Monday, September 18, 2006

Singing A Capella

This was originally posted at BCC.

Last Sunday my daughter had her missionary farewell—oops, I mean, she gave a talk in her singles ward, along with another young man who was going on a mission. The two sang an arrangement of “A Marvelous Work.” The boy’s father, an accomplished musician, accompanied them on the piano. I, the proud mother, thought they did a fabulous job. Except, in the middle of the song, the piano stopped playing. At first, I and the rest of the congregation simply thought they were singing a cappella. Their voices blended wonderfully. But then the boy cast a glance at his father, and I realized the pianist was frantically searching for a missing page. He finally found his place, came in on the last page, and all had stayed on key. My daughter told me later she was shaking and clinging to the podium during the “a cappella” section.

This incident made me ponder the times when we are singing a cappella through life. Sometimes it feels as if the Lord has deserted us; left us without accompaniment in this lone and dreary world.

Is he really right there with us all the time, totally involved in our lives, and due to lack of spiritual sensitivity we just can’t tell? (a la “Footsteps in the Sand?”) Does he withdraw for a time so that we can learn and grow? Or has he placed us here to make our own way through life by faith, with little or no personal contact? At times in my journey, I’ve subscribed to each of the three positions.

1. The most scriptural support comes down on the side of the first option. “and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt 28:20) In fact, D&C 59:21 warns us that God’s anger is kindled against those who do not acknowledge his hand in all things. I would like to think that the Lord himself is continually taking a very personal interest in the details of my small life. But the only people I know who really live this philosophy are just a bit kooky. My friend TJ, a born-again Christian, believes much as Corrie Ten-Boom that any little flea that comes along is there for a cosmic purpose. Whenever TJ so much as drops an egg on the floor, she will loudly proclaim, “Praise the Lord!”

2. When mankind turned to wickedness in the days of Noah, Jehovah told them, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” (Gen. 6:3; see also 2 Ne. 26:11 and D&C 1:33)
Perhaps this is true not only for the wicked, but for all. In the temple, where Adam and Eve stand as representatives of the human race, the Lord tells them that he will go away, but he will return and give them instructions from time to time. Many mainstream Latter-day Saints seem to hold this view.

3. You need not run the risk of being branded an apostate if you hold the third view. It is a comfortable place for Latter-day Saints who believe that “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) We have the scriptures and the revealed word of the Lord to direct us through life. This is enough to guide us and bring us back into the Father’s presence without the necessity of his personal intervention in the affairs of the common person.

How are we to know if the Lord is carrying us through the sand when it feels as if we are singing alone into the wind? Does a strong faith necessitate a belief in his ongoing presence? Should we strive to assimilate one of these paradigms, or is it OK to just follow what we’ve been told, cling to the podium, and wait for the accompanist to come back in?

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