Tag Archives: Encouragement

Hymn #226: Improve the Shining Moments

Improve the shining moments;
Don’t let them pass you by.
Work while the sun is radiant;
Work, for the night draws nigh.
We cannot bid the sunbeams
To lengthen out their stay,
Nor can we ask the shadow
To ever stay away.

Well. This is awkward. Of course I would write about a hymn vilifying procrastination after having slacked at my regular posting responsibility for a month or more.  Of course. (see 1 Nephi 16:2)

When I hear this hymn, I can’t help thinking of Alice misquoting Isaac Watts while trying to sort herself out in Wonderland. His poem–which is remarkably similar in theme and phrasing to Brother Baird’s hymn–reads thusly:

 How doth the little busy Bee / Improve each shining Hour / And gather Honey all the day  / From every opening Flower!

The subsequent stanzas explain that idle hands are the Devil’s workshop and express a desire to give a positive account for each day’s work at the Day of Judgement.

Worthy sentiments, no?

It is good to busy ourselves in the Lord’s work. It is even good to busy ourselves in our own work, provided our work is honest and our motives are good. We shouldn’t procrastinate our efforts or our repentance, and should use the time we’re given wisely. After all, as Amulek teaches us, “This life is the time for men [and women] to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men [and women] to perform their labors.” (Alma 34:32)

But I think there are other, more immediate benefits to improving the shining moments as well. In verse three we sing:

As wintertime doth follow
The pleasant summer days,
So may our joys all vanish
And pass far from our gaze.
Then should we not endeavor
Each day some point to gain,
That we may here be useful
And ev’ry wrong disdain?

Since we’re talking about “shining” moments, I assume these are the days when all is well. Because there are days when all is not so well. We face challenges, stresses, doubts, and losses, and the moments don’t shine quite so brightly.

These not-so-shiny moments are when we can rely on the points we’ve gained during the good times. For example:

  • If read our scriptures diligently in our spare time, we will have words of peace and wisdom to rely on when we need answers to prayers….and we will be in the habit of turning to our scriptures regularly even when our schedules are especially tight.
  • If we pay our tithing faithfully when our bank accounts are full, the Lord will continue to bless us when they are emptier than we’d like…and it will be easier to continue paying because we will be in the habit of doing so.
  • If we strengthen our testimony in Jesus Christ right now, we will be able to draw near to Him when we need succor…and we will be in the habit of standing on His sure foundation no matter what may come in the future (see Helaman 5:12).

Yes, improving the shinning moments will prepare us to stand blameless before God, but it will also make each day of mortality that much easier. It’s the little things we do today that help us endure to the end. As the fourth verse says:

Improve each shining moment.
In this you are secure,
For promptness bringeth safety
And blessings rich and pure.
Let prudence guide your actions;
Be honest in your heart;
And God will love and bless you
And help to you impart.

Hymn #258: O Thou Rock of Our Salvation

Foot of the Christus Statue

Today’s hymn is “O Thou Rock of Our Salvation.” If the name doesn’t ring a bell, follow that link and listen to a verse—you’ll probably recognize the tune. It was the chorus that triggered my memory:

Gather round the standard bearer;
Gather round in strength of youth.
Ev’ry day the prospect’s fairer
While we’re battling for the truth.

Military imagery is hardly uncommon in hymns. We sing about Christian soldiers and royal armies, ten thousand enlisted legions marching until the conflict is o’er. We even see it in Primary, for “we are as the armies of Helaman.”

It’s curious, though, that military imagery is so common in hymns. Relatively few modern church members will participate in a military battle; why not use a metaphor that will be familiar to more people? Why don’t we sing more about gardening, long journeys through the wilderness, or wrangling disobedient children?

Really, I don’t know the answer. I suspect that wonderful hymns could be made using any of those as a metaphor. And maybe they do exist and I just haven’t heard about them. But what I do know is that military themes aren’t limited to hymns; good portions of both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon cover military operations. Why, then? What are we to learn from these messages of battle?

Perhaps the warfare theme serves to remind us that this is a battle. In the relative comfort that many of us enjoy, it’s easy to become complacent and simply drift along with the flow of society. If our life ever feels like a battle, it’s a battle with cranky children or frustrating co-workers, not a battle for our lives, our families, or our freedom. We may have some rough days, but they rarely have the gravity of a real battle.

We a war ‘gainst sin are waging;
We’re contending for the right.
Ev’ry day the battle’s raging;
Help us, Lord, to win the fight.

When we sing about a war against sin (a “battle raging”), perhaps it’s a reminder that this really is serious business. The war against sin is not just something to be lightly brushed aside—we should constantly be alert and attentive against sin.

What does it really mean, though, to wage war against sin?

Certainly we should resist temptation and avoid sin, but I don’t believe that’s enough. We all have the responsibility to make our homes a safe refuge, a sacred place where the spirit can dwell, whether we are parents, children, or living on our own. The war against sin may also include our neighborhoods and our communities, and even social media. Wherever we are, we have taken a covenant to be a witness of Christ. This is not discarded lightly.

However, this war against sin is not fought like other wars. In the scriptural Armor of God, we find that there is only one weapon used for attacking: the Sword of the Spirit. And what are the fruits of the Spirit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

As we battle against sin, let us do it with love and joy, gentleness and temperance. We struggle against sin, not against sinners. Indeed, the banner we bear is that of Jesus Christ, he who redeems sinners from their sins. We come with an invitation, not a condemnation. “Come unto Him,” we say. “Learn of him. Partake of his peace.” Christ is the foundation upon whom all must build if they seek peace.

Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12)

The Lord has assembled a unique army, one bearing not swords but salvation. We battle against sin not so much by striking down evil as by raising up women and men, inviting all to come unto Christ. The antidote to sin is redemption.

Always, always remember Christ. He is the foundation. He is the way. He is the light.

Hymn #230: Scatter Sunshine

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

(Matthew 25:37-40)

This passage from the New Testament is oft-quoted, but also oft-ignored. As disciples of Christ, we have the opportunity to emulate him, to do as he would do. It’s fairly easy for us to take care of those immediately around us—members of our own family, for example—the truth is that we are surrounded by so many more people.

When Christ encouraged us to serve “the least of these my brethren,” he did not mean simply “the least of these who you see every day.” In a simple trip to the grocery store, a ride on the bus, or a walk in the park, we interact with dozens of God’s children. Surely among them is someone in need.

Of course, we cannot know the needs of every person around us. The Spirit may occasionally prompt us to reach out to a stranger in a specific way, but often we have no particular guidance. How can we lift the burdens of those around us when we know nothing about them?

This question, I would suggest, is at the heart of today’s hymn.

In a world where sorrow
Ever will be known,
Where are found the needy
And the sad and lone,
How much joy and comfort
You can all bestow,
If you scatter sunshine
Ev’rywhere you go.

Needy, sad, and lonely people are all around us, as are the disappointed, discouraged, and frustrated. Some people only have a hard day once in a while, while others seem to be constantly beset. We cannot solve all of their problems, but we can work to lighten the load.

Scatter Sunshine,” this hymn encourages. Scatter sunshine everywhere you go. Sunshine is not heavy. It is not complex. It is simply a ray of light from afar. We do not need to carry the entire burden of every person we see; that is the realm of Christ alone. But through simple actions, we can make someone’s life a little easier, make their world a happier place.

Slightest actions often
Meet the sorest needs,
For the world wants daily
Little kindly deeds.
Oh, what care and sorrow
You may help remove,
With your songs and courage,
Sympathy and love.

“Little kindly deeds,” we sing. A smile as you pass in the library, or patience as you wait in the grocery store. Picking up someone else’s litter. A friendly wave to a neighbor. An encouraging remark to someone learning a new skill. Our days are full of opportunities for service that take only seconds, if we can only seek them out.

There are, of course, big things we can do to help others. There are many in dire need, the type of need that a simple smile will not solve. We have many opportunities for large acts of service—we certainly should not ignore those. But as we follow Christ in the large things, let’s not forget to follow him in the small things too, for in lifting others, you may just find that some of that sunshine scatters right back into your own life.

Hymn #241: Count Your Blessings

Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

“Count your blessings” is a bit of advice we often hear when we’re struggling with gratitude. Whether we feel entitled or abandoned, we sometimes end up with a warped understanding of the Lord’s role in our lives. When we feel entitled, we no longer feel that we need the Lord in our lives, believing that we have everything taken care of ourselves, thank you very much. And when we feel abandoned, we feel just the opposite–that the Lord no longer feels He has a need for us, leaving us to our own devices.

We are asked to consider the blessings the Lord has given us at these times, and are explicitly counseled to name them “one by one.” It’s not enough to think that the Lord has blessed us richly. We are instructed to consider specifically just how richly He has blessed us. We may consider the blessing of a loving family, a good job (or even any job at all), kind friends, modern conveniences, or simpler things like a pink and orange sunset, the sound of wind in trees, or a kind stranger sharing her cookie with you. (That was my blessing today.) When we deeply and individually consider the magnitude of the Lord’s blessings in our lives, we get a clearer sense of just how reliant we are on Him for our day to day existence. We are reminded that we cannot make it through life on our own, no matter how we try. Even the things that we tell ourselves are blessings we have bestowed upon ourselves, like our talents, our determination, and relationships we’ve built are in actuality gifts from the Lord. He endowed us with those gifts before we came to earth, and He placed us in situations in which we would be uniquely able to succeed. We owe all that we have and all that we are to our Savior.

When we do this, we will be surprised at what the Lord has done. It’s eye-opening to consider the breadth and depth of the blessings we receive daily. It’s staggering to realize just how pivotal a role the Savior plays in our lives. But what I think is truly surprising about counting our blessings is the total reversal in our outlook by doing so. Consider the second verse:

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

Solely by counting our blessings, we go from groaning under a heavy cross to singing–singing!–as the days go by. We learn humility and gratitude by counting our blessings, and those feelings are reflected in our lives in our joy. We can turn our suffering on its head by reflecting on our many, many blessings and wind up truly, genuinely happy. The blessings themselves and their scope are surprising, certainly, but perhaps more so is the transformation that comes as we consider them.

So when we count our blessings and name them one by one, our eyes will be opened. We will “see what God hath done,” not only in the ways He has already blessed our lives, but in the way He continues to bless us by altering and improving our attitudes. And as we do so, we will find ourselves surprised, and even singing, as the days go by.

Hymn #246: Onward, Christian Soldiers

This is just about the most militaristic, jingoistic hymn we have available. There are soldiers right there in the title, and we sing about “marching as to war” and going “forward into battle.” It has a sharp, crisp cadence to it, making you feel like you want to stand up and march. You want to strap on a helmet, grab a sword and shield, and do battle with the adversary. It’s a pump-up song at its finest.

Only despite all the military zeal drummed up by the hymn, at no time do we sing about weaponry, injury, or even attacking at all. We gather behind Christ, the royal Master, we march into battle… and that’s it, right? Why are we marching into battle if we’re not even armed? How do we expect to come off conqueror against the enemy?

Well, it’s not as though we’re completely unarmed. We remember hearing Paul describe the armor of God as he taught that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We’re waging a war against an enemy that can’t simply be cut into little pieces. We’re battling an enemy composed of ideas, temptations, and allurement. So we protect ourselves with truth, righteousness, preparation, and faith. We take up the sword of the Spirit–not to take the offensive, but to defend ourselves against the enemy’s parries and thrusts.

We do have one weapon in our arsenal, though. In the second verse, we sing that “hell’s foundations quiver at the sound of praise.” We’ve heard that in the scriptures before, too. The children of Israel circled Jericho over and over, doing nothing but walking. But when they circled the city that seventh time, Joshua called out to them, “Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city,” and while the scriptures don’t explicitly say that they were shouts of praise, I imagine the knowledge that the Lord had given them the victory without having to raise so much as a hand couldn’t help but make those shouts of praise.

Like a mighty army moves the church of God, but it’s not up to us to do the fighting. The Lord can fight His own battles, and He, in fact, does just that. We’re all too willing to leap into the fray, but more often than that, it’s not what He asks of us. He wants us to remain with the group and assume a defensive position. “We are not divided,” we sing of our united army. “One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.” While the Lord fights our battles, we defend one another, building up faith, watching out for temptation, and looking after our fellow saints. The Savior leads out against the foe, and we follow, singing shouts and anthems of praise, causing the enemy to flee before us.

So we sing with military zest and precision. The snappy beat and meter fills us with pep and zeal. We stand up and begin marching as to war, but not to the actual war itself. We form ranks, fill lines, and assume our positions, ready to defend the kingdom of God and its citizens. Our job isn’t to take the offensive and deliver the crushing, finishing blow to Satan; that job has already been completed, as we remind ourselves by the fact that we are led by the “cross of Jesus going on before.”

Hymn #85: How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

This is a hymn that gets a lot of play time, and rightfully so. It’s upbeat. It’s uplifting. It’s got a whole bunch of verses so a ward chorister can easily add or subtract them to fill the time as needed.

And since it is so familiar, I’m not sure what new light I can shed on it. Undoubtedly you’ve noticed that most (and arguably all) of the verses were written from the Lord’s point of view. “I am thy God,” we sing in verse three, reminding ourselves exactly who it is we worship and what He has taught us.

And really, “what more can he say than to you he hath said?” Nothing in this hymn is new information. It’s in every book of the scriptural canon, in every General Conference report, in everything we do, for this is His church. He is our foundation.

A good portion of the lyrics here are either paraphrased or almost directly quoted from Isaiah (see chapters 41 and 43), so we get a hint of the Old Testament fire-and-brimstone Jehovah. “Fear not,” He commands His people, “Be not dismayed.” He will call them through deep water, rivers of sorrow, and deepest distress. There will be foes to face and even “all hell [may] endeavor to shake” them.

But, as a counterpoint to all these daunting demands, we are reminded that He is not only a just God who demands sacrifice and strict obedience. He is also a merciful and loving Savior–the Good Shepherd–who will succor, uphold, and sanctify His children. “In ev’ry condition,” He reminds us, “I am with thee…and will still give thee aid.”

Which isn’t to say things won’t be tremendously difficult. When Joseph Smith was confined for months in Liberty Jail with no reprieve in sight,  he begged in prayer to know why God seemed to have forgotten his people in their suffering. The reply, found in section 122 of the Doctrine and Covenants, shares the same message of this hymn in its entirety:

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7)

He freely admits there will be “fiery trials.” In fact, He knows exactly what they will be for each one of us. But, He instructs us, if we put our trust in Him, “The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design / Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”

And that’s really the crux of it all. The last verse tells us with repetitive finality that if we build our lives with Jesus Christ as our foundation, we will never be alone and we will never fall. (see Helaman 5:12)

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

Red sunset

Hymn #243: Let Us All Press On

800px-Red_sunset

Ages ago, the king of Syria was troubled. He was at war with Israel, and despite his best efforts to kill the king of Israel, he was consistently able to sneak away from his assassination attempts. Convinced someone was leaking secrets to the enemy, the king of Syria asked his servants which of them was the mole. One answered and said that Elisha, “the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.” Convinced he knew how to gain the upper hand in the war, the king sent a huge military force to kill Elisha.

The prophet, for his part, seemed unconcerned about the massive army descending upon him, although his servant, arising early and seeing his city surrounded by Syrian soldiers, asked his master what they were going to do. Elisha said, simply, “Fear not: they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few
When compared with the opposite host in view;
But an unseen pow’r will aid me and you
In the glorious cause of truth.

Life is scary sometimes. We may feel overwhelmed and alone in our cause. It’s especially frustrating when the Lord, who has told us time and again that we can always depend on Him, isn’t plainly visible to our eyes. We do our best to trust and to believe, but faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges in front of us, we doubt, and we ask, as did Elisha’s servant, how the Lord expects us to cope.

And like this servant, we have wise people placed in our lives whose faith is stronger in the moment. (At other times, we may be the ones called upon to strengthen their faith. Sometimes our wounds are bound, and sometimes we do the binding.) Elisha, having told his disbelieving servant that the powers of heaven were close at hand, prayed that the Lord would “open his eyes, that he may see.” His eyes were opened, and he saw legions of heavenly defenders, ready to act at a moment’s notice.

We have our eyes opened from time to time as well. We get so wrapped up in a trial that we miss the fact that we have a loving family around us, or that we’re receiving financial, physical, or emotional blessings that prop us up during our struggles. The old story about the single set of footprints during the hardest times of life is a tired cliche, but there’s merit to the story. The Lord bears our burdens, and He’s always there for us, if we’ll but open our eyes.

And so, armed with that knowledge, we press on. The chorus of this hymn is particularly fun, as the soprano part diverges from the other three. I don’t often sing the melody at church, so I usually sing the counter part, which really enjoy. Listen:

Fear not, courage, though the enemy deride;
We must be victorious, for the Lord is on our side.
We’ll not fear the wicked nor give heed to what they say,
But the Lord, our Heav’nly Father, him alone we will obey.

It stuffs in quite a few more syllables, providing a nice contrast to the held-out notes of the soaring soprano part. Most of the words are the same, if in a different order, but last two lines have slightly different messages. The soprano part says that we won’t heed the wicked, but the counter part specifically says that we won’t fear them. That’s tricky when faced with the “opposite host in view.” We trust in our Lord, though, and that gives us hope, which drives out our fear.

If we do what’s right, we have no need to fear. We may be faced with difficult, and yes, frightening challenges in our lives, but we know that the Lord will ever be near. His angels surround us, ready to leap in and give their aid. “In the days of trial his Saints he will cheer,” we sing in the final verse. Not only is He ready to bear us up, but He knows when we’re struggling, and those are the days He is most ready to lend a hand. We need only to open our eyes to see the unseen power that aids us.

Image credit: “Red sunset,” Wikipedia user Fir0002, CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Hymn #276: Come Away to the Sunday School

After I had my first baby, church suddenly got really hard. I spent much of the three-hour block nursing my tiny daughter in the mothers’ lounge, bouncing her in the halls, and changing diapers in the bathroom. My husband helped out as much as he could–we took turns attending classes and fulfilling our respective callings–but Sundays were no longer the peaceful spiritual days they had once been. I’m sure our experience is not unique; anyone who has spent a Sabbath wrangling children knows it’s not really a day of rest.

And so when I read the first verse of this hymn, I laughed out loud.

When the rosy light of morning
Softly beams above the hill,
And the birds, sweet heav’nly songsters,
Ev’ry dell with music fill,
Fresh from slumber we awaken;
Sunshine chases clouds away.
Nature breathes her sweetest fragrance
On the holy Sabbath day.

It sounds so idyllic…and so dramatically different from what my Sundays feel like.

During that first year of new parenthood especially, I spent a lot of time resenting anyone who (as far as I could tell) had no reason to be wandering the halls instead of attending Sunday School. There I was, stuck with a crying baby and in desperate need of a solid dose of gospel doctrine and adult interaction, and those ungrateful people were skipping class just because they could! How dare they! I could not understand how something that felt so important to me was so unappreciated by others. I seethed at church and cried at home.

In my defense, I was really really tired.

Since that time we’ve added another baby to our family. Church is still hard. I miss Sunday School more often than not. I imagine things will only continue in that vein for several more years at least. But my attitude toward church–and the people who wander the halls–has changed.

For a good and glorious purpose
Thus we meet each Sabbath day,
Each one striving for salvation
Thru the Lord’s appointed way.
Earnest toil will be rewarded;
Zealous hearts need not repine.
God will not withhold his blessings
From the eager, seeking mind.

“The Lord’s appointed way” for us to “strive for salvation” includes gathering together on the Sabbath and partaking of the sacrament. The way our meetings have been structured has changed over the years, but the purpose is the same: to renew covenants and strengthen testimonies. If you’re present for the bread and water, you’ve got the former pretty well covered. The latter isn’t always as structured, though. Sometimes it happens in Sunday School. Sometimes it happens in the mothers’ lounge. Sometimes it happens as you do laps around the building or chat with a friend in the foyer or read your scriptures in the back of class.

What I’m saying is, we all have our reasons for attending or not attending our classes. If our hearts are in the right place–we are earnestly toiling and eagerly seeking to learn and feel the spirit–God will reward our efforts. As a new mother, my heart was zealous in desiring to feel the spirit, but I spent more time repining than seeking God’s blessings in ways that worked with my current circumstances. When I stopped complaining and started making the best of a tough situation, my Sabbath experiences improved.

Let us then press boldly onward,
Prove ourselves as soldiers true.
He will lead us; he will guide us.
Come, there’s work for all to do,
Never tiring, never doubting,
Boldly struggling to the end.
In the world, tho foes assail us,
God will surely be our friend.

I’ve learned to “press boldly onward” and stop doubting that my weekly struggle is worth it. My toddler’s favorite song now is “I Am a Child of God.” My baby is learning to fold her arms when we pray. We’re doing the best we can to teach our girls that God is their friend. Our family is stronger because Sabbath worship–whatever it looks like from week to week–is important to us.

That said, I still look forward to the day when I can attend Sunday School uninterrupted. If you have that opportunity, enjoy it. Take advantage of it. Put away the Angry Birds and Facebook for an hour and really listen to what your teacher has prepared for you.

Then away, haste away!
Come away to the Sunday School!
Then away, do not delay!
Come away to the Sunday School!

God will lead and guide you, protect you from worldly foes that would tear you down, and will not withhold his blessings when you are in need. That’s the testimony I have gained from not attending Sunday School. Amen.

Hymn #249: Called to Serve

249-CalledToServe

Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.

Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.

(Doctrine and Covenants 4:1-3)

When I read the opening verses of D&C 4, I am always drawn back to memories of my own missionary service. I remember the weeks in the Missionary Training Center, surrounded by thousands of missionaries all preparing to preach the Gospel and to enter a new culture, a new world. I remember teaching and loving the people of Spain, with all their endearing and maddening ways. I remember the missionaries I served with, Sunday meetings, training conferences, transfers, testifying, studying, praying, and working. I remember service projects, frustrations, long rainy days, rewarding lessons, and so many other things. It truly brings back a flood of memories.

And, I remember singing Called To Serve. If there’s an anthem for the church missionary effort, this is surely it. Missionaries around the world sing it in dozens of languages, all united by a desire and a call to serve Him, the Heavenly King of Glory. With an energetic tune and triumphant chorus, it invigorates us as we commit to “ever witness for His name.”

Far and wide, we tell the Father’s story. There are currently over 80,000 missionaries serving in 405 missions around the globe. They preach in over fifty languages, inviting all to learn of the Father’s plan of salvation and Christ’s Atonement. Ever since the church was organized, missionaries have been sent around the world to preach that truth and priesthood authority have been restored to the earth, inviting all to come and partake.

Far and wide, his love proclaim. The joyous news of the Gospel is not just that truth has been restored. It is that through the Gospel, we can live a better life. We can feel more joy, find more meaning, and share more love with our spiritual brothers and sisters all around us. Our Father loves all of his children, and he wants all of us to receive the blessings he is ready to give.

Onward, ever onward, as we glory in his name.
Onward, ever onward, as we glory in his name.
Forward, pressing forward, as a triumph song we sing.
God our strength will be; press forward ever,
Called to serve our King.

God our strength will be. The Book of Mormon teaches repeatedly that there is a special strength that comes from the Lord. Elder David A. Bednar spoke about this in his 2004 General Conference address. He said:

Can we sense the grace and strengthening power of Christ in the testimony of Ammon? “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever” (Alma 26:12). Truly, brothers and sisters, in the strength of the Lord we can do and endure and overcome all things. (In the Strength of the Lord, October 2004)

The work of preaching the gospel is a glorious, happy work. It is work, have no doubt. It is hard work. Missionaries around the world will attest to that. But we do “glory in his name,” and a “triumph song” we do sing. We rejoice when someone finds their way to the understanding and joy that comes from the Gospel, when someone enters the waters of baptism and receives the Gift of the Holy Ghost. There is joy and happiness in this work.

Called to Serve, though, is not a song about missionaries. It is a song about missionary work. As we have been taught repeatedly, missionary work is not just for missionaries. It is not even mostly for missionaries. It is a work for every member of Christ’s living church. President David O. McKay urged “every member a missionary” in 1959. More recently, we’ve heard a lot about “Hastening the Work of Salvation,” encouraging all church members to join in this work, bringing the Gospel message to our Father’s children.

Indeed, let’s look at the second verse:

Called to know the richness of his blessing—
Sons and daughters, children of a King—
Glad of heart, his holy name confessing,
Praises unto him we bring.

Every member of his Church has cause to know the richness of his blessings. We are all children of a King. We don’t just sing Called to Serve in the MTC, or in missionary training meetings. We also sing it in our ordinary Sunday meetings in wards and branches around the world. The Gospel brings blessings of peace, understanding, joy, and purpose to all of us.

We are all called to serve him. Missionaries are called to do it full-time for a certain number of months and in a specific place, but we are all called to share the blessings we receive from our Father. However far and however wide we go, we are to tell the Father’s story. However far and wide we go, his love we are to proclaim. Whether that’s the school yard or the water cooler, Facebook or the grocery store, wherever we go we should be “standing as witnesses of God, at all times and in all things, and in all places.” (Mosiah 18:9)

“Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.” Onward, ever onward!