Tag Archives: Jesus Christ – Second Coming

Hymn #290: Rejoice, Ye Saints of Latter Days

Rejoice, ye Saints of latter days,
For temples now in many lands,
Where Saints, endowed with pow’r from God,
May learn to keep the Lord’s commands,
May learn to keep the Lord’s commands.

There are a lot of temples in the world today (143 of them, with another 27 in various stages of construction), and it’s safe to say that they cover “many lands.” We build them because we are commanded to, but also because we can perform ordinances therein that bring us closer to our Father in Heaven. We can receive power from on high that helps us to carry on through our lives. We learn obedience by making covenants, and we learn joy by keeping them.

We are directed to sing this hymn “joyfully,” but with a stately tune and at a tempo of 72-88 beats per minute, it feels more resolute than exuberant. That’s fitting of our attitude toward the temple. We rejoice, and we we want to shout to the heavens for the blessings we can receive in the temple, but we do so reverently.

Consider the phrase we shout joyfully in the second verse: “All we are giv’n we give to thee. Accept our love; we will obey.” Not exactly something you’d shout at the top of your lungs. We feel joy, but it’s joy in sacrificing to One who has given us so much. We feel joy in helping our kindred dead, as we sing in the third verse, to receive “the fulness of the gospel’s joy.” That’s an exciting prospect, but when you consider that part of the joy we are helping our forerunners to feel is the joy of obedience, this sort of reserved joy makes sense. This isn’t a gospel of unrestrained fun and games. It’s not permissive, and it’s not easy. There’s work to be done, covenants to be made, and a harvest to be brought in.

We labor, as do those we bring into the fold, to ready the earth for the second coming of the Savior. Listen to the final verse and try to picture this restrained joy at His coming:

His earthly kingdom now prepares
To greet his kingdom from above.
Then will the heavens shout for joy,
And Christ descend to reign in love,
And Christ descend to reign in love.

I imagine there will be tremendous joy when the faithful are reunited with their long-awaited King. I’m excited to meet Him, assuming I live to see the day. But I don’t imagine the joy that we feel will be raucous. I’ve felt joy that has caused me to whoop with glee, but I don’t expect to hear hoots and hollers to greet the King of Kings. We will feel joy, and we will shout praise, but I feel like reverence will prevail. It will be a sacred experience, and not one conducive to loud joy.

It’s a tricky emotion to describe. But then again, maybe it’s not so tricky when you consider that it will be our natural reaction to seeing our Lord “descend to reign in love.” Our love will echo His at that day, so it’s not surprising that it will be powerful, but also meek. It’s the same love and spirit we can feel in the temple, and it’s certainly cause for us to rejoice.

Hymn #57: We’re Not Ashamed to Own Our Lord

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

There are some things that seem obvious in hindsight, but that go unnoticed until someone points them out. I recently had a realization along those lines:

You will develop skills and attributes only to the extent that you spend time on them.

A few applications of this law:

If you say you want to develop faith, but never spend time building your faith, then your faith will not grow.

If you say you want to better understand the scriptures, but never spend time reading the scriptures, then you will not understand the scriptures better.

If you say you want to be more like Christ, but spend little or no time doing the things Christ did, then you will not be more like Christ.

Most church members, if asked, could probably give a reasonable 10 minute talk on “How to be more Christlike” or “How to build your faith.” Prayer, scripture study, service—it’s not hard to come up with the right answers. But no matter how much we claim to want them, nothing will change unless we actually do them.

If you never seem to have time for scripture study, then you’ll never seem to get the blessings scripture study brings. If you never spend time pondering the teachings of Christ, you’ll never gain new insights.

The hymn ”We’re Not Ashamed To Own Our Lord” opens with its titular phrase:

We’re not ashamed to own our Lord
And worship him on earth.

The rest of the hymn lists blessings that come from “owning the Lord,” from openly and transparently following him throughout our lives. It especially talks about the glories of Christ’s millennial reign for the righteous on either side of death. These are great blessings, awesome and marvelous.

But they only apply to the extent that we actually follow Christ. Are we ashamed to talk about gospel topics with our friends, regardless of the day of the week? Are we too tired to get up early and read our scriptures? Do our secular interests crowd out our spiritual needs?

Before creation’s second birth,
We hope with him to stand.

We do indeed hope to stand with Christ. But hope is not enough—we must take action. If that hope is to be fulfilled, we need to spend time on it. We need to prepare ourselves for that day, just as He is preparing the world at large.

What do you spend your time on?

Hymn #51 – Sons of Michael, He Approaches

This is a really unique hymn, which is probably why I have never heard it sung or performed anywhere, ever. It deals with a very specific doctrine–that is, the return of Adam (Michael) to Adam-ondi-Ahman to head a great gathering in which the keys of the Priesthood throughout history will be accounted for and returned unto Christ prior to the establishment of His Millennial Reign.

The story, though, starts a long time before that; specifically, in the twilight of Father Adam’s mortal life:

Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.

And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.

And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.

And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.

This was an incredible event in the history of the young human race. It was the crowning event of the life of Adam, father of us all, and confirmation of his dedication and righteousness. He delivered unto his posterity a blessing of faith and righteousness. His calling and election were, if they had not been already, made certain. He was promised power, glory, and a princely role in the next life. His righteous generations surrounding him, I imagine it was quite possibly the happiest day of Father Adam’s mortal life.

Three years after this glorious council, Adam died, having been faithful in all the Lord asked of him. Elder Mark E. Peterson taught, “After [Adam’s] mortal death he resumed his position as an angel in the heavens, once again serving as the chief angel, or archangel, and took again his former name of Michael. In his capacity as archangel, Adam, or Michael, will yet perform a mighty mission in the coming years.”

This mighty mission is described in prophecies both ancient and modern. The first mission* given to Michael is that of once again gathering the holders of the Priesthood of God at Adam-ondi-Ahman (the same site as his last great council) prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The biblical prophet Daniel foresaw this event, referring to Adam/Michael as “The Ancient of Days”:

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.

A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him:thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened….

[B]ehold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Regarding this ancient prophecy, the Prophet Joseph Smith was told, “Spring Hill [Missouri] is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.”

To bring it all together, let’s turn to Joseph Fielding Smith talking about this council:

“This gathering of the children of Adam, where the thousands, and the tens of thousands are assembled in the judgment, will be one of the greatest events this troubled earth has ever known. At this conference, or council, all who have held keys of dispensations will render a report of their stewardship. Adam will do likewise, and then he will [surrender] to Christ all authority. Then Adam will be confirmed in his calling as the prince over his posterity and will be officially installed and crowned eternally in this presiding calling. Then Christ will be received as King of kings, and Lord of lords….[I]t is a gathering of the Priesthood of God from the beginning of this earth down to the present, in which reports will be made and all who have been given dispensations (talents) will declare their keys and ministry and make report of their stewardship according to the parable….When all things are prepared and every key and power set in order with a full and perfect report of each man’s stewardship, then Christ will receive these reports and be installed as rightful Ruler of this earth. At this grand council he will take his place by the united voice of the thousands who by right of Priesthood are there assembled. This will precede the great day of destruction of the wicked and will be the preparation for the Millennial Reign”

The sheer scope of this boggles the mind. All men who have ever or will ever hold keys of the Priesthood will be summoned to this event, in which they will stand accountable for their use of these keys. All keys will be returned unto their source, even Christ. Michael will be crowned with his promised blessings and Christ will return as King and Lord of Earth.

Now that we’ve gotten all THAT understood, the text of the hymn becomes significantly clearer. The preparation for the return of Christ is culminated in the return of Michael, and this hymn recognizes the joy and majesty inherent in this event.

One interesting thing here (and maybe it’s just me that never really thought about it) is the degree of reverence, almost worshipfulness, that will be extended to Michael. The hymn suggests we will bow low before him, hail his reign, raise aloft our voices in a torrent power of song, break forth in dancing, and, again, raise a chorus that will rebound through space.

And, on reflection, why not? This man is the starting point of everything Our Father set in motion on the earth. He, by the side of Jehovah, aided in creating the planet and all things in it. He was the First Man, our spirit brother choice enough to be the first human on Earth. He and his glorious wife, Eve, Mother of our generations, made the bold and essential choice to fall that man may be. They lived the Gospel of Christ throughout their mortal lives, through joys and sorrows. They demonstrated faith and righteousness second to none.

Adam gets a bad rap in the Bible and throughout most of Christendom (though not as bad as Eve, whose treatment at the hand of her children is often egregiously offensive). He is regarded as the source of original sin and the great failure of mankind. He is considered the weakling who couldn’t keep from eating that one fruit and thus damned us all to a life in the lone and dreary world. Though these ideas are loosely based in truth, the restored gospel shows that they barely glimpse the great scope of Adam’s role. Adam, the Man, was declared a prince in his lifetime and will be a prince eternally. Michael, the Archangel, will usher in the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. As far as I can tell, Michael is second in Priesthood only to the Lord. He is, literally, the patriarch of our race.

There is some debate about this event’s breadth. It is suggested that any who have held priesthood keys will account for them. “Today the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles hold those keys. Priesthood keys are also given to the Presidency of the Seventy; presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents—including Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidents.” That’s quite a lot of people. The hymn (and the prophesy of Daniel) talk about thousands of people, even “ten thousand times ten thousand,” which would not be a small, quiet gathering. On the other hand, Joseph Fielding Smith said:

When this gathering is held, the world will not know of it; the members of the Church at large will not know of it, yet it shall be preparatory to the coming in the clouds of glory of our Savior Jesus Christ as the Prophet Joseph Smith has said. The world cannot know of it. The Saints cannot know of it—except those who officially shall be called into this council—for it shall precede the coming of Jesus Christ as a thief in the night, unbeknown to all the world.

Whatever its size, whoever its attendees, it will be a glorious day. But it will herald greater days yet, as Christ returns in triumph. Whether I will (in the flesh) participate in either of these events is unknown to me. I hope I can. Either way, the return of Michael is an event to be greatly anticipated, when “the ancient one [shall] reign in his Father’s house again.”

*The other missions of Michael, beyond the scope of this hymn, include calling forth the resurrection of the dead (D&C 29:26) and commanding the forces of God’s armies at the last great battle with Satan (D&C 88:110-115).

Hymn #59: Come, O Thou King of Kings

Come, O thou King of Kings!
We’ve waited long for thee,
With healing in thy wings,
To set thy people free.
Come, thou desire of nations, come;
Let Israel now be gathered home.

We touched briefly on the subject of enduring to the end yesterday. It’s a substantial part of our doctrine. It’s not enough to have a moment of clarity and declare our conversion, only to return to our regular lives moments earlier. Our conversion has to be lasting, our actions sustained, and our faith deepened. But to what end are we to endure? How long is long enough?

This hymn gives us an idea. We ask the Lord to come again, as He has promised us. “We’ve waited long for thee,” we sing, and for those of us patiently enduring to the end, we truly have. We continue in the path, waiting for the return of He who is the author and finisher of our faith. It is in Him that our faith has an end when we see Him. We no longer need faith, having a full knowledge of Him. He will come and deliver His promised blessings to those who have waited for Him, coming with “healing in [His] wings.”

He also comes to “set [His] people free,” however you’d like to interpret that. He will certainly deliver His people from oppression as He comes to personally reign on the earth, yes, but I like to think of it as deliverance from sin. He has already given His life as a sacrifice for sin. He prepared a way for us to return to our Father when we fall from the path, and it’s in this sense that He is the author of our faith, having written the book (not literally, of course, although the scriptures are filled with His words) on how to follow that path. (The fact that the word “author” shares a common root with “authority” cannot be an accident.) As we follow that path, we are brought nearer to His presence, and when He comes again to earth, we can be drawn literally into His presence, as Israel is “gathered home.”

It’s a time to look forward to. The earth will be cleansed from sin, and our adversary will be bound for a season as we have the chance to live in love and peace. We will hear hosannas from “all the ransomed throng,” a group in which we might find ourselves if we’ve worked toward this day. He comes unto His own, and those are they who will find redemption. We make and keep covenants so that we can find ourselves worthy to stand with Him in that day. We soldier on, one day at a time so that we can “the wide expanse of heaven fill with anthems sweet from Zion’s hill.” We eagerly look to the day when He will rule as our Lord here among us, and we can “welcome in [His] peaceful reign.”

That day is still a ways off, though. It would be one thing if we knew the day He would come again. We would know how much time we had left. We could put off repentance, knowing that if the Lord wasn’t coming for six months, we could make amends in five months’ time. That’s not how it works, of course. No one knows when He will come again, and so we live in constant readiness, keeping ourselves worthy and prepared for that day when He comes again. We endure, remaining faithful to our covenants to to His commandments each day. And as we do, we look forward to that day when He comes again “with healing in [His] wings to set [His] people free.”

Hymn #6: Redeemer of Israel

Redeemer of Israel,
Our only delight,
On whom for a blessing we call,
Our shadow by day
And our pillar by night,
Our King, our Deliv’rer, our all!

The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is ever before us, showing us the way back to His presence and into eternal life. We see that throughout this hymn with its rich Old Testament imagery. We aren’t simply told that the Lord will watch over us. We are reminded of the cloud that remained over the children of Israel by day during their flight from Egypt, and of the pillar of fire that protected them by night from the soldiers. We don’t simply have to trust that He will be there to aid us in our times of trouble. We’ve seen it in the past, and we know that He is unchanging. Why should today be any different?

We know He is coming, as we sing in the second verse, to gather His sheep and bring them to Zion in love. We’ve seen this. We’ve seen the children of Israel, lost and wandering in the “valley of death” brought to the land that they were promised. We know He will do this because the Lord does not forget His own, and we know we can receive blessings we’ve been promised because we are all His own. We are His sheep, and He knows us by name. He has delivered us in the past, and we know that He is unchanging. Why should today be any different?

We, too, have wandered in the desert “as strangers in sin and cried… for [Him].” We know what it feels like to be separated from Him through our own misdeeds. We know that when we make mistakes, we cannot remain in His presence. We know this because we’ve seen it in the past. The children of Israel made some pretty big mistakes, and they were separated from their Lord as a result. He is unchanging, and we can expect no less. But we know that He will hear our cries, because he heard those of the Israelites. He answered their prayers, and He will answer ours. Our foes may rejoice when they see our sorrows, we sing, but Israel–and we–shall shortly be free. It was so in the past. Why should today be any different?

We know that we can and will be redeemed not only because the Lord is unchanging, but because we have been promised those blessings by that same unchanging Lord. We have been promised that He will come to His own, and we have been given the signs of His coming. He will not come in meekness, but in power and glory. And as we sing in the fourth verse, “good tidings for us. The tokens already appear.” We’ve seen the signs, and we will continue to see them as that day draws near. The Lord will come, and we will know Him when He does, because we know Him know. He is already our shadow by day and our pillar by night. He is our King, our Deliv’rer, our all. We know this, because it was so in the past, and because it is so now.

Why should today, tomorrow, or any other day be any different?

Hymn #283: The Glorious Gospel Light Has Shone

Sometimes the scope of the Gospel and the breadth of its reach astounds me. At baptism we covenant to follow Christ’s teachings and obey his commandments. As we begin to follow him, he invites us to join in his mission, to take His yoke upon ourselves. Where we started out seeking baptism in order to receive forgiveness for our own sins, it’s not long before we are serving and consoling and teaching those around us as Christ would do.

It doesn’t stop there, though. When we are able to enter the temple, we have the opportunity to participate in baptism for the dead, offering the same covenants and blessings to our own ancestors and others. Later, we can even help extend the blessings of the endowment and the sealing ordinances to those who have passed into the Spirit World.

Think of it! Just as Christ offers salvation and exaltation to all mankind, we offer these ordinances to our own ancestors, one by one. No longer are we simply seeking our own salvation through the grace of Christ; now we are actively taking part in extending it to others. We are participating in God’s work and his glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

What a blessing and an honor it is to participate in this work.

Today’s hymn is The Glorious Gospel Light Has Shone. Its lyrics rejoice in this exact thing: the opportunity we have to participate with Christ in the salvation of the dead. Consider these passages from the hymn:

As Christ to spirits went to preach
Who were to prison led,
So many Saints have gone to teach
The gospel to the dead.

And we for them can be baptized,
Yes, for our friends most dear,
That they can with the just be raised
When Gabriel’s trump they hear;

Now, O ye Saints, rejoice today
That you can saviors be
Of all your dead who will obey
The gospel and be free.

There is an excitement in this hymn, an eagerness to participate in the work of the Lord. I hope we’ll partake of that eagerness and seek to apply it in our own lives.

Hymn #39: O Saints of Zion

O Saints of Zion, hear the voice
Of Him from courts on high.
Prepare the pathway of the Lord;
His reign on earth is nigh.
(O Saints of Zion, verse 1)

When Joseph Smith was guided to restore the true church of Christ, he needed to know what it should be called. By revelation, the church received this name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is indeed the Church of Jesus Christ, and we are indeed in the latter days, the last days before the second coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

However, many of us don’t really pay any attention to that. We certainly recognize how the Gospel makes our own lives better, and we express appropriate gratitude for those blessings. But the mission of the church is not simply to bless the lives of its members—the Church exists to prepare the whole world for his coming. When we read the revelations, that mission is undeniable. (See D&C 65)

Of course, the work of preparing the world does not just fall upon the church collectively—it falls upon us individually. Along with the Gifts of the Spirit and the Priesthood blessings we receive are covenants we have made; covenants to be witnesses of Christ at all times, in all things, and in all places that we may be in. Covenants to make known His works and His words. We are active participants in this preparatory work—or at least we should be. We have been called to “make straight the way of the Lord.”

Sometimes it’s easy to just ignore all that, and focus living the Gospel privately. Yes, we do believe in doing good for the sake of good without any need for public recognition. Christ chastised the Pharisees for making obedience a spectator event, after all. But while our obedience to God’s commandments is a personal matter, His call to obey is for the entire world.

It’s hard to look at the world around us and see how it could ever be prepared to receive the Lord. There are many wonderful people here, of course, but there is also so much hatred and bitterness and simple spiritual apathy. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the enormous task before us. And yet, God has prepared us for this very task. The Book of Mormon tells of the sons of Mosiah who went among the Lamanites, a people who had rejected every previous invitation to come unto Christ. Through their prayers, fasting, service, faith, and diligence, many of the Lamanites were brought unto Christ—including their king himself!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. Priesthood authority is spreading throughout the world as it never has before. The Gift of the Holy Ghost, the very Comforter that Christ promised to send, is available to more and more people every day. The mighty blessings of the temple roll forth throughout the world, touching hearts and guiding minds in preparation for the return of the Lord himself. There has never been a better time for inviting the world to come unto Christ!

Prepare the supper of the Lamb;
Invite the world to dine.
Behold, the mighty Bridegroom comes
In majesty divine.

Hymn #83: Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah

No matter what your personal views on morality are, it’s clear that there are a lot of different voices competing for attention. We hear some people telling us that something is good and right and others telling us that it’s evil. These voices seem to surround us and shout so loudly that it’s difficult to hear ourselves think. It can be confusing and disorienting. What are we to believe?

When it’s hard to know what to cling to, it’s reassuring to know that there is at least one source out there that we can count on to be constant and unchanging. We can count on the Lord to teach us truth, no matter what. It doesn’t matter what we hear, or what circumstances the world finds itself in. He is the source of truth and light. And since we know that He will always tell us the truth, we can count on Him to guide our way forward.

Guide us, O thou great Jehovah,
Guide us to the promised land.
We are weak, but thou art able;
Hold us with thy pow’rful hand.
Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit,
Feed us till the Savior comes,
Feed us till the Savior comes.

We will struggle in the face of so many competing influences. We can’t help it, being human. But while we are weak, He is able to withstand those temptations, and He can help us to proceed forward. And we can count on the Holy Ghost to be a positive influence on us, helping to steer us back to Him. He is not here on earth with us, and we don’t know when He will be, but we can rely on the Spirit to nourish us spiritually and keep us well-fed until His triumphant return.

He guides us in the same way he guided the children of Israel during their flight from Egypt, although perhaps not as visually impressively. As Israel left Egypt, the Lord went before them as a cloud by day, serving not only to keep the hot desert sun off of them, but also showing them clearly which direction they needed to travel. At night, He stood before them as a tremendous pillar of fire, not only providing them light, but also keeping the Egyptians at bay. While we don’t see a pillar of fire before us today, he can still be a “fiery, cloudy pillar” for us. We have His words that show us the direction we need to take, and that can also act as a cover from trials and temptations. His Spirit can light our way as we trust in Him just as clearly as can a pillar of fire. He is there to guide us the same as He did the Israelites, provided we are willing to accept His guidance.

It’s when we don’t listen to His counsel and instead let the din of the world drown it out that we fall into trouble. That’s an easy enough trap to fall into. And by the same token, it’s an easy trap to avoid. We just have to find the one voice, the one influence in our life that never changes.

When the earth begins to tremble,
Bid our fearful thoughts be still;
When thy judgments spread destruction,
Keep us safe on Zion’s hill.

When we are confused, scared, or fearful, we can take courage in what the Lord tells us. We can trust that He is constant and unchanging, and that He will always lead us in the right. And as we place our trust in Him, we can know that He will keep us safe on Zion’s hill, singing praises and glory unto Him.

Hymn #58: Come, Ye Children of the Lord

The stereotypical representation of a Christian heaven usually involves angels on a cloud plucking their harps in eternal praise of God. That imagery has never really resonated with me—I believe we’ll have plenty of meaningful work to keep us busy throughout eternity, so the idea of lazily sitting around on a cloud in lazy praise of our God just doesn’t seem right.

And yet, the scriptures do speak of angels who shall “worship him forever and ever.” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:21). While we may not be toting harps everywhere we go, worship and veneration of our Heavenly Father is an eternal principle. I do not believe it will not be our only heavenly occupation, any more than scripture study is all we are expected to do here on earth. Nevertheless, songs of Heavenly praise are probably not a rare sight in the eternities.

Come, Ye Children of the Lord extends this concept even further, referencing the songs of praise we might sing during the millennial reign of Christ. It draws from passages like this one in the Doctrine and Covenants:

And the graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night forever and ever. (D&C 133:56)

The millennium will be a time of rejoicing and peace, a time long anticipated by prophets both ancient and modern. Though it often seems distant, we should recall that the Lord named this church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for a reason. This church is intended to prepare the world for the second coming of the Messiah, inviting all to come unto him and to receive him.

We preach and sing about the millennium often, but I don’t know if there’s any hymn that speaks more directly to the joy and happiness that will prevail on the earth at that time. Consider these passages:

Oh, how joyful it will be
When our Savior we shall see!
When in splendor he’ll descend,
Then all wickedness will end. (verse 2)

All arrayed in spotless white,
We will dwell ‘mid truth and light.
We will sing the songs of praise;
We will shout in joyous lays. (verse 3)

Earth shall then be cleansed from sin.
Ev’ry living thing therein
Shall in love and beauty dwell;
Then with joy each heart will swell. (verse 3)

As we consider this hymn, it’s important to remember that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just intended to bring us individual peace and comfort. The gospel is meant to bring peace to the entire world. It is, in no uncertain terms, a world-changing doctrine. It will make of this world a paradise, where all can live in happiness and harmony.

And yet, take note of the first phrase of this song:

Come, ye children of the Lord,
Let us sing with one accord.
Let us raise a joyful strain
To our Lord who *soon will reign*

We are not supposed to defer our praise until the millennium arrives. Rather. We sing now, joyously, in anticipation of the blessings our Father has promised us in the future. We do not need to delay our rejoicing; whether the promise is fulfilled for us, our children, or our grandchildren, the promise is still rich and full. If a parents’ greatest ambition is to provide a better world for their children and their children’s children, then should we not rejoice in the coming millennium?

I think it sounds pretty great.

Hymn #71: With Songs of Praise

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. (D&C 25:12)

Music is a huge part of Latter-Day Saint culture. Our first hymnal was published only five years after the church was organized. It is standard to sing at least three hymns (sometimes four or more) at any sacrament meeting, plus more during the other two hours at church and at any other meetings that we may attend. We have our own award-winning, internationally recognized choir, for heaven’s sake! Throw in Gladys Knight, the Osmonds, David Archuleta, Alex Boye, Lindsey Stirling, The Piano Guys…the number of musically talented Mormons is astounding, and I’m not surprised.

With songs of praise and gratitude
We worship God above,
In words and music give our thanks
For his redeeming love.

After moving into a new ward, I found out I was pregnant with our second child. The first was not yet old enough for nursery, and I worried that my already strained ability to worship would take another hit when baby #2 arrived. As things stood, my Sundays were largely taken up by cheerios and diaper changes and whisking a loud baby out of yet another meeting, and I missed being able to sit still and soak in the spirit.

Then the ward choir director invited me to come sing.

Against my usual inclination, I handed the baby off to my husband and nervously went to practice. I was welcomed with smiles and a folder of music and then we sang! And sang and sang and sang until I thought I might burst from the joy of it all. This was what I had been missing! This was the renewal and reconciliation with God that I needed to desperately.

If “a heartfelt song by righteous ones is prayer” then I am certainly praying when I practice those choir songs. The music we perform truly “unites us and invites the Spirit to be there.” Even when my almost-but-not-quite-a-true-soprano voice can’t quite reach that high G. Even when there aren’t enough tenors to balance out the basses. Even when nobody really likes the arrangement we’re singing. The Spirit is present and we sing together as one.

As this hymn indicates, the seed of Abraham sang their praises to God so many years ago. In years to come the Saints will sing “the new song of the Lamb.” Meanwhile I will be belting out my part as best I can. Sure, my Sabbath is still occupied largely with my babies and their accoutrements, but when I make my way up to the stand with the rest of the choir, this chorus fills my heart:

Then come before God’s presence!
With singing worship him!
Express the heart too full to speak,
In one exultant hymn.

-

(On a related note, the most recent comic from The Garden of Enid made me laugh. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?)

Hymn #32: The Happy Day at Last Has Come

While Philo Dibble includes a lot of detail in his hymn about the “happy day” that “at last has come”, he doesn’t specify what day precisely about which he was writing. Was it the day of Joseph Smith’s first vision? The day he received the plates from Moroni? The day the church was officially organized? One could make a case of any of these and others.

Let’s see what Brother Dibble tells us about about this happy day and decide when it might be.

“The truth restored is now made known.”

This indicates that the day is post-apostasy, since the truth had to be restored. Anything from the day God and Jesus Christ appeared the boy Joseph in the Sacred Grove or after is a possibility.

“The promised angel’s come again to introduce Messiah’s reign.”

Here we get a little more ambiguous. Which angel are we talking about? Nephi teaches us a little something about angels: “Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.“(2 Nephi 32:2-3)

By this token, we could argue that anyone speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost is acting as an angel, a messenger sent by God. On this happy day, someone–heavenly being or divinely appointed mortal–has or will proclaim the best tidings of great joy mankind has ever heard: Jesus lives and will return again.

This happens a lot. With 15 million members and 83,000 missionaries, people are proclaiming the gospel all the time. And when they do, they speak with the tongue of angels.

(Do you see where I’m going with this “when is the happy day” business?)

“The lands which long benighted lay have now beheld a glorious day.”

The Americas were “long benighted” when the Nephites were destroyed and the Lamanites dwindled in unrighteousness. But the Holy Land and surrounding areas also sank into the night of apostasy as one by one Christ’s Apostles were killed and the gospel fulness was lost. Other lands that (as far as we know) were not even visited by the Savior have lain in darkness even longer. Much of the world has received the good news of the gospel, but not every country has been touched by its light yet.

But slowly, slowly the dawn is breaking.

The day was foretold by prophets and anticipated by Saints. (see verse 3)

The time of the Restoration was foretold. The building of temples was foretold. The spreading of the gospel through missionary work, the organization of stakes throughout the world…everything pertaining to this last dispensation has been prophesied by prophets in every other dispensation. The Saints have been looking forward to the end of times for countless generations. Each step forward is another fulfillment of prophecy, another happy day.

Which brings me to what I have concluded is the happy day of which we sing in this hymn.

“Saints again shall hear the voice of Jesus in their ear.”

Every day another child of God hears the gospel message for the first time is a happy day. Every time we read our scriptures is a happy day. Each General Conference weekend, each visit to the temple, each Sabbath when we are instructed, each Family Home Evening…whenever we hear the word of God, it is a happy day.

His gospel is good news. His word is hope and love and eternal joy in the presence of the Father. Go read Jesus’ teachings. Share them with your family, friends, and neighbors.

Make it a happy day.

Hymn #55: Lo, the Mighty God Appearing!

Even if you didn’t see the direction to sing energetically, or even if you didn’t see the exclamation points littered throughout the song (a whopping twenty of them in four verses), this is a hymn that you almost can’t help but sing with vigor. The melody almost begs to be played as a fanfare with trumpets. In other hymns, we sing praise to our Lord for His goodness, His kindness, and His mercy; here, we hail Him as our ruler and king.

Consider the words we use to describe Him in the first verse:

Lo, the mighty God appearing!
From on high Jehovah speaks!
Eastern lands the summons hearing,
O’er the west his thunder breaks.
Earth behold him! Earth behold him!
Universal nature shakes.
Earth behold him! Earth behold him!
Universal nature shakes.

He is mighty. He speaks from on high. He sends forth thunder, and all nature shakes at His presence. We feel of His power and majesty in this hymn, and the tune reflects both that power and majesty. It’s a tune befitting the announcement and arrival of a king.

It’s interesting that the response of nature is mentioned so often in this hymn. It begins by announcing His presence to us, but it goes on to mention the awed reaction of the earth and sky to that arrival. In the first verse, we hear that the land hears the summons and “universal nature shakes.” The whole earth trembles at His coming. He created the earth and all things in and on it; surely it recognizes its creator. The second verse continues, mentioning that fire, clouds, and tempests will accompany Him at His arrival.

It’s His second coming, of course. He will come in power and majesty, and there will be no mistaking the response of nature at that time. In fact, there will be only one group whose reaction won’t be sure, and that’s ours. We, as humans, have the ability to choose for ourselves how to react in any situation. That agency is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, perhaps second only to life itself. And so while the earth and skies will shake at His coming, we may not. We may choose to recognize the arrival of our King. We may not. It is given to us to choose.

The phrase “less than the dust of the earth” occasionally appears in scripture to describe the state of man. That’s not to say that mankind is somehow worth less than dust. Of God’s creations, only humans are created in His image, so surely we carry more intrinsic value than dust. But dust obeys God’s every command without question. If He commands it to move, it moves. If He commands a mountain to move, it moves, and if He commands a sea to be dry, it dries. But when He commands us, we often question Him. We ask if He really needs us to do that right now, or if it could maybe wait until this afternoon, or even just until the next commercial break. Our agency is a tremendous gift, but when it comes to pure obedience, that gift makes us less than the dust of the earth.

Of course, we will be accountable for those choices. In the fourth verse, we are reminded that His judgments are just, and that at the second coming, “God, himself the judge, is there.” He knows us, and He knows what we have done with His gift of agency. He will judge, and judge perfectly and justly. And so as we sing, we are reminded of that day. We are reminded that we will stand before Him and will answer for our actions. And as we are so reminded, hopefully we take a moment to consider those actions, and whether we could be a little quicker to heed His call now rather than waiting until the last day. Perhaps we could lend a hand to someone in need, or offer a kind word. And as we do so, we can, along with the heavens in the final verse, “adore him, and his righteousness declare.”

Hymn #3: Now Let Us Rejoice

Now Let Us Rejoice was included in the original LDS hymnbook, only five years after the church was organized. It was a time of great excitement within the church; significant new doctrines were being revealed frequently, and many had great spiritual manifestations. If you were a member of the Church at that time, you likely had a fairly strong belief that God was actively working in the world, and that revelation, visions, miracles, and so forth were not just things out of scripture. These were things happening last week, and happening now, and happening again soon.

Sometimes I wonder if we’ve lost some of that faith today. It may seem easier to just focus on the things that affect us today, and let the future take care of itself. There are many wonderful things we teach and preach and discuss, of course—things that can help us become better people and draw closer to Christ. These are all very appropriate to discuss, and important for our salvation. We talk about how Christ’s Atonement can bring peace and healing to us now. We talk about service to others, and how we should strive to become Christ-like people. These are wonderful topics, and I’m glad we discuss them often. These are the things that will change us into the people God wants us to become. They will lighten our burdens and enrich our lives, and those are things we all need.

I wonder, though, if we get so caught up in the potter’s wheel or the refiner’s fire that we forget to have hope in the promises God has made. We are living in the long-prophesied last days before Christ’s return! His millennial reign, full of peace and happiness and glory, is close at hand! Shouldn’t that get us at least a little bit excited?

This hymn is excited about the millennium, and has no qualms about it. Here’s the chorus of the first two verses:

Then all that was promised the Saints will be given,
And none will molest them from morn until ev’n,
And earth will appear as the Garden of Eden,
And Jesus will say to all Israel, “Come home.”

Considering the persecution that early church members endured, the notion that “none will molest them” must have seemed pretty nice. We generally don’t face the same opposition they did, but it’s still not always easy to stand for faith and revealed truth in a world that has largely abandoned both.  Further, the millennium will be a time when “Christ will reign personally upon the earth, and the Earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” (Article of Faith 10)  How could we not be excited for that?

And yet, sometimes it seems so distant. It’s easy to believe that God has acted in the past, and that he will probably act sometime in the future, but it’s sometimes hard to believe that it could actually happen now, during our own lives. I don’t know if Christ’s second coming will be in my lifetime. I hope that it is—I look forward to it. But whether it is or not, I have hope in these and all the other blessings promised in the revelations. God has exciting things planned for the Saints, and it is appropriate to anticipate them and to be excited about them. The third verse has a different chorus, one that applies not just to those who live to see the millennium, but to every one who will accept the covenants God offers us:

Then all that was promised the Saints will be given,
And they will be crown’d with the angels of heav’n,
And earth will appear as the Garden of Eden,
And Christ and his people will ever be one.

Let’s keep hope in the promised blessings. When life is hard, let’s rely with faith on the arm of Jehovah, and trust that the end will be glorious. Whether in the millennium or after this life, there is a wonderful world in store for us. Now let us rejoice!

Hymn #134: I Believe in Christ

If ever there was a hymn written to confirm that Mormons are indeed Christians, it’s this one. Just as the Articles of Faith lay out the basics of Latter-Day Saint doctrine, this hymn explains in fairly simple terms what we believe about Jesus Christ.

It’s like a manifesto of our Christianity.

Eight times we sing, “I believe in Christ,” then follow each affirmation with what precisely we believe about him.

“He is God’s Son.” Literally. Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father. As such, he inherited traits from his Immortal Father that enabled him to perform miracles, to suffer the Atonement, and to be resurrected after his crucifixion.

“As Mary’s Son he came to reign.” He was born to a mortal mother in humble circumstances. The traits he inherited from her–the ability to experience pain, sickness, and ultimately death–were also necessary for him to fulfill his mission on earth.

“He healed the sick; the dead he raised.” He spent his ministry in service to others: relieving suffering, showing mercy, healing the broken-hearted, bringing hope to those who had none. He called upon the power of God and gave people a chance to exercise faith they didn’t know they had.

He “marked the path.” By his example–not just his teachings but also his actions– we know what we need to do to obtain eternal life: love God, love others, keep the commandments, and endure to the end.

“He is the source of truth and light.” The Savior himself said it better than I can: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Furthermore, he told the Brother of Jared, “And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. … I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world.” (Ether 4:12)

“He ransoms me.”  By paying the price demanded by justice and offering mercy to the sinner, he defeated both death and hell. That Atonement makes it possible for us to gain eternal life and exaltation. Put in terms a Christian of any denomination would recognize: it is by his grace that we are saved.

“He is my King! … My Lord, My God … He stands supreme.” It isn’t called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for nothing. He stands at its head and we acknowledge him as our divine King.

“He [will come] again to rule among the sons of men.” He lived, he died, he lived again, and he will return to earth in all his glory, might, and majesty. We look forward not with fear but with hope for the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is the Lord God. (see Philippians 2:10-11 and Mosiah 27:31)

Say what you will about any other point of LDS doctrine, we believe in Christ.

Hymn #47: We Will Sing of Zion

The title says it all, really. We spend three verses singing of Zion. It’s a simple sentiment, and its simplicity speaks volumes. Each line only has from five to seven syllables (6 5 7 7 6, to be precise), and not a syllable is wasted in telling us what Zion is, who makes it up, and where it will go.

So what is Zion, exactly? We find out right off the bat: Zion is the pure in heart, those who seek the Savior’s part. The phrase “the pure in heart” is a stock answer in LDS culture to define Zion, but it’s a stock answer for a reason. The pure in heart are those without any, well, impurities in their hearts. They don’t have anything that distracts them or prevents them from giving themselves fully to their Savior. They are filled with His love, and as we sing, they seek the Savior’s part. They keep Him in their hearts and minds as best as they can.

As we purify our hearts and listen to the “revelations giv’n by God to men,” we learn one of Zion’s main functions. Zion readies us to see the Savior come again. It certainly helps us to prepare to meet Him at His second coming. We learn the signs, we learn His teachings, and we learn how to become more like Him. The prophets teach us by revelation, and we can receive those revelations, too, as we follow those teachings and keep ourselves pure. But I think Zion also helps us prepare for the second coming by getting us excited to see Him when He comes again. We look forward to that day. We are directed to sing resolutely. There is nothing holding us back, no lingering doubts, no unresolved spiritual hangups, no impurities (there’s that word again) preventing us from looking forward to that day with joy. And when we see Him again, we will feel that joy together with our fellow citizens in Zion.

We don’t know when that day will come. We won’t know until it happens. But in the meantime, we can help to build a community that looks forward to it right now, where we stand. We can keep His law in truth, and when we do so, the hymn promises that “hate and war and strife will cease; men will live in love and peace.” It reminds me of the beautiful passage in Revelation where John describes, well, I’ll let him tell you what he describes:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

This is where Zion is headed. We look forward not only to the day when our Savior will come again, but to the day when we will live with Him and the Father, and when they will wipe the tears from our eyes, removing all of our sorrows and burdens, just as we are commanded to do in building Zion here. We look forward to seeing the Zion in heaven joined with our Zion on earth and made one, both in borders and in heart. And this is why at the end of the hymn, we sing (resolutely!), “Heav’nly Zion, come once more and cover all the earth,” because we want this not only for our friends, not only for our neighbors, but for everyone. We want to see everyone accept the outstretched arms and hands of our Savior, not just those we know.

We’ll get there, as we start building Zion here. And as we build it, we will sing of Zion, the kingdom of our God.