In 1985, we took a group of about 35 students to Mainland China for a tour.  It was just a very few years since the Cultural Revolution.  One of our highlights, besides the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, was Xian where they had, just a few years previous, discovered the now famous Terra Cotta Tomb and 8,000 life size soldiers who over 2,000 years before had been created to provide protection to a dying emperor for both this life and the next.

The Dig was just partially uncovered when we were there and over the next generation the full scale of this incredible army has been uncovered and the story has been told.  I’m not of an ilk to try and retell the story as you can Google it and catch up on your own with the rest of the story. My purpose is to use it as a life lesson.

I have many times fallen asleep comparing whatever biography I’m currently reading with one of the terra cotta soldiers. I read the New Testament and the Savior stands tall and  guards my front gate.  I read Nelson Mandela’s biography and I glean from his life so many courageous characteristics that I want to emulate in my life and I think of using one of the Solders above to represent Mandela and have him standing in front of me to remind me of courage and perseverance and forgiveness.

I put Abraham Lincoln in a prominent location to keep me reading great books and willing to sacrifice myself over good causes, George Washington and Captain Moroni for their leadership and Nephi for his people skills and positive attitude and Victor Frankel for his ability to put mind over physical discomfort and Peter for ‘Standing Up’  and Abinadi for his courage and Mormon for being “quick to observe”  and Og Mandino for his Ten Scrolls and the Ten Vows.

George Clason for his financial secrets and my dad for his positive spirit and quick wit and my mom for teaching me about honesty and leadership and Jim Collins about setting aggressive goals and Hyrum Smith about Constitutions and Stephen Covey about the importance of developing Great Habits and David B. Haight with the Formula for Success and John Carmack for his powerful leadership while remaining humble and Marion Tree for personalizing a lesson for a soul who might be heading south without some immediate help.

Joseph Smith for being able to teach lessons about excellence while trapped in Liberty Jail or Jack Rushton for his lessons on “enduring it well” and Jared Horomona for his smile while experiencing rough waters and a wife who remains focused on raising a great family when it would be so easy to be diverted with worldly pursuits. The list is endless but I find myself symbolically placing a terra cotta soldier in my front yard for each hero or mentor and to make sure I never forget them or what they taught me.   By having these heroes close by, I remember their life lessons and their stories and I vow to not forget them.


Here are a few modern terra cotta soldiers standing guard over our missionary board where we have labels showing the 39 missions and the 70 years of service provided by our family and parents to date and can’t wait to plant another soldier’s flag in the countries and states where the next 34 and there spouses will have served.

Each flag stands as another terra cotta soldier firmly planted and represents significant sacrifice and testimony as they each help build the Kingdom and prepare the world for the Savior to return.  Over the next ten years a flag will be on the board for each of these six grandchildren representing our 40…six already have flags on the board.


These are the real terra cotta soldiers in my life and likely yours.  The matriarch and four of the eight mothers of our grandchildren. These are the real protective soldiers. They would willingly give their life to protect the future of any one of their children. They stand as terra cotta soldiers ready to protect and teach correct principles.  Anyone who wishes to infiltrate the lives of their children and do them harm will have to deal with the incredible motherly instincts each of them carry.  Their internal light shines forth as they guard and guide each of their children.

Each of us is surrounded with terra cotta soldiers and we must continue adding more and more such heroes each day of our lives.  With the mentors we seek, the books we read, the teachers we follow, the church leaders who stand as witnesses of the dangers of the world if we read the wrong books, watch the wrong shows, think the wrong thoughts.

I hope to return someday to Xian, China, and see the finished product of what one man did to try and protect his past and future.  I pray that me and mine and you and yours will begin today to build a field of “soldiers” to stand tall and protect us from this telestial testing ground where it so easy to build monuments of sand that crumble when the tough tests come (and they will come). Let’s get our Captain Moroni’s firmly planted in our front yards so that those Sherems and Korihors will fail in their efforts!

With love from Heber, Utah,

Brother Jim Ritchie