Friday, September 27, 2013

The Songs We Cannot Sing

A little while back, I wrote this letter to someone I found online who was talking about leaving the Church due to frustrations that the members and the Church in general did not seem to serve others enough. As I was re-reading this letter, I felt to share it with you all, as I think it is more of a letter to myself now, and I am moved by the thoughts I put in it...I hope you enjoy it.

Dear friend. I noticed your comments on some Mormon themed videos and saw you posted more than once that you were leaving the Church. I sincerely hope this is not so and hope it has not happened yet. As I read your comments I felt I should write you a message and, unsure of what exactly to say, here is a thought...

I am 2nd of 11 children. In my family, music has always a big part of life. We sang, we played, and I eventually got into writing music as well. I play a few instruments and generally have a very big love of music and how it makes me feel. Music is kind of a part of my senses and helps me express and feel emotions in a way I can't do without it. One of my favorite musicians to listen to is Olafur Arnalds. Very beautiful music. When I listen, sometimes it fills me with such emotion that I have a hard time breathing and I want to burst open. It's amazing to me.

There is something so perfect and God-like about some music. I think I am moved as often by the Spirit of God by music as I am any other form of testimony and expression. One of my favorite hymns is "There is Sunshine in my soul today". My mom thinks that's odd (she isn't a huge fan of that one). Anyway, the second verse in that hymn says, "There is sunshine in my soul today, a carol to my King. And Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing." I love that - and I know exactly what that means.

One of the things that I sometimes struggle with, being a trained musician, is not being critical of music when I hear it in church or just about anywhere else, for that matter. I can hear every off-tune note, bad pronunciation, bad breathing, and many other things that tend to annoy me. Well, one Sunday, I was listening to someone sing a solo in church. He wasn't that good, to be honest. In fact, it was pretty below-average. At first, I sat there bugged and frustrated with it. But then the Spirit whispered that verse from my favorite hymn (the one I just wrote about above). And I was suddenly struck that perhaps this person was just trying to express their love and appreciation for the Lord in their own imperfect, but sincere way. That somehow, this was a "song they could not sing." And I knew that "Jesus listening" could indeed hear. Thinking about it now makes me emotional. So many times I have felt inadequate to the tasks and expectations of the gospel and all it offers and teaches. So many times I have failed. And yet, He forgives. And I feel joy in my repentance. And when I fail to adequately "sing my song", He listening can still hear my even feeble effort.

I don't know what your expectation of the "Church" or of others is, but I think sometimes we all tend to be "trained musicians" and have a hard time listening to the songs that others do not sing adequately enough for us. Sometimes we just hear the bad notes, the bad breathing, and everything else that doesn't work for our trained ears. It seems that you have a trained heart - one that sees the Savior's message about love and service. Many, as you know, do not sing that song well. They fail at it often. But the song is still true. And Jesus listening can hear. He even hears you in whatever efforts you make.

I think maybe you forget that the Church is not a perfect body. It is a learning body. It is just about individuals trying to hold on to each other and doing their best to be better, to sing as well as we can. Some are better than others. Some don't try very hard, if at all. But the Church, the Gospel, is still true. Your membership in the Church is not about what everyone else does or about anyone else's imperfections or what songs they do not sing. It is just about how through the beauty of the gospel ordinances and teachings, Jesus hears your effort, your song and gently forgives, loves, and improves us.

On the other hand, Satan is the Great Distracter. He will try to make you focus on anything he can, to get you to forget what you know and what you have felt. You see, what was true is always true (truth does not change). If you knew it was true, then it is still true - you may just be forgetting because you've been distracted. Even my love of music (a very good thing) can be a distraction, when I forget the songs I should hear and sing in exchange for the songs I am hearing with my earthly ear. But when I close my eyes and TRULY hear, I can hear what Jesus hears...the testimony, the reaching heart, the trial of doubt and the hope of obedience, the struggles of life, and the joys of eternal hope.

I know you can hear it. Close your eyes and listen to the smallest of songs around you. I know we don't all serve enough. But I see love of God and man all around me as people  try to sing even their most feeble song of service. It certainly may not be our best. But it is a try. It is a step - a single note, perhaps. And maybe, just maybe, you can hum with them and help them find the note. This Church, you see, isn't about what the Church does. It's about what YOU do and how Christ turns our willingness into the song of a thousand angels.

I have a feeling that with your love of service, you could make a difference. You could, by singing the beautiful song of tolerance, of love, of service, of forgiveness, help others hear that same song and maybe, just maybe, with time the Church will finally live up to the expectations of not just us, but of our Savior. Wouldn't that be amazing?! And you - yes you - could play a part. I feel it is so.

Lastly, I just want to let you know…I KNOW that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints is the true church of God. I know that Jesus is my Savior. I know that he indeed does hear our little, inadequate songs. For someone who must hear the best of all music in heaven, He still loves MY songs - the ones I do not sing well and even those I cannot yet sing.

Love, a member of the Church and a guy just trying his best to be worthy of the title, "Disciple of Christ".