Oh, what songs of the heart
We shall sing all the day,
When again we assemble at home
When we meet ne’er to part
With the blest o’er the way,
There no more from our loved ones to roam!
Today in Sunday School class, the topic of study and discussion was the 25th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Our teacher asked us to re-read this short passage of only 16 verses, and select our three favorites. We spent the remaining class time sharing and discussing our thoughts upon various verses with one another. I did not feel inclined to share my three favorite verses, but they were these three: 10, 12 and 13.
And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.
I have been feeling heavy laden – trapped – with and by worldly cares. Reading this verse felt like a relief. Studying the footnotes that go with it also provided counsel to ponder. I have also been meditating upon what I can possibly to say to my son, Will, the next time he raises his questions and concerns to me about specific issues that are troubling him right now. The Lord’s answer to both of us is the same. I am glad that my Sunday School teacher prepares so well that the voice of Spirit can teach me individually during his class.
For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.
When I read this verse, I often think back to late 2002 through early 2004, when I was recovering from domestic violence. For the first four months, I lived in the main building of the women’s shelter. After that, I was blessed to be able to move to their transitional housing , a complex of new apartments which were located on the same protected grounds as the emergency shelter. My first apartment, a subterranean unit built into the side of a hill, felt womblike. After decades of domestic abuse, I finally felt safe and fully protected there, secured away from the prowling hunters and pitiless oppressors which had followed me all my life. But, the reality beyond loomed – the time when I would have to leave this safe harbor and head back out to the open sea. There were many times, late at night, when I would cry alone in my room; cry when it was safe to cry: when the children were safely asleep and would not see it. My children were so little, and were looking up to me for everything. I had taken this huge step, in leaving our abuser, and totally disrupted their lives. Could I do this, really do this? Could I continue along on this journey, by myself, as a single mother, or had I been a total, absolute fool in underestimating the cost of separating myself and my children from evil? By what I believe was Divine Providence, a song came into my life around that same time. When I started to feel so very afraid and alone, I would play it, over and over, crying to it as long and as hard as there were tears to shed; crying until the crying went away from being overcome by the comfort of the truth contained in that song (Romans 12:21, Psalm 77:6). I will be forever thankful to Hillary Weeks for including this sacred message and melody on her album, I Will Not Forget.
A Song To Sing
She laid there last night
And all she could do was cry
She wondered who she was
As she thought about her life
The times she has failed;
The things she has done
Surely Heaven must look down
And wonder who she’s become
Is there a reason why she’s here?
Then in the silence,
She heard these words:
You have a song to sing
You have a story to tell
There is a destiny that only you can fulfill
Though you are wandering,
If you’ll put your trust in me
I’ll give you a song to sing
Her eyes were closed
But she opened her heart
She had always believed
There was no part
For someone like her
With so far to go
But tonight that changed
And now she knows
And for the first time in her life
She let go of her fears
So that she could hear
You have a song to sing
You have a story to tell
There is a destiny that only you can fulfill
Though you are wandering,
If you’ll put your trust in me
I’ll give you a song to sing
Yes, there’s a reason why we’re here
We have a Father who cares; who will answer our prayers.
You have a song to sing
You have a story to tell
There is a destiny that only you can fulfill
Though you are wandering,
If you’ll put your trust in Him
He’ll give you a song to sing
I also think of this verse, D&C 25:12, as being strongly correlated to one of my favorite verses from the Book of Mormon, Alma 5:26:
“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?“
I truly believe that the song of redeeming love is both a rousing universal chorus and an exquisitely beautiful and absolutely unique duet which we compose together with our Savior. Through Christ, whose footprints in the sand ever accompany ours, every person truly does have their own song to sing. I never get tired of hearing these “melodies” and I never get tired of witnessing when these melodies turn into a living, daily, joyful dance of covenant-keeping testimony. This happens when our relationship with God becomes Real.
FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND (part II)
Now imagine you and the Creator are walking along the beach together. For much of the way the Lord’s footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying in the pace.
But your prints are in a disorganized stream of zig zags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures, and returns. For much of the way it seems to go like this.
But gradually, your footprints come in line with the Lord’s, soon paralleling His consistently. You and the Lord are walking as true friends. This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens; your footprints that once etched the sand next to the Master’s are now walking precisely in His steps. Inside His large footprints is the smaller “sandprint,” safely enclosed. You both are becoming one; this goes on for many miles.
But gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the larger footprints seem to grow larger. Eventually they disappear altogether. There is only one set of footprints. They have become one; again this goes on for a long time.
But then something awful happens. The second set of footprints is back. This time it seems even worse than before. Zig zags all over the place. Stop…start.
Deep gashes in the sand. A veritable mess of prints. You’re amazed and shocked. But this is the end of your dream. Now you speak: “I understand the first scene with the zig zags, fits, starts and so on. I was new, just learning.
But You walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with You”. “That is correct,” replied the Creator. “Then, when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps.
I followed You very closely.” “Very good. You have understood everything so far.” “Then the smaller footprints grew and eventually filled in with Yours. I suppose that I was actually growing so much that I was becoming more like You in every way.” “Precisely.” “But this is my question, Lord. Was there a regression of something?
The footprints went back to two, and this time it was worse than the first.”
The Creator smiles, then laughs.
“You didn’t know?” “That was when we danced.”
Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.
This verse is one of my all-time favorites because I learned to love it during a challenging time in my temple marriage, back in 2011. I learned then the truth of what was once said by John Milton, “The mind can make a heaven out of hell or a hell out of heaven.” When everything was stripped away, with bare bones exposed, I KNEW that I had made binding eternal covenants and I KNEW that God had been the matchmaker who answered my prayers by providing me and my children a worthy helpmeet. I made the deliberate choice to “stay on the ship”, no matter what. Nephi-like, I bound myself to the mast of my covenants and just held on, trusting that the storm of would pass. As Elder Holland testified in his March 1999 address, “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”,
“Don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had. That tenacity is what saved Moses and Joseph Smith when the adversary confronted them, and it is what will save you…With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. ‘Cast not away therefore your confidence.’ Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.”
This verse is currently included in my Facebook cover photo. I put it there to remind myself of what the tint and texture of my posts there should usually be. Rather than republishing about the darkness, and focusing on the fountain of filthy waters, I was to be the light I am meant to be, radiating the truths of the Gospel and my testimony of them (1 Nephi 12:16, 11:25, 2:9 and Mormon 7:11). I may be like Nephi, noticing what Lehi did not see – that the river of water his father saw was filthy – but I must be careful not to dwell on it, lest I heed it; lest I become it (1 Nephi 8:34).
In addition, I also have a framed copy of this verse, beautifully written in calligraphy, hanging in my bedroom alongside a picture of Adam and Eve with their children. Again, it reminds me of that time in 2011 – what I now call the Lakeside Lesson – that my attitude is, ultimately, a CHOICE, and the person who decides whether or not a covenant is permanently binding is ME. Like my mother Eve, I have every reason to rejoice in this lifetime, despite every – any – challenge this earth life can throw at me. Why? Because the way is clear and open before me to have joy now and in the future, because of my Savior:
heard all these things
and was glad,
Were it not for our transgression
we never should have had seed,
and never should have known
good and evil,
the joy of our redemption,
the eternal life
which God giveth
unto all the obedient.
THIS SUNDAY’S SONG
As I have expressed in earlier posts, the website scriptures.byu.edu is my all-time, number-one favorite place to study the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I have told my husband, I can not wait for the moment, after I have crossed through the veil, when I can go up to Brigham Young and morph our handshake into a huge hug of thanks and gratitude. This Lion of the Lord is the stark roar of Aslan that my heart and mind craves in this tepid and timid world of 2017. He is MAGNIFICENT. He makes me laugh. His frankness comforts me, and his bold testimony of the truths of the Gospel are being woven and incorporated into my own. When I get tired of the mealy-mouthed MUSH that’s out there, I just get me a big heaping helping dose of Brother Brigham. Like our living prophets and apostles today, his testimony literally saves, safeguards and builds mine, and I love him fiercely for it.
I have been trying to make the Sabbath a delight, as we have been counseled recently to do by the Brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency. Sometimes that is challenging. Yesterday’s challenge was the fact that not one, not two, but THREE family-history based programs were all airing on TLC and BYU-TV. This family-history-and-temple-work loving girl breaks out in copious drool over Long Lost Family, Who Do You Think You Are and Relative Race. Why does all the good stuff gotta air on Sunday, anyway? In my opinion, watching them is a gray area, possibly a borderline Sabbath-breaking activity, especially since I can DVR the programming on TLC and watch the BYU-TV program on-demand. So I tried to divert myself from those temptations by diving into personal study at scriptures.byu.edu.
I have continuing issues with enduring unrighteous dominion. While I go through cycles of questioning and resolution, it seems that they never cease to quit their turning. I struggle to come to a permanent peace and understanding about why I must “suffer these things to be so now” and how I can possibly do it when my heart screams at the injust truth, at least in my perception, that the issue is being constantly ignored and repeatedly passed over. Yes, the majority of the leading 15 Brethren have given direct and succinct addresses about abuse and unrighteous dominion, including every President. , And yes, Richard G. Scott was one of the recent late champions of these issues, and I loved him for it. (This blog has become somewhat of a record of all those teachings at which I have cheered!) But… for all the words distilling down like the dews of heaven from the men atop the mountain of the Lord, there seems to me to be no real teeth in the bite down here, locally, in the valley of Achor. Everything is gummed at so daintily, with dentures removed. The guilty go unpunished, to wound and hurt the unprotected innocents again and again. Is it not the job of the Priesthood to protect the innocent by presiding in righteousness and providing safety through obediently enforcing the mandates from the Brethren?! Or am I wrong in this belief?!
For example, when President Hinckley said that a man who abuses is wife and children is unworthy to bear the Priesthood, why did not the stake and local leadership take the Prophet at his word and strip unworthy men of those robes undeservedly keeping them warm and deceivingly dressing them with unmerited honor? Please recall that the garment was originally made of the skin of the sacrificial lamb! Therefore, the only beings who can be WOLVES in sheep’s clothing are those who make covenants but then do not keep them, choosing instead to feast upon and make a meal of the flocks of the Shepherd’s fold. Maybe I am not seeing it, church-wide, but in my experience, what I have seen in my 43 years, including LDS group therapy for adult survivors of abuse, there is no real punishment for the wicked, no real fear of God or fear to do sin. No “thou art the man’s” going on, anywhere. Perhaps I sound like a bubbling pot of bitterness here, but I maybe that’s because my life’s cup has been ladled to overflowing… and I won’t accept any more!
There may be threats, but I have never seen a man or woman excommunicated for refusing to cease abusing their spouse and children. Even when it is a known, open secret among branch or ward members. Never. And why not? Why?! It can’t be for fear of losing tithing funds. So what else? Can it be that the leaders themselves are guilty of the same offenses and do not therefore see them as serious? If not that, then what?! I need an answer – the truth would be good – and then I will be still. Those individuals who go about inflicting harm do not comprehend the cold and chill of losing it all ;of really NOT having the protecting wing of their covenants and the Holy Ghost’s companionship – as I do – and perhaps that is the very MERCY which they need in order to sincerely repent! Before they become past feeling, after years of getting away with it, and gain nothing; learn NOTHING from the church disciplinary process except how to smile like a self-satisfied cat with another bird in its jaws. So why is the BLESSING of discipline being withheld from them?!
It also seems to me, and repeatedly, that uninspired yet presumably righteous-because-they-are-prosperous men and women STILL dominate in leadership. Where are the gas station attendants, McDonalds crew workers, plumbers, even, among the ranks of local and stake leadership? Best I have ever seen are farmers, and this was back in my youth and childhood. I would rather have an honest man to lead and teach me, any day, than merely a rich one, who hasn’t learned to crack open and study his scriptures, let alone read them. Love unfeigned, faith unfeigned… please! Can’t I at least have that at the local level?! I have experienced both, and I know, I feel the difference as easily as you might feel the difference between warm and frigid water. This issue, of having to be a righteous man or woman enduring the leadership of a person whom they have NOT gotten the witness of the Spirit 1) was called of God and 2) is still called of God, has, at best, only been alluded to officially in today’s LDS Church. I think it is because they fear misuse of such an address. Perhaps they are being restrained by the Spirit and can not speak of it. Perhaps they only have mostly wicked men to work with now, God forbid! I have no idea. What I do know is that the words of the prophets are true: yesterday, today and forever. So that is why I have turned to the writings of dead prophets, who DID talk about these very issues – clearly and succinctly. As of today, the most recent prophet whom I have found, who openly spoke of these things is Wilford Woodruff. What? Did evil, ambitious, aspiring men just up and disappear from amid the Kingdom of God after that? If so, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you, too.
Therefore, I am currently studying the search term “wicked men”. There will likely be a blog post or two forthcoming from what I have learned; teachings which have been a soothing salve and comfort. But what triggered today’s post – ignited by the Sunday School lesson and turning into a blazing fire with the fuel of his words – was the following comment by John Taylor. Though he later became the third President and Prophet of the Church, he was an Apostle, serving under the leadership of Brigham Young when he delivered this address. I have excerpted the relevant passage below, from “The Rights of Mormonism”, which can be found in the Journal of Discourses 5, beginning at page 182.
“The Lord has put us into a place where we cannot dodge… We have asked for the blessing of his kingdom, and he has poured out blessings upon us, and thee is no backing out. God has rolled his kingdom upon our shoulders; and now I ask, as a poet did some years ago,
‘Shall we, for fear of feeble man, the Spirit’s course in us restrain?’
Shall we, for fear of those miserable curses, barter away eternal lives? Shall we set at naught those principles that God has imparted to us? Shall we exchange the pearl of great price, the riches of eternity, for the dirt and filth that the Gentiles wallow in? (D&C 132:24, 78:18, Matthew 13:46)…
Brother [Heber C] Kimball says we have to stand up to what we say, and the Lord will bring us to it; an I will tell you what I heard Joseph say years ago. He said, if God had known any other way that he could have tried Abraham better than he did, he would have put it upon him. And he will try us to see whether we will be faithful to the great and high calling that he has put upon us (Heb 11:17, D&C 101:4)…
A great charge is committed to us as a people: it is for us to walk up to the rack, resist the powers of darkness, and bear off the kingdom of God, that the powers of darkness may be rolled back with all their forces.
We are placed in this position to see if we will let the kingdom of god be trampled under foot of men (1 Ne 19:7). It is not a little thing, but it is one that is associated with our progenitors and posterity, as eternal beings, having to do with the past, the present and the future.”
I believe it was Elder Bednar who taught us that a key way to study the scriptures, rather than just reading them, was to ask questions. So, instead of just ignoring a question that comes to mind when I am reading, I pursue it until I get an answer. Yesterday the question that popped into my mind was, “What poem? Which poet?” For I had never heard of such a verse as this before: Shall we, for fear of feeble men, the Spirit’s course in us restrain?
This passage spoke to my heart today because I let myself get my feelings hurt last week. Yes, I walked around the house for an entire day, weeping and wounded, over something outwardly silly. The tears would just not stop and all because I got unfriended on Facebook. I was mad at myself for being so silly! Big deal. Who cares. Usually stuff like this is water off a duck’s back for me. But not this time. Maybe I am just worn out from taking care of a newborn and homeschooled siblings, or maybe days of snotty-noses and interrupted sleep just got to me, but I was a wreck. Here was an arrow that had somehow gotten past the moat of Living Waters surrounding and guarding the bastion of my heart; it came through, unexpected and unquenched, and, to my surprise, hurt me. After the day of gushing anguish came the week of the wound “healing” over. Not really. Or not very well… yet. My own sisters have unfriended me for being, in their words, too religious, too churchy and too serious. My son left me for my ex-husband for insisting on Church standards and under the incorrect assumption, encouraged by the ex, that I was misusing “his” child-support. I myself have unfriended people of Facebook myself, because their profane posts truly shocked and offended my spirit. Half the time I think most of my friends list have set their Facebook to omit me from their News Feed anyway. My brain, very logically, tells me that everybody has their free agency and that I myself would not want it any other way. I barely even know the woman who unfriended me.
But I think the wound came because she is LDS and a member of my local branch. I think it came because I, an extroverted introvert, had been trying to be friends, as uncomfortable as that is for me, for a large part because I am her assigned visiting teacher. A creeping gut feeling said that here was the true source of my banishment – something I had done, with pure intent, to minister, teach or whatever – had offended. And that is why I cried and was wounded: I felt rejected, along with my pearls. At least in this instance I had the wisdom, gained after my 4 decades of living, to reach out directly and quickly for first-party clarification. I made the effort to find out why I was unfriended instead of making assumptions and remaining in a dark corner wallowing in self-pity. I have now been trying to believe – in this overly polite culture that is Montana and is so totally foreign to my brash and frank Midwestern roots – that the reason given is true. That the unfriending was totally not personal; that they are not just being polite and withholding some unspoken truth that they actually find me an insufferable bitter-lemon suck, best experienced spewn out of the mouth (Rev 3:16). Truth is, like my mother, I have the wry honor of possessing the same talent she has: of causing offense to my fellow members, especially my Relief Society sisters.
And so what? What if I, despite all sincerity and good intent, am a dose of bile to their sensibilities? Is the world over? I know that to some people on Facebook, in certain forums and on certain pages, what I hold dear and true and right is anathema to them. Hence the clear ring and personal resonance of that poet’s question, quoted by a prophet and apostle to me in his written word last night. Shall I, for fear of feeble men, the Spirit’s course in me restrain? The truth is, that as a disciple of Jesus Christ in these latter-days, sooner or later something I say or something I do or something I am is sure to offend somebody.
The poem that John Taylor mentioned was originally written in German by Johann Joseph Winkler. It was entitled Sollt ich aus Furcht vor Menschenkindern. However, I can’t find the full original German-language version. These ten verses were translated into English by John Wesley, brother of Charles Wesley , the founder of Methodism. The words were thereafter used as a Methodist hymn. Apparently, this hymn not too popular today because the internet hymnals don’t show it as currently being in publication. I can’t even find a version of it on YouTube, not even as a choral work. This is really no surprise to me, considering the bold flavor of the lyrics in these politically-strangled, morally tepid times.
Traditionally, the Methodists sang the lyrics to a tune called Hamburg. This tune is the same one to which As I Survey The Wondrous Cross is traditionally sung. Latter-day Saints are not familiar with this tune, as it is not included in our hymnbook. Hamburg was written by the rather prolific hymn-melody composer, Lowell Mason.
I was able to find out the meter of the Hamburg, which is 8888. Finding out any hymn’s meter is where you, I, or anyone else can get to the fun part. Something I really love to do is switch up a familiar hymn by finding another hymn tune with the same meter and singing it to that new tune. Sometimes I think we get so complacent; we think we know something, when we really don’t. Imagine singing Come Come Ye Saints or I Know That My Redeemer Lives to a totally different melody. I find that when I experiment like this, the lyrics suddenly shine out with new light. I see things with new understanding and insight because the “angle” of my view is so totally changed by the hymn tune swap-out. I am thankful that for the wise LDS music leader in Michigan who taught me this concept and for the even wiser Bishop who let her sing “renewed” old standards as musical numbers, both choral and solo, in our ward’s sacrament meetings… and all for the very faith-building, eye-opening, stagnation-dispelling reasons I have described.
Some of the combinations of the lyrics and tunes which I tried last night were rather sobering; a lesson in themselves. I have created a few videos of my favorites, which are linked below the hymn lyrics.
SHALL I, FOR FEAR OF FEEBLE MEN, THE SPIRIT’S COURSE IN ME RESTRAIN?
Shall I, for fear of feeble man, the Spirit’s course in me restrain?
Or, undismayed, in deed and word be a true witness for my Lord?
Awed by a mortal’s frown, shall I conceal the word of God most high?
How then before thee shall I dare to stand, or how [Thy judgement] bear?
Shall I, to soothe the unholy throng, soften thy truths, and smooth my tongue,
To gain earth’s gilded toys, or flee the cross, endured, my God, by thee?
What then is he whose scorn I dread, whose wrath or hate makes me afraid?
A man! an heir of death! a slave to sin! a bubble on the wave!
Yea, let men rage, since thou wilt spread thy shadowing wings around my head;
Since in all pain thy tender love will still my sure refreshment prove.
Saviour of men, thy searching eye doth all my inmost thoughts descry;
Doth aught on earth my wishes raise,or the world’s pleasures, or its praise?
The love of Christ doth me constrain to seek the wandering souls of men;
With cries, entreaties, tears, to save, to snatch them from the gaping grave.
For this let men revile my name. No cross I shun, I fear no shame,
All hail, reproach, and welcome, pain! Only thy [curses], Lord, restrain.
My life, my blood, I here present, if for thy truth they may be spent,
Fulfil thy sovereign counsel, Lord! Thy will be done, thy name adored!
Give me thy strength, O God of power; then let winds blow, or thunders roar,
Thy faithful witness will I be:’Tis fixed; I call do all through thee!
Listed below are my favorite hymn tunes to use with the verses above. There are still other tunes listed in indexes in the back of the LDS Hymnbook, but I found these combinations most compelling, beautiful and fitting. The first eight tunes are in 8 8 8 8, or Long Meter. The last three tunes are in 8 8 8 8 8 meter, which works with 8 8 8 8 if you repeat one line from each verse of the 8 8 8 8 meter poem. I love how the tune names sometimes reveal something more about the hymn they are commonly sung with, especially if the tune was written specifically for that hymn. Again, I love how a familiar tune can teach you something new when put to new verse, or, how a familiar verse can teach you more when put to a new tune. I don’t ever want to have ears that cannot hear a new thing; that say, “A hymn! A hymn! We need no more hymn!”
God Loved Us So He Sent His Son, LDS Hymn 187
In Memory of the Crucified, Hymn 190
While Of These Emblems We Partake , 174
WITH HUMBLE HEART
With Humble Heart, 171
I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day, 214
Know This, That Every Soul Is Free, 240
Sweet Is The Work, 147
Come, Follow Me, 116
Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake! (repeat 4th line), Hymn 17
Behold The Great Redeemer Die (repeat 3rd line), Hymn 191
Though Deepening Trials (only if sung cheerfully! Repeat 4th line), Hymn 122
I am thankful that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us. I am thankful that He gives us songs to sing, both in the wordless emotion of music and the moving expression of words. How blessed we are, to have songs of the heart! Jesus is the Christ. President Thomas S. Monson is his prophet. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I know these things by the witness of the Spirit, and I will not be silent.
A true friend is someone who knows the song in your heart
and can sing it back to you
when you have forgotten the words.
(Job 35:10, Psalm 77:6, John 14:26, D&C 84:88)
Oh, what songs we’ll employ!
Oh, what welcome we’ll hear!
While our transports of love are complete,
As the heart swells with joy
In embraces most dear
When our Heavenly Parents we meet!