Tuesday, May 16, 2017

All People That On Earth Do Dwell

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell
Come ye before him and rejoice.

Know that the Lord is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His flock; He doth us feed,
and for His sheep He doth us take.

O, enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? The Lord our God is good;
His mercy is forever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

Sunday before last, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang All People That On Earth Do Dwell, a setting of William Kethe's adaptation of the 100th Psalm. Many hymns of praise feel saccharine to me, so I especially enjoyed singing a song of praise that speaks to my heart.

This text stands out to me because instead of praising by attempting to create an impressive concatenation of superlatives, it teaches specifics about God's goodness. In particular, the second verse teaches us that "Without our aid He did us make." He created each one of us and this marvelous world in which we live. It continues, "We are His flock; He doth us feed, and for His sheep He doth us take." Sheep are terrible at taking care of themselves, so caring for them is a tremendous responsibility. And yet He chooses to feed us, day by day.

The second verse gives us ample reason to praise the Lord, but the third and fourth verses are what leave me in a state of awe: "Enter then His gates with praise; Approach with joy His courts unto." We are invited to pass through His gates and enter into His courts on high. Almighty God has invited us to live with Him forever! In fact, "His mercy is forever sure." He gave us His Son, who lived a perfect life, died, and rose again so that He could bring us back to His Father's presence.

I also take comfort in the fact that "His truth at all times firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure." In a world of good but fallible people with ever-changing understanding of the world and the complexities of life, I take great comfort in knowing that I can rely on God to teach unchanging, perfect truth.

"The Lord our God is good." And I am grateful for it.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My new year's resolution

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1967). Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?. p. 67. Accessed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_begets_violence.

I tend to get a little cranky when certain topics come up, as everyone knows who has discussed internet service in the USA or copyright law with me.

I'm not proud of all of the conversations I've had on these topics, as I've often been carried away. I have sometimes looked back on conversations that have just ended and felt more frustrated than before. Worse, I feel like the Holy Spirit is further away because of my anger: "He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who ... stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another" (3 Nephi 11:29).

This past year has made it abundantly clear that I am not alone in this failure. The election in the USA was spectacularly divisive and cynical. Fear has led to speculation, which has led in turn to more fear. These fears have resulted in a proliferation of anger. People on both sides of every political debate have decided that certain outcomes (for example, securing certain rights) are so important that they are worth every sacrifice. I applaud dedication, but dedication does not require that we abandon respect for our opponents, the rule of law, honesty, integrity, and other principles. These principles are not just nice things to have when times are easy; society cannot exist without them.

Throwing aside rules essential to the existence of society is a reasonable definition of war. In that light, deciding that there can be no compromise on any issue is either a willingness to wage war or an outright declaration of war.

A prophecy given in 1831 describes these conditions in surprising detail:

66 And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God;

68 And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.

69 And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.

71 And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy.

D&C 45:66, 68-69, 71

A willingness to take up our swords might mean a willingness to do physical violence but it also might mean a willingness to discard the principles that hold society together: to lie, to disregard the rule of law, etc. As far as I can see, the only requirement for residence in Zion is a lack of willingness to take up our swords against our neighbors. There is peace to be had, but it is up to each of us to accept that peace for ourselves by choosing it over warfare, literal or verbal.

And so I have resolved to change this year: I'm going to stop taking up my sword. When I feel myself getting too worked up, I will stop. I'll ask myself if it's worth it. I'll remind myself that I believe in a God who looks out for me and for everyone else and in His Son who died for all of us. I'll either find ways to address the issues in a way that invites the Holy Spirit or I'll table them until I can address them in a healthy manner.

Whether or not you share my faith, I invite you to join me in taking a step back and determining that we will be reasonable and respectful in the ways that we think, speak, and act towards each other. In other words, come to Zion. Let's live together in peace.