PROVO, Utah In this life, everyone leaves a trail a trail of litter or one sown with good seeds, Sister Sheri Dew told an audience of more than 10,000 at America's Freedom Festival Patriotic Service Sunday evening, June 29.
"America can be no stronger than the goodness of its people," said Sister Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book and former counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. "What kind of trail are we leaving behind us? And what seeds are we sowing?"
Sister Dew was the keynote speaker in the service held at the Marriott Center on the BYU campus. She was introduced by Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy and president of the Utah South Area, who attended with his wife, Jean.
Speaking of the manner of trails people leave behind, Sister Dew told of a prayer her nephew, Trevor, gave when he was about 9 years old: "Please bless Aunt Sheri to find a good husband who doesn't smoke, drink, say bad words or . . . litter!"
She continued: "Now, I invite you to consider just how profound Trevor's prayer was. Because there are philosophical ramifications to litter. What is litter? It's not just garbage, but garbage left rudely behind that someone else has to pick up." Then, sparking laughter among the audience, she said, " So when all is said and done, I hope the man I marry doesn't litter. Because there are all kinds of litter in this world, and I'm not just referring to gum wrappers."
While America continues to show signs of goodness, Sister Dew noted that "there are worrisome signs that our collective moral fabric is unraveling," and cited examples in business, politics and sports.
She continued: "America can be no stronger than the goodness of its people. So I repeat: What kind of trail are we leaving behind us? And what seeds are we sowing? May I suggest three seeds we must individually sow if we wish to collectively reap a bountiful national harvest. They are the seeds of integrity, selflessness, and devotion to God."
Regarding integrity, Sister Dew said, "Tell me, do you care if the person who controls your pension tells the truth? Do you care if your son's high school principal is honest about what is going on in his school? Do you care if your daughter's soccer coach is fair, or if companies who package your food adhere to FDA standards?
"Of course you do, because it is not possible to develop a relationship, any relationship whether between husband/wife, parent/child, teacher/student, or business/customer with someone you can't trust. . . . Trust is the keystone that holds every organization together whether it is a marriage or a family or a business or a nation."
Speaking of selflessness, Sister Dew recalled the service given to the country by military men and women and by leaders. Then she told the audience, "We are each in a position to make the lives of others better," and spoke of the service her mother, like many other citizens, gave by serving on the election board to "facilitate our privilege to vote," even when she was suffering with cancer.
Then she said, "May I suggest, however, that the most crucial service any of us ever give is in our homes, for the family is the fundamental unit of our society. If the family fails, our country will fail. . . .
"Thus, there may not be anything we can do to have a more dramatic effect on the strength of our country than to strengthen our families."
Devotion to God motivated the people who established the foundations of the United States, Sister Dew said, referring to such examples as Columbus, the Pilgrims, colonists and the Founding Fathers.
"Those who insist that God has no place in our public discourse simply do not understand the fundamental premise upon which this country was founded and upon which it depends. Either that, or they're just plain evil. . . . Freedom isn't always lost on the battlefield."
She told the audience, "We are reaping benefits of the seeds of peace and freedom sown by our Founding Fathers and others who forged a stunning trail of integrity, selflessness, and devotion to God. Which again prompts the questions: What trail are we leaving behind us? And what seeds are we sowing?"
Those attending the service were also inspired by patriotic music performed by America's Freedom Festival Concert Band, Utah Trumpet Guild and Saltaires Show Chorus, a 70-man barbershop group.
The service was part of a weeklong celebration in Provo that includes an awards banquet, parade and Stadium of Fire show and fireworks.
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