Thursday, September 02, 2004

My friend wrote me this letter:

We just recently finished the Fifth Annual LDS Music Festival in American Fork, UT. It was a lot of fun, though not as well attended as it could have been. I performed, in fact, I got to open up the evening showcase, and immediately following me was a relatively new band. Not long after that, one of the members of that band, a friend of mine, emailed me because he'd gotten a rather disturbing email. Because of the content of the following messages, I’ve withheld a lot of names (by my choice, not theirs).

What follows shows me once again how varied and intense are the feelings people have regarding the mixing of religion and art, and what happens when one person’s artistic vision clashes with the interpretation of another.

Here’s the email letter I got:

Hey Mark,

I'd invited some single ladies to the fest and only one of them showed up. Here's a message she sent me about it.

You know I get the rock n' roll in my soul just like you do and it's disturbing to get this kind of reaction. How would you suggest dealing with this?

Your friend,

(Name withheld by MoBoy)

And here’s the copy of the email he’d received (edited only for grammar, spelling, and to remove names):


I stayed the entire sat program with my friend and the individual acts with guitar and one solitary singer had more spirit of the Lord to the music and message of the Lord.

I truly feel that you guy are spinning your wheels unless you want to cater to low lifes of the world who cant tell the spirit of the lord when it is missing.

Sorry, I thought you were a nice guy. I just watched and felt aghast-and I'm pretty liberal with the Christian rock I listen to on kycc. You guys need more hopeful notes in the music, less repetition and yes, less of your wild screeching guitar-- the spirit of the lord isn't screeching guitars and I am tolerant of that in its own genre--but don’t do it in the NAME OF THE LORD. FOR PETES SAKE, MELLOW OUT THE MUSIC, MAKE IT MORE UPLIFTING.

I was depressed the entire next Sunday just thinking of the stress the music caused to my spirit.

You guys just got to get it together so you do more good than harm in 'GODS" NAME. Breaks of bells in the music, less constant droning repetition of screeching guitars, more uplifting notes, way less dissonant notes, way less HARD ROCK, in this thing you call Christian rock.

That is all I have to say. I will tell everyone not to see your stuff....

Not an enemy, I just feel you are an enemy to god in the name of you guys’ Egos.

Chew on it for real, pray about it for real.

And your photo is also misrepresenting of yourself.

Find integrity before it is too late for your group!

I will fight against this type of music,

(Name withheld by MoBoy, emphasis in the original)


No, don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel…!

Now, I’ve dealt with this issue before. I’ve been on the receiving end of it before, both directly and as I’ve heard others talk. I’ve struggled with the issue for many many years, and really only within the last year or two have I come to peace with it in my own heart. The Lord speaks to many different people in many different ways, and I don’t have the right to define how He’ll speak to anyone but me.

Others, obviously don’t feel the same way.

So, I responded to my friend:

Oh, amigo...

This is a hard one, and one that you'll have to sort through in your own heart over time.

I have struggled with this on a number of levels.

First of all, there's the fear that they're right, that the Spirit can't communicate through a rock sound. All I can do for you is to testify that it's not true. I have felt the spirit communicate to me through rock songs many many times. Too many for me to doubt any more.

The difficult part for you is that you can't simply rely on my testimony. This is something you'll have to ponder and pray about in your own heart.

The other part of this that I struggle with is the knowledge that there are people like this out there, and that in the course of my "career", or at least my efforts, I will encounter them, and they might well hinder me. Many won't be as vocal, but they'll still be the ones that won't book me to come to their ward and give a fireside, or they might encourage others not to schedule me, or complain to their bishop when someone else does.

Again, that's not something I can influence directly. I can only remember to pray constantly as I'm writing, as I'm recording, and as I'm rehearsing and performing so that *I* never lose sight of who I'm really doing all this for. This is something I truly struggle with.

This letter is a part of your education, your artist development. It's your chance to look inside and strengthen your own testimony and your own resolve.

So, how would I deal with it? I would deal with it on a personal level. I wouldn't write her back. There's no need to. She's going on her path, and you go on yours.

I'm sorry that her message got so personal. It was like she couldn't deal with it on any other level, so she got personally attacking and insulting. I know that hurts, but in time, you'll be able to let it go and persevere.

As a fellow rocker for the Lord,


Not long after that, he wrote me back:


Thanks for your reply. I too have questioned from time to time if what I was doing was right. But every time I do I feel like it's something I have to do no matter what anyone else says (enough people are saying they like what we're doing). It has long been my desire to influence others for good through music with uplifting messages that they could relate to including those people of whom this lady was referring to. I feel that it's part of my mission in life to share the music that
has been given to me in whatever form it has come to me (be it a song like "Cast My Bread Upon The Waters", which was performed in Sacrament meeting by my ward Choir or "Back In the Game", which sounds similar to Van Halen). If everyone can't relate to everything I've written, so be it.

I would liken people who feel the need to criticize others or complain to their bishop about music they don't like to the Pharisees. (I thought your song about this was a great choice for the LDS Styles CD).

I look forward to continued association with you.

Your friend and fellow LDS rocker,

(Name withheld by MoBoy)

There’s so much I could say, but nothing really that I could add.

Except maybe to say, “Why can’t we just all get along?”

Mark Hansen

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