The Power of Peace

Regardless of one’s religious belief, the Christmas season brings with it a spirit of love and peace that can be appreciated and enjoyed by all. As the Christian community world-wide reflects upon the birth, the teachings, and the example of the man referred to as the Prince of Peace, may we take the opportunity this Christmas and New Year to rededicate ourselves to a life of service and love toward all those within our reach and influence. In that spirit, I share the following story taken from a talk given by the late James E. Faust, a previous leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints.

Additional resources to help bring the real meaning of Christmas to you and your family are available on the Church’s website and include another great Christmas story, and a video of this year’s Christmas Devotional which includes beautiful music.
I would like to recount a story told by Kenneth J. Brown, who was serving as a U.S. Marine in Japan following the dropping of the bomb. His moving story about a Japanese Christian he met at Christmastime in Nagasaki is as follows.

“I watched him turn from the street and climb the path leading to our shelter. He was groping, hesitating. As he came near he folded his umbrella and stood quietly a long moment. His thin coat soon dampened from the cold rain that was falling from the same sky that had brought death to nearly half his townspeople three short months before. I concluded that it must take some special courage to confront one’s conquerors without invitation. It was little wonder that he hesitated.

“His polite bow to me was no bow of submission. Rather his squared shoulders and lifted head let me feel as if I were looking up at him even … though I towered over him a foot or more. I recall being disturbed that I hadn’t yet become used to the near sightless eyes of those who had looked heavenward that morning when the bomb dropped. …

“… I respectfully asked if I could be of service. [In his clear English] he introduced himself as Professor Iida. …

“ ‘I am Christian,’ he said. ‘I am told this is the head minister’s office. Are you a Christian? It is good to talk with a follower of Christ; there are so few Christian Japanese.’

“I took him to the inner office of the division chaplain and waited while the two men conversed. Professor Iida stated his request briefly. He was a teacher of music in a Christian girls’ college until it was closed by imperial command. … He had been imprisoned because of his professed Christianity. After being released he had returned to Nagasaki and continued his music instruction in his home even though it was forbidden. He had been able to continue a small chorus and would be pleased if … they [could] sing a concert for the American Marines.

“ ‘We know something of your American Christmases,’ he said. ‘We should like to do something to make your Christmas in Japan more enjoyable.’

“I felt sure the chaplain would give a negative reply. Our unit was one of hardened fighters, four years away from home, who had fought the enemy from Saipan to Iwo Jima. … Yet there was something about the man that bespoke sincere desire to do a good deed so that … permission was granted. The concert would be Christmas Eve.

“The rains had stopped and a calm settled over the atomic bowl reminiscent of the calm that night long ago. The concert was well attended; there was nothing else to do. The theater … had been cleared of its fallen roof and men were sitting on the jagged walls. The usual momentary hush fell over the audience as the performers filed on stage. …

“The first thing we noticed was that they were singing in English and we became aware that they didn’t understand the words but had memorized them for our benefit. Professor Iida had taught his students well; they sang beautifully. We sat enthralled as if a choir from heaven were singing for us. … It was as if Christ were being born anew that night.

“The closing number was a solo, an aria from ‘The Messiah.’ The girl sang with all the conviction of one who knew that Jesus was indeed the Savior of mankind and it brought tears. After that there was a full minute of silence followed by sustained applause as the small group took bow after bow.

“Later that night I helped Professor Iida take down the trimmings. I could not resist asking some questions that propriety forbade but curiosity demanded. I just had to know.
“ ‘How did your group manage to survive the bomb?’ I asked.

“ ‘This is only half my group,’ he said softly, but seemed unoffended at my recalling his grief so that I felt I could ask more.

“ ‘And what of the families of these?’

“ ‘They nearly all lost one or more members. Some are orphans.’

“ ‘What about the soloist? She must have the soul of an angel the way she sang.’

“ ‘Her mother, two of her brothers were taken. Yes, she did sing well; I am so proud of her. She is my daughter.’ …

“The next day was Christmas, the one I remember best. For that day I knew that Christianity had not failed in spite of people’s unwillingness to live His teachings. I had seen hatred give way to service, pain to rejoicing, sorrow to forgiveness. This was possible because a babe had been born in a manger [and] later taught love of God and fellowmen. We had caused them the greatest grief and yet we were their Christian brothers and as such they were willing to forget their grief and unite with us in singing ‘Peace on earth, goodwill to all men.’

“The words of Miss Iida’s song testimony would not be stilled, ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.’ They seemed to echo and re-echo over the half-dead city that day.
“That day also I knew that there was a greater power on earth than the atomic bomb.”
MERRY CHRISTMAS!
&
(as a “jewish mormon“)

Happy Hanukkah
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One Response to The Power of Peace

  1. Tyler says:

    Garrett, I’m so excited that I get to be the first person to comment on your posting about Christmas! Let me just say (and I’m sure many would agree with me) that you have totally encapsulated the true meaning of Christmas. I mean, it’s just awesome. I’m not ashamed to admit that the story you shared from James E. Faust brought more than a few tears to my eyes. How awesome was that story? I guess it just goes to show that no matter what, you can’t hold back the true meaning of Christmas. Great job, Garrett! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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