Why memorials?

twelvestones.jpgThe importance of memorials and finding meaning in them and all aspects of life came to my mind as I read the Old Testament stories of Joshua. I wonder how much influence one of these stories has in our heritage on the reasons why we erect memorials.

Before the the battle of Jericho, a less dramatic but significant story of faith occurs. Following the Lord’s word, Joshua leads the people to the banks of the Jordan River and tells them that “as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above.” Joshua 3:13 Indeed, when the priests walked forward and dipped their feet into the Jordan River, the water stopped flowing and they stood firm on dry ground.

What really strikes me about this story is not just the miracle of the Lord’s help or even the incredible faith of the priests to walk into the river without a sure knowledge that it would stop, but that afterwards, the Lord asks Joshua to have his people create a memorial with twelve stones from the river as a sign.

And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever. Joshua 4:21-24

As I did a quick mental and Internet search, I recognized lots of references to the crossing of the Jordan and the 12-stone memorial in our popular culture and our recent history. Some references have trivialized or diminished the meaning of this Biblical story. Others help us gain appreciation for new memorials in the same thoughtful way as the original memorial of the crossing of the Jordan. I especially like the example of the Trail of Twelve Stones at the homesite of Abraham Lincoln’s youth.

As a society in general do we look on each of these memorials and figuratively ask ourselves this question, “What mean these stones?” My children and husband probably think I am obsessed in trying to find the meaning to everything, even that which seems ordinary. Why do I do this? I have a deep longing for the richness that symbols bring. I often feel that as a society, we have been overloaded with information on the surface, but in the process, we have lost the depth.

Simply asking ourselves, “What mean these stones?” (or monument or garden or picture or words) and prompting our children to ask that of us can return true meaning to our minds and hearts.

Personally, I find spiritual meaning daily by asking myself this question, “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” suggested by a leader in my church, President Henry B. Eyring. By pondering this question and then making a record of it, I am laying down a spiritual memorial for my children and our family. My memorial is like those twelve stones as I recognize the spiritual manifestations of God’s miracles and our faith in Him that occur daily. And I “know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty.”

1 Comment

  1. Carrie
    Jan 10, 2008

    As I do the mental work that is required to understand the meaning of these memorials or symbols that are spread throughout our lives, I feel that I the process of understanding permenantly changes me. One beauty of symbols is that they don’t always mean the same thing to everyone, or even the same thing at different times in our lives. As we use our minds and our personal expereince we find meaning in simple things. Because of the personal nature of the procces, the truths that we come to understand fill a special place in our mind that is lifelong. And each time we see these symobls, we are reminded of what we, personally, have come to understand. What a beautiful process.


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