Tag Archives: Speech

wheat

Hymn #216: We Are Sowing

wheat

Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Mark 4:3-9)

The parable of the sower is an easy one to understand, even if only because the Savior himself laid the symbolism bare shortly after teaching it. The seed is the word of God, which is given to all of the world. Some do not receive it, others receive it but with no depth, and some receive it only to be overcome with adversity and difficulties. But others receive it gladly, and bring forth good works and faith. Simple enough.

Who is the sower?

It’s easy enough to think that the Savior Himself is the Sower, as He’s the One telling the story and is the source of the gospel light. But as we sing in this hymn, we are the sowers, called to spread the word daily to all we meet. “We are sowing, daily sowing countless seeds of good and ill,” we sing at the start of the hymn, and it’s worth considering that despite our intentions and our constant scattering of the seeds, not all of those seeds are good. We want to be good examples, and we want others to see us and be inspired to draw unto their Savior. The sad truth, though, is that all of our actions are seeds. We can just as easily sow a good seed with a kind deed as we can a bad one with an unkind deed. We are daily, hourly, and moment by moment sowing. If you’ve been baptized, you’ve taken upon yourself the name of Christ, and as such, you are always sowing seeds in His name.

That’s a lot to take in, once you think about it. Spreading His gospel in His name is a daunting task, especially when you consider the magnitude of that calling. All of the sheaves must be gathered in, not just the ones that are especially ripe or especially close to the silo. There’s an awful lot of work to do. Fortunately, we aren’t asked to do it alone. In fact, we’re only asked to do a relatively small portion of the work. If you read through the lyrics of this hymn, you’ll notice that while we do an awful lot of sowing, we don’t cultivate the crops, plow the fields, uproot the weeds, or gather in the sheaves. We just sow. Our job is to spread the seed far and wide, let it fall where it may. Stony ground? That’s fine. Amid thorns? Sure, sow away. Good ground? Of course, put it there, too. We are asked to cover the earth in seed. The Savior will take responsibility for nurturing those tender plants, helping them to grow in whatsoever ground they may find themselves. We are to sow, and we do not do so alone. We have the companionship of “[He] who knowest all our weakness.” He walks the fields with us, helping us to scatter seed far and wide, until the whole earth is “filled with mellow, ripened ears, filled with fruit of life eternal.” We don’t judge any plot of land to be better or worse. We don’t tell our Gardener where He should plant His crops. We simply sow them, far and wide, here and there, as He asks us, and we leave the cultivation of the crops in His hands.

Image credit: “Wheat field / Weizenfeld II,” flickr user Christian Schnettelker (http://manoftaste.de)

Hymn #233: Nay, Speak No Ill

Nay, Speak No Ill has a simple message, perhaps best summarized by this passage from the third verse:

Then speak no ill, but lenient be
To others’ failings as your own.
If you’re the first a fault to see,
Be not the first to make it known,

It’s all too easy to find fault in others; a single flaw often stands out more prominently than 99 virtues. Finding fault in others often serves to build our own ego, as “surely I would never do that.” We compare our  own strengths with another’s weakness, building ourselves up and tearing others down.

This, of course, is in exact opposition to the Christ-like ideals we strive for. Certainly Christ was aware of the faults in those around him—he made that abundantly clear from time to time. But his primary concern was never to tear others down, but rather to encourage and strengthen the virtues he saw in others. To the woman taken in adultery, Christ said “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.”

As I read this hymn, I was reminded of something Joseph Smith taught:

The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. (Source)

So yes, let us speak no ill. When we see flaws in others, let’s remember our own imperfection and weakness. Instead of tearing down our brothers and sisters, let’s build them up.

Hymn #270: I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go

david & camelIn 2002 my husband was called to serve in the Ivory Coast Abidjan mission. He packed his bags, got dozens of immunizations, and headed to the Missionary Training Center where he diligently began learning how to teach the gospel in French.

Not long after he entered the MTC, civil war broke out in Ivory Coast.

His parents frantically called the  mission office to find out whether he would actually be sent into a war zone. Members of his home ward wrote letters that said they were praying he wouldn’t have to go. Weeks went by, but since nobody could give them a definitive answer about what would happen, he and his fellow missionaries continued to study, attend the temple, and wait for the day they would ship out.

Faced with the very real possibility that he could die in the mission field, my husband experienced a deep crisis of faith during that time. Why had he been called to a place of such violence and unrest? Did he really believe that God had a plan for him? Did he believe that the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was true? Did he believe that he was the right person to share that message with the people of Ivory Coast?

Most importantly, did he believe these things enough to risk his life for them?

*

My youngest brother was called to serve in the Utah Ogden mission. It was a far cry from the exotic calls some of his friends had received, and he was admittedly a little disappointed. Why should he be called to Utah–land of the Mormons–to preach the good word of Christ? Did he really believe that God had a plan for him? Did he believe that the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was true? Did he believe that he was the right person to share that message with the people of Ogden?

Most importantly, did he believe these things enough to put his life on hold to go to a place that seemed not to need his service?

*

Sometimes we are called to the “mountain height,” or the “stormy sea,” or the “battle front”. Sometimes the Lord asks us to risk everything, give everything, to walk in “paths [we] do not know”. The way is “dark and rugged”, and we may wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Other times we are asked to labor in a more “lowly place”. Our calling is not prestigious or exotic or adventurous. It might be a blow to our ego that our talents are not being used to their fullest, or that our efforts go unnoticed because we are not in a high-profile position.

Either way, we must ask ourselves: do we believe?

And if we do, the answer is simple. “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. I’ll say what you want me to say. I’ll be what you want me to be.”

*

(Eventually my husband was reassigned to to the Kenya Nairobi mission where he served faithfully for the remainder of his two years. My brother also finished a faithful mission, eventually moving to the North Salt Lake mission when boundaries changed and more missionaries were needed. Both men developed strong testimonies of going wherever the Lord calls them, and I know the Lord is pleased with their efforts.)

Hymn #235: Should You Feel Inclined to Censure

If you listen to this hymn and find that it feels familiar, it’s because the tune is “Lower Lights,” which, but for two changed notes, is identical to the tune from the much-beloved “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.” (We’re not writing about that one until August. Hopefully you can last that long.)

This hymn is about fault-finding and sniping, something that plagues us not just as Latter-day Saints, not just as Christians, not just as anything, but as human beings. We have what seems to be an infinite capacity to be petty. We look for occasions to point out the mote in others’ eyes. We tear others down, either in an effort to build ourselves up or simply to be spiteful and cruel.

King Benjamin, a prophet-king in the Book of Mormon, described this state as the “natural man.” We are, left to our own devices, unkind to others. We puff ourselves up to make ourselves feel important while stepping on others. We look out for ourselves. It’s human nature, and there’s a temptation to shrug it off with the excuse that it’s simply who we are.

We can be more, of course, and the point of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to help us transcend that state through the Atonement. We can become “as a child,” as Benjamin puts it, “submissive, meek, humble, patient, [and] full of love.” It involves active effort on our parts, though. We choose to follow the Savior, and we reaffirm that choice countless times each day as we’re given opportunities to slip back to being the natural man. Often, we find ourselves on the brink of doing something that we know we shouldn’t do and have the choice to either correct our action or plow on ahead.

This hymn is about that moment of decision. Do we feel the need to chastise someone about something trivial? “Ask your own heart,” we sing, “if you have not failings, too.” We pause and consider the beam in our own eye. We count the cost of what we’re about to say. More often than not, we stand to lose much more than we gain by being right in an argument, or by correcting someone’s action we deem to be wrong. The first verse cautions us against being so quick to judge:

Let not friendly vows be broken;
Rather strive a friend to gain.
Many words in anger spoken
Find their passage home again.

Simply put, we will find kindness returned with kindness, and pettiness returned with pettiness. In situations like these, it’s easy to create, if not an enemy, at least hurt feelings. Instead, we can take the opportunity to be kind and potentially gain a friend. The second verse makes this clear as we sing, “those of whom we thought unkindly oft become our warmest friends.”

So we take the time to be kind. We choose to withhold criticism and judgment and instead offer praise. We do unto others as we would have them do unto us:

Do not then, in idle pleasure
Trifle with a brother’s fame;
Guard it as a valued treasure,
Sacred as your own good name.

We choose to be like the Savior, following His commandment to “love one another, as I have loved you.” It’s a choice we make over and over each day, and each time, we get the chance to draw incrementally closer to the Savior or incrementally further from Him. It’s up to us to choose.