“Song of a Soldier,” Ensign, July 2001, 21–22
In June 1945, during World War II, I was with a group of 13 Marines attached to the infantry. It was our job to do the demolition and mine disposal work. Tired, hungry, and dirty, we had been at the front lines of the fighting in Okinawa and were now falling back and being replaced with other infantrymen.
We had marched most of the night in the rain on our way to the northern end of Okinawa, away from the fighting. Finally we came to a large open field that had once been a rice paddy. We flopped to the ground, pulled our ponchos over ourselves, and slept.
The sun was shining brightly the next day when I was awakened by the sound of someone singing. I looked out over the 2,000 men who lay sleeping, steam rising from their wet bodies, and saw a dirty, tired Marine with blond whiskers singing:
Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day. …
I could not believe my ears! I had not heard that hymn since I left my home. I got up, staggered over to where the Marine was, and joined him in singing the hymn. Soon another soldier joined us, and another, and another, until finally about 20 of us were singing together:
And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell—
All is well! All is well!
(Hymns, no. 30)
When we finished the hymn, we stood in the steaming sunshine and joined with one another in a humble, churchlike meeting. We sought the Lord with an opening prayer, told each other our names and where we were from, and bore our testimonies to each other. Then we remembered it was Sunday morning. The men nearby began to grumble because we had awakened them, but in that former rice paddy, thousands of miles away from home, we had the most moving testimony meeting I have ever been to in all my life.
We then went about our business, and I never saw any of those Latter-day Saints again. But the memory of that impromptu meeting, which began with a simple but powerful hymn, will remain with me forever.—Blaine Hill, Taylorsville 12th Ward, Taylorsville Utah West Stake