While millions of people near Washington, D.C., reordered their lives recently in the face of the terror of a random and deadly sniper, Ronald Lantz, a trucker who had been listening to radio descriptions of the suspect's vehicle, pulled into a rest stop and saw the car police were looking for.
Without further thought, he called police. Then he and another trucker moved their rigs into a wedge that made it impossible for the suspects to leave the rest area. Police arrived a few minutes later and apprehended two people they believe responsible for 10 murders and three attempted murders over a three-week span.
When interviewed, Mr. Lantz refused to accept the title of a hero. He was just a citizen doing his civic duty helping maintain order in a community governed by laws.
Indeed, without such people, society would be unable to function. And without a well-ordered society, the kingdom of God could not prosper.
The 12th Article of Faith states, "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."
In the Doctrine and Covenants, this responsibility is stated in more detail. "We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society." (Doctrine and Covenants 134:1.)
Clearly, civic duty is of great value to our Heavenly Father. Without citizens who value their duty toward law and order, killing sprees like the one that gripped the Washington, D.C., area would be lost in a sea of similar crimes and chaos. If people could not turn to public institutions for safety, they would begin to rely solely on themselves. Civic duty would be consumed by self-interest in a fog of anarchy and fear.
In the United States, two important dates loom. One is Election Day. The other is Veteran's Day, originally enacted to mark the armistice that ended World War I but now generally recognized as a day to honor all veterans. Similar days are observed in many other countries.
Both offer great opportunities to ponder on the responsibilities and duties incumbent on all citizens. And one, Election Day, offers a chance to exercise a duty and a sacred right.
President Spencer W. Kimball spoke plainly about this duty. "I wish to urge you and your family members of voting age to go to the polls in large numbers and vote for the strongest, finest people who are certain to do the most to safeguard the rights and freedoms of this nation," he said. "We do not endorse any candidates, but we hope you will vote for good men and women of character, integrity, and ability. You are to be the judge." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Bookcraft, p. 406.)
Those decisions demand study and prayer, as do all important decisions in life.
Veterans of war deserve great honor and respect. They offered the ultimate sacrifice in defense of homeland and freedom. Many of them had to give that sacrifice. Others remain among us as living witnesses to great and horrible conflicts, and still others serve today in conflicts around the world.
The Savior said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13.)
The men and women of the armed forces have committed to make that sacrifice if necessary. Other citizens, however, have a duty to protect others, as well, by upholding and sustaining the law. True citizenship is an act of service.
Ronald Lantz may not have considered himself a hero for telephoning police and blocking the escape route of suspected criminals, but he may have spared the lives of countless future victims.
By performing their civic duties, all citizens of every country can do their part to maintain order and provide for safety. And that will make it easier for the truth of the gospel to spread and bless the world.