Tag Archives: Wisdom and Knowledge

CTR

Hymn #239: Choose the Right

CTR

This is an instantly recognizable hymn for most members of the LDS Church. It has a simple, catchy melody and simple, easily-remembered theme (the BUM BUM BUM progression really solidifies the words “choose the right”), and, along with “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” might be one of the most-played hymns in the book by beginners.

The message is a familiar one. As children, we have the message “choose the right” drilled into our heads from a young age. There’s easily-recognizable imagery to go with the message, and children are given rings to help them remember. Many Latter-day Saints choose to wear those rings well into adulthood to give them a constant reminder to always choose the right.

On the surface, this seems like a hymn that further reinforces that theme. When a choice is placed before us, we can look at our finger and see that familiar shield. We can hear the BUM BUM BUM of the first three notes of the hymn and remember that we need to choose the right. And that’s certainly what this hymn is designed to do. It’s  a potent earworm that lodges itself in our brains, just as many of the other instructional Primary songs seem to do. But there’s a lot more that this hymn can teach us than simply choosing the right. Consider the first two lines:

Choose the right when a choice is placed before you.
In the right the Holy Spirit guides.

“In the right the Holy Spirit guides.” As we choose the right, the Holy Ghost can more effectively guide us to make right choices. It’s an almost tautological statement, but that’s the way it works. Making right choices fills us with an influence that inspires us to make more right choices. The light of the Holy Ghost will be “forever shining o’er [us]” as we continue to make choices that allow Him to remain with us. The inverse is just as applicable; if we make poor choices, we limit the ability of the Holy Ghost to remain with us, making us less able to feel His influence and more susceptible to making poor choices.

Not only does the continued influence of the Holy Ghost make it easier for us to choose the right, but constantly making right choices while under that influence helps to train us to make those choices more readily. The old saw is true; it’s easier to make a decision about a difficult issue beforehand than it is to make it in the moment. In the second verse, we sing that choosing the right will “let no spirit of digression overcome [us] in the evil hour.” If we’re already choosing the right, we won’t be led astray by any spirit of temptation when a thorny choice is placed before us. We’ve already chosen the right, and thus the Holy Ghost is already there with us, helping to chase away distractions and temptations. Even if we haven’t already made the choice for the issue we’re facing, the companionship of the Holy Ghost can make those choices simple through His guidance. We can be safe through inspiration’s power.

So we choose the right. There is peace in righteous doing, and there is safety for the soul. We invite the Holy Ghost into our lives, whether we’ve been safely on the right path for years or whether we’re just returning to it. The Spirit helps to guide us on that path through the light of inspiration. And in its light, we choose the right, and even if only by helping us to draw nearer to the Spirit (although we know we can and will receive so much more), God will bless us evermore.

Image credit: “CTR Ring (LDS Church)“, Wikipedia user Ricardo630.

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.

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.