Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Neil Armstrong Moment

Neil Armstrong, 1969
The day was July 20, 1969. A few months earlier I had returned from my mission to England. I had accepted a new calling as a tour guide on Temple Square. My assigned day was Sunday afternoon. It was one of those unforgettable days no one who was alive on Earth ever forgot. Like so many world-altering events, we never forgot where we were and what we were doing.

That day, I was conducting my usual tour on Temple Square, Utah's number one tourist attraction. In more recent years the Church migrated to using foreign sister missionaries from all over the world instead of returned missionaries like me. Smart move.

On that afternoon, about 100 people were following my lead around the Square. We entered the North Visitors Center, and we stopped at each painting representing scenes from the lives of the ancient Old Testament prophets. We wound our way up the circular ramp to the second floor. The rotunda is dominated by a replica of the famous Bertel Thorvaldsen statue of the Christus.

The walls in the circular room are a bird's eye view of the universe from the perspective of one standing on the Earth looking out into space. Most prominent on the wall is the nearest space object, the moon. As I was discussing Christ's pre-mortal role as the Creator, we were interrupted by a Church security man who informed the group that Neil Armstrong had just stepped out of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon. He was the first human being to set foot on moon. He was a relatively young man at age 38, and the world had eagerly anticipated that moment after witnessing the liftoff, the orbits and the soft landing of the lunar module.

As he exited the lunar module, his words were forever captured in his first statement, "That's one step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

I was overcome with emotion as I thought about what had just happened. Neil Armstrong was an immediate American hero, but forever afterward until his death this weekend at age 82, he shunned the limelight of his celebrity.

What a marvelous achievement for those talented scientists, who had accepted the challenge of President John F. Kennedy to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. The Sixties represent many things to many people, but for me that crowning achievement against a backdrop of unprecedented social upheaval was a fitting climax.

As great as that achievement by man represents our determination, our will and our ingenuity, however, think how it shrinks compared to the Creator who put all the stars and planets and moons in the night sky. . .

THAT was some achievement.

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