Do you know who that is? The deacon elbowed my ribs, his eyes wide with excitement. He was pointing to an older gentleman making his way to the front of our small country church. I didn’t recognise the man at first, but I didn’t have to wait long to find out. “That Desmond Doss”! And right away, I couldn’t help but feel the same excitement. I had just read Desmond’s amazing story, The Unlikeliest Hero, to my kids-and like me they were moved by the thrilling tales of his steady faith and sacrificial courage as an American soldier during World War II.
That was the day I first met Desmond and his wife. Her family happen to be members of the church I was pastoring in Northern California, so the two would visit our congregation from time to time. As we spoke together that day, the signs of Desmond’s time in combat were hard to miss. For instance, the deafening sounds of battle, along with some experimental antibiotics, had severely damaged his hearing, so he wore a cochlear implant. The device was powered by a small battery that hung around his neck, much like a badge of honour.
Of course, Desmond went on to receive the highest military honour in the land, hung around his neck by then US President Harry Truman. Indeed, he was the first conscientious objector to receive the distinguished Medal of Honour, awarded to him for personal acts of valour above and beyond the call of duty. But what struck me the most about Desmond was his quiet, humble manner despite these honours-whenever someone asked him about his incredible experiences during World War II, he always smiled and gave God the credit.
Subsequently, we met and spoke together many times over the years, and it’s not surprising to me or anyone else who knew Desmond that he would be the subject of numerous books and films, including the 2004 documentary The Conscious Objector and the most recent Hollywood film Hacksaw Ridge.
Yet while Doss’ service in the military and his heroic sacrifice on the battlefield are now well known, few have delved deeply into the unique beliefs that helped shape this Christian hero. Desmond was Seventh-day Adventist, a denomination that has received growing attention due in part to the release of Mel Gibson’s movie about him, and to prominent Adventists such as Ben Carson, who ran for president of the United States.
But who are the Seventh-day Adventists? What do they believe about the Bible – and why? They comprise one of the fastest growing denominations in the world, so it’s worth exploring the truth about this group of religious people and what drives them.
The Bible First
War or no war, Desmond Doss was a firm believer in reading his Bible.
The pocket edition given to him by his wife before he left for Guam, was so precious to him that he carried it with him everywhere. When he was eventually wounded and taken by ambulance to an army hospital ship, he discovered that he had lost his most valued possession. Word was passed to his friends who went back to the battlefield and eventually found the Bible and sent it to him.
If you have ever heard of Seventh-day Adventists, or if you are unfamiliar with their beliefs, their simplest description is that they are firm believers in the Bible. Like Desmond, Adventists proclaim a love for the Scriptures and believe their unique doctrines stand on the Word of God.
As you read this amazing story of Desmond Doss, I am sure that many of you have questions about Desmond’s religion that he believed in so strongly. If you do then please take up this months free offer – The Hero of Hacksaw Ridge.
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