Tag Archives: Joy

Hymn #18: The Voice of God Again is Heard

Those who have lived their lives in the Church have heard the story over and over, and those who aren’t may have heard it from someone who is a time or two. Joseph Smith, wondering which church he should join, went to the woods to pray and saw the Father and the Son, who told him that he should join none of them. They had a work for him to do, and through him, the gospel was restored in its fullness in our day.

And so it is. The voice of God, as we sing in this hymn, has been heard again in our day. He lives, and He has given His truth to us again. And now that we have it, it’s our duty to aid in the spread of that gospel by sharing it with not just some people, not just many people, but all people.

Rejoice, ye living and ye dead!
Rejoice, for your salvation
Begins anew this happy morn
Of final dispensation.

The word “final” is not idly chosen. This is it. There isn’t a fallback dispensation that we can rely on if we miss someone. We can’t lean back and take it easy, counting on someone else to pick up the slack. This is the last hurrah before the Lord’s second coming. When He comes, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is the Christ, but that’s no reason for us not to tell everyone beforehand. We want (and He wants) for His coming to be a joyful event, not a fearful one. We want everyone to bow and confess His name when He comes again because they were expecting Him. They knew He would come, and they knew who He was before He came.

O messengers of truth, go forth,
Proclaim the gospel story,
Go forth the nations to prepare
To greet the King of Glory.

There are full-time missionaries out there (many of them), and they do an outstanding job of proclaiming the gospel message. As the dispensation moves on and the second coming draws closer, those missionary efforts are intensified. There were just under 60,000 missionaries serving a few years ago; there are closer to 90,000 of them now. That’s a lot of messengers of truth. It’s even more when you consider that there are over 15 million members of the LDS Church out there with, ostensibly, the same mandate to proclaim the gospel, even if not in the same full-time sense. We share it with those we meet, glad tidings from Cumorah, a book to be revealed, the voices of Peter, James, and John, and so much more.

It’s an exciting time to be alive, and an exciting message to share. It’s one of joy, not one of fear. Redemption, restoration, and eternal life–that’s something that’s worth sharing with others. It’s something that’s worth shouting, too. Listen to how this hymn ends:

We shout hosanna, shout again
Till all creation blending
Shall join in one great, grand amen
Of anthems never ending.

The goal is to bring everyone back home. Everyone. And the goal is to have everyone participating in that last, great, grand choir singing praises to our Lord and King. Everyone. This is our last chance. There’s no failsafe dispensation following us. This is it. The voice of God again is heard, and it’s up to us to make sure that everyone hears it.

Hymn #147: Sweet Is the Work

The work doesn’t feel very sweet today. It feels heavy and sad and a little bit futile. Many things are weighing on my mind and my spirit, and a hymn of triumph and joy is not exactly fitting for my mood.

But the text of this hymn brings me hope.

I love the Lord. I love to “praise [his] name, give thanks and sing.” I see his hand in my life and know that he is mindful of me. His truths–even the ones I don’t fully comprehend–are beautiful, and I love to learn about and discuss them. Writing about the hymns here brings joy and an added measure of the Spirit into my life.

But I know that there are many who do not feel that way. I have brothers and sisters whose hearts are seized by mortal cares, who are unsure of his divine counsels and wonder whether they shine brightly enough to cut through the darkness of doubt.

This is my prayer: that my heart may be found in tune with God’s will. That “my inward foes shall all be slain nor Satan break my peace again.” That I can live in such a way that “when in the realms of joy I see [God's] face” it will be in full felicity, because I will know that despite my weaknesses I have done my best.

It’s my prayer for all of you as well. Because while we may not know everything now, someday we will. When we return to our heavenly home, “then shall [we] see and hear and know all [we] desired and wished below.”

Our knowledge will be complete. Everything will make sense and wrongs will be made right.

And oh, how sweet it will be.

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 #136: I Know That My Redeemer Lives

 

He lives, he lives, who once was dead.

This statement is, perhaps, the very foundation of Christianity. Jesus Christ, crucified between thieves and buried in a tomb, lives. None other ever had power to rise from death of his own accord. The resurrection stands as a testament to the divinity of Christ.

More than simply a witness of Christ, though, his Resurrection offers us hope. Because he lives, we will live again. More, because he lives he continues to bless us. Christ is not simply a great prophet who lived and died—he lives. He continues to act. Though his greatest work is complete in the Atonement, his mission is not yet complete because we are not yet complete.

I Know That My Redeemer Lives speaks directly of our relationship with Christ. He is not simply an unknowable force for good working in the background. Rather, he is our “kind, wise heavenly friend.” He comforts us when faint. He blesses us in time of need. He silences all our fears and calms our troubled hearts.  Christ is our guide and our companion.

Over the course of four verses, this hymn expresses four verses full of blessings we receive because He Lives. Four verses full of reasons to rejoice. This outpouring of simple gratitude makes this one of my favorite hymns.

I often quietly sing this hymn to myself, when I find myself alone. I did so just a few nights ago, on my back porch late at night while everyone else was asleep. Gazing up into the starry night and singing quietly, I watched as the Earth’s shadow passed over the moon, producing a beautiful lunar eclipse. I thought about the greatness of God, about the vastness of the Earth, the moon, and the Sun which he created. I thought about how amazing that the same being who was instrumental in creating such a beautiful scene also ”pleads for me above,” seeking to prepare a mansion for me there. I reflected on my own relationship with Christ—my own faith and willingness to follow him.

Perhaps on such occasions, I am not truly singing to myself. I am not singing to entertain, nor to pass the time. Rather, I sing to express my gratitude to our Father for his Son. I sing to orient my soul to Him.  When I sing this song, I sing to God himself, offering gratitude and awe for the resurrection and atonement of Christ. I sing to offer testimony. Scripture teaches that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto God;” when I sing I Know That My Redeemer Lives, that prayer seems to draw me in.

He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”

Knowledge that Christ lives brings joy. When we sing this hymn, we express four verses full of reasons for that joy, but there are many, many more. Our relationship with Christ is personal, is intended to be personal. As we grow to know him, we will find more and more reasons to rejoice in his life.

So, as we conclude the Easter season, take a moment and read this hymn. Consider your own relationship with Christ. If you were to add a verse, what would it say? When you reflect upon his atonement and his resurrection, what thoughts bring you joy?

Hymn #294: Love at Home

This, along with “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” might be the most-played hymn in the entire book. We often hear beginning piano students plunking out the familiar “bum ba bum ba bum bum bum, bum ba bum bum bum.” The melody and chords are simple, and it’s fitting, because the message is just as simple. The word “love” appears nineteen times in the hymn (an even twenty if you count the title), just in case the theme eludes you, but there’s a very specific sort of love we’re talking about. Listen:

There is beauty all around
When there’s love at home;
There is joy in ev’ry sound
When there’s love at home.

We’re talking about creating loving, strong families. We’re talking about creating refuges from the forces of anger and hate. We’re talking about a place that we can feel safe, whether that’s four walls protecting us from a howling wind or an embrace protecting us from hurtful words. We are taught to make our homes holy places where the Spirit can dwell, and when we do so, we can certainly expect beauty and joy to abound in our homes.

But take another look at those words. Which places do you suppose the author referred to when he wrote that there was beauty “all around?” Which sounds fall under the category of “ev’ry?” Certainly we can expect there to be joy in our homes when there is love there, but I don’t think we’re to take such a narrow definition of “all” and “ev’ry.” I think we’re meant to understand that when we create loving homes, we can expect everywhere to abound with love. We can expect kindness and joy anywhere we go.

That’s not to say that everyone in the world has to first secure love at home for us to see this sort of effect. I think it means that we have to make sure that we teach love, and nothing but love. Showing your family that you love them isn’t too tricky, I think. We all have struggles with our families from time to time (some of us more than others), but the bonds of family are tight. For many of us, loving family isn’t difficult. The trick is teaching our families love for everyone else, too. It sends a mixed message when we tell a child with one breath how much we love them and with the next how we can’t believe the coach of the football team we’re watching would be so moronic as to call a draw play on 3rd and 17. We internalize these messages, and we learn, unfortunately, that we should love some people, but it’s okay not to love others. We end up teaching the message that there is joy in many sounds, but not all. Hate and envy occasionally annoy, and life becomes a bliss too incomplete.

The Lord counseled us to first cleanse the inner vessel in order to cleanse the outside. That can refer to purifying our hearts, certainly, but I think it can just as easily refer to purifying our families as well. When we take care to speak with love and gentleness in the home, we can’t help but do the same out of the home. We won’t be so quick to take offense from others (even when it’s intended!), but rather, we’ll be inclined to let it pass. We can see our fellow men not as adversaries, or even as strangers, but as friends, just as our Savior sees them.

That’s not to say that we won’t encounter frustrations, or that if we simply try to love our families a little more that we’ll somehow be able to go through life without any problems. We’re human, and we’re weak. We all have moments where we struggle, and we have them often. The Lord knows this, and He views those moments with mercy. As we make sincere efforts to treat others with love, and especially as we build homes of love to create strong families, He helps us to come to view the world as we sing in the final verse:

Kindly heaven smiles above
When there’s love at home;
All the world is filled with love
When there’s love at home.
Sweeter sings the brooklet by;
Brighter beams the azure sky.
Oh, there’s One who smiles on high
When there’s love at home.

2694858251_2a099a52cc_o

Hymn #227: There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today

2694858251_2a099a52cc_o

“There is sunshine in my soul today.”

There are not many hymns in our hymnal that are more unabashedly happy than this one. Sunshine in my soul! Music in my soul! Springtime in my soul! What could be more cheerful than these?

And yet as I prepared to examine this hymn, the first question that came to mind was this:

How does someone who struggles with depression find meaning in this hymn?

As much as we’d like to believe that obeying God’s commandments will bring us complete and immediate bliss, we still live in a mortal realm and we still struggle with the perils of imperfection. We face sickness, fatigue, frustration, and loss, and sometimes we’re just sad or apathetic with no good reason for it. Life is difficult at times, and we should not expect otherwise.

In fact, even in the eternities, there is disappointment and sadness. Enoch was surprised to see God himself weep over his children. (Moses 7:28) So why then do we go on about sunshine in the soul, as if it comes merely by singing about it? Why do we sing that life is light, when life is often so, so heavy?

I hope you’ll stop and think on that for a moment. I don’t think we do it mistakenly.

The hymn itself contains a few answers. In the chorus, we sing “Oh, there’s sunshine, blessed sunshine, when the peaceful happy moments roll.” In every life, even those filled with frustration and heartbreak, there are occasional peaceful happy moments. Sunshine may not always fill our soul, but it certainly will sometimes. Seeking God’s guidance will bring us more of those happy moments than we might otherwise have.

These happy moments come because “Jesus is [our] light.” In the same way that we learn “line upon line,” a little bit at a time, Christ’s peace does not come to us all at once, and it does not always come as we expect. Alma and his followers were held in captivity, laid with heavy burdens. When they sought divine relief, the Lord did not take their burdens away—at least, not at first. Rather, he strengthened them so that the burdens became easy to bear. These people found sunshine in the soul, even beneath great hardship. The same can be true of us, if we seek it.

Eventually, Alma and his people were freed from their burdens. Some day, we can be free from ours. For some of us, that freedom may come next month or next year. For others, it may only come after we’ve passed on from this life. In the meantime, though, our burdens can be lightened as we keep the covenants we have made with the Lord and allow him to bless us.

Note that the song does not say that sunshine fills your soul. If we make room for it, it is possible to have a portion of sunshine in your soul, even while other parts of it are filled with pain. Sometimes we deceive ourselves, thinking that mourning is not real unless it consumes us. There is often room for a sliver or a slice of light, even in a pained and heavy heart. Our hearts can sustain a colorful mix of emotions, full of all shades of light and dark. Don’t be afraid of the light, just because you’re sitting in a dark room.

And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

I love this phrase. Ponder: what are the songs you cannot sing? Why can you not sing them? Is it too painful to express them aloud? Are you afraid of committing to those thoughts? Are you unsure whether you yet believe what you might sing? Can you simply not find the words to express the emotions inside? No matter—Christ knows your heart, perhaps even before you do. When your thoughts seem conflicted or unclear, take heart; Christ understands you. He knows you. He can give you peace and light, portion by portion.

There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope and praise and love,

Note the mention of hope. Sometimes, sunshine in our soul comes not from the immediate relief of our burdens or the immediate fulfillment of our desires, but rather the anticipated joy that will come later on. We will always have hope, even in the eternities. God himself has hope for us, his children. He anticipates our joyful return to him.

Life is not always easy. Trials, temptation, disappointment, disease, and just plain old mortality are an inherent part of this early experience. But when passing through hard times, remember the words of Christ:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

There can be sunshine in your soul. Believe Him.

Image Credit: “Sunshine“, Jong Soo(Peter) Lee, 2005, via Flickr. . CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hymn #257: Rejoice! A Glorious Sound Is Heard

shout, by Krista Baltroka

shout, by Krista Baltroka

I could probably count on one hand the number of times that I’ve sung this song in church. It’s not one that I’m very familiar with. Maybe you are. Whether you are or not, though, it’s a hymn that has a familiar feel to it. We’ve sung similar hymns with similar feelings. Some have a strong cadence to them, like the hymns of Zion. Others have soaring crescendos, like the hymns of praise. It’s the meter that makes this hymn feel so familiar. The meter is called Common Meter Doubled (CMD), and it falls into four neat couples of eight and six beats. You probably recognize it from many of the hymns you’re familiar with: it has mostly quarter notes, with the occasional syncopated eighth note thrown in here and there, and each couplet ends with a dotted half note held out to mark the end of a phrase. It’s simple, which is why it’s used frequently enough to be called common meter.

The simplicity of the hymn ties in well with the message. We sing praise to the Father, and we rejoice in His Son. We glory that His cause is found in triumph. We are glad to hear that Zion’s youth–our youth–go forth in “wondrous might” and are found “in league with truth.” These are simple things, though that’s not to say that we don’t find joy in things that are more complicated and nuanced as well. We glory in our Lord. We do as much at the end of the first verse when we sing these words:

Jehovah reigns! Lord God of Hosts,
All hail thee, King most high.

The message is simple when you get down to it. God lives, and we worship Him. The rest of the lyrics explain more about why we worship Him (His perfection, grace, and sacrifice of His Son), but the main thrust of the hymn is found in those two lines. God lives, and that’s a thing to shout about.

When compared to some other Christian churches, the music of the LDS Church is pretty tame. We don’t have robed choirs swaying and shimmying as they sing. We don’t have electric guitars or brass. In fact, we’re encouraged not to stray beyond the hymnal when performing in church. Our music is more reserved than one might expect out of gospel music. But that’s not to say that we don’t (or shouldn’t) shout with praise. Even if we don’t literally shout while singing this hymn, we are encouraged to sing vigorously, and there’s even an exclamation point in the title to give it a little extra oomph. When we sing this hymn, we are not simply to rejoice. We are to rejoice! The Lord has triumphed over sin and strife, and we will, with Him, in glory reign.

So give a shout today. As the third verse encourages us, arise and sing to His great name. Send forth a joyous strain. Feel the joy of the gospel, and let out that great exultant cry from the first verse: Jehovah reigns! Lord God of Hosts, all hail thee, king most high.

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!