I heard on NPR this week that Trinh Tri Ngo died this past week at age 87.
In her youth, Trinh had been one of the best known propagandists of the North Vietnamese Defense Ministry. Her sweet voice was broadcast three times a day, for thirty minutes at a time. American GI’s referred to Trinh as “Hanoi Hannah”.
” ‘Defect, GI. It is a very good idea to leave a sinking ship,’ she advised her U.S. listeners in one broadcast. ‘You know you cannot win this war.’
“The North Vietnamese Defense Ministry’s propaganda department wrote her scripts, she told the Voice of Vietnam. Their aim was to degrade U.S. troops’ will to fight, and convince them that their cause was unjust.”
In our days Mormons are familiar with a similar message: “Defect, young Mormon. It is a very good idea to leave the sinking ‘ship Zion’. Mormonism is bound to fail.” The aim of this propaganda is to degrade Mormons’ will to endure, to convince them their cause is hopelessly flawed.
A Heart Burning with Pride
I was a young girl during the Vietnam War, and I recall the pervasive sense of shame many felt at that time. One night I was still awake when the broadcast day ended.
In those days the final thing on the screen was the National Anthem and video of a waving American flag. As I had been trained to do, I stood when I heard the strains of the Anthem and placed my hand on my heart. In that moment my soul was filled with fierce pride for my country and I began to weep in defiance of the shamed zeitgeist of my day.
In similar fashion, there have been times when I lived in a state where I wasn’t sure of the gospel and the Church. I had seen those close to me abuse wife and family. I had heard things about Joseph Smith that disturbed me greatly. I was enveloped in the zeitgeist of doubt that afflicts too many in our day.
Yet though I thought the Church must be wrong, God spoke to me. Respecting my agency, He merely told me to stop kicking against the pricks. He told me I knew what was right, and that my faith was enough.
I decided to trust God, though my mind didn’t understand for decades. There were many times when I felt to sing the song of redeeming love, yet the intellectual wedge near my core remained through the years. And then I realized that the beauty and truth I knew was Godly had only existed in my life because of Joseph Smith and his teachings. The wedge dissolved. It left a void, as I still didn’t understand the history at that point. But as I searched the history without seeing through a lens of doubt, I was able to see things my former self could never have seen.
I could see a God who dearly desires all mankind to return to Him. I could see a Joseph Smith who wept for his people, who did everything in his power to save as many as would repent, a Joseph who would not betray the secrets of those penitent. I saw a Joseph who had died defending his God, the religion he had been commanded to restore, our freedom to believe, our peace from the doubt his defection would have caused, and the ability for every wife and every child to be sealed into the family of mankind.
One morning as I contemplated Joseph’s death, I became wracked with grief. I sobbed openly as I considered the history we might have had if Joseph had lived long enough to openly explain the doctrine and the pain many endured because Joseph was killed before that was possible. I wept for Emma and her family. I wept for Brigham, thrust untimely into leadership. I wept for my ancestors, torn between love for Emma and devotion to the Church Brigham led. And I wept for those in our day who remain ignorant of the honorable Joseph I know.
Wednesday I received an anguished e-mail from a friend, whose grandchildren have vigorously rejected Mormonism. They sent her a link to a website they felt would explain the obvious logic of their position. She was appalled.
“It was Korihor’s reasoning,” she wrote. “…many are drawn into this trap….crap.”