Wednesday, July 26, 2017

God's Inconvenient Call

I wrote a guest post at The Exponent a few weeks ago about my new volunteer opportunity as a chaplain at the local jail. I hadn't gotten around to posting it here, so here it is. (Since the time I wrote it, I've been several more times, but I'm leaving it as-is.) If you want to comment, please comment over at The Exponent.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Where the Streets Have No Name

And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. ...neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
4 Nephi 1:15, 17
I'm always interested in seeing how religious themes are represented in art, especially in art that isn't explicitly spiritual. Yesterday, I went on a road trip to Joshua Tree National Park, and my traveling companion and I decided that the perfect soundtrack to our trip was U2's album The Joshua Tree.

Yucca brevifolia in Joshua Tree National Park

The album starts out with "Where the Streets Have No Name". When I got home, I was curious what the song was about, so I looked it up. It's apparently a reference to the social divide in Belfast that was prevalent at the time. Upon meeting someone new, people would ask what street they lived on. The city was so segregated that, just by finding out what street someone lived on, you could tell immediately someone's religion and socioeconomic status. Bono envisioned a better world - one where those divisions didn't exist, i.e. where the streets have no name. Basically, it's a song about Zion - a place of unity where the pure in heart dwell.

Where the Streets Have No Name - U2 - 1987 - The Joshua Tree

That got me thinking about what our "streets" are these days. What divides us as a church and a society?

In the LDS context today, a few things come to mind. People are divided by whether or not they served a mission (and if they served, whether they served in the US or outside the US), whether or not they're married, how many kids they have, whether or not their kids have checked off societally prescribed boxes, whether a woman is employed, etc.

Let's work to create a society where our "streets" have no name.

And, just as a bonus, here's a picture from the trip I took to Belfast back in January.

Peace walls were erected throughout Belfast during The Troubles to separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. The violence has stopped, but the streets still have names.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Hymns I wish were in our hymnal

First off, my deepest apologies for dropping off the face of the planet for a year. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, 2016 was a pretty terrible year for me, and I was so busy keeping myself afloat that there wasn't really time for blogging. I'm back on my feet, so here I am.

Without further ado...

I love music. I've always said that I have three dream callings in the church - gospel doctrine teacher, seminary teacher, and ward music chair. A little over a year ago, I got called as ward music chair, so only two more dream callings to go. :-)

I used to collect hymnals. (I've lost most of them over the years, sadly.) There are so many really wonderful hymns that aren't in our LDS hymnal. For a while on Facebook, I had a Sunday feature where I would highlight some of them for my friends so they could see what's out there. I haven't done it in a few years. However, I still have a love of hymns.

Here are a few of my favorites that aren't in our hymnal.

1. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
This is probably my very favorite hymn of all time. The music is beautiful, and the words are comforting and uplifting. It's a well-known hymn tune called Hyfrydol. You'll probably recognize it as the tune that "In Humility, Our Savior" is set to.

2. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
I was first introduced to this hymn in the MTC when I joined the choir and we sang it for some occasion or other. (Fireside? Sacrament meeting? I don't remember.) It resonated with me instantly. The sacrament hymn selection in our hymnal is kind of small, and this would be a lovely addition.

3. Shall We Gather at the River?
I first heard this hymn when I was rehearsing for a choir tour the summer between high school and college. In addition to the music we were traveling to debut, we practiced this one so that we could use it at another occasion on the trip. The other occasion fell through, so we never got to perform the song, but it stuck with me anyway. I love the hope that the song conveys. "Soon we'll reach the shining river. Soon our pilgrimage will cease."

4. Holy, Holy, Holy
This one will probably never make it into a LDS hymnal because of the line "blessed Trinity" (even though the Book of Mormon is explicitly Trinitarian, though that's a subject for another day), but I love it because it brings out the wonder and majesty of God so beautifully. For what it's worth, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed a version that used the words "blessed Deity" instead.

5. I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
You'll recognize this as the tune to "If You Could Hie to Kolob" (or if you're into Irish folk music and speed the song up to about double speed, "Star of the County Down"). I love the music, and this one has lyrics that are a little more traditionally Christian.

Honorable Mention: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
No mention of hymns not in the current LDS hymnal would be complete without this one. It's lovely and grace-filled. I hope it gets put back in the next version of the hymnal.