Tag Archives: Peace

sunrise

Hymn #8: Awake and Arise

sunrise

Awake and arise, O ye slumbering nations!
The heavens have opened their portals again.
The last and the greatest of all dispensations
Has burst like a dawn o’er the children of men!

This is it. The end of days, the Second Coming, the final judgment, all of it is upon us. We’re in the very last days before all of this happens. It’s at our doors, and we don’t want to be caught napping lest that day come upon us like a thief in the night. We want to be prepared, so that rather than being taken by surprise, we will be ready, eagerly awaiting the coming of our Lord and King.

The image of the rays of the gospel message bursting forth like light across the world is well-chosen. It’s not as though the Lord’s teachings are any great secret. His mission, like that of His Father’s, is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. That’s a big task, and not one likely to be accomplished by skulking about in the shadows. He proclaims His gospel to all the world, and he commands us to do the same. Just as the rays of light pouring through our windows at sunrise call us out of bed and beckon us to take on the tasks of our day, the truths brought back to earth in the restoration prompt us to take action and spur others do to the same as we share those truths with them.

And yet we’re tempted, all of us, to block out those rays of light by pulling the covers back over our heads. When my alarm goes off in the morning, it’s rare that I leap out of bed full of pep and energy, eager to meet the challenges of the day. I get up, but I do so a little begrudgingly, as I’m sure you do. I’d really rather put off starting my day just by a little. Maybe five more minutes would do the trick. Maybe I could do without eating breakfast, or maybe I could skip the shower this morning. We’re faced with those temptations every day. When the gospel calls us to action (and it does often), we’re tempted to ask for a few more minutes. I know I need to prepare a lesson for church, but maybe I can watch a few more plays of football first. I know I need to make calls to schedule visits with my home teaching families, but maybe I could take a moment and read another chapter in my book first.

It’s difficult to feel the excitement of the gospel urging us on sometimes, but when we hear the second verse, perhaps we’ll be reminded of exactly why it is we have so much reason to be motivated to act:

The dream of the poet, the crown of the ages,
The time which the prophets of Israel foretold,
That glorious day only dreamed by the sages
Is yours, O ye slumbering nations; behold!

Many, many prophets had visions of our time, prophesying of the wonders we would see as the Second Coming approached. Job did, as did Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Micah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, to name a very few. This is the “time which the prophets of Israel foretold,” and they were excited about it. And here we are, living it. Why should we sleep through it, then? Why pull the covers over our heads when we can take part in spread of the gospel? We can watch and help as “truth, heaven-born, in its beauty and glory [marches] triumphantly over the world.” It’s so tempting to ask for just a couple more minutes, but when we sing this hymn (“brightly,” no less), we get a powerful reminder to awake and arise, to stand up and join the great cause, and to “lift up [our] voices in song and in story.” A bright and incredible day is on the horizon. Let’s make sure we don’t miss it.

Image credit: “Sunrise,” pixabay user Archbob, CC0 1.0.

Hymn #163: Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing

Perhaps one of the most memorable stories in the Book of Mormon is that of Ammon preaching to the Lamanites. When Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni departed for the land of Nephi to preach to the Lamanites, they did not know when they would return, or indeed if they would return at all. Ammon famously told King Lamoni: “I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die.” These sons of King Mosiah could have inherited their father’s kingship over the Nephites, but instead they chose to preach the Gospel to those who didn’t have its blessings.

The departure of the sons of Mosiah on their extended mission is recorded in Alma 17. As they entered Lamanite territory and prepared to separate, these brothers held one final devotional meeting.

Now Ammon being the chief among them, or rather he did administer unto them, and he departed from them, after having blessed them according to their several stations, having imparted the word of God unto them, or administered unto them before his departure; and thus they took their several journeys throughout the land. (Alma 17:18)

From that meeting, the four brothers departed into hostile lands, trusting in God to protect and guide them. As these men prepared to depart, I wonder if they sang a song similar to today’s hymn: ”Lord, Dismiss Us with thy Blessing.”

Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing;
Fill our hearts with joy and peace.
Let us each, thy love possessing,
Triumph in redeeming grace.
Oh, refresh us, oh, refresh us,
Trav’ling thru this wilderness.
Oh, refresh us, oh, refresh us,
Trav’ling thru this wilderness.

Most of us are not planning a trip to enemy lands anytime soon. Our wilderness is not the land of Nephi, but could we not all use a bit more joy and peace in our lives? Should we not all triumph in and remember always the atoning grace of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Thanks we give and adoration
For the gospel’s joyful sound.
May the fruits of thy salvation
In our hearts and lives abound.
Ever faithful, ever faithful
To the truth may we be found.
Ever faithful, ever faithful
To the truth may we be found.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring us joy, but only if we live it. Appropriate, then, that as we sing we pray for it to abound in our hearts and in our lives. The point of living the Gospel is not simply that we live it while we’re in our church meetings—we go to the church meetings so that we can live the Gospel outside the meetings.

We should be ever faithful. Not just sometimes, occasionally, or periodically faithful. Not just faithful on the last Sunday of the month, or for a few hours on Sunday afternoon, but ever faithful, always faithful.

We’ll fail, of course. We’re imperfect, frail humans still learning and figuring things out. We get angry, stressed, frustrated, or upset, and we mess up. I wish it didn’t, but it happens. Even in this, though, we can turn to Christ—his suffering in Gethsemane, his death and his resurrection inspire hope in us. Even when we fail, he welcomes us and invites us to try again. This is the very message of the Gospel: that as we strive to keep the commandments of God, we will receive divine assistance enabling us to overcome and become far more than what we could on our own.

So as we depart from our spiritual gatherings, we do seek the Lord’s blessing. Not just a generic blessing, but a specific one: that the fruits of Christ’s Atonement may shine forth in our hearts and in our lives, perhaps bringing that light to another who desperately needs it.

Hymn #129: Where Can I Turn for Peace?

This is a favorite hymn of many, probably because we all have this feeling from time to time. Things are hard, things are difficult, and despite our best efforts, things don’t go our way. And we wonder, when nothing seems to be going right, where we can turn for a little comfort. Where can we find peace, especially when it seems like everything in the world is conspiring to make us feel so miserable?

We can always turn to our Savior. He is always there for us, the quiet hand to calm our anguish. What’s interesting about this hymn, though, is not the sentiment that the Lord will always  be there to comfort us. That’s hardly surprising. What’s interesting about this hymn is the notion that it’s never He who turns away from us. We are the ones who must turn to find peace, which suggests that at some point, we were the ones who turned away from peace. We are the ones who “with a wounded heart, anger, or malice… draw [ourselves] apart.” We are hurt, we are wronged, and we withdraw ourselves to be miserable. And then we cast about, wondering why it is that we can’t find peace.

This is not, of course, to diminish the struggles of those who find themselves turned from peace at every moment through no fault of their own. I’m not suggesting that the darkness of life can always be swept away with nothing more than a positive outlook. I’m not suggesting that the reason things are hard in your life is because you haven’t bothered to want to feel peace. But I am suggesting that more often than not, we are the ones who remove ourselves from the Lord and from the peace that He brings. And I am suggesting that we can turn back to Him to feel that peace once again.

He answers privately. When we turn back to the Lord, we often do so in prayer and yearning. We pour out our hearts to Him, desperate to feel some measure of comfort during a trying time. And He answers us, “reaching [our] reaching in [our] Gethsemane.” We don’t bleed from every pore, and we don’t take upon ourselves the sins of others in our dark times, but it’s no stretch to compare these moments of agony and straining to feel the love of our Savior to the moments when the Lord Himself felt most removed from His Father. We stretch out our hands to Him, hoping to feel something, anything in return. And He, having endured such trials Himself (and then some), cannot help but reach back. In fact, He is always reaching to us. It’s when we reach in our Gethsemane that we can feel His hand in ours. “Constant he is and kind,” we sing, and that constancy is reflected in the fact that He ever reaches out to us, wanting nothing more than to comfort us and bear us up.

We all suffer from time to time. Life is difficult. I know that, and you know that, and yet we still flounder during these times, struggling in vain to feel peace in our own lives. And in those times, the Spirit refreshes our memory, whispering to us, “Who, who can understand? He, only One.”

And so it is, and so we turn to Him in our dark times, the One who can make them light again. He is gentle, He is kind, and He will bring us peace, because He is filled with “love without end.”

Hymn #133: Father in Heaven

gloomy

I didn’t immediately recognize this hymn from its title. You may not either. If you don’t, you might consider taking a minute to click on the link at the top of the page and listen to the first verse. In fact, it won’t even take you a minute. Go on, give it a listen.

Did you listen to it? Did you hear the dip to a minor key there in the second phrase? Go back and listen again if you didn’t.

Hear these thy children thru the world resounding.

I imagine most hymns could be considered prayers, but the lyrics to this one sound as though they could literally be the words of a prayer. Father in Heaven, we pray, hear Thy children. The hymn goes on to ask the Father specifically to hear His children as they praise Him and give thanks for the peace He has given them, but the minor fall heightens that phrase. When viewed this way, the hymn takes on a new meaning. It’s about that moment of doubt, where we have faith sufficient to pray to the Father, but maybe not as much confidence that He’ll answer us.

It’s a familiar feeling, because we’ve all had that experience. We encounter difficult times, harder than we feel we can bear. We do our best to soldier on, trusting in the Lord that things will get better, only they seem to get worse. It could be a challenge with our health, or our family, or our work, or schooling, or any of a number of things. We feel low, and we get down on our knees, asking God if He is truly there, and where our aid is.

This isn’t something that only happens to those of us (the majority of us, I’m sure) whose faith is weak. No less a man than the prophet Joseph Smith had this experience. We read about it in the Doctrine and Covenants, which records his time in Liberty Jail, one of the lowest points of his life. “O God, where art thou?” he cried, and you can feel his anguish. It’s your anguish too, that night that you asked Him the same question. And at that dark hour, the Lord spoke to Joseph, just as He speaks to you and me. “My son,” He said, “peace be unto thy soul.” And it was comforted, just as ours were.

We know that our trials will be for a small moment in the grand scheme of things. We know that most of our lives will be spent in relative happiness, just as most of this hymn is spent in the relatively happier major key. But in those dark moments, the trials seem to last forever. Doubt can poke through, but if we exercise faith enough to still trust in Him, even if only enough to ask if He is there, we can see that peace shine through all the brighter by comparison with that darkness.

Filled be our hearts with peace beyond comparing,
Peace in thy world, and joy to hearts despairing.
Firm is our trust in thee for peace enduring,
Ever enduring.

Image credit: “Gloomy Weather 3,” deviantART user lamogios. CC BY-SA 3.0

Hymn #103: Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Jesus Christ I often focus on his power and majesty. He is the Son of God! He is the King of Kings! Sure, he loves us enough to die for us, but that fills me with more awe and wonder than anything else. To use words like “precious” and “dear” when referring to my Savior feels a little weird. I call my daughters precious. I call my husband dear. Why is it hard for me to think of my Elder Brother in those terms?

I keep my most precious things close. If they aren’t physically with me, I at least know where they are and have a reasonable assurance that they are safe and well. I check on them frequently. It makes sense that my relationship with Jesus Christ should be treated the same way. If I’m not consciously drawing near to him, I should at least feel confident that he is there, that he loves me, and that I am doing his will to the best of my ability. I should check in with him frequently. I am dear to him, and he should be precious to me.

The final lines of the first two verses–”May each soul in thee abide” and “Let us never from thee stray” respectively–reaffirm the need to keep precious things safe and close. But from what?

In this hymn the words “sin” and “tide” are closely linked not once but twice. There are times in our lives when we reach spiritual peaks; being good comes easily and the Holy Ghost truly is our constant companion. There are other times when we grow weary or complacent or bitter or confused or whatever the case me be. Sin and doubt creep into our lives, as a rising tide slowly advances up the shore.

The Savior can provide a bulwark against this rising tide, keeping us safe and dry in his protection. But we must continually maintain our relationship with him, lest any crack in the barrier allow the tide to break through and overwhelm us. We must have the “swift conviction” necessary to ask for his help in “turning back the sinful tide” as soon as we recognize its advance.

I know I’m not the only parent who insists that my daughter stays right by my side–preferably holding my hand–when we are in a parking lot. This, I think, is what is meant by the “narrow way”. Staying within the bounds prescribed by our Savior protects us from nearby dangers and potential distractions; if we were allowed to wander, we might get lost or injured or who knows what else. With Christ’s “loving arms around us” we are safe.

Even at our Savior’s side, we will experience trying times. I’ve written about this before. Life will be hard, but with his help we can endure. Our hearts may be broken, but he can bind them. We may know sorrow, but he will bear some of that burden so we are not overwhelmed. We will undoubtedly cry, but he will dry our tears. The storms will come but they will pass, and if we keep Christ close in our hearts, in the end we will know “everlasting peace” in our Father’s presence.

 

shepherd

Hymn #14: Sweet Is the Peace the Gospel Brings

shepherd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hymn #105: Master, the Tempest Is Raging

The Grace Harwar sailing in a storm

For anyone who has read New Testament this story is a familiar one, included in two of the four gospels, and it begins in a boat.

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? (Mark 4:37-38)

They lyrics of the first verse are, appropriately, written from the disciples’ point of view. They are afraid they will capsize and drown, and feel shocked–perhaps even a little betrayed–that Jesus can sleep through it all. Their indignation is understandable; they are, after all, in a boat with the only perfect man who ever lived, a man whose miracles extend even to raising the dead. Why would nature behave this way toward disciples of the Son of God? Shouldn’t their boat be protected from such deadly storms because he is in it?

Unfortunately, being a disciple of Christ doesn’t make one immune to the tempests of life. The most devout Christians and devoted Saints have been tested and tried to their very limits. Mosiah and Alma had apostate children who attempted to destroy the church. Hannah and Elisabeth and Rachel and many others faced long years of infertility. So many pioneers buried family members on their trek to Zion. Storms happen, and sometimes we get caught in their wake.

The tempests we face may be literal forces of nature, results of our own choices, or the consequences of someone else’s actions that are beyond our control. When they arise, we generally find ourselves pleading for our Lord to take notice of the storm and rescue us from it.

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today.
The depths of my sad heart are troubled.
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul,
And I perish! I perish! dear Master.
Oh, hasten and take control!

Whether our sinking soul is due to the guilt of sin or the heartbreak of loss, the frustration of helplessness or just the general stress of life, sometimes we truly feel like we are perishing. Hope is lost, and there is nothing to do but lay down and die.

And yet.

We are protected when the Savior is in our midst. Maybe we aren’t spared from being tossed about by the waves, but let’s not forget the wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down on his house just as they did on the house built on sand, but his house was not washed away.

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the arock 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)

If we center our lives on Jesus Christ, he will be with us to lift and guide and sustain us in our most trying times. Remember, as the chorus says:

Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.

Our God will not let us fail if we put our trust in him. We might be as Job and lose every single thing we have in this life, but still he gives us hope of eternal peace and joy in the life to come.

And so, when “the terror is over” and “the elements sweetly rest”, we should not (to continue the metaphor) kick Jesus out of our boat because we don’t need him to protect us anymore. Let our prayer be, as in the third verse, that we will live our lives in such a way that his Spirit will remain with us until we live with him again:

Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more,
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor
And rest on the blissful shore.

 

Image credit: “The ‘Grace Harwar’ sailing in a storm,” Flickr user National Maritime Museum, 1929, via Flickr. CC-NY-NC-ND 2.0

night

Hymn #159: Now the Day Is Over

night

 

I’ve never heard this hymn sung in church before. The topics indicate that it’s a hymn of closing, but the topic “evening” seems a better fit to me. It’s less a hymn to sing at the close of a meeting and more one to sing before heading to bed. Since I’m rarely at church just before bed, I’ve never really been in a situation where I’d expect to hear it at church.

At just four lines and sixteen bars (and a scant 44 syllables), this is one of the shortest hymns in the book. In fact, it’s short enough that I’m going to quote it to you in full below. Listen:

Now the day is over;
Night is drawing nigh;
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.

Jesus, give the weary
Calm and sweet repose;
With thy tend’rest blessing
May our eyelids close.

That’s it. It’s getting dark, we’re getting tired, and we’d like His blessing as we go to sleep. We ask Him to watch over us as we sleep. We’re the ones singing to Him, but with just a bit of tweaking, it wouldn’t be hard to see this as a lullaby He sings softly to us as we drift off.

The image of a protective Savior keeping watch over us is a tender one. I have a little girl we’re training to go to sleep by herself, and while she’s getting better at it, she’s still resistant. One of us will set her down in her crib, and she’ll stay calm as long as she can see us. But the moment we step away and turn off the light, she starts to cry. She wants someone to be there with her. She wants to know that someone is there to protect her.

We’re much the same. We go through our adult lives having to take responsibility for ourselves, and in time, for others, but we all have moments where we want someone to protect us, and more often than not, those moments come when it’s dark. I think it’s no accident that we are counseled to pray before we go to bed for the night. It not only serves as a benediction on the day, but also as a safeguard against the time when our fears and anxieties often come out most powerfully.

The Book of Mormon prophet Alma counseled as much to his son Helaman:

Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

We are to pray always, but praying just before bed is mentioned explicitly as an ideal time to pray. (It’s also mentioned in Proverbs.) As we sleep, we entrust ourselves to His gentle care.

The catch, though, and what makes me different from the Lord (among many other things), is that while I love my daughter, I also don’t want to have to maintain unbroken eye contact with her all night, every night. I’d like to get some rest, too. My goal is to get her to a point where she feels secure enough that she can go to sleep without seeing someone standing over her. He, however, has no difficulty standing watch for the entire night, and for all of the nights. His love is all-encompassing. He can be, and is, there for us every time a bad dream wakes us in a cold sweat. He’s there for us when worries and doubt keep our rest fitful and fleeting. He’s there to pull the blanket back over us so that we can sleep soundly. And when we pray at night, we invite Him to keep that watch and trust ourselves to His care. Our eyelids close, knowing that we will surely enjoy His “tend’rest blessing.”

 

Image credit: “Starry Night,” Flickr user KΛ13, 2005, via Flickr. CC-NY-NC-ND 2.0

Hymn #120: Lean On My Ample Arm

This hymn is one of the least well-known in the hymnbook. It’s also one of my favorites. Like the more popular Be Still My Soul, this hymn reminds us that constant peace is available through the Savior no matter what the circumstances. I have loved that message of rest and comfort ever since I was introduced to this hymn, but it wasn’t until I started looking more closely at the lyrics that I began to appreciate its gorgeous imagery.

The hymn’s title comes from the very first line:

Lean on my ample arm,
O thou depressed!

Throughout the hymn, the Savior speaks to us personally and closely. He is not depicted addressing us out of heaven, but as our intimate companion, walking next to us. This, in fact, is why he can request that we “lean” on his arm—the only way you can lean on someone is if they’re walking beside you.

As the hymn progresses, however, we learn a bit more about our surroundings:

And I will bid the storm
Cease in thy breast.
Whate’er thy lot may be
On life’s complaining sea,
If thou wilt come to me,
Thou shalt have rest.

We are tossed on “life’s complaining sea,” and that upheaval is reflected in the “storm … in [our] breast.” Jesus promises that he can “bid the storm / cease” and give us “rest.” The metaphor of stilling a storm, of course, comes from the New Testament (see Matt 8:23–27; 14:22–33). The God who commands all of nature can certainly grant the same peace to an anguished or turbulent heart.

Thus, we’re not invited to lean on Jesus’ arm because he is simply walking beside us, but because we are like Peter, and the Savior is reaching out to grab us as we take a few impetuous steps on the water. His “ample arm” is not just a convenient (but ultimately unnecessary) luxury; it’s our lifeline, the only thing between us and the storm.

If possible, the second verse contains even more moving imagery than the first:

Lift up thy tearful eyes,
Sad heart, to me;
I am the sacrifice
Offered for thee.

This is a scene I imagine taking place at the foot of the cross. If we “lift up” our eyes, we will be confronted with the image of Jesus’ “sacrifice / offered” in our behalf. I find it interesting that out of all the possible moments of the Savior’s ministry that could have been used to illustrate peace, this hymn draws on two of the disciples’ most difficult and tempestuous experiences. In spite of the frightening and discouraging outlook, the Lord extends this promise:

In me thy pain shall cease,
In me is thy release,
In me thou shalt have peace
Eternally

In one sense, this assurance is deeply troubling and almost ironic—how can He offer us peace, rest, and release, when he himself is currently portrayed in captivity and experiencing intense pain? It’s precisely this incongruity, I think, that I find most tender about this hymn. Jesus is speaking to us from the moment of his most intense suffering. Rather than saying “I’ve been through that in the past,” he’s saying “it’s okay; I’m going through it, too.” The second verse is an image of divine empathy rather than sympathy. We often try to encourage others by offering hope, by playing up the happy ending. We see this, for example, with Be Still My Soul, whose lyrics address us from the perspective of the “joyful end” when “grief and fear are gone.” By contrast, Lean on My Ample Arm is sung when the grief and fear are radically present, and assures us that we can have peace even then.

This message is at its most explicit here in the culminating line:

In me thou shalt have peace
Eternally

As Latter-day Saints, we’re used to hearing the word “eternal” used to refer to the afterlife. It’s noteworthy, I think, that this hymn uses the adverb (“eternally”) rather than the noun (“in eternity”). Its most basic definition is: “in a way that continues or lasts forever; permanently.” The peace offered to us is available during our trials, not just when they end. The Savior offers us constant, unending peace, no matter our circumstances. When we, like the Savior, are feeling the weight of the cross we’ve taken up, peace is available even then, and it’s available precisely because of the cross He willingly bears.

All we have to do is lift up our eyes, and notice our surroundings. If we look closely we’ll see Christ right there.

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.