Monday, June 09, 2003

You go, girl!

A long time ago, I said that the LDS music world was poised for a renaissance, if it hadn’t already begun.

Well, here’s some more evidence:

At The Deseret News there’s a story of a new mormon choir. One that takes LDS hymns and gives it a little soul. And who could come in with just the right blend of experience and sweetnes to show us stodgy mormons how to do it right? None other than Gladys Knight, recent convert, and genuinely adopted into the fold.

A quote from the article: “She said once when she was singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, church President Gordon B. Hinckley "expressed a little concern that I may not feel very excited about our hymns.

"I do love the music of this church," Knight told those gathered. "I just think that some of it could use a little zip!" she said, to applause from the audience.

I knew that when I heard of her baptism, that she would make waves in the LDS Music world. It just didn’t happen like I’d expected. Funny how the Lord has ways of making things work out better than they would have if I had been in charge.

Another cool thing about this is that she’s using it as a way to broaden some people’s perceptions of how things are in the church.

“Knight thanked President Hinckley and other church leaders for their encouragement and urged the audience to widen their embrace of the cultures, music and customs of all people. Using her love of ice cream as an analogy, she said as she visits congregations around the world, she's noticed that "some congregations are mostly vanilla, some are mostly chocolate, according to the makeup of the immediate community.

"But the most enjoyable sight for me to see is a congregation made of fudge ripple, that vanilla and chocolate blended together."

“She emphasized that the "face of this church throughout the world is changing" fulfilling the prophecy by the apostle John that the gospel would go to "every nation, kindred, tongue and people." She spoke of the Book of Mormon account following Christ's visit to the Americas, where people of different ethnicities were no longer divided and there were no more manner of "ites" or divisions among the people based on race or culture. "I like that."

One of the things I loved about my mission is how people from a totally different background, different situation, different color and culture could treat me with such kindness and welcome. That was the first time that I truly experienced the brotherhood of the gospel.

And yet, I was also saddened to see that so much of church culture had been transplanted from Utah. In directing the fledgling congregations, missionaries had unintentionally taught their own traditions, which became as ingrained as the gospel. There are many righteous traditions of the people that can be embraced. The gospel is constant, but the people and the cultures are rich.

And rather than start a noisy revolution, Sister Knight is starting a musical one. And that will accomplish FAR more in the long run.

Mark Hansen

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