Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sunday Reflections: Favorite Hymns

Sunday's Gospel Doctrine lesson in Brett and Lisa's temporary ward in Queen Creek, Arizona was on the Psalms.  The teacher suggested that the Psalms were in "olden days" like what the hymns are to us, and the class had a lively discussion regarding favorite hymns.  Although usually one to accidentally dominate classroom discussion, I sat back and listened since the ward's regulars had plenty to say.  Meanwhile, I considered my two favorite hymns and the stories associated with how they came to get the honor of being favorites.


If I had to pick an all-time favorite, I would have to go with "Where Can I Turn for Peace."  When I was a young teen, the resident ward choir accompanist was called to be Relief Society President, leaving a vacancy at the piano bench.  My mom was, of course, the director of the choir, and therefore in a position to suggest to the bishop that I be called as the replacement.  She knew I would have to practice the songs, but she also knew I had begun accompanying while still in primary and had successfully managed to practice and perform "He Sent His Son" in the primary program when I was eleven, and I guess she figured if I could manage the tricky run on the second page, I could probably handle ward choir songs. And so it came to be that at 13, I began accompanying the ward choir.

Knowing acutely the limitations of her accompanist, Mom stuck to fairly uncomplicated arrangements for the first few years.  I seemed to be able to handle most of the Beebe arrangements, which anyone who has sung in a ward choir would recognize for their iconic black and white cover page with the silhouette of a grand piano swooping beneath the song's title.  One such arrangement was of the hymn, "Where Can I Turn for Peace," and it was arranged to begin with a solo.

My mom felt strongly about the bishopric supporting the ward choir by participating, and she was willing to arrange rehearsals around the bishopric's already busy meeting schedule.  I remember fondly singing with Bishop Kimball and then later with Bishop Buchanan.  When the choir sang "Where Can I Turn for Peace," Bishop Buchanan had recently taken over as the leader of our ward, and it was readily apparent how great he would be with the youth.  He would ask us at the most random times if we had our "For Strength of Youth" packets with us, and if we did, he would buy us full-sized candy bar.  He invited us to his home once a month for Bishop Youth Firesides, and he was the first one to goof off with us at Youth Conference.

Though he had been singing in the choir for some time, I had never heard him sing a solo until my mom asked him to sing the solo to start "Where Can I Turn for Peace."  I will never forget the strong testimony I received of Bishop Buchanan's call to be the bishop of our ward as he sang the lyrics:

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart,
Anger or malice,
I draw myself apart
Searching my soul?

It was important for me as a teen to hear my bishop, a man I fully respected, admitting aloud that even he could experience these feelings of uncertainty, and it was particularly powerful that I could take it in from the piano, as the notes I played supported the melody he sang.  Whenever I hear this hymn, it reaffirms the love I have in my heart for the priesthood leaders who, despite their own uncertainty, lead the church.


Interestingly, my other favorite hymn also stems from my early experiences at the piano.  As a teen, I frequently had the opportunity to play the piano at stake baptisms and youth firesides.  Sometimes I would have to play whatever songs had been chosen, but more often I would be asked to choose the music.  Whenever I was given the opportunity to choose, I selected "Come Follow Me."  First of all, it is written in the key of C, making it one of the easier songs to play.  It was nice to know I could confidently play the song I had selected.  But I chose it for more reasons that than.  I was also particularly fond of the lyrics and felt they were appropriate at baptisms.

"Come follow me," the Savior said.
Then let us in His footsteps tread,
For thus alone can we be one
With God's own loved begotten Son.

Putting it a little more simply: The Savior said do it.  So we do it.  Because it's the only way to get to be with Him again.  For me, this is pretty much the basis of my whole testimony.  I've decided the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only true church on the earth.  Which means that I've decided that when the Savior says do it, I need to do it.  Because it's the only way I get to be with my eternal family.

The testimony is simple.  The musical setting is simple.  The melody is simple.  Whenever I hear this hymn, I am reminded that the important things in life really are simple, which sometimes is a pretty important reminder for me!

Even if I didn't end up sharing out loud, I enjoyed the opportunity to think about the teachings of the gospel as they are presented in hymn form, and I am grateful that we rely so much on music in our worship.