Using the unusual combination of the ax, gun and book, Elder Marion D. Hanks, keynote speaker at the San Diego Region's second annual LDS Military Fireside, encouraged military personnel to reach out for that which is right in defense of others.
Elder Hanks, a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, explained that he was borrowing the three symbols from a talk by Chaplain Elston Nelson, a former U.S. Senate chaplain, given at a White house Conference on Children and Youth. However, Elder Hanks applied the symbols to the responsibilities of today's military men and women.The ax represents hard work and courage, Elder Hanks explained. The history of the Church is rich with stories of early pioneers who were persecuted, driven out of their homes and even killed because of their beliefs. Even after reaching the deserts of Utah, the hardships continued. Many saints were asked to move again and settle other communities. "Our pioneer ancestors not only settled Salt Lake City," Elder Hanks said, "but a total of more than 300 communities came into being under their courageous efforts."
The gun symbolizes the reality of marauding people, of Indian tribes tht were angry with the intruding white men and of wild animals. But, Elder Hanks continued, the gun is also an implement of defense. He emphasized the example of the Mormon Battalion, "a volunteer group [who presented] themselves for service to their country under conditions of great stress." In spite of all the wrongs Church members had suffered, the saints were willing to use the gun to defend their country.
However, the chief defense of the pioneers was the book, said Elder Hanks. The pioneers "carried with them the scriptures which tught the gospel and centered in the testimony of Jesus and the prophets and the priesthood. This book gave them the spiritual base and strength to do what had to be done."
Elder Hanks told the large gathering that the book was at the heart of their march through life. "In the scriptures are the foundations of our faith, the testimony of Jesus, the pattern of conduct which can lead us to joy here and happiness eternal. Search them, study them, make them part of your lives," he counseled.
Deserts of destructive choices and behavior are still before the modern pioneer today, said Elder Hanks. "Integrity, decency, honesty, clean hands and pure hearts - these reflect the weapons to be carried in the daily battles of life," Elder Hanks told the assembled militry gathering, comprised of both LDS and non-LDS servicemen and women.