In many town squares and at prominent public places are monuments erected to honor those who participated in battles throughout the centuries. Statues honor great leaders and many reminders of soldiers' gallantry are displayed. Stirring photographs of cemeteries with hundreds of grave markers are taken each year to remind us of the sacrifices of those who went to war to defend liberty and freedom or banish oppression.
Much of the Book of Mormon contains accounts of wars fought among the Nephites and Lamanites in the Americas as the inhabitants could not get along peacefully. When threatened, the Nephites engaged in battle to preserve their land and way of life.
Today, we call survivors of battles war veterans. Many bear the physical scars of their encounters. Some bear psychological scars. Many can recall the hand of Providence preserving them against overwhelming odds as they performed their duties in far-off lands or even in their own homelands.
These veterans are the true war memorials. They carry with them the sights, sounds and smells of battle. They have faced evil in its rawest and deadliest forms and know that when the lives of countless individuals are threatened by oppressive forces, good men and women of all walks of life answer the call.
Not all of life's struggles play out on military battlefields, however. Within the lives of mortal men and women are countless struggles of varying degrees of magnitude. Very few of these will ever be chronicled or even remembered beyond the reminiscences of their own immediate or, perhaps, extended families.
Yet such struggles, within their own spheres, require bravery and heroism, different, perhaps, than that exhibited by soldiers on the battlefield, but not lacking in valor.
Often, these battles are fought against the enemy of all righteousness, he who in the pre-mortal existence swore eternal enmity against Almighty God and His righteousness. Every act of obedience, charity, virtue, goodness, honor, benevolence, faith and devotion to duty is a strike against the forces and objectives of Satan.
In teaching Timothy in the work of the ministry, the apostle Paul exhorted him to "fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life" and to do so "without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Timothy 6:12, 14). In another epistle to Timothy, Paul engaged in some personal introspection, noting that his "time of departure" was at hand and reflecting, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
In the United States, Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May. As originally conceived, it was an occasion to honor war veterans. Over time, the objects of remembrance on this holiday came to include all loved ones who have died, honored for their deeds of valor whether on or off the battlefield, whether dramatic or quiet and unheralded.
On this day we might appropriately ask ourselves: How will we be remembered? Will we, with Paul, obtain the "crown of righteousness" bestowed by the righteous judge upon those who "love his appearing"? In our relationships with family members, in service to others, as veterans of "the good fight" of godliness, will we stand as true war memorials?
As we ponder the heritage that we ourselves will leave, these words given 175 years ago by the Lord to a man called to greatness have timeless and individual application:
"Be patient in afflictions. . . . Go your way whithersoever I will, and it shall be given you by the Comforter what you shall do and wither you shall go. Pray always, lest you enter into temptation and lose your reward. Be faithful unto the end, and lo, I am with you" (Doctrine and Covenants 31:9, 11-13).