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Mt. Rushmore could have featured Lewis and Clark instead of presidents: Carving our name on hearts

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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In honor of Presidents’ Day, let’s discuss Mt. Rushmore, one of the most famous of all presidential tributes.

I was surprised to learn that the sculpture was originally intended to honor Western heroes such as Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Lakota leader Chief Red Cloud. The idea was to promote tourism in South Dakota; state historian Doane Robinson thought a monument to such heroes would be effective.

However, after Robinson enlisted the help of renowned American sculptor Gutzon Borglum, the artist convinced the historian that the monument would be better received if it had a more national focus. The two settled on four presidents they felt best represented the country.

Building the monument employed over four hundred men and took fourteen years to complete. The miners had to remove 450,000 tons of rock; 90 percent of the monument was carved by using dynamite. Finishers were then lowered down the five hundred-foot face of the mountainside in bosun chairs. Remarkably, no one was killed or seriously injured.

One other interesting fact: the mountain was named after New York attorney Charles E. Rushmore, who happened to pass through on his way back from a business trip. When he learned that the monument had no official designation, the wealthy investor worked to have it named after himself.

Carving our name on hearts

Leaving a legacy in stone is an appealing way to be remembered when we’re gone. We give money for the naming rights on buildings and carve our initials into trees and concrete sidewalks for the same reason.

In a secular culture, leaving such secular reminders of ourselves is the best we can do. But Charles Spurgeon had a different idea: “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”

Spurgeon did not mean that we should not have a tombstone at our grave (his was rather impressive, in fact). He meant that the most permanent objects in this world will one day be gone and forgotten, but the new heaven and new earth that awaits us will last forever (Revelation 21:1).

We remember George Washington and Abraham Lincoln best not by setting aside a single day in their honor or by carving their likenesses into rock but by imitating their best attributes with our enduring commitment. For more, see my Daily Article: “Surprising facts about Washington and Lincoln: How their humility created and saved our nation.”

When we love God and love our neighbor with practical worship and service, our actions will echo in eternity.

Whose heart will bear evidence of your love today?

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