The Battle of Britain began at 4 p.m. on Sept. 7, 1940, when 348 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters blasted London. The attack lasted until 6 p.m. After a two-hour lull and guided by fires lit by the first assault, a second wave of bombers commenced an attack that lasted until 4:30 the next morning. Click here for additional information.
These massive raids ushered in the Blitz, bombings that continued for 57 consecutive days killing some 60,000 civilians, the majority of whom were Londoners, and seriously injuring some 87,000 others. Some 2 million homes — 60 percent in London alone — were destroyed.
Representing some of the darkest days in Britain's history, the Blitz brought to light characteristics for which its citizens are renowned, namely, their resilience and resolve. While London and other parts of Britain burned, the people carried on as best they could. They sent their children to the care of mostly strangers in the relative safety of the countryside and villages, threw sand on fires ignited by bombs, surveyed damage to property and proceeded to live day by day. Stories abound of how they endeavored to keep up their spirits and to encourage others in shelters where they sought refuge and safety during the Blitz.
During this time a poster was created but never used. It had a red background with a crown at the top. Its capital letters in white carried a simple message: "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON." Two and a half million copies were made, but only two are known to exist today. One of the copies was found in Northumberland in a box of books. Click here to see BBC News article.
In a recent stake conference, the stake Relief Society president spoke of the Blitz and the "keep calm" poster as she addressed the topic of resilience, the meaning of which includes to stretch, to bounce back, to grow even in the face of adversity and tribulation.
She posed questions: "What happens to you with the daily despair and discouragement that come your way? What happens to you during a crisis? What are you like when the crisis is over? How have you changed? What will happen in the next crisis? Can you follow the words of this slogan to 'keep calm and carry on'? What does it take to develop resilience? Where does it come from? What references are there to resilience in the scriptures?"
She spoke of Winston Churchill who rallied the people with his oratory, mostly through the medium of radio. He promised a time when they would meet the enemy on the beaches, on the landing strips. "Keep calm and carry on" seemed to be the crux of his message, along with his admonition to "Never give up. Never, never, never, never give up."
And the British did carry on, perhaps not perfectly, but they managed to take care of business, to go to their jobs each day, to rally each other even in very difficult circumstances.
While the scriptures don't use the word "resilience," there are numerous examples of people who, having kept calm and carrying on when things were tough, were blessed through their resilience.
In the 26th chapter of the Book of Alma are the words of Ammon, one of the sons of Mosiah. Ammon and his brothers, along with Alma the younger, had been troublemakers as young men. They went about trying to destroy the church, but their lives were miraculously turned around, and they became great missionaries to the Lamanites. This was not an easy task. Ammon had to serve the king almost as a slave in order to win the chance to share his message. Others of his brothers were bound and imprisoned. They suffered hunger, thirst and all kinds of afflictions (see Alma 21).
Ammon speaks of feeling depressed and wanting to turn back, but the Lord gave him comfort and promised that if he would be patient in his afflictions, he would be given success.
As they gather after serving so faithfully, Ammon gives a pattern of success that can apply to us in the trials we face. He describes that great mercy of the Lord, especially considering the lives that he and his brothers had been living. He says that they repented, exercised faith, did good works and prayed without ceasing. In following this pattern, their lives were changed, and they were then able to serve the Lamanites and bring thousands of them into the gospel. Alma 26 is inspiring in the way it describes the joy that Ammon expressed to the Lord and the gratitude he felt for his many blessings.
Another example is set forth in the jail at Liberty, Mo., where the Prophet Joseph Smith experienced a period of great trial and discouragement. He and his companions suffered under extreme conditions — cold, darkness, cramped quarters, bad food — while the Saints also suffered. At this time of great despair, Joseph called out, "Oh, God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?"
As the answer came, the cold, dark, damp quarters of Liberty Jail became what has been referred to as a "prison temple" for Joseph Smith. He received great spiritual manifestations that allowed him to keep calm and carry on. The Lord blessed him with peace and promised that his afflictions and adversity would be but a small moment and, if he endured it well, he would be exalted on high. And Joseph was able to rise from his despair. In fact, in Section 123, he admonishes the Saints to cheerfully do all that is in their power.
Where do we find peace? For Joseph Smith, peace came in a cold, dark underground prison. In the Book of Mormon, it came at a place called the waters of Mormon. For us it might be a particular room in our homes or in the temple. May we, in the face of trials, adversity, afflictions or challenges "keep calm and carry on."