This is Father’s Day weekend, a time much revered by children of fathers everywhere. It was ever a favorite of mine as I was growing up, and I have to admit, with my wonderful wife, twelve children, their loving spouses, and eleven grandchildren going on fifteen, I enjoy it greatly still. Sunday anywhere dads are celebrated there will be mugs, shirts and other gifts given labeled with the words “World’s Greatest Dad.” I remember giving my own father a little trophy with that same inscription, and to my wide eyes of admiration, it was every bit deserved. For me, he was the world’s greatest, and gratefully I have a lot of world’s greatests in my life. I think for the people we love in our lives, World’s Greatest Wife, World’s Greatest Children, World’s Greatest Grandchildren, World’s Greatest Friends, World’s Greatest Mom, World’s Greatest Dad, etc., it is excusable to play a little loose with those titles, because it is very subjective, and for me at any given moment I can see someone as the world’s greatest for me. Nevertheless, I do see world’s greatest as perhaps being over used a bit in societal and pop-culture terms.
When I was a kid there was the very quantifiable world’s greatest. You could find them in the Guinness Book of World Records. At age nine I had a copy of my own. I loved looking through the records listings and seeing all the cool stats. It really was something. I most enjoyed the record for the fastest propeller driven speedboat and its driver. I was so impressed by this record because the holder was the father of one of my best boyhood friends. My friend Alan Hill lived just around the corner from me in an Old Fig Garden neighborhood of Fresno. His father was Larry Hill, driver of Mr. Ed, which was that fastest propeller driven speedboat on Earth. He held the record, and for years I shared that with friends I made thereafter, telling stories of how sometimes that boat would be parked at the side of the Hill home, and I would get to look at it and talk to the world’s greatest driver. To this day I still like driving boats as fast as I can make them go. Eventually Larry Hill’s record was broken, like nearly all records, but that does not diminish them in their day.
The last few years a new category of world’s greatest has arisen, and I frankly do not think much of it. It is the title of “GOAT” — “Greatest Of All Time.” I hear it predominantly awarded by the pop-culture newscasters of morning television. They seem always anxious to give it to players of various sports, entertainers, and others who may be talented, but since “All Time” has not happened yet, it seems to me that news casting should deal in facts and not things so subjective. To be frank, there is only one unequivocal “Greatest Of All Time,” and He was not a goat.
Next month will mark fifty-four years since man first landed and walked on the surface of the moon. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off the Apollo 11 lunar module and declared, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” As a five year-old child I was witness to that momentous event. It was then, and yet still is, an amazing event when man was able to breach the earth’s atmosphere to walk on the surface of our satellite moon. For the whole of human history the people of this planet have gazed upon and looked to our moon with wonder from afar, and on that day in 1969 the entire world watched on little television sets, as did I, the moon had been reached by more than just our lonely eyes.
I have heard it said that the Apollo moon landing was the greatest event in human history, and great it was, but the saying is untrue. While it really was a marker in history, it does not even make the top ten in the miracles that have been seen and unseen, but nevertheless achieved. When Neil Armstrong and other astronauts have looked from afar upon the Earth they did so by great achievement indeed, but to save that world, with all who would ever live upon it, was a greater achievement.
The greatest events in human history were far more grand, though many of which were largely unseen by mortal eyes and understanding at the times that they occurred. The greatest of all events in human history, hyper-eclipsing all others in their combined importance, hardly witnessed by mortal eyes, but I believe still witnessed by us all, was the achievement of the infinite atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.
On an evening so long ago, the man Jesus, son of Mary, went into the Garden of Gethsemane, a place where olives were grown and pressed, and out of love for us all was in like-manner pressed, becoming the Savior of the World. His atonement was not finite, but infinite in its scope and magnitude. In Gethsemane, during the trials that followed, and on that cross at Golgotha, He willingly and lovingly took upon himself the sins, the sorrows, the afflictions, and the emotional, physical and spiritual sufferings of the entire human family for all time, for all of the children of God, both the righteous and the wicked, that all may have the same opportunity to repent, to be cleansed and to return to the presence of God. It was indeed an infinite atonement as our Lord descended beneath all things, below the universe of combined sins, pains and sorrows of all people, in all of human history, on every planet He created. There was not one pain, sin, nor sorrow that was missed. When He said that it was finished He had done it all, and then some for good measure. There is no one whose sins were unaccounted for, no one left beyond the Godly reach of His mortal/immortal hand.
Although this greatest of all events in human history went largely unnoticed by those of that day, millions today honor and remember Him every week for this infinite atonement. In the hours preceding His suffering He taught His apostles, those having authority, of a most important ordinance, the administration of the Sacrament. This we do in remembrance of Him as we renew our covenants. The bread is broken and blessed, and we partake of it in remembrance of His body which was broken for us. The water is blessed upon an alter resembling the place where He was laid, and we drink in remembrance of His blood which was shed for us. It is no wonder that the partaking of the Sacrament is the most important thing we do each week. This renewal of our covenants and remembrance is done in no other way and in no other place, and it is done by instruction and authority given by Him.
Try as man may, whether by building a great tower or a rocket ship, there is only one way man may ascend up to Heaven to return to the presence of God, and it is by Jesus Christ, the Savior of us all. Only by Him, whose infinite atonement lifts us all, can we repent and be cleansed. It is only through His ordinances, sacraments and works, fully effectuated and activated by atoning grace for the salvation of all mankind that we may return to God’s presence. It is upon us to introduce these teachings to all. We do it in remembrance of He who saved us. Let us partake of the holy offering and share it with all.
I still feel like I have a lot of world’s greatests in my life, and I have kept that old world records book all these years. I have wonderful memories of watching those moon launches and landings, and I look forward to seeing it again in some future day, but there is greater hope in the Savior of the World than men who land on moons, play ball or pack concert venues and stadiums. There is only one greatest of all time. He did not perform the most pivotal act in human history on a stage or in front of worldwide television audiences, neither for fame or acclaim. There was no live coverage nor tickets sold to the event. The infinite atonement, that all reaching and ever-saving gift of grace began in a quiet garden called Gethsemane, but will be remembered and honored for eternity. Jesus Christ is the greatest of all time. He is no goat. He is the Lamb. With our world’s greatest fathers this day, let us remember Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.