Monday, April 27, 2009

Music to my Humanity

Last night my incredible stake* choir had its annual spring concert.  They do this in conjunction with our county community band and I've got to tell you, it's quite an event.  Our choir is like the Mormon Tabernacle East and when you combine that with the instrumentation of a band with clarinets, drums, and what not, you get something really special.  My daughter jumped when those cymbols when off for the first time and then smiled with joy.  It was great.

We (and I probably mean "I" here) listen to far too much recorded music.  There is something about live music that stirs the soul.  And there is something about music that isn't created by people who are paid millions of dollars to do it, but is done as a labor of pure love by those people in your community.  As I listened to the music I couldn't help but think of the hours of selfless practice that went into every note.  And as the concert is free, the performers did this not expecting to get paid anything other than perhaps a quick, "Thank you, I enjoyed that so much" as they lugged their instruments out to their cars .  How many things are you given so completely? 

At the very end the band played "Stars and Stripes" and we all, at the directors request, clapped along.  It was fun for old and young alike.  I looked around at all of us clapping and realized that music can bring us together like nothing else.  Now, I won't tell you my church is the most diverse group in the world, but we're getting there.  In addition to people of European heritage we had many there of African-American and Asian heritage, not to mention a good smattering of people who are not now or never were from Utah. There were more Obama voters in that group than you might suspect. And there were a number of people there who were not of my faith at all.  But we were all clapping in unison.  

What else does that?  What else takes a large group of people with completely different backgrounds and opinions and compels them to do something, albeit very simple, together? It doesn't matter how different we are or how our opinions vary, the things that makes us the same are far greater than the things that make us different. Its who we are at our very root, before we are a particular race, or family, or religion. It's hardwired into us--music, rhythm, joy and we must respond. 

As the music industry gets bigger the performers seem to get younger and wear a lot less, I hope we don't lose our community music.  It could very easily go the way of the Mom and Pop stores as Walmart marches in.  If we lost it I think we'd lose something very valuable.  I think we'd lose the reason for music to begin with.

So for that reason I thank those singers and players for giving us more than pretty notes last night.  You strengthened our community and reminded us that we are all part of a family that embraces the whole earth.  We are human.  Sometimes that's just an excuse for not being perfect, but I think it also says that we care, that we try, and than we need each other.  And that's what we were all reminded of last night.  Thank you.

*Mormon Definition of Stake:  A group of congregations or "wards".   Think tent stake.  Isaiah 54:2:  Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations:  spare not, lengthen they cords, and strengthen thy stakes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vampires, Crosses, and LDS Temples

If any of you are familiar with the "Dresden" series by Jim Butcher you'll know his take on vampires and crosses. It isn't the cross itself that keeps these evil creatures at bay, it is our faith in the symbol. So you could flash a cross the size of a skyscraper, and if you don't really believe in what that cross stands for, it won't do anything to protect you. By the same token, any religious symbol can protect you, as long as you have faith in it. It could be cross, a star of David, or a plastic St. Christopher medallion.

I have a strange way of connecting things that seem completely unrelated, but try to stick with me here when I tell you this is how I, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) feel about the "Big Love" episode that aired this last Sunday and showed parts of our temple ceremony.

I didn't watch it, but I heard about it. I know hundreds, even thousands, watched as something that is sacred to me was exposed to simple curiosity. Curiosity is a human trait and maybe I can't really blame people for watching. People have probably wondered for years what goes on inside our temple walls, and now they know.

And I can't help but think, now that they do know all the secrets, that maybe they're just a little disappointed. No doubt the whole thing came across as kinda silly. To be honest with you, the first time I went through I had to stifle a giggle or two. Yeah, that's what we do. We wear some unusual clothing, do a few funny handshakes and promise to devote our lives to God. You could basically get the same idea at a Bat Mizpha.  

Ultimately, I can't say this episode of Big Love really bothers me that much. You see, like the cross in the Dresden Series, the symbol is useless unless you believe in it.  It's my faith that gives the temple ceremony meaning and power.  My belief that it makes it significant and transcends the...oddness and makes it something that brings joy to my life.  Simple curiosity won't even come close to doing that.

Anyone can watch the temple ceremony, but they'll never understand it. This is by design. The symbols are actually protective.  Until you approach these symbols with sincere faith you can't possibly know what they reveal. 

When I go to the temple I feel a sweet spirit that comforts me.  I feel it in me and it radiates from me.  I feel closer to God--and somehow I doubt if anyone who watched "Big Love" Sunday night felt that.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

We became Josh Whedon fans after watching the unrighteously abbreviated "Firefly" series. Since then we've burned through all 7 years of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer".  We were thrilled to find this free little jewel that was created by Mr. Whedon during the writers' strike last year.  It only takes about 45 minutes to watch and it's well worth it.