“Amid War, Church Members Find Strength in Gospel,” Ensign, Jan. 2004, 76–77
Across the Tigris River and 40 miles (64 km) away from the biblical city of Nineveh, a dozen or so Latter-day Saint military personnel meet each Sunday in northern Iraq’s largest city, Mosul, to partake of the sacrament and have a lesson.
The group is called the Quyyaarah LDS service group. Along with the other LDS service groups in the region, they are finding spiritual sustenance amid the strife of war.
The first Church unit based on Iraqi soil was organized 27 April 2003 at Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq. Kenneth M. Lightheart, a member of the United States Air Force, was called to be the group leader.
Speaking of the first group meeting, held in a small room inside an Iraqi building, Brother Lightheart says: “The Spirit was strong that day, especially for me during the hymns. It almost sounded like home. We were all happy to be part of something special and to have the gospel and the priesthood in Iraq.”
Like their fellow Latter-day Saints serving in southern Iraq, Church members in the Quyyaarah LDS service group have been able to turn to each other and the gospel during difficult times.
Brian Marble is serving with the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Mosul and has been in Iraq since March. Brother Marble says he has found strength in praying and reading the scriptures daily as well as in the knowledge that he and his wife were sealed in the Nashville Tennessee Temple about a month before he was deployed.
“Living under the guidance and protection of Heavenly Father has helped me to realize how true the gospel is,” says Brother Marble. “The gospel is a great source for strength to help me cope with this deployment.”
Latter-day Saint service members at Camp Speicher, Iraq, also boost morale and fill the void of being away from their families by participating in a weekly family home evening.
“Coming to family home evening allows us to recharge our spiritual batteries,” says Army Capt. John Stephenson. “Combat exposes many soldiers to a harsher side of humanity, so coming to family home evening offsets some of the unpleasant experiences dealt to deployed Church members.”
Unfortunately there have been unpleasant experiences facing Church members serving in Iraq. To date, four members have died as a result of the conflict, and one was taken prisoner of war and later rescued. The most recent casualty was United States Army Specialist Alyssa R. Peterson. She was killed in Tel Afar, Iraq, in September 2003 as a result of a noncombat weapons discharge. A member of the Cherry Hill Ward, Flagstaff Arizona Stake, Sister Peterson was in Iraq serving as an Arabic-speaking intelligence specialist assigned to the U.S. Army’s 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Sister Peterson, 27, served a full-time mission to the Netherlands.
Church News contributed to this report.