Tag Archives: Preparedness

Hymn #94: Come, Ye Thankful People

This is one of the Thanksgiving hymns in the hymnal (three of them in all), but after the first line, there’s not a mention of gratitude in the entire hymn. And yet in the subsequent fifteen lines, the theme of harvest is mentioned six times. It’s not a hymn of thankfulness; it’s a hymn of sowing and reaping.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that gratitude and harvest are connected. American Thanksgiving has its roots in early settlers being shown how to plant and cultivate crops by natives. They commemorated the harvest each year with a feast to show their gratitude for their bounty. They sowed, and they reaped, and they were thankful.

We do likewise, only we’re not the ones sowing much of anything. “All the world is God’s own field,” we sing in the second verse. He sows will He will, and we see that bounty accordingly. Everything we have comes not from anything we’ve done, but because the Lord has seen fit to give it to us.

In fact, when you get down to it, not only are we not the ones sowing, but we are, in fact, the ones being sown. We touched on this last week, but we are the seed being strewn throughout the world. We are the wheat and the tares, and we are grown “unto joy or sorrow.” We are planted, cultivated, and raised to maturity. We are harvested and brought into the barn. There is nothing more valuable in the eyes of the Lord of the harvest than we are. That’s what we’re thankful for as we sing this hymn. We aren’t singing about the blessings the Lord has placed in our lives, we’re singing about the blessings the Lord has made of our lives. We are precious, and He has made us so. We show our gratitude for that gift by doing our best to keep our lives pure and clean before Him. “Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure might be,” we sing in closing. It’s a hymn of harvest, but it’s also a hymn of gratitude as we show our thanks for being that pure, precious grain.

Hymn #226: Improve the Shining Moments

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

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

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

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

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

Worthy sentiments, no?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hymn #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 #261: Thy Servants Are Prepared

Image Credit:  "Men Missionaries Mormon Man", More Good Foundation, 2007, via Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/moregoodfoundation/5135123539. CC BY-NC 2.0

Thy Servants Are Prepared is, at first glance, a hymn about young missionaries prepared to go forth and preach the Gospel to the world. Their preaching will fill the world with the light of truth, and build Zion both abroad and at home. It also speaks of the preparation these missionaries must have, for one cannot preach the truth unless he has first received and understood it himself.

The preparation and service of our young missionary force is an exciting and important topic, one that is more prominent than ever in context of the recent surge in departing missionaries. But this is not the topic I want to discuss here.

The truth is that 18- and 19-year old missionaries are not the only servants of God. We are all servants of God, all called from the moment of our baptism to carry forward his work and proclaim his Gospel. While we may not all be called to serve in foreign lands, the recent instructions to “Hasten the Work of Salvation” make it clear that we are all part of this work, whether called as full-time missionaries or not.

Just as full-time missionaries, we all must be prepared to share the Gospel. We should be studying the scriptures daily, “feasting upon the words of Christ.” We should be praying often. More importantly, we should be developing a real and meaningful relationship with our Heavenly Father, and should be growing ever more able to understand and act upon the promptings of the Spirit.

Preparation to share the Gospel of Christ is not completed simply by memorizing Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision and a few Scripture Mastery scriptures. The Gospel is not simply about learning scriptural facts—in fact, Christ often rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes for doing just that. Rather, we must learn to listen to our Father directly, to follow the guidance he sends through the Holy Spirit.

We must learn to receive revelation.

This should not be a surprising statement. Missionaries invite people  in their very first meetings to pray about the Book of Mormon, to receive an answer from God himself whether it is true or not. When we are baptized we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, a gift that does us no good unless we actually learn to listen to the Spirit. Prophets throughout the Book of Mormon taught this same lesson: we must learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Inasmuch as we preach that “God speaks, not spake,” we must learn to listen.

I believe we all understand this, and yet our day-to-day tasks can so easily distract us from this preparation. Learning to accurately recognize the Spirit is not a simple task; it takes practice and effort. When we brush aside frequent scripture study, or when our prayers start fading into rote repetitions, we lose the opportunity to commune with the Holy Spirit in the very settings most conducive to his presence.

Sharing the light of the Gospel with the world is God’s work. He can and will direct us as we carry it out, but only if we are capable of listening to his instructions and following his direction. As we do so, we will truly see “the darkness draw away from [His] revealing light.”

So when we sing “Thy Servants Are Prepared,” let’s remember that it’s us we’re singing about. Let’s make sure that we’re always ready.


Image Credit:
“Men Missionaries Mormon Man”, More Good Foundation, 2007, via Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/moregoodfoundation/5135123539. CC BY-NC 2.0

Hymn #17: Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake!

Awake, we’re told over and over in this hymn. We’re told twice in the title alone, and the tune, as with most hymns about Zion, is upbeat and powerful. We sing vigorously, an attitude about as far from sleep as possible. And yet it’s clear all of us (those of us singing, anyway), are quite literally awake. So why are we urging ourselves and other saints to awake?

What does it mean to be asleep?

Sleep is associated with refreshment and rejuvenation, certainly, but it’s also tied to fatigue and exhaustion. We sleep when we’re tired, and while we sleep, we’re usually completely unaware of the world around us. When we sleep, we dream, a word often associated with hopes and striving, but it can also represent unattainable ideas and goals, or even a state out of touch with reality.

In this hymn, sleep represents captivity and an inability to progress. The first verse urges us to “call on the Lord in mighty prayer that he will Zion’s bondage break.” There are times the saints of God have been in literal bondage; the children of Israel in Egypt immediately come to mind, but the people of Alma, held captive by the Amulonites in the Book of Mosiah qualify, too. They cried to their God that He would release them from their bondage, and He heard them and set them free.

In both cases, the promised deliverance only came after the people took action. It wasn’t enough for them to wish they were free; they had to exercise faith and ask God for His aid. Idle wishing for an escape from our trials is like, well, daydreaming. We may as well be asleep for all the good it does us. Instead, we call each other to action. We remind each other that while we rely on the Lord for all that we have, His blessing to us are conditional on our asking for them. We exercise faith through our actions, and the promised blessings come as we do so.

It’s right there in the fourth verse: Awake to righteousness; be one. We take action, we follow the principles we have been taught, and as we do so, we unite ourselves with others who do so. And if we do not – if we decide to blaze our own trial and stick to our own teachings rather than those revealed truths – the Lord says to us, “ye are not mine.” He will have a united and true people. He has given us the tools and teachings to do so, and has promised that we will find power in so doing. Our faith strengthens us, of course, but we draw power from the Father and the Son, who build us up and make us able to accomplish tasks beyond our own power.

We are reminded in the second verse that the “God of Jacob does not sleep.” He may not, in a literal sense (I won’t pretend to know), but in a symbolic sense, meaning that His attention is distracted from us, He assuredly does not. We are His work and His glory, and we are continually before Him. He dedicates His whole self and work to helping us to achieve what He has, perfection and eternal glory. He does that through calling us to action. Our action is essential to our progression; after all, we can’t hope to achieve anything by sitting around waiting for it to happen. So we are urged to awake, arise out of our too-deep sleep, rubbing our eyes and shaking off the last vestiges of dreams that call us back to bed. We get up, we remember our purpose here, and we move to action, helping others in their path along the way.

In short, we awake, we saints of God.