Tag Archives: Truth

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 #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 #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 #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 #4: Truth Eternal

In John chapter 8, we have record of one of my favorite teachings in all of scripture:

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

In the following verses, Jesus first indicates that the promised freedom will make us free from sin. Crucially, though, when we are free from sin through the Son of God, Christ indicates that the truth ultimately leads us to Eternal Life, the greatest of all gifts of God. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

The fourth hymn in our hymnal is titled “Truth Eternal.” In it, we sing of the same Truth that Christ taught his disciples, the truth that brings freedom.

Truth eternal, truth divine,
In thine ancient fulness shine!
Burst the fetters of the mind
From the millions of mankind!

Truth is not new; it is an unchanging constant from the beginning. When the fulness of truth was restored by Joseph Smith, it was the same ancient truth that has been taught by prophets through the ages, the truth that frees each of us from sin.

Of course, this eternal truth does nothing for us on its own. Truth cannot free us from sin, or exalt us, unless we act upon it. We rejoice to have the ancient truths restored to the Earth, but that alone is not enough. With knowledge comes responsibility, responsibility we willingly accept as we make various covenants. We should not think that through simple membership in Christ’s church, we will be burst free of the fetters that bind us. That blessing requires action from each of us. It requires following through on the covenants we have made.

Truth again restored to earth,
Opened with a prophet’s birth.
Priests of heaven’s royal line
Bear the keys of truth divine!

This restored makes powerful and significant claims. It is appropriate, then, that the veracity and authority of it was restored not just through visions, but actual visitation by those who administered this same truth anciently. What a marvelous claim to make!

The visitations of Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Elias, Elijah, Moses, and surely many others lend divine authenticity to the restored Gospel. Though it can seem simple in our day-to-day lives, the restoration of the gospel was a divinely orchestrated event that speaks of careful planning and specific intent. When we take this truth into our lives and when we seek to share it with others, we are participating in a grand event. As has been said, it is a marvelous work and a wonder.

Truth shall triumph as the light
Chases far the misty night.
Endless ages own its sway,
Clad in everlasting day.

We frequently sing hymns that speak of the great battle that is currently raging over the hearts and beliefs of people worldwide. How encouraging it is to know that truth will triumph. In the face of our own frailties and weaknesses, God is still able to prevail. There is no reason for despair, no reason to abandon a sinking ship. In the end, all will know the truth, the truth that, if they will accept and act upon it, will make them free.

Red sunset

Hymn #243: Let Us All Press On

800px-Red_sunset

Ages ago, the king of Syria was troubled. He was at war with Israel, and despite his best efforts to kill the king of Israel, he was consistently able to sneak away from his assassination attempts. Convinced someone was leaking secrets to the enemy, the king of Syria asked his servants which of them was the mole. One answered and said that Elisha, “the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.” Convinced he knew how to gain the upper hand in the war, the king sent a huge military force to kill Elisha.

The prophet, for his part, seemed unconcerned about the massive army descending upon him, although his servant, arising early and seeing his city surrounded by Syrian soldiers, asked his master what they were going to do. Elisha said, simply, “Fear not: they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”

We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few
When compared with the opposite host in view;
But an unseen pow’r will aid me and you
In the glorious cause of truth.

Life is scary sometimes. We may feel overwhelmed and alone in our cause. It’s especially frustrating when the Lord, who has told us time and again that we can always depend on Him, isn’t plainly visible to our eyes. We do our best to trust and to believe, but faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges in front of us, we doubt, and we ask, as did Elisha’s servant, how the Lord expects us to cope.

And like this servant, we have wise people placed in our lives whose faith is stronger in the moment. (At other times, we may be the ones called upon to strengthen their faith. Sometimes our wounds are bound, and sometimes we do the binding.) Elisha, having told his disbelieving servant that the powers of heaven were close at hand, prayed that the Lord would “open his eyes, that he may see.” His eyes were opened, and he saw legions of heavenly defenders, ready to act at a moment’s notice.

We have our eyes opened from time to time as well. We get so wrapped up in a trial that we miss the fact that we have a loving family around us, or that we’re receiving financial, physical, or emotional blessings that prop us up during our struggles. The old story about the single set of footprints during the hardest times of life is a tired cliche, but there’s merit to the story. The Lord bears our burdens, and He’s always there for us, if we’ll but open our eyes.

And so, armed with that knowledge, we press on. The chorus of this hymn is particularly fun, as the soprano part diverges from the other three. I don’t often sing the melody at church, so I usually sing the counter part, which really enjoy. Listen:

Fear not, courage, though the enemy deride;
We must be victorious, for the Lord is on our side.
We’ll not fear the wicked nor give heed to what they say,
But the Lord, our Heav’nly Father, him alone we will obey.

It stuffs in quite a few more syllables, providing a nice contrast to the held-out notes of the soaring soprano part. Most of the words are the same, if in a different order, but last two lines have slightly different messages. The soprano part says that we won’t heed the wicked, but the counter part specifically says that we won’t fear them. That’s tricky when faced with the “opposite host in view.” We trust in our Lord, though, and that gives us hope, which drives out our fear.

If we do what’s right, we have no need to fear. We may be faced with difficult, and yes, frightening challenges in our lives, but we know that the Lord will ever be near. His angels surround us, ready to leap in and give their aid. “In the days of trial his Saints he will cheer,” we sing in the final verse. Not only is He ready to bear us up, but He knows when we’re struggling, and those are the days He is most ready to lend a hand. We need only to open our eyes to see the unseen power that aids us.

Image credit: “Red sunset,” Wikipedia user Fir0002, CC-BY-SA 3.0.

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 #60: Battle Hymn of the Republic

When Julia Ward Howe penned new words to the popular Union soldier song, “John Brown’s Body”, she drew an overt parallel between the Abolitionist movement and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It was a bold move. It paid off, though, as Battle Hymn of the Republic is now among the most beloved patriotic songs in the United States.

But this hymn is not about freeing slaves from bondage.  Or perhaps it is, just not only in the way the Union soldiers of 1861 were thinking.

Let’s look at the third verse, which speaks of Jesus’ birth “in the beauty of the lilies”. Lilies are Easter flowers, though, so when we sing of a Christ who was “born across the sea…with a glory in his bosom,” we probably aren’t referring to the Baby Jesus. Instead we are singing of the Resurrected Lord, reborn when He rose from the tomb on the third day. It is this rebirth that “transfigures you and me”.

That same resurrected Jesus appeared alongside God the Father to Joseph Smith nearly two thousand years later (but, interestingly enough, only a few decades before Sister Howe wrote these verses). It was then that the Lord, as the second verse says, “sounded forth the trumpet that will never call retreat”.  The fullness of the gospel would never again be taken from the earth. Restored light and truth freed mankind from the darkness of the Apostasy.

When the Book of Mormon was translated, we learned more about the connection between the Atonement and our freedom:

And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Nephi 2:26-27)

The Savior suffered so we could be free from the bonds of sin, and He rose again so we could be free from the bonds of death. Heavenly Father then gave us freedom to choose for ourselves whether to follow Him or not. We, as Latter-Day Saints, know these truths; not everyone does. Therein lies our obligation to “live to make men free.”

Let us bring men to an awareness of the source of their freedom to choose. Let us teach them the law, so they can know the consequences of their choices. Let us show them how to repent and come unto Christ that they may be free from sin. Let us invite them to take the necessary steps that lead to eternal freedom. Let us perform those same ordinances by proxy for the dead so that they too may be free. Let us live our lives in such a way that we lead others to Christ and help them become truly free.

The glory of the Second Coming of the Lord has been foretold. Until that day comes, “Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer him; be jubilant my feet!” for His truth is marching on.