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Family

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This past Thursday I opened the door and found a FedEx box on my doorstep. I brought it inside and was thrilled to find it full of fresh cherries. Thrilled, but not surprised – I knew they were coming.

Last year I made a comment on Facebook about how I think that fresh cherries are even more proof that God loves us. Turns out that one of my Facebook friends/blog readers is a cherry grower in Washington. Not only does Ryan Christensen grow cherries, he has a terrific memory. A year later, he remembered and contacted me to make arrangements for the delivery.

The cherries are delicious, ripe, big and firm – better than the kind we usually can buy at the grocery store. According to Ryan, there is a reason for this. He told me, “I love to get farm fresh big cherries into the hands of people who love them. Truly, the US consumer never sees the best of what we can produce. They all go to Japan, Korea, China, and Australia. The domestic market gets the leftovers.”

This didn’t really surprise me because I knew from my dad’s work in the food industry that the stuff we can get at the grocery store is not nearly the quality of the stuff that gets shipped away, or offered to restaurants.  Quite literally, when it comes to fresh produce, we do get the “leftovers.”

Ryan’s comment that “US consumer never sees the best of what we can produce” got me, and (as I tend to do) I personalized it.

Does my family get the best of what I have to offer?

It is a serious question. I know that when I am at work, or with friends:

  • I do my best to be polite, friendly and kind – even if I have to “fake it ’til I feel it.”
  • I can tolerate all kinds of stupidity from friends, customers and coworkers without ever getting angry or raising my voice.
  • I can patiently listen to friends and clients drone on about nothing without cutting them off or tuning them out.
  • When an employee has something they need to discuss with me, I don’t reluctantly pause what I am doing and glare at them.
  • I don’t leave my junk strewn around the office.
  • I don’t leave my dirty dishes in the sink or used paper plates on the counter.
  • When someone needs help with a problem, I am quick to help resolve it.
  • I use more than mono-syllabic grunts to answer questions.
  • etc.

I can’t say the same thing about my behavior at home.

Why the double standard? Why do the most important people inside my home not deserve equal or superior treatment than the people I deal with outside my home?

It seems backwards. And I’m sure it isn’t just me. I know that there is plenty of behavior that goes on with our loved ones that would never be tolerated in the outside world. Some of it very disrespectful, crass, inappropriate and just plain gross.  Are our spouses and children exempt from the basic respect? Would you belch in a conference room, or leave the bathroom door open at the office?

Does my family see the best side of me, or does the “natural man” kick off his shoes and relax when he walks through the door?

I am sure that some will respond, “But home is where I can let down my guard and be myself and not have to worry about what everyone else is thinking.”

That does make sense – if that version of who we are is the better of the two. But if it isn’t, then isn’t the “domestic market getting the leftovers?”

There are ways I can improve. I still intend on kicking off my shoes and flopping on the bed when I get home some days – it is my house – but I am talking more about my personal interactions with my family. It is an interesting process to spend a few days being aware of the different ways we relate to family vs. non-family.

In some ways, the family wins: Affection, honesty, sacrifice, silliness, spirituality, long-term commitment, etc.

In some ways, the world wins: Respect, patience, promptness, politeness, cleanliness, etc.

I hope that I can pick the best of both worlds, and let my family enjoy the best of what I have to offer, rather than have them live with the leftovers.

“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,”  Howard W. Hunter.

“Hallmarks of a Happy Home,” Thomas S. Monson

President Joseph F. Smith said: “Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, … if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! and prove to them that you do love them by your every word or act to them. For your own sake, for the love that should exist between you and your boys—however wayward they might be, … when you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger; do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit. Speak to them kindly; get down and weep with them, if necessary, and get them to shed tears with you if possible. Soften their hearts; get them to feel tenderly towards you. Use no lash and no violence, but approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned. With this means, if you cannot gain your boys and your girls, there will be no means left in the world by which you can win them to yourselves.” (link)

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Is this the little girl I carried?

Last night I danced with my little girl to the song “Sunrise Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof. A perfect choice because of what the song means, and what it means to us.

I think the last time Emily and I danced together, she was probably standing on my shoes with her tiny feet. She was our first child, and our only girl.  I spent most of the day either crying, or on the verge of tears as I reminisced about her life, and looked to her future. Good tears.

When did she get to be a beauty?

Emily looked like a princess. More importantly she radiated a happiness I had never seen in her before – probably because she was experiencing a degree of joy she had never experienced before. The entire day was beautiful, the Payson Temple, the luncheon, and the reception.

We saw old friends and met new ones. People came from all over the country to show their love to David and Emily. It was remarkable the bond that they have with so many people. Chrissie and I also felt so much love as people can to support us and our family.

They look so natural together, just like two newlyweds should be.

This was our third child to get married. (All since I began blogging, so you probably all know more than you want to.) It amazes and gladdens me that each of the three have been able to find a partner that is so perfect for them. In each case, their unions are stronger than the sum of the individuals.

Two quick MMM-type thoughts:

Finding that person to spend eternity with is not a task for the faint hearted. Emily is 29, and I know that at times she was getting a bit nervous. But to her credit, she spent those “alone” years achieving great accomplishments; building her career; amassing an army of loyal friends; serving others; attending the temple, and exploring the planet. She did not sit idly by and pine for “her prince to come.” She spent her time faithfully becoming an increasingly better version of herself.

If we are patient, and worthy, the Lord will set things in motion as He sees fit. Far too often we let our opinions or our impatience lead us to make hasty choices, or choose lesser options than what God would have blessed us with – had we just held on a little longer and given Him the chance.

Yesterday, Emily married the right person, at the right time, and in the right place.

 

Of all the beautiful things that happened yesterday, noting comes close to a few brief minutes in the sealing room in the temple. As the bride and groom covenanted with each other, and with God, a new family was created – a new family that has the potential to be an eternal family.

I truly believe that if the world truly understood the reality and significance of the sealing powers of the priesthood in the temple of God, the temples would be operating 24/7, and people would anxiously lined up for miles to receive this amazing gift.

 

“The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” (link)

I know this to be true, and it is emblazoned on my heart every time one of my loved ones enters into the sacred covenants that make it possible.

As someone who gets to spend each day living a love story, I rejoice that my married children are experiencing the same. Sure, there will be struggles, but how much better is it to struggle with your sweetheart by your side?

 

“It is so rewarding to be married. Marriage is wonderful. In time you begin to think alike and have the same ideas and impressions. You have times when you are extremely happy, times of testing, and times of trial, but the Lord guides you through all of those growth experiences together.” (Richard G. Scott)

 

Yesterday was a glorious day. It is a beginning that came form a lifetime of hope, faith, obedience and trust in the Lord. I could not be happier for my little Emily.

 

I’m gonna go take a nap – crying while typing makes me sleepy.
One of life’s sweet moments

 

11

MMM note: As I was looking for a picture of my dad to post, I stumbled upon a Father’s Day talk that I gave to my ward back in 2008 when I was serving as the bishop. I had forgotten about it. I went in and added links, and  took out the stuff that would be specific to particular stewardship or congregation, and put in in a context that I can share with you, my friends. (Pull up a chair, it’s kind of long.) 

President Hinckley told a story in a masterful speech at BYU about “legacy” that you might remember:

“I thought of an experience I had long, long ago. In the summer we lived on a farm. We had a little old tractor. There was a dead tree I wished to pull. I fastened one end of a chain to the tractor and the other end to the tree. As the tractor began to move, the tree shook a little, and then the chain broke.

“I looked at that broken link and wondered how it could have given way. I went to the hardware store and bought a repair link. I put it together again, but it was an awkward and ugly connection. The chain was never, never the same.

“As I sat … pondering these things, I said to myself, ‘Never permit yourself to become a weak link in the chain of your generations.’ It is so important that we pass on without a blemish our inheritance of body and brain and, if you please, faith and virtue untarnished to the generations who will come after us.

“You young men and you young women, most of you will marry and have children. Your children will have children, as will the children who come after them. Life is a great chain of generations that we in the Church believe must be linked together.” (link)

Many of you come from great pioneer heritage. Many of you are actually the first link in a brand new chain of faithfulness. Thinking about legacy, and with it being Father’s Day, I would like to tell you a little about my father, and explain how his life fits in with President Hinckley’s teachings about the great chain of generations.

My father passed away back in 2003. His name was Horton David McBride – named after his great-grandfather Horton David Haight – one of the great early pioneers of the church. Elder Haight actually crossed the plains 14 times, bringing companies of saints to Zion.

On the other line, my father descended from John McBride – one of the victims of the Haun’s Mill massacre in 1838. My dad’s great-grandfather, James McBride was spared from the massacre only because he was sick that day, and did not go to the mill. James McBride went on to cross the plains with a company led by Brigham Young’s brother. James McBride settled what is now the town of Grantsville, Utah, and other parts of Southern Idaho. My father’s mother came through the Asael Smith line: Joseph Smith’s grandfather.

My father was part of a great legacy that stretches back to the very founding of the church, and by virtue of being his son, I share in that legacy.

While of great ancestry, my father was an ordinary guy, worked as an insurance salesman most his career, had hobbies, served in the church and led a pretty quiet life. It wasn’t until a few years before his death that I knew many details about his upbringing. I had thought that he was another link in a chain of strong, righteous generations, but I came to find out that the reality was different – the chain had been broken.

When my father was 5 years old, my grandmother died from complications of childbirth. My grandfather did not handle it well, and instead of pulling closer to his children, he withdrew from them. He found himself a girlfriend and took off – checking in on the kids occasionally, but abdicating his role of father to the older kids in the family. They did their best to run the ranch they lived on. My dad told stories about cooking breakfast for 10 men, carrying bales of hay and riding his horse to get the mail when he was under the age of 10.

When my Dad turned 8 years old, his father was nowhere to be found. One November afternoon a member of the bishopric took my father to the warm springs where the kids liked to swim. They cleared the moss from the surface of the water, and waded into the pond. My father was baptized, then confirmed at water’s edge by a leader that figured it “needed to be done.” Thank goodness for wise and worthy Priesthood leaders.

As a sophomore in High School, my dad found his family spreading out in all directions. His older brothers went to Montana to work with their father, leaving my dad behind in Idaho – effectively homeless. That year he slept at night out on the front porch of a lady named Mrs. Fippin – and he recalled that those Idaho winter nights were pretty cold to be sleeping on the porch.

His junior year he moved to Sandy, Utah (he got there by hitching a ride inside the trunk of a car) and lived with his older brother in what he referred to as a “shack” on what is now 90th South and State street. They would work in the fields during the summer to get by during the school year, and grew tomatoes on their plot of land. Senior year, his brother joined the air force, and my dad lived by himself in the shack – He was proud to tell me that even though he lived alone, he got himself to school everyday, and to church every week.

My Dad was in the Class of 1942. On graduation day, he walked down to the post office after school, and there, waiting for him, was his draft notice. He joined the Navy and reported to boot camp 30 days later. During those 30 days he received the Melchezedek Priesthood, and his patriarchal blessing. His blessing was so short that he did not anticipate ever coming home from the war.

He never talked much about WWII, but did express what a rude awakening it was for a young Mormon farm boy – the coarseness, and vulgarity, the alcohol and promiscuity were all new to him. He was surrounded by it all the time, but chose not to let it become part of his life.

He was stationed as a radio/morse code operator in the South Pacific, at Guadal Canal. When word came down that the war was over he said “There was a lot of shouting and celebrating. Everybody got drunk – except for me.”

He told one story about finding other members of the church:

“I remember one morning I had a call from a navy nurse. She said that she had examined all of the personnel records and that there were only three Mormons out of the hundreds of men stationed on the Island. A hospital ship had come into the harbor and she was on it. She was Mormon, I was another and there was one other sailor. We agreed that the three of us would get together and have a sacrament meeting. We got a jeep and drove out to a hill and we climbed to the top and sat on the ground and had our own sacrament meeting. We had a prayer and then we discussed things about the sacrament. We broke bread and had water, just the three of us. We bore our testimonies to one another. That was the only time while I was overseas that I was able to do anything with others in the church. The nurse and sailor shipped out and I never saw them again.”

Eventually he was discharged and went back home, ending up in Salt Lake City. He worked his way through the University of Utah as a short-order cook at the local Walgreens, getting a degree in Communications. He then did something that wasn’t required, or even commonplace at the time. At age 26 he decided to serve a mission. He was sent to Uruguay in the early ‘50s.

He had previously been told by a high school Spanish teacher that he would never, ever learn Spanish, and that he should give it up. It turned out that the first six months of his mission proved the teacher right. No matter how hard he worked, my Dad could not get the ear for the language. Frustrated and wanting to go home, he counseled with his Mission President, who gave him a blessing of encouragement, and invoked the gift of tongues on my father’s behalf. He emerged from the President’s office fluent in Spanish, and thereafter served an effective mission. Part of the time he served with Richard G Scott as his companion.

After his three years were up, it was off to Provo for a Master’s degree, a wife, and a family. He led a very normal life – went to work, came home, served in the church, built pinewood derbies that never were fast. He loved my mom and cared for her through many health issues. Raised four children, and saw all four of us to the temple and all four of us onto missions. After the youngest was sealed to his wife, I remember my Dad turning to me in the temple and exhaling a sigh of relief that he had been carrying for 32 years. Though never rich to the things of this world, he led a rich, meaningful life. He passed away in 2003 at age 78, and I miss him.

My father had every excuse, reason, environment or circumstance possible to turn his back on the legacy of his ancestors and the gospel – His father had already broken the chain. But instead of clinging to his father’s bad example, my dad re-established the legacy that I enjoy today. He re-forged the chain that I and my children and grandchildren are now part of. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been, and I owe him greatly.

I know that eventually I will see him again, and I will need to answer to him as to how I have preserved that chain, and if my link in that chain is intact and strong. In addition, I have a Savior who will want to know what I have done with His name as well, and if I have passed a legacy of testimony on to my children.

I know that one day I will make this report to the two most important men in my life. My father and my Savior. I feel a tremendous sense of duty and urgency to do everything I can possibly do to get it right. But I struggle. There are many things I work on constantly, yet still cannot master. As I identify things in my life that could be more refined, or should be stronger, or counsel that I receive from our leaders, I tend to pass that information onto you, my brothers and sisters. (My personal challenges often wind up as blog fodder.)

I know there are some who consider me ultra-orthodox, or too exacting, but at the heart of it, the reason that I push, pull and prod, is that I know that all of us will one day stand before our Savior and tell him of the legacy we have left for our children. We will also answer to those who went before us, and one day we will answer to those generations who will follow behind.

Yes that is pressure. Believe me, I feel it, and I imagine you all do, too.

– And that is OK.

Richard Edgely said: When Alma queried, “Have ye received Christ’s image in your countenances? he was talking about the attributes of true manhood.

Yes, Satan has his man and God has His man, and Satan has his characteristics of manhood and God has His. Satan would present his characteristics as the true measurement of manhood and God’s criteria as weak and wimpy. But one must understand that Satan’s criteria will almost always be the easiest and the wimpiest. Satan’s way takes no courage, no character, no personal strength, and it proves no manhood at all.

A true man does not let Satan lead him down the easy path with his everlasting chains of destruction. A true man is strong enough to withstand the wiles of Satan and humble enough to submit himself to the redemptive powers of the Savior.” (link)

N Eldon Tanner said: Always remember that people are looking to you for leadership and you are influencing the lives of individuals either for good or for bad, which influence will be felt for generations to come.” (link)

Fathers: Every minute of every day we are building the legacy for our children. To do it right requires strength, a willingness to let go of our own desires, and a commitment to be in it for the long haul.

Remember – doing a good job is like shaving…no matter how good you do it today, you’ve still got to do it tomorrow.

Parents, we need to look to our children and commit to do everything we can possibly do to make sure they are sent out of our nests with the strength and testimony. We need to get over ourselves and focus on the Lords’ will for our families, instead of pursuing the decoys that Satan has set up for us in society.

Children, please look to your parents and do all that you possibly can to follow their lead, as they follow the Lord. If you are in a situation where your parents are not leading, I would suggest you to go to them, and with all the love in your heart, ask that they help you work through these difficult times by following the Lord’s counsel. They will respond, because they love you.

This Church is full of goodness. It is full of strength. We are surrounded by families who respond whole-heartedly and unconditionally to the call from the prophet and their leaders; members who serve diligently in their callings; saints who love and protect their families with the power of scripture study, FHE and family prayer. Many have temple recommends, and know how to use them…

Yet I know that there are some of you who do not see yourselves as one of those families, I testify to you that you can be. It is a question of agency and desire. You can be obedient, you can witness the miracles the Lord provides to those willing to seek them out and receive them. Start now. If there is something impeding your progress, seek counsel from your Bishop. The Lord wants you and needs you to be a part of his kingdom.

Elder Joseph B Wirthlin said: The Church is not a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things, or have perfect thoughts, or have perfect feelings. The Church is a place where imperfect people gather to provide encouragement, support, and service to each other as we press on in our journey to return to our Heavenly Father.” (link)

Brothers and Sisters, please use these brief stories of the life of my father to recognize that agency is ours. I am not my father. No matter how strong he was, it benefits me nothing if I choose not to be strong. Conversely, should my father leave a legacy of mediocrity, or weakness, or worldliness, again, I am not my father, and I can use my agency to choose to change the direction, and re-forge the chain. It is time to accept a simple truth: We all must let go of the excuses, justifications and rationalizations that keep us from attaining what the Lord wants us to attain. It is not our parents’ fault, our spouses’ fault, our upbringing, our health, our leaders, our ability, our income or our personalities that hold us back – it is our hearts.

In speaking about change, Elder Dallin Oaks said: The traditions or way of life of a people inevitably include some practices that must be changed by those who wish to qualify for God’s choicest blessings.” (link)

As a father, I desire the choicest blessings for my children, and am trying to give up those things that stand in the way.

As your friend, and fellow journeyman, I desire the choicest blessings for you and your families, that your descendents will not look back on a legacy of mediocrity, but a rich legacy of love, obedience, happiness, prosperity and blessings of the Lord.

Happy Father’s Day!

Other Father’s Day stuff from previous years”

2016: “Rhubarb and Fatherhood

2015: “High Priest Mints and Feeling Very Dad.”

2014: ‘Fathers and Lawnmowers.”

2013: “Keep Peddling.”

2012: “King of the Castle.”

Father’s Day Coupons For Teenagers

The Stripling Warriors’ Missing Fathers

 

18

Sealing room

Whoa.  It has been an amazing week in the MMM household. As you know, we had a wedding Friday, but that is just part of the glorious flurry of events that we are in the midst of experiencing this week.

As I was trying to figure out a way to share them with you, I felt like I need to dig a little deeper. The flowers, the food, the clothes, the friends and family, the pomp and tradition is fabulous, but… we often get consumed by the worldly and material events that culture brings to the table. There is something deeper that can get lost in the whirlwind if we aren’t careful.

Ordinances

There has been a perfect storm of ordinances in our household this week that might happen only once, or twice in a lifetime. It is those ordinances that really matter. The rest is just window dressing and parties.

“As we are worthy, the ordinances of the priesthood enrich our lives on earth and prepare us for the magnificent promises of the world ahead. The Lord said, “In the ordinances … the power of godliness is manifest.” (Elder Neil L. Anderson)

The power of godliness? Have I seen it? Yes. And I have used the word “glorious,” more times this week than I ever have before in my life. Glorious.

Gilbert Holiness

On Friday evening, my new daughter-in-law entered the temple and received her endowment. As she made sacred covenants and ordinances were performed, we were there performing them on behalf of family members who have gone on before.

As I quietly sat there, I could look down the row and see three of my sons, my daughter, my two new daughters, and my sweet eternal companion. It was glorious. It was fulfilling. I sensed the power of godliness as the Holy Ghost participated with us.

“In all the ordinances, especially those of the temple, we are endowed with power from on high. This “power of godliness” comes in the person and by the influence of the Holy Ghost.”  (Elder D. Todd Christofferson)

There is a singular beauty and simplicity to a temple sealing/wedding. Yesterday, as we waited reverently in the sealing room (pictured above) I studied my wife’s face as I contemplated our almost 30 year union, and our wedding day in a similar sealing room. My heart filled with joy, for the memories, and for gratitude to both her and God. Valentine’s Day got lost in the shuffle this year, but everyday is Valentine’s Day for us. (Don’t believe me? Ask my wife.)

The ordinance of temple marriage is a radically unique concept, but the simplicity, and logic of such a union is so patently obvious that it baffles me that couples aren’t lining up outside to receive these ordinances – if they only understood.

The promises that come with the sealing ordinance are godliness manifest. As my son and his new wife knelt together and became a new family, with the glorious potential of eternity, they sparkled with the brilliance of purity and hope. They are now an “US,” in all the glory of that uniting word and concept.

From my vantage point, I could see my son’s face as it radiated excitement and goodness. Purity is attractive, He also struggled in vain to fight back the tears of joy that welled in his eyes as he stared across the altar into the eyes of his very own EC.

(The Sealer spoke to ordinances and covenants, and if I can get his permission, I’ll share some of his thoughts in a future post.)

Now, at this very moment, I am sitting in the hallway outside the bishop’s office as my youngest interviews with the Bishop. If all goes well…in a few hours I will have the opportunity to lay my hands on his head, joined by his brothers, and ordain him to the office of Teacher in the Aaronic priesthood. That ordinance will provide him with opportunities for service and growth as he learns to understand and increase his priesthood power.

And he is 14. And I get to ordain him. I sense godliness in the father/son pattern as authority is shared. I sense mercy and kindness that the Lord would allow an imperfect father to perform such a sacred ordinance.

But before that ordinance takes place, my immediate family, much of my extended family, and my brothers and sisters in the gospel will gather and collectively participate in the wonderfully individual ordinance of the sacrament.

Sacrament

“We are commanded to repent of our sins and to come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and partake of the sacrament in compliance with its covenants. When we renew our baptismal covenants in this way, the Lord renews the cleansing effect of our baptism. In this way we are made clean and can always have His Spirit to be with us. The importance of this is evident in the Lord’s commandment that we partake of the sacrament each week.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks)

What a gift it is to essentially be re-baptized every week! To regain our purity and standing before God! The godliness found in the ordinance of the sacrament is also God’s mercy brought about through the atonement of Christ. And for us, the result is a continued striving for potential godliness in ourselves.

After we participate in the ordinance of the sacrament, my third son will be speaking, as he is due to depart to serve a mission in Mexico. While being set apart as a missionary does not constitute an “ordinance,” it does harken back to the ordinance he received last year when he was ordained to the office of Elder in the Melchizedek priesthood. He will spend two years of his life bringing the ordinances of salvation to others.

Missionaries

As you can see, this month is all about the ordinances. Sure, there have been events both huge and intimate, wonderful reunions, great food, lovely decor, and lots of love and laughter. And photographs,  DId I mention those? (And a smidgin of work, worry, stress, expense and fatigue.)

But the overall importance of these days are those quiet moments when an ordinance has been, and will be performed by the authority of God’s priesthood, in the name of Jesus Christ.

The ordinances, and the covenants that attend them are not just “check-list” items. These ordinances define what we are about, what we are striving for, and how we spend our very lives. They are not ever “finished.” They are part of who we are. Most of the key elements in my life revolve around ordinances.

I feel God’s love in the ordinances of the gospel that he allows me and my loved ones to receive. Ordinances that help us grow, help us serve, help us thrive, help us repent, and help us draw closer to Him – all with the ever-present promise of an eternity together.

That is what matters. Now, and forever.

MMM-logo-small

 

33

Motab

At the risk of mass criticism and church sanctions, I must admit something to you. Even though I am really, really Mormon, I am not a big fan of listening to choir music. Nope, not even that choir. On occasion a particular choir performance will touch me or thrill me, (such as last week.) but on the whole, I am not a guy who would buy tickets to go to see a choir perform. It just doesn’t do it for me. Even on my mission, I was hard-pressed to enjoy listening to endless Mormon Tabernacle Choir music.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not them – it’s me. They are the best of the best. They are world renowned – with good reason. But, as my grampa would say, “If we all liked the same thing, everyone would be chasing your grandma.”

Here is the irony: I love singing in a choir. It is awesome. I have been singing in choirs on and off since I was a kid. Something about singing in the choir captures me in a way that listening doesn’t. If I had to choose between listening to a choir number, or singing a congregational hymn, I would choose to sing every time – even when attending General Conference. Please don’t hurt me.

Three examples:

• Yesterday my EC and I attended a very lovely funeral. The opening hymn was The Spirit of God. There were probably 700 of us singing together, and it sounded and felt powerful and wonderful. The Spirit flooded the room.

• I was privileged to be a part of our ward choir as we sang Christmas music in sacrament meeting. As we sang O Come O Come Emmanuel, the Spirit filled my heart and I choked back tears.

• On Christmas Eve, during our extended family celebration, my immediate family (9 of us) sang an acapella version of Away in a Manger. It was nothing fancy – but something about the blend of the voices was so pure and intimate that it spoke to my heart.

That’s the thing about singing in a choir. You get to be part of the experience. You get to strive to blend and belong. The goal is to sound as one voice. Yes, there are different parts and harmonies, but the goal is to become so unified that the sound is “one.” It is an audible expression of the idea of the unity we strive for in our quest for Zion.

But it goes deeper: Recently I read an article and a study that shows that when people sing together in a choir, not only do their voices join together – their heartbeats actually synchronize, so they beat in unison. How cool is that?

EKG

So not only does singing together bring a unity of voice, it also bring a unity of heart, Is this beginning to sound familiar? “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18)

But wait, there’s more…

I found another article and study that suggests that singing in a choir can lead to…happiness. Singing with others can raise endorphin levels, increase immunity, and cause all sorts of other feel-good reactions in our bodies. Is it any wonder we get chills sometimes when the congregation sings together. Any man who has ever stood and sang with the congregation in the Priesthood Session of General Conference knows exactly what I am saying. It feels good.

The Lord, as is he is famous for, knew what he was doing when he instructed that congregational singing be a key component of our Sunday worship. (Personally, whenever I attend a meeting or conference where a choir gets to sing the closing song, I feel a little ripped off.)

One more quick example of the uniting power of music: We have a large ward, and overlapping meeting schedules. Because of this, our Priesthood opening exercises are held in the Cultural Hall. Each week have an opening hymn, and each week we witness a tiny miracle. The music conductor is usually an Aaronic Priesthood boy, who, while looking pained, waves his arm until the singing stops.

Here is the miracle: There is rarely a defined starting pitch given. Instead, about 30 different starting pitches occur simultaneously as we begin to sing. Yes, the first few notes are a cacophony, but the men quickly listen to the brethren around them and adjust accordingly. Within a few notes, we come together on a unified pitch, and finish out the song – and it often sounds pretty good!. It is hilarious, yet wonderful at the same time.

Is there a message in all of this? Several, but the one I would like highlight is this: Singing together moves us towards Zion. It unites our hearts, it unites our minds, and brings us joy.

Yet there are lots of ways to mess this up. (He who has ears…)

• We can mess it up by refusing to sing. If we refuse to participate, we forfeit those blessings of unity and joy.

• Sometimes we stop paying attention to the director – and we mess up. We forget to come in, we cut off at the wrong time, because we just weren’t watching.

• Some people think they know music better than the director. The contest the song choices, the manner in which it is being led, the tone, the pace. They think they could do a better job, and they let everyone else know it.

• Lots of choirs have that one voice that sticks out. It is usually louder than the rest, and/or harsh or operatic. Instead of trying to blend, they are trying to draw attention to themselves. There is a difference between a solo voice and a choir voice.

Scuttle

And (now that I’ve actually referenced the Little Mermaid) a few more ridiculous ideas:

• What if someone doesn’t like some of the lyrics? Do they just close their mouths and not sing those words, or do they swap them out with the words of they own choosing – lyrics that they think are better?

• What if someone doesn’t like the way their part is written, or the way the director has chosen to perform it? Does that person go off and start singing whatever notes they feel like – improvising as they go? What a mess!

• What if someone doesn’t like even being in the choir? Some just stop coming, others form their own choirs and pick and choose what songs they want to sing. Others sit in the audience and mock or criticize the choir they no longer are willing to be a part of.

 

In any of these examples, the idea of blending, and striving to achieve a Zion-like choir goes out the window.

 

As we sing together in our choirs, our homes and our congregations, let’s remember that we are all about striving for unity: Unity of heart. Unity of mind. Unity of voice.

It s not just about entertainment – it is about becoming.

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