Posted by: 2thdocbob | 29 May 2016

Lest We Forget


Because it is Memorial Day Weekend, I chose two special hymns to open and close our Sacrament Meeting (Sunday worship service) today. They are not hymns that most of us think of as patriotic, but their messages are indeed patriotic.

Although the established purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those who sacrificed their lives in battle for our freedoms, to me there is more to it. I also like to remember my deceased family members who sacrificed their all for the truth: my pioneer ancestors who left everything to come to a land of freedom.

Anyway, I felt that these hymns were very appropriate for our Sunday worship. As I played them and listened to their words, their significance struck me, as did their powerful messages.

We opened with God of Our Fathers Whose Almighty Hand. There are organ fanfares throughout the hymn, and I found a voicing on the organ that I really liked. So it’s a show off piece for the organist, and it’s fun to play. I have loved this hymn since I was young, and know the words by heart, but as I listened to them this morning, I recognized that this song is a prayer.

  1. God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
    Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
    Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
    Our grateful songs before thy throne arise.
  2. Thy love divine hath led us in the past;
    In this free land by thee our lot is cast.
    Be thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide, and Stay,
    Thy word our law, thy paths our chosen way.
  3. From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
    Be thy strong arm our ever-sure defense.
    Thy true religion in our hearts increase.
    Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.[1]

The first verse confesses God as our Father, the Creator of the universe, and addresses our grateful songs to Him.

In the second verse it becomes more powerful and more urgent. We acknowledge His love and His guidance through the past. Then we entreat Him to be not just our King, but our Guardian and Support. These are not insignificant requests. And we pledge to choose His path and follow His law.

The urgency increases in the final verse, as we plead for the Father to defend us through was and pestilence, and seemingly whatever else might befall us. We plead for strengthened witnesses of the truth of His word, and finally ask for His goodness to bless us also in times of peace (when we often tend to forget God).

To me this is a timely message, and a prayer that bears repeating frequently this year.[2]


We closed with the more peaceful God of Our Fathers, Known of Old, which is actually the first three verses from Kipling’s poem Recessional.[3] Again, I was reminded that this is also something of a prayer.

  1. God of our fathers, known of old,
    Lord of our far-flung battle line,
    Beneath whose awful hand we hold
    Dominion over palm and pine:
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget, lest we forget.
  2. The tumult and the shouting dies;
    The captains and the kings depart.
    Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
    An humble and a contrite heart.
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget, lest we forget.
  3. Far-called, our navies melt away;
    On dune and headland sinks the fire.
    Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
    Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
    Judge of the nations, spare us yet,
    Lest we forget, lest we forget.[4]

Being a 19th-Century British hymn, there is a militant tone to the poem. But Kipling acknowledges that the British might was subject to God’s ruling hand.[5] The first verse ends with the plea for God to be with us, lest we forget his power and guidance.

In the second verse, when the noise of battle ceases, and the captains and kings vanish, there remains the sacrifice God desires from each us: a humble and a contrite heart. And again the plea that we may not forget this. Indeed, this is why we meet weekly to partake of the sacrament. It is so that we don’t forget that we need God with us.

Our military might will one day vanish, said Kipling in the third verse, as did the might of Nineveh and Tyre. Indeed, this process was well underway in the British Empire in 1897. The final plea is for God, the Judge of nations, to spare us, so that we may remember His goodness and blessings to us.

As we celebrate Memorial Day, it would behoove us all to consider what we are remembering. True, we remember those who sacrificed for our freedom,[6] but we should never forget Him who gave us these freedoms, the God of our Fathers, and acknowledge our dependence on Him.

Well may we pray:

Be thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide, and Stay;

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.


[1] Hymns, God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand, no. 78

Text: Daniel C. Roberts, 1841-1907

Music: George W. Warren, 1828-1902

[2] You can hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing it here: See also for a history of this hymn.

[3] The story of this poem can be found here:

[4] Hymns, God of Our Fathers, Known of Old, no. 80

Text: Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936

Music: Leroy J. Robertson, 1896-1971. © 1948 IRI

[5] I do not wish to get into British colonialism or any of that debate here. My point is that even with their prowess, the British were still subject to God’s might and will, and Kipling didn’t wish for that to be forgotten. Whether they followed God’s will or not is a matter for a different discussion.

[6]The first of those served and died was our Savior. As Kipling suggested, we should not forget him. But let’s also not forget all who have served and who do serve do so at great risk, and for our benefit.

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