Tuesday, September 28, 2004

How Can We Be Equal If We’re Separate?

There’s an interesting article in Meridian Magazine that’s all about how we as Latter-Day Saints interact with those of other faiths, on a more official level. It talks about Ecumenical Councils, and Interfaith Choir Festivals, and all kinds of service and activities where churches get together and celebrate faith.

It seems to me that this is an exciting time. I can remember not too long ago (mostly in President Benson’s administration), where church members kept to themselves. It seemed that there was a sense, even spoken as a directive, that we shouldn’t participate with other churches. That individual church members could be involved in community, if they chose to, but that they did so not as representatives of the church.

But I guess that’s all changing, and we’re being encouraged to participate with other folks. Now, I guess, I’m hearing that stakes actually have their own PR people. Am I misinformed? That this’s an actual stake calling?

If that’s true, then I’m sooo for it! What better way to show other Christians just how Christian our lives are? I think it’s high time the church became an active part of the world around it. A city on a hill can not be hid. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Put on our beautiful garments, Oh, Zion…

Except in this case, our “beautiful garments” might turn out to be work clothes! From the looks of the Meridian article, much of the interfaith mingling is over service projects. What better way to teach the gospel, than to see it in action!

Another thing I like is the idea of ward and stake choirs participating in other church’s services, and in interfaith choirs and music festivals. That’s not only sharing our light, but in my kinda style! Sign me up for THAT!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, September 23, 2004

LDS Music links

I've found a couple of links to some sites/blogs that I found really interesting.

For a long time, I've been very interested in the fringes of LDS music. Songs and sounds that are not the norm. Of course, there's my own rock music, (insert shameless plug). But lately, I've been wanting to hear some other sounds. I've often wondered if anyone was doing LDS rap. I've always thought that would be seriously cool.

I found one!

His name's TJ Fredette (not much of a nom d'street, though, if you ask me) and you can find him at http://www.theimaginationcreations.com/ . While that's his regular website, you can get a full song download at: http://www.ldsmusicworld.com/artists/tj_fredette.html . The song is called "Drop to My Knees", and it is great. Tight performance, smooth production. Great.

Then, over at the "Baron of Deseret" blog there was a series of posts (with some fascinating comments) about Heavy Metal and the church. Since I've been a headbanger for years, I found it very interesting, and his frustrations resonated with me like a overdriven "A" power chord grinding into screaming feedback.

Anyways, check it out and smile along with me. And, of course, if you have a link to some other LDS musician that's out on the fringes, just give me a post (promote yourself, too).

Mark Hansen

Monday, September 13, 2004

Best and Worst: Your Call!

I was just over at Dave Barry's blog reading through the responses to another one of his best songs/worst songs questions, and having a good laugh at people's comments. Even when they ripped on my own personal favorites, the comments and the reasons why were so funny, I didn't mind (Like the guy at his wedding who told the band that if they played, "Color My World" they wouldn't get paid!).

So, that got me thinking.

Since I have such an overwhelmingly vast readership (*cough*cough*), I thought it would be fun to do a similar unscientific poll. Simple, really. Just two questions.

1) What is your favorite Mormon song, and why? It can be any song by a Mormon, for a mormon audience, or anything else vaguely related to Mormondom. Makes you think, makes you cry, whatever.

2) What is your most hated Mormon song, and why? Any song that curls your skin/hair every time you hear it. Doesn't matter that someone else thinks it's the most "spir-chal" of all.

Post your responses in the comments below.

My own responses:

I'd have a very hard time picking a favorite. There are a lot that I can choose from that are REALLY REALLY good, and which one is my favorite varies with my mood. I could choose "Better Angels of Our Nature" by Greg Simpson, or "I See God Anyway" by Julia Davis Allen, or"Who Am I?" by Border Crossing, or even "How Firm A Foundation", from the hymn book.

But, I think right now I'm going to choose "Sweet Hour of Prayer". I love the song, and I love the fact that it has a slight bluesy feel, even though they tried to arrange it out of there. :-) When Brendon was first born, I used to sing that one to him in the still of the night to get him back to sleep after feeding him.

I'd also have a hard time picking the worst song of all, if it weren't for "Little Purple Pansies". There are a lot of LDS songs, particularly in the pop genre that I really love to hate. I remember one Sunday, my family was in the living room listening to one of the local radio stations on thier "soft sabbath sounds like sleeping pills" program (at my wife's request, mind you). My son says, "Daddy, my tummy hurts."

I said, "I know, honey. It's OK. This music makes me want to hurl, too!"

He laughed. My wife threw a pillow at me.

But in spite of all of that, no song can quite muster the bile like "Pansies". Imagine yourself as a young ten-year old boy. Your mind is filled from dawn to dusk with "boy" things. You know, phasers, karate-ninja-turtles, etc... Then you come to church and you go to primary and they expect you to sing this sweet little ditty about little purple pansies.

I have since sworn an oath that I would someday exact revenge by recording a total punk rendition, complete with speeding drums, chunk guitars and screeching vocals. Only then would my inner child be cleansed...

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Perspectives and Perceptions

I just had a very unique opportunity to step outside my shell and see life from a different perspective and through someone else’s perceptions.

I got to have lunch with a Palestinian.

My wife’s cousin married one, named Issa, and he’s here in America, in Utah, now. And I decided to treat him to lunch. He’d been here to visit a year or so ago, so I’d already met him, but it was nice to spend some one on one time just visiting with him.

Often we look at the situation in the Middle East, and we base our ideas of what’s going on through the eyes of the US media. Some say that it’s slanted right; others say it’s slanted left. I say it’s simply slanted toward the money.

But in any case, it doesn’t always give us the big picture. The Palestinians and the Israelis have been fighting and arguing over the land there since before World War II. It was during that war that Germany occupied the land, and was subsequently captured by England. And it was England that made it a state for the displaced Jews, and named it Israel. And the moment it happened, it was plunged into war, and has been pretty much ever since.

But before we go about casting aspersions and judgments on this people or that people, consider how you would feel if you had to get paper permissions if you wanted to drive through the checkpoints between Salt Lake City and Provo. Imagine you had to play for services like water and electricity, and were forced to pay taxes, but weren’t allowed to vote. And imagine if you were to look at another half of the population of the same land, and they didn’t have those restrictions. And imagine that you couldn’t leave your home at night because there was a curfew in force, allowing the military to legally shoot you on sight.

Imagine all that happening here in America. Do you think that Americans would settle for that? Or do you think that we’d be raising up our fists in defense of freedom, liberty, and legal rights?

Now, before anyone gets upset at me because I’m not “taking their side” or telling me that I’m “un-American”, let me say that I don’t approve of suicide bombings or terrorism. I don’t think that those methods will get anyone where they want to be either.

I’m just saying that before we pass judgment on a people, let’s shift our perspectives and change our perceptions a little.

Mark Hansen
Beggars, beggars all

Why is it that we’re ashamed to help people?

I don’t mean to judge or criticize, because I’ve felt it, too. You see someone begging, and you feel sad for that person, and you want to help, but you don’t because you’re also embarrassed. We’re afraid that it’ll just go to booze, or that if they really wanted help, they’d go to an overcrowded shelter to be turned back out...

Or any of a host of other reasons.

I got this because I read a blog today that reminded me of this. Ezra’s Ramblings.

I just got reminded of the verses in Mosiah where he reminds us that we are all beggars, and not worthy of help from the Lord, but for some strange reason He gives it to us anyway.

I copied these verses from the church website scriptures:

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

I mean, how much more clear can a prophet of the Lord be?

But still, I don’t always follow that advice, either.

Mark Hansen

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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