marks Remembrance Sunday across the Commonwealth, the Sunday before Armistice Day. The focal point of the commemoration is London’s Whitehall, where the Queen and other senior royal, political, and military figures laid wreaths at the Cenotaph. For the first time since 1946, the Republic of Ireland has played an official role, with the Irish ambassador laying a wreath in memory of the 30,000 Irish who died in the Great War.

The Irish “troubles” are bound-up in the First World War and subsequent history. Provisions for Irish Home Rule were overshadowed by the war on the continent — had the British and Irish question been able to be resolved outside of the bloody mess of the war, Irish independence might have achieved a smoother passage.

Due to the perception of Britain and the British Army during the Troubles, remembering the 30,000 Irish dead has been controversial. Branded traitors and then simply ignored, the normalisation of relations between Britain and the Republic of Ireland has finally allowed their sacrifice to be remembered. The  Queen’s visit to Dublin in 2011, where she paid respects to both Republican and Loyalist dead, was the final olive branch in that process.

Events such as Remembrance Sunday can be deeply moving, but it is only when commemorations become more than simply “the noise of your songs” but instead help in small ways to allow “justice [to] roll down like waters” (Amos 5:23-24) that they break the bonds of mere pageantry. Peace through reconciliation is possible if people want it. Ireland is one recent example.

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Daniel Mulhall laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday.

Comments

  1. Thanks, Ronan. May days like today inspire us all to pursue peace and reconciliation with people we have perceived as enemies.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful reminder.

  3. Thanks for these thoughts. I especially like that last paragraph.

    If this is inappropriate or derailing then feel free to remove–but for those interested here is a copy of the sacrament service today in our ward in Scotland.

    Opening Hymn – 82, For All the Saints

    Sacrament Hymn – 185, Reverently and Meekly Now

    Reading 1 – For the Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon

    With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
    [We] mourn for [our] dead across the sea.
    Flesh of (our) flesh they were, spirit of (our) spirit,
    Fallen in the cause of the free.
    Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
    Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
    There is music in the midst of desolation
    And a glory that shines upon our tears.

    They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
    Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
    They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
    They fell with their faces to the foe.

    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

    They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
    They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
    They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
    They sleep beyond [our country’s] foam.

    But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
    Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
    To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
    As the stars are known to the Night;

    As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
    Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
    As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
    To the end, to the end, they remain.

    Two minutes silence

    Reading 2 – David R Woodward, World War I Almanac

    November 10, 1914, Erzberg requests plenipotentiary authority to sign an armistice. With the political uncertainty that exists in Berlin, there is no government really able to grant such authority. OHL thus sends a wireless (signed “Reich Chancellor”) to Erzberger at Compiegne granting him the necessary authority.

    November 11, Foch and Erzberger resume discussions at Compiegne at 2.35am. Foch is now prepared to make several concessions…
    At 5.10am the German delegation accepts the slightly revised terms of the Armistice, which is to go into effect at 11am…Foch…declares the meeting closed. The two delegations depart without exchanging handshakes.

    Reading 3 – Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Speech to the House of Commons Nov 11 1918

    Thus at eleven o’clock this morning came to an end the cruellest and most terrible War that has ever scourged mankind. I hope we may say that thus, this fateful morning, came to an end all wars.

    This is no time for words. Our hearts are too full of a gratitude to which no tongue can give adequate expression. I will, therefore, move that this House do immediately adjourn, until this time tomorrow, and that we proceed, as a House of Commons, to St. Margaret’s, to give humble and reverent thanks for the deliverance of the world from its great peril.

    Hymn – 80, God of Our Fathers, Known of Old

    Reading 4 – Lieutenant Richard Dixon, 53rd Brigade, RGA, First Army

    As we began to enter Folkestone Harbour about mid-day, every craft in there possessing a siren began to let it off. We were at first astounded by the noise—what was all the fuss about? But as it went on and on and we steamed slowly and majestically to our appointed berth, and beheld the crews of several ships cheering and waving at us, we tumbled into it. ‘Dickie,’ said Captain Brown,‘The war’s over! It’s over!’ And it was. No more slaughter, no more maiming, no more mud and blood, and no more killing…no more of those hopeless dawns with the rain chilling the spirits, no more crouching in inadequate dugouts scooped out of trench walls, no more dodging snipers’ bullets, no more of that terrible shell-fire. No more shoveling up bits of men’s bodies and dumping them in sandbags; no more cries of “Stretcher-bear-ERS!,” and no more of those beastly gas-masks and the odious smell of pear-drops which was deadly to the lungs, and no more writing of those dreadfully difficult letters to the next-of-kin of the dead.

    Reading 5 – Captain Oliver Woodward, 1st Australian Tunneling Company

    One would have expected that at this stage the field would have been filled with men carried away in a paroxysm of joy, but it was not so. Instead officers and men moved quietly about from one group to another, giving and receiving a handshake amongst comrades. It was an occasion too great for words. The artificial barriers of rank were temporarily cast aside, and we felt to the full the real comradeship of war and the realisation that the distasteful task had ended. In our mind we called to memory those of our comrades who had made the supreme sacrifice and we were forced to offer a prayer of thanksgiving that we had been spared.

    Reading 6 – Sergeant-Major Richard Tobin, Hodd Battalion, Royal Naval Division

    The Armistice came, the day we had dreamed of. The guns stopped, the fighting stopped. Four years of noise and bangs ended in silence. The killing had stopped.

    We were stunned. I had been out since 1914. I should have been happy. I was sad. I thought of the slaughter, the hardships, the waste and the friends I had lost.

    Solo – Taps

    Day is done, gone the sun
    From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
    All is well, safely rest
    God is nigh.

    Fading light dims the sight
    And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
    From afar, drawing near
    Falls the night.

    Thanks and praise for our days
    Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
    As we go, this we know
    God is nigh.

    Reading 7 – Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France

    We have won the war, and not without pain, but now we must win the peace, and that will perhaps be more difficult.

    Reading 8 – Joseph F Smith, Oct Conf 1914

    We want peace in the world. We want love and good-will to exist throughout the earth, and among all the peoples of the world; but there never can come to the world that spirit of peace and love that should exist until mankind will receive God’s truth and God’s message unto them and acknowledge His power and authority which is divine…

    The condition of the world today presents a spectacle that is deplorable, so far as it relates to the religious convictions, faith and power of the inhabitants of the earth. Here we have nations arrayed against nations, and yet in every one of these nations are so-called Christian peoples professing to worship the same God, professing to possess belief in the same divine Redeemer, many of them professing to be teachers of God’s word, and ministers of life and salvation to the children of men, and yet these nations are divided one against the other, and each is praying to his God for wrath upon and victory over his enemies and for his own preservation. Would it be possible, could it be possible, for these conditions to exist if the people of the world possessed really the true knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? And if they really possessed the Spirit of the living God—could this condition exist? No; it could not exist, but war would cease, and contention and strife would be at an end. And not only the spirit of war would not exist, but the spirit of contention and strife that now exists among the nations of the earth, which is the primal element of war, would cease to be. We know that the spirit of strife and contention exists to an alarming extent among all the people of the world. Why does it exist? Because they are not one with God, nor with Christ…Thus they contend and strive one against another, and at last nation rises up against nation in fulfilment of the predictions of the prophets of God that war should be poured out upon all nations.

    Reading 9 – Revelation 12:7-12

    And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
    And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
    And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
    And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven…the accuser of our brethren is cast down…
    Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

    Reading 10 – Moses 7:22-24, 26, 28-33, 35-37

    And Enoch…beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam…
    and lo, all the nations of the earth were before him;
    And there came generation upon generation…and behold, the power of Satan was upon all the face of the earth…
    And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced…
    And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
    And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
    And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there…
    and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne…how is it thou canst weep?
    The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge…and [I] gave…unto man his agency;
    And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood…
    Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also.
    Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren…
    misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?

    Hymn –101, Guide Me to Thee

    Reading 11 – Joseph F Smith, October Conference 1914

    It is true, we are all engaged in a warfare, and all of us should be valiant warriors in the cause in which we are engaged. Our first enemy we will find within ourselves. It is a good thing to overcome that enemy first, and bring ourselves into subjection to the will of the Father, and into strict obedience to the principles of life and salvation which He has given to the world for the salvation of men…

    That is what we want; and I pray that the spirit of truth may be poured out upon all men, as well as the spirit of peace…We will never be able to establish peace on earth and good will until we have drunk at the fountains of righteousness and eternal truth, as God has revealed it to man.

    Reading 12 – Micah 4:1-7

    BUT in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
    And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
    And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
    But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
    For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
    In that day, saith the LORD, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted;
    And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever.

    Reading 13 – Charles W Penrose, A Prayer for Peace, October Conference 1914

    We ask Thee, our Eternal Father, to look in mercy upon the nations of the earth. They are Thy children, even though they may have gone astray, and have been stirred up in bitterness and in anger unto war one with another, wilt Thou, O Lord, look down upon them in Thy loving tenderness and kindness and Thy mercy upon them and prepare the way whereby war may cease and peace may be established.

    Thou hast inspired Thy prophets in days of old and in these latter days to predict that the day would come when men would cease their strife and would study war no more when they would turn their weapons of destruction into agencies of peace for the cultivation of the earth and for the development of its resources, and we pray, our Father, that that time may be hastened. Wilt Thou look down in mercy upon the rulers of the nations, upon all who have part in the conduct of human affairs in the various governments in the world, and cause Thy divine spirit to shine upon their understandings and to touch their hearts, that they may feel the absolute need of establishing peace on the earth, drawing the people of the world together in fraternity instead of going forth upon the field of battle to destroy each others lives.

    Reading 14 – 3 Nephi 9:13-18, 20-22

    O all ye that are spared…will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
    Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.
    Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.
    I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.
    And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh…
    I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end…
    And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost…
    Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.
    Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me…him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life…therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.

    Closing Hymn –83, Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah

  4. Very nice, wm! I think readings-based sacrament meetings are extremely useful and meaningful for these occasions and think it makes sense to do them about one a quarter.

    As to your program, no God Save the Queen or two minutes if silence?

  5. Great stuff, wm.

  6. John, looks like the 2 minute silence was between the first and second readings.

  7. In recent attempts to fix problems with family members, I’ve been touched by the power of reconciliation. It’s likely more powerful than we give it credit.

  8. I enjoyed our service in the Canterbury ward. We cut Priesthood/Relief Society short to have a Remembrance Day service, and the talks in Sacrament were on the theme of remembrance. I was worried there would be lots of praising the armed forces and glorification of war but it was more about peace and genuinely remembering the war-dead, as it should be. One speaker implied the involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan were just causes but that was as bad as it got. Our Bishop quoted his dad, who lived through both world wars, and said they were “a waste of time and a waste of life.” The family history couple both spoke, relating remembrance to temple work, and that forgiveness is an important part of remembrance, as you’ve said.

    Don’t think queeny’s visit/photo-op in Ireland has really changed mainstream opinion. Think of James McClean’s reason for not wearing a poppy – his opinion isn’t a fringe one. (http://tinyurl.com/nrzwces)

  9. Minus points for “queeny”. As for McClean, yes, that’s where many are still at in Anglo-Irish relations, but Mulhall represents where we’re headed and that is a cause for hope.

    Interesting blog, btw.

  10. The silence was indeed between the first two readings. As for God Save the Queen, it didn’t fit with the narrative of the readings or the tenor of the meeting, plus we are in Scotland, so it was never really considered.

  11. Seanamhair says:

    God Save the Queen at a Scottish sacrament meeting? Don’t think so – even if she is a direct descendant of King David.
    Verse 6 goes:
    Lord grant that Marshal Wade
    May by thy mighty aid
    Victory bring
    May he sedition hush
    And like a torrent rush
    Rebellious Scots to crush
    God save the King