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‘Hold on!’ is the lesson from Maj. Brent Taylor and the heroes just like him

The principles of freedom and the renewing power of faith still matter at a time when it might be easier to just let go.

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Brent Taylor stands atop the Gharib Ghar peak in Afghanistan while holding an American flag and a photo of John Scharf.

Brent Taylor via Facebook

On Nov. 3, 2018, North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor was tragically killed in Afghanistan. He has rightly been remembered as a man who lived a country first life. Duty, honor, sacrifice and service oozed from every fiber of his being and were manifest by his daily actions. At home and abroad he held on during difficult days and trying times to secure the blessings of liberty, not only for his posterity, but for all who were willing to hold on in hope of better, more freedom-filled days to come. 

In the year following that fateful day, Brent’s wife Jennie and their seven children have shown extraordinary grit and grace in holding on and honoring the memory of a father, friend, husband and public servant. The Taylor family has demonstrated to the nation and to the world why holding onto the principles of freedom and holding out for the renewing power of faith matters so much at a time when it might be easier to just let go and give in.  

This past weekend, the northern Utah community came together to unfurl a heroic-sized flag in Coldwater Canyon aptly named “The Major” in a nod to the fallen hero and his equally heroic family. Seeing the images of this community moment, with thousands of inspired citizens hearing inspiring tributes, I wondered how many in that crowd were seriously struggling with their own challenges. I was certain there were many dealing with the loss of a loved one, a struggling child, a difficult marriage, a failed business, addiction, loneliness, personal discouragement or deep depression. I found myself wanting to reach out with the lesson from Brent Taylor and his family — hold on!

Jennie Taylor, wife of Maj. Brent Taylor, walks past his flag-draped casket before his funeral at the Dee Events Center in Ogden on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

“Hold on!” has been echoing in my mind for several weeks now. On Oct. 20 I found myself in Boston, Massachusetts — the seedbed of freedom and faith for the nation. Like Major Taylor and his family, those who walked the roads of Boston possessed souls fired by freedom and faith. The fledgling nation represented a daily exercise in holding on. I listened to a stirring address delivered by world religious leader, President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He shared a fitting historic example of the lasting legacy that comes from those who choose to hold on: 

“Among the Pilgrims traveling on the Mayflower was a young, single man, an indentured servant to John Carver, named John Howland. 

“During that historic voyage, the crew and passengers of the Mayflower encountered many turbulent storms. In the middle of one storm, young John fell overboard. 

“By all accounts, that should have been the end of John Howland. However, the Lord had other plans for him. William Bradford, also a passenger on the Mayflower, reported: 

“‘In ... these storms the winds were so fierce and (the) seas so high ... (the Pilgrims) ... were forced to (remain below deck). ... And in one of them ... John Howland (came) above ... (and,) with a (roll) of (the) ship, (he was) thrown into (the) sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of (the) (topsail halyard — a rope that was trailing in the water and) held on though he was several fathoms under water till he was (hauled) up by (the) same rope to (the) brim of (the) water, and then with a boat-hook and other means got into (the) ship again and his life was saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.’

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President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, waves to attendees upon entering the stake center in Boston on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“At the time John Howland was not as famous as fellow passengers William Bradford, John Carver and Myles Standish. However, with nearly 400 years between us and these courageous Pilgrims, he may have had a greater impact on the history of the United States than any of them.

“About four years after they arrived in the New World, John married fellow Mayflower passenger Elizabeth Tilley, a brave and committed daughter of God. They eventually had 10 children and nearly 90 grandchildren. But that is not where the story ends. 

“Today, an estimated two million Americans trace their roots to John and Elizabeth. Their descendants include three U.S. presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush; American poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; and two influential 19th-century American religious leaders — the prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith. (It should be noted President Ballard is direct descendant of Hyrum.)

Our nation, our communities and countless individuals struggling this very day should find hope in and be encouraged by the clarion call of heroes proved — hold on!

“Think about it for a moment — the existence of these political leaders, poets, and prophets hinged on this one young man finding and grabbing a rope in the ocean and holding on tight to be saved. It was a miracle!” 

The miracle of a Major Taylor and his family along with the millions of decedents, and hundreds of millions of citizens around the world blessed by the posterity of John Howland, showcase why holding onto the principles of freedom and holding out for the renewing power of faith still matters today. Our nation, our communities and countless individuals struggling this very day should find hope in and be encouraged by the clarion call of heroes proved — hold on!