At the end of “Hamilton” is a song titled “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”. The lyrics talk about the life of Alexander Hamilton in a nutshell and how his story came to light via Eliza his wife. There is a part of that song that I think every one of us asks “And when you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?” So what is our story? Who writes it? Who keeps us alive after we’re gone?
In his remarks at the April 2022 General Conference, Elder Gerrit W Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles states “We each have a story”. He discusses how we write our own stories and discover and bring to light the stories of our ancestors. Each of us is unique on this earth, and our ancestors’ ties help us understand ourselves.
This is my Great-Aunt Lois Perkins. She was an amazing woman. She was also an avid genealogist. Through her work, we have the names and information of hundreds of relatives. We have learned many stories about those ancestors and can see how their stories have helped to shape who I am. Without her efforts, there would be a deficit in my life.
One of the more interesting ancestors is a cousin, Harry Cooper, better known as “Railroad Jack”. He was known as a history expert and would travel from Michigan to North Carolina. How he traveled we’ll get to in a minute. In his travels, he would set up a table on college campuses and make a challenge. The challenge was simple, all you had to do was ask him a history question and if he didn’t know the answer, you would win a dollar. The legend goes that he never paid out the prize as he couldn’t be stumped.
Through this challenge, he came to know several college professors and would occasionally attend their lectures. When the professor saw him enter he/she would ask if Railroad Jack would share some insight on the topic with the class. He became well known in his circuit.
I mentioned he would travel from Michigan to North Carolina. He did this by train, but that’s not how he got his nickname. Railroad Jack was brilliant, but not very wealthy. He did travel by train, but he did so in a hammock of his own devising. This hammock he would attach to the bottom of the railroad car and he would ride underneath the car from town to town. The picture below is not of him, but an example of his hammock.
Knowing our ancestry can help us know ourselves. We see certain characteristics passed on from generation to generation. However, as Elder Gong states “Genetics and family patterns influence but do not determine us.” Each one of us is an individual finding our way in life. “Each of our stories is a journey still in progress, as we discover, create, and become with possibilities beyond imagination.”
As I look back on my life, I see the experiences that have written my story to this point. As I look forward, I see the possibilities that could manifest themselves. My story is not stagnant, not predetermined and yours isn’t either.
Part of God’s Family and Story
One important aspect of our story is our membership in the family of God and the story of this earth. He created us and placed us here to be part of His plan. We each have a role to play in the story of mankind. We are a son or daughter of God. He loves His family and wants us to have our own stories during mortality. He understands our uniqueness and our value. Our story is not only written here on earth but in the heavens.
Recording Our Story
So, who writes your story? First and foremost, we do. Each of us writes our own story in this life. How can it be recorded? Certain information about our stories is recorded via government statistics. However, our individual experiences are recorded in the writings of ourselves and others. Keeping a personal journal is one way to write our stories. Other methods such as blogs, videos, and social media posts record our stories. Recording our stories is not enough. We must share our stories with others and pass down our records to our posterity.
We each have a story. Our stories describe who we are, what we have accomplished, the struggles we have gone through, and the joy and sadness of life. The stories of those who have gone before us inspire us, make us laugh, show that we are not alone in our struggles, and help us understand ourselves a little better. Yours and my stories are part of the greater story of God’s family. He is there to help us write a story that will lead us back to Him one day. Lastly, each one of our stories is important. Without it, the story of mankind is incomplete. Who will write your story?