Tag Archives: Chastity

Hymn #131: More Holiness Give Me

Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am. (3 Nephi 27:27)

This is the commandment, and the goal each of us is striving for. We are to become perfect, even as our Savior is perfect. It’s impossible, of course, which is why the Savior sacrificed himself for us in order to pay for our misdeeds. We do our best to follow his law and keep his commandments, but when we stumble, His sacrifice makes it possible for us to return home.

That’s an incredible thing for Him to have taken upon Himself, and it’s something we feel acutely, I’m sure. We are to be like Him, One who loved His brothers and sisters so dearly that he was willing to sacrifice Himself for us all. No big deal, right? Just become like that and you’re set.

It’s a daunting task, and one that none of us is equal to. So we plead with the Father, begging Him to at least help us along that path. Even if we can’t be perfected all at once, at least let us take a single step toward that goal. Help me to overcome this one sin, we pray. Help me to make at least this aspect of my life perfect so I can move on to tackle another area. Help me to be more patient. Help me to be a little kinder. Help me to be more willing to serve.

We’ve all offered prayers like this, and they probably sound a little like today’s hymn. “More holiness give me,” we ask. We’re trying our best, honestly, but we’re just not quire there. We aren’t asking for everything right now, but at the moment, we need just a little more “patience in suff’ring,” or “joy in his service.”

There’s a lot to ask about, and there’s a lot we ask in this hymn. We plead for patience, for faith, prayerfulness, gratitude, hope, meekness, and strength, to name just a few. By the third verse, it starts to feel repetitive and even demanding. Every line starts with “more,” and it begins to feel like a child asking for more, more, more. Maybe we feel a little guilty asking for so much. Perhaps we could do without the patience today, Lord, if only we could feel “more longing for home.” Maybe today all that is needed is “more tears for his sorrows,” or “more sense of his care.” Just a little will do today. We don’t mean to ask for so much.

Then again, perhaps we’re right to ask so much of Him, and maybe it would do us well to ask for even more. He is so, so willing to give to us, if only we’ll ask. “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you,” He once told us. “Seek me diligently and ye shall find me.” When we ask, He will answer. Even the least of us will give to each other when asked; how much more so will He, the Lord of all, be willing to give to us if we will but ask?

So we ask, even when it feels like too much. We ask for “hope in his word” and “meekness in trial.” We ask for so, so much, because we have been asked to do so, so much. We are tasked with becoming like Him in every aspect of our lives, and so we pray for improvement in every aspect as well. We pray, as the last two lines so simply state, to be “more blessed and holy– more, Savior, like thee.”

And He, He who asked us to be more like Him, is ready and waiting to grant that request, if we will be ask.

Hymn #132: God Is in His Holy Temple

Mount Timpanogos Temple

A few weeks ago my wife and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. We decided to do something different this year—we celebrated it as our family’s birthday!

We first took our children to the temple where we were married. The oldest is only 5, so they’ve never been inside the temple. We walked around the temple grounds, looking at the flowers, the trees, and the beautiful stained glass windows. I pointed out the symbols of the sun, moon, and stars on the exterior of the building. We talked about the Angel Moroni on top.

After we’d walked around for a while, we took our kids briefly into the lobby of the temple, the small waiting room before the recommend desk. We taught our children about the sacred nature of the temple. When the oldest asked why everyone was so quiet there, we taught them that reverence helps us to hear the Holy Spirit and understand what our Heavenly Father wants us to do.

We didn’t stay there too long; perhaps only 5 minutes. Then we went out, took some pictures, then went and got some ice cream as a family. But those brief moments in the temple stuck with our children; they’ve brought it up a few times since.

Today’s hymn, God Is in His Holy Temple, speaks of the reverence that prevails in the temple.

God is in his holy temple.
Earthly thoughts, be silent now,

One of the defining characteristics of the temple is how removed it is from our everyday cares. When we visit the temple, we are often able to let go of the pressures and concerns of everyday life and simply bask in the reverence that exists there. With nothing to distract us, we are able to recognize the guidance of the Spirit more easily. We can be taught from on high as we recognize this Spirit.

And yet, our constructed and dedicated temples are not the only temples of God here on the earth. Paul wrote: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth within you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)  While the first verse of this hymn focuses more on temples where we gather together in worship, the second verse opens with this phrase:

God is in his holy temple,
In the pure and holy mind,

One of the great blessings we receive upon joining Christ’s church is the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This gives us the opportunity to have the Spirit with us always… if we live in a way conducive to His presence. The same closeness to the Spirit that exists in the temple can be ours outside it too. But in this temple, there is nobody else checking temple recommends for us. Each of us is responsible for choosing what enters our own mind.

Let our souls, in pure devotion,
Temples for thy worship be.

Is my soul a temple for the worship of God? Is yours? What could you change to make your soul a more temple-like place? How can you invite the Spirit to be with you more constantly?

CTR

Hymn #239: Choose the Right

CTR

This is an instantly recognizable hymn for most members of the LDS Church. It has a simple, catchy melody and simple, easily-remembered theme (the BUM BUM BUM progression really solidifies the words “choose the right”), and, along with “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” might be one of the most-played hymns in the book by beginners.

The message is a familiar one. As children, we have the message “choose the right” drilled into our heads from a young age. There’s easily-recognizable imagery to go with the message, and children are given rings to help them remember. Many Latter-day Saints choose to wear those rings well into adulthood to give them a constant reminder to always choose the right.

On the surface, this seems like a hymn that further reinforces that theme. When a choice is placed before us, we can look at our finger and see that familiar shield. We can hear the BUM BUM BUM of the first three notes of the hymn and remember that we need to choose the right. And that’s certainly what this hymn is designed to do. It’s  a potent earworm that lodges itself in our brains, just as many of the other instructional Primary songs seem to do. But there’s a lot more that this hymn can teach us than simply choosing the right. Consider the first two lines:

Choose the right when a choice is placed before you.
In the right the Holy Spirit guides.

“In the right the Holy Spirit guides.” As we choose the right, the Holy Ghost can more effectively guide us to make right choices. It’s an almost tautological statement, but that’s the way it works. Making right choices fills us with an influence that inspires us to make more right choices. The light of the Holy Ghost will be “forever shining o’er [us]” as we continue to make choices that allow Him to remain with us. The inverse is just as applicable; if we make poor choices, we limit the ability of the Holy Ghost to remain with us, making us less able to feel His influence and more susceptible to making poor choices.

Not only does the continued influence of the Holy Ghost make it easier for us to choose the right, but constantly making right choices while under that influence helps to train us to make those choices more readily. The old saw is true; it’s easier to make a decision about a difficult issue beforehand than it is to make it in the moment. In the second verse, we sing that choosing the right will “let no spirit of digression overcome [us] in the evil hour.” If we’re already choosing the right, we won’t be led astray by any spirit of temptation when a thorny choice is placed before us. We’ve already chosen the right, and thus the Holy Ghost is already there with us, helping to chase away distractions and temptations. Even if we haven’t already made the choice for the issue we’re facing, the companionship of the Holy Ghost can make those choices simple through His guidance. We can be safe through inspiration’s power.

So we choose the right. There is peace in righteous doing, and there is safety for the soul. We invite the Holy Ghost into our lives, whether we’ve been safely on the right path for years or whether we’re just returning to it. The Spirit helps to guide us on that path through the light of inspiration. And in its light, we choose the right, and even if only by helping us to draw nearer to the Spirit (although we know we can and will receive so much more), God will bless us evermore.

Image credit: “CTR Ring (LDS Church)“, Wikipedia user Ricardo630.

Hymn #291: Turn Your Hearts

After the completion of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery took a moment to pray together in private. In response, they saw a series of heavenly messengers, each entrusted with restoring the keys for various aspects of the gospel. Moses, the prophet who led Israel out of Egypt, restored the keys for the gathering of Israel from the world. Elias restored the keys of the dispensation of Abraham, renewing that blessing to the posterity of Abraham. Elijah appeared, too, committing the keys of the new dispensation into the hands of Joseph and Oliver, saying, as was prophesied by Malachi, that he was there to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”

The gospel is timeless, existing from the foundation of the world, but this commandment is a relatively new one, and it’s a sign that the second coming of the Lord is “near, even at the doors.” Our thoughts turn to those who came before us. There’s no reason they should be denied the blessings of gospel ordinances simply because they lived in an era in which they were not available. We can perform those ordinances on their behalf – not to force them to receive them, but to give them the opportunity to do so if they want. As we strengthen ties to our ancestors, we can strengthen ties to our descendants as well as they seen our commitment not only to the principles of the gospel, but to our family.

This hymn tells that whole story. Malachi prophesies in ancient times, Elijah comes according to that prophecy, and our hearts are turned to our fathers and our children. It’s telling that it’s our hearts, not our minds that are turned. Family is something that is felt more than thought. It’s a central part of who we are. The third and fourth verses of this hymn make that clear to us. Listen to the third verse:

Turn your hearts toward your parents–
Generations gone before.
May you seek until you find them;
In the temple seal and bind them
To your hearts forevermore.

For many of us, our parents aren’t difficult to find. They’re in our homes, or at least a presence in our lives. For some of us, we do have to seek our parents out to get to know them, but even those of us who don’t still need to make an effort to draw near to our parents and families. It takes effort to build up a strong relationship. We show our love by sharing our time and attention. We seek until we find each other, and we are sealed and bound in the temple, not only in the gospel sense, but in the sense of having our hearts knit. Our shared experiences and shared memories make us one.

Turn your love to all your children–
Generations yet to be.
May your deeds of gospel giving,
Temple service, righteous living,
Bless them all eternally.

Here, we sing not only about our children that live in our homes, with whom we play, laugh, and so on. We sing about generations yet to come. As we give righteous service, we are blessed, of course, but those who come after us are blessed as well. This isn’t just a vague sense of our descendants being blessed through our strong example, although I’m sure that has a real effect. This is a case of the Lord promising to bless those who come after us because of the choices that we make. As we turn our hearts to our fathers, the Lord blesses our children.

We may have felt, at times, that we have received blessings we haven’t deserved. The Lord is good, and He blesses us when He sees fit, but I wonder if those blessings aren’t as random as they may see. I wonder if we aren’t the benefactors of those who have come before us. We can find out as we search our those ancestors, learning of their righteous acts and lives. And we can repay them by living righteously ourselves, bringing blessings to those who will come after.

shepherd

Hymn #14: Sweet Is the Peace the Gospel Brings

shepherd

Fun fact, albeit one that adds little to our understanding of the hymn: The lyrics were written by Mary Ann Morton Durham, and the tune was written by Alfred M. Durham, her nephew.

As BJ pointed out on Monday, many LDS hymns additional verses that aren’t traditionally sung, and in order to get a full understanding of the hymn, we ought to look at the full text. This hymn has seven verses, only three of which are usually sung in our meetings. Those three verses are nice, but having read the last four over, it feels a shame that we miss them most of the time.

As the title suggests, this hymn is about the comfort the gospel brings us. The teachings and counsel we’re given, though they seem restrictive, are actually for our protection and “show a Father’s care.” They aren’t fences built to prevent us from getting out; they’re fences built to keep destructive forces at bay. We see the Father’s love in the gospel, and it brings us sweet peace.

Those fences, however, are only as effective as we let them be. A fence doesn’t do you much good when you leave the gate open, nor is it much use if you’re standing on the wrong side. The fourth verse reminds us that while the gospel brings us peace, it’s at least partially up to us to ensure that it stays with us:

May we who know the sacred Name
From every sin depart.
Then will the Spirit’s constant flame
Preserve us pure in heart.

The “sacred Name” isn’t a big secret only known to a select few. It’s the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This is less an issue of knowing His name and more one of choosing to take it upon ourselves. When we do that at baptism, we promise to be obedient to His teachings, and as we do so, we can have His spirit to be with us to guide us in the right way. We are reminded of that promise every week as we take the sacrament. As we do our best to avoid making mistakes and to live up to our promise, in time, our desire to sin is taken from us, as we hear in the fifth and sixth verses:

Ere long the tempter’s power will cease,
And sin no more annoy,
No wrangling sects disturb our peace,
Or mar our heartfelt joy.

That which we have in part received
Will be in part no more,
For he in whom we all believe
To us will all restore.

The goal, in the long run, is a reunion with our Savior as we are welcomed back into His presence. Sin will have no power over us in that day, as we feel the “heartfelt joy” of being reunited not only with our Lord, but also with friends and family who have gone before. We won’t have a partial, indirect relationship with our Redeemer, but a direct one, where we can speak with Him face to face. All will be restored to us: health, relationships, purity, and joy.

And yet, there’s that phrase “ere long.” How long? I don’t get the sense that this is a day that will come any time soon. We’re to look forward to that day, preparing ourselves through righteous living, but it probably won’t be next week. It probably won’t be within the next fifty years. We work our hardest to remove things from our lives that keep us from feeling that gospel peace. We try to avoid sin, doubt, and apathy. We fall short, and we pick ourselves up again. And we fall short, and we pick ourselves up again.

The road is long. We push forward, trying our best to endure to the end. And as we do, we could sing the seventh verse to help us keep pushing:

In patience, then, let us possess
Our souls till he appear.
On to our mark of calling press;
Redemption draweth near.

In our patience we possess our souls. We remember that the journey is long, and that there are no shortcuts. As we stick to the path, we are secure in the knowledge that we’re headed to an end in which God Himself shall wipe our tears away. We possess our souls as we stay within the bounds He has set for us, standing behind the fence and feeling the sweet peace of knowing that even if the journey is long, we are in the right way.

Hymn #96: Dearest Children, God Is Near You

I don’t believe in using scare tactics on children. They always seem to backfire. Either you wind up with a nervous kiddo who is paranoid about the tiniest things, or one who no longer believes anything you say because they proved you wrong by not wetting the bed after playing with the campfire.

I have heard people use God or Jesus to scare children into behaving, saying things like, “Jesus saw what you did and he is not happy about it.” This becomes problematic in the same way as any other scare tactic: either the kid winds up terrified of God’s disapproval or he stops believing because of a lack of immediate Heavenly consequences.

When we sing this hymn, though, it’s hardly, “You better watch out, you better not cry”…or else! The first verse nicely illustrates this point:

Dearest children, God is near you,
Watching o’er you day and night,
And delights to own and bless you,
If you strive to do what’s right.
He will bless you, He will bless you,
If you put your trust in him.

Not a threat or warning to be seen. Yes, God is near us and watching all the time, but not to punish. Three times we are told He will bless us, and that He delights to do so. What’s more, He delights to own us. His pleasure in recognizing us as His children speaks of His unconditional love for us.

In his Sermon on the Mount, the Savior reminds us how much concern our Father has for our well-being:

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30)

He watches us “day and night” because He wants to take care of us. He sets His angels to “keep a faithful record of the good and bad [we] say” so He will know how best to attend our needs.

In all that watching He is bound to see us make mistakes. Fortunately for us He also “delights to teach us”, as the third verse says. We have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost to encourage us to keep the commandments, to prick our conscience when we rebel, to comfort us as we repent, and to rejoice with us when we do what is right. This kind of guidance is, to me, far more helpful than constant fear of chastisement.

Our Father in Heaven is ever-vigilant for He is, like any loving parent, protective and proud of His children. What does He ask in return? That we try our best. That we trust Him. That we heed the Spirit’s promptings. That we cherish virtue. Above all, that we prove faithful to Him.

And even if we aren’t, He will be faithful. Whatever we do, God is near us.