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Patriotism in 'little Switzerland'

This town, located in an alpine setting about 45 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, is often called "Little Switzerland." The Swiss heritage of the Latter-day Saints who settled here in 1859 is preserved in such landmarks as homes accented with "gingerbread" trim typical of Swiss cottages. But while the heritage of many of the town's 1,600 or so residents reaches back to Switzerland, patriotic feelings are embedded in their hearts. Such patriotism was displayed July 4 at a sunrise program at which President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, was the speaker. The program was sponsored by the Midway Booster Club.

The sun hadn't had time to take the chill off the early morning air when President Monson and his wife, Frances, arrived for the outdoor program that began at 7 o'clock. Also attending the special event were Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Dantzel.A Boy Scout troop presented and posted the American Flag before a gazebo, adorned with red, white and blue bunting before the patriotic service began. An audience of about 400 was assembled, with some seated on bleachers and others on lawn chairs or blankets on the ground.

President Monson spoke of "the spirit of Midway," and likened the town to Sir Thomas More, who was characterized as "a man for all seasons."

"Midway is a town for all seasons," he declared. He spoke of the picturesque town in summer, autumn, winter and spring, and noted that here one "can feel a closeness to God."

President Monson, who has visited Midway for many years and owns a home here, spoke of some of the "old-time" residents. From his boyhood experiences, he recalled with fondness his association with one of Midway's citizens, Lucy Gertsch Thomson, who was one of his teachers in Sunday School after she moved to Salt Lake City. He mentioned also Lethe Coleman Tatge, a resident of Midway who appeared in several films produced by the Church, one of which was "The Mailbox."

President Monson told of having gone to Sister Tatge's home and observing her with a group of boys and girls. "She pointed out a picture of the Prophet Joseph Smith and told them, `My grandfather shook the hand of Joseph Smith, and my father has taken the hand of his father. I have taken the hand of my father. Now, I would like to take the hand of each boy and each girl who has come into this old pioneer home and then, in a way, you have, in effect, taken the hand of the Prophet Joseph Smith.'

"We shook the hand of Lethe Coleman Tatge," President Monson said. "In taking the hand of Sister Tatge, we had taken the hand of a true pioneer of Midway, one who goes before showing others the way to follow. That's one definition of a pioneer.

"In this centennial year of Utah's statehood we should remember those pioneers like Lethe Coleman Tatge, and thank Heavenly Father for their courage and for the nobility of their souls."

President Monson spoke of such national leaders as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. "As we think of all these noble presidents, we must remember that we, too, have our duty to perform."

He quoted from the Doctrine and Covenants: "Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence." (D&C 107:99.)

President Monson observed that while he could talk about duty to family or duty to self, he chose to speak about duty to God and duty to country.

  • Duty to God. President Monson recalled that in every classroom he attended as a school boy was a painting of George Washington. He described the Medal of Honor Grove at the headquarters of the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge, where a statue is erected honoring President Washington. The statue, he noted, does not portray the president in some heroic pose, such as astride his horse or crossing the Delaware. Instead, it shows George Washington kneeling in prayer. President Monson quoted a line from the movie, "Chariots of Fire," in which is stated, "He who honors God, God honors."

President Monson quoted Abraham Lincoln, who said: " `We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us. We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken succession, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of preserving and redeeming grace, too proud to pray to God that made us."

President Monson spoke of a television reporter who once interviewed David M. Kennedy, who served as Secretary of the Treasury in President Nixon's cabinet and who was ambassador-at-large for the First Presidency. Brother Kennedy, who died earlier this year, was asked by the reporter, "Do you believe in prayer?" Brother Kennedy said, "Yes, sir! I believe in prayer, and I pray."

President Monson told the Independence Day assembly, "I hope we will always remember our duty to God, and the privilege of prayer. It is the passport to spiritual power."

  • Duty to country. President Monson spoke of the feelings of patriotism that were displayed during the dark days of World War II. He told of having come across in an attic an old edition of "Life" magazine. One story told of a bomber flight crew, returning from a bombing raid over the oil fields of Ploesti, Romania, who was blinded by a sandstorm and missed the landing field in North Africa. The plane droned on and on, until having run out of fuel it came to rest in the Sahara Desert; all members of the crew eventually perished.

"We remember Ploesti, a place of death," President Monson reflected. "Now Ploesti, Romania, has LDS houses of worship, many Church members, and is a mission headquarters. What a change."

President Monson spoke of the many people in the armed services who have given their lives in the name of freedom. He reflected on having visited the American War Memorial and Cemetery in Manila, Philippines, and seeing the thousands of crosses of those who died in the Pacific cauldron of War.

"I hope every one of us realizes that each person is important this Independence Day, that each one of us will recognize that he or she can make a difference in the lives of people," he said. "In this great world of humanity, can one person make a difference?"

To illustrate that it is possible for one person to make a difference, he related another story from "Life" magazine. The story is about a sailor during World War II, Elgin Staples. "He was serving on a ship off Guadalcanal in the Pacific Theatre of War," President Monson recounted. "His mother prayed for him every morning and every night. But she felt she had to something more than just pray, important as that was. So this woman who had never worked at a professional job - every mother works! - went to work in a factory that made a lot of things, including life vests. Day after day, she toiled. On one of those days, her son, in a great battle off Guadalcanal was swept off his ship into the angry ocean. Death was almost certain, but he had a life vest. He clung to that life vest and he clung to life. He was picked up by a rescue destroyer escort. He treasured that life vest, and learned later that it had been inspected, stamped and packaged by his own mother in Akron, Ohio.

"Does one person make a difference? That mother not only prayed but she sent out the life vest that protected her son from an otherwise certain death. Everyone here makes a difference. Let's keep our traditions. Let's remember Midway, our town of all seasons. Let's remember duty to God and duty to country."

Music for the Independence Day program in Midway was provided by the town's "Swiss Days Chorus." The chorus and audience sang "The Star Spangled Banner" at the conclusion of the program.

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