Music and the Spoken Word

To Be a Saint - Sunday, January 20, 2019

Nelson Mandela spent nearly 27 years of his life in prison, from age 45 to age 71, for his efforts to end racial segregation in South Africa. Then, in what some people consider a modern miracle, Mandela became his country’s first black—and first democratically elected—president.1 But perhaps a greater miracle was his forgiveness of those who had imprisoned him. Nelson Mandela’s rare combination of courage and kindness made him one of the world’s most beloved leaders and citizens. But Mandela remained modest and unassuming, often reminding people, “I am not a saint—unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” 2

What a profound statement!

Mandela’s words should reassure and encourage each of us. We all know that we aren’t perfect; we know we have room for much improvement. But if we just keep trying, we can change for the better. In that trying, our hearts begin to change and open to others. We become more accepting and generous, more loving and caring. And in the end, isn’t that what it means to be a saint?

As Nelson Mandela so clearly showed, saintliness is not just about improving ourselves. It’s about blessing the world around us. To do that, we certainly need to “keep on trying.” We need to recognize our shared humanity and treat all people with dignity and respect. We need to stand up not only for our own rights but also for the rights of others. We need to champion fairness and equality and oppose injustice and prejudice wherever we find it.

Because Nelson Mandela kept on trying, the world is today a better place than it was. But there is still room for improvement. And fair-minded, good-hearted people all around the world are still working to make a positive difference for others. Great leaders and citizens of the past and present know that human rights and human dignity are at the core of our shared humanity. They may not consider themselves saints, but they are, because they keep on trying—to love, to forgive, to welcome and embrace all the diverse and unique people of the world.
1 See “Biography of Nelson Mandela,” Nelson Mandela Foundation,
2 Address at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, Oct. 26, 1999,
January 20, 2019
Broadcast Number 4,662

The Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square
Bells on Temple Square

Mack Wilberg

Bells Conductor
LeAnna Willmore

Guest Artist
Robert Sims

Richard Elliott

Lloyd Newell

Oh, Peter, Go Ring Them Bells
Spiritual; arr. Howard Helvey

My Good Lord Done Been Here
Spiritual; arr. Jacqueline B. Hairston; orchd. Paul Hamilton

This Little Light of Mine
Spiritual; arr. Mack Wilberg

Ride On, King Jesus
Spiritual; arr. David Kidwell

Deep River
Spiritual; arr. Hart Morris

Don’t You Let Nobody Turn You ’Round
Spiritual; arr. Lena J. McLin

Lift Every Voice and Sing
J. Rosamond Johnson; arr. Roland Carter