Monday, January 31, 2005

What Iraquis and Americans Have in Common

Well, I might be eating my words, but I don’t think I’ll mind at this point.

I have been, for a long time, opposed to the Iraq war. I’ve not trusted President Bush’s motives, I’ve doubted the long-term value of being there, I’ve questioned the methods being used there.

But hearing the news, and reading the reports on the election have renewed my hope, and reshaped my perspectives. It might well be that this experiment could work in the long run, after all, in spite of all my still-nagging doubts.

And, as an additional note, it made me reflect on our nation as well. And on our own elections. How many of us would walk miles to a polling place, especially if we knew that we were risking our lives? How many of us would volunteer to staff a voting booth with death and bombing threats hovering over our heads? How many of us even bother to vote in non-presidential elections? How many of us even study up on the candidates and the issues?

In a lot of ways, we’ve become complacent, even cynical.

We’ve heard a lot about the patriotic service being given by the troops. We’ve heard of flag-wavers here in the country being called patriotic. I think that the most patriotic act that an American civilian can do is to cast an educated ballot.

Now, it’s still going to be tough for the Iraqis. This is a major landmark for them, but it’s still a landmark. They have to move beyond this and establish a government that works. One that can quell the violent rebels, and encourage the peaceful ones. One that can punish terrorists, yet preserve freedom.

And in America, we have to do the same thing. We have to establish government that works. A quote I heard once, “The only way for evil to win is for good people to do nothing.”

That means voting.

Mark Hansen

Friday, January 28, 2005

Oh, Hondo...

OK, something weird is building up, I can feel it…

About a week ago, my MTC mission companion hit my website and signed up for a Pass-it-On CD. It was a lot of fun to correspond with him. I’ve not talked to him since ’84! He lives in Washington State, now. We corresponded a bit over companions and others in our MTC group.

Then, my colleague here at work tells me about this site called, and I go check It out. I find my mission’s home page, Honduras Tegucigalpa, and start flipping through the alumni database. Right off, I find one of my old companions, Elder Cooper. One of my seniors while I was in Belize. Then, I found Elder Bonilla, one of my old District Leaders.

Suddenly I was walking the streets of 3 de Mayo and Comayaguela again. Slogging through the mud in Torocagua. Sweating in the muggy air of Orange Walk Town. Someone had posted some pictures. This one struck me with a reminiscent smile. I remember there were a lot of power and phone lines strung overhead in Hondo, and there were these mosses and plants that would catch in the wires and grow. They’d make the whole line look like it’d been attacked by dust bunnies. Sometimes, they’d get pretty big. The ones in this picture are actually kinda small!

Anyway, I don’t know why all of a sudden I’m thinking about my mission, and why it keeps cropping up.

It’s interesting to look back on it in retrospect. I can’t honestly say that my mission was the best two years of my life. A large part of that is because, frankly, there’ve been a lot of good years in the two decades or so since then. My wife, my kids, my music have all given me some wonderful experiences.

My mission was, at the time, the hardest two years of my life. Especially if you include the year or so that followed of re-assimilation into the wild. Everything I am to day is built on the spiritual foundation that got poured when I was in Honduras and Belize.

But I like to think that I have built on it and grown on above and beyond it. I’ve built a house on that solid foundation. Sometimes, that house has shaken in the wind and the storm, and I haven’t always built it as strong as it could be, but its foundation, my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Prophets of the old and latter days, is strong. So, even if parts of my house shake and creak, the entire structure will not fall.

Mark Hansen

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Taker, Revisited

I was thinking about my kids today and I was reminded of a moment that happened a few weeks ago. I was riding in my car, with my two boys in the back seat. I was listening to some of my "Generation" mixes, getting them ready for the CD.

Now, often when my kids hear me listening to my songs, they'll sometimes sing along. That, in and of itself, feels really good. I like that my kids like my tunes. I know that there'll come a day when they'll hear my stuff, roll their eyes, and say, "Sheesh, Dad. That song is soooo '90s!" And considering just how '80's my stuff already is, I'm in real trouble.

But for now, they still think I'm cool.

But this one particular day, after they'd been signing along for a while, "The Taker" came on. This time, Brendon, the seven-year-old, sat there listening. I just drove and soaked up the mellow groove of the song. Then I hear his voice from the back seat...



"What's it mean, 'He wore the thorns'?"

I had to catch the lump in my throat. He was referring to the chorus of the song:

"I was the taker
He was the giver
I the forsaker
He the forgiver
He wore the thorns
And I was the sliver
He was the dyer
That let me live again..."

So, I told him the story of how the Roman soldiers, when they heard that he was supposed to be the "King of the Jews" had made the crown of thorns and put it on his head.

"That would hurt"

Yes, I bet that would.

"But at least they said He was the king."

I thought about that. I remembered that some of them, after all the storms and earthquakes, had marveled. I thought of the verse that said "The devils also believe, and tremble".

And then we went on listening to the other songs, and I thought to myself how wonderful it was to have such a teaching moment, even if I'm not entirely sure which of us was being taught.

Mark Hansen

Friday, January 21, 2005

Lookin' Ahead!

Just a quick news blurb:

The LDSMusicians yahoogroup is putting together a year's worth of fests and shows for Y2K5, and we're pretty excited about them. All are pretty preliminary in content and performers, but the dates seem pretty firm.

April 16, at the St George Tabernacle Lots of great LDS musicians to perform!

August 26, 27, 28 The annual LDSM Fest VI in American Fork, UT, in the park just west of the Mt. Timpanogos Temple. This one'll be three days of Workshops, concerts, and fun, culminating with a devotional fireside on Sunday night.

Dec 2 or 3 Christmas Concert This one, being the farthest away, is the least solid on the date. But look ahead!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, January 20, 2005

It’s Not Always Better to Give Than to Receive

Is it OK if I brag? It has a point…

Well, two points, actually. Let me start by just sharing an email I received as a part of an email group. I’m posting it here with permission from the author.

“Dear Friends,

”Once, I had a very wise person tell me something. I am going to pass it on to you.

”I kept saying, 'No, I really don't need any help'. I was feeling so dumb for even needing it. And this person, took my hand, and looked me right in the eyes. He said, 'Would you... deny someone you love, the opportunity to feel like one of the group? Would you ostracize families and friends that love you? Would you... (here is the clincher) deny them the blessings of service?' When you say, 'No, I don't need any help,' you are actually denying those who care about you the chance of blessings they so desperately need, and I personally think you will be held accountable for that.'

”That was the day we lost our little girl, and it still brings tears to my eyes.

”Over the course of the weeks after that, which part of you here were a huge part of, I took those words at face value, and I closed my eyes, and wandered into uncharted territory. Being on the other side of the fence and receiving, rather than being the giver, was a first for me.

”I can't tell you, what a humbling experience that was for me. And yet, this was the Christmas, where I really felt, at peace. Where the hustle and bustle of the holidays didn't over take us. You all will never ever understand what that meant to us. To me.

”When Jodi, during a harried day of her own, took the time to come clear up to Primary Children’s, and delivered the most beautiful items for Ethan... I was stunned. My heart couldn't even pump. I am not even sure I said thank you. I was so taken off guard. I thought she would bring some of Jakes things. Which would have been truly loved and appreciated! I had no idea, what was in store for us...I am still overwhelmed. I don't know if you all felt the peace and love that we did, in giving, but it was an amazing experience for my family, and one I will never forget, not ever.”

What happened was that my wife, through her network of friends (including the author of this posting), had organized a sub-for-Santa for this lady whose special-needs child was currently up at PCMC. She was able to deliver much-needed relief to the family in distress.

I share this for two reasons. The first is to brag on my wife, one of the most incredibly kind and giving women I know. If she hears of someone in trouble, she’s organizing relief before I even get the memo. I feel so totally clueless next to her, and in complete awe of her ability to feel and show compassion. What a lady!

I also share it for it’s doctrinal point. In order for charity to work, there has to be a giver and a receiver. And since for everything (“turn, turn, turn”) there is a season, it must follow that sometimes you’re the giver and sometimes you’re gonna be the receiver. And it is often harder to receive than to give.

Mark Hansen

Monday, January 17, 2005

“Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” --Job 5:7

Last Sunday, I wasn’t sure what to talk about in my Gospel Essentials Sunday School class. I wasn’t even sure where we’d left off in the manual. I hadn’t really prepared anything.

But there were some things that had been eating at me for a few days.

I’d been reading on the net and on the blogs where a lot of people, looking at natural disasters like the tsunami, and the flooding in the states, and the oppression and wars in various parts of the world, were saying that it was evidence that there was no god.

“How could a just and loving god allow so much suffering and death in the world?”

And looking at the world from the point of view of a lot of religions, especially mainstream Christian sects, that could be a very confusing position. A god that created everything and that is all-powerful and all-controlling suddenly comes out looking like a bored little kid trying to stir up trouble in an ant colony he’s found. It’s hard to see why he’s playing with us like that.

But I’m grateful for the clarity of the teachings of the Church. Just because God CAN do anything, doesn’t mean he WILL. Just because he can stop a tsunami or halt an evil emperor doesn’t mean he will.

We started talking about things in the class and we came to some conclusions as we discussed. First of all, the notion of “death” is different to us than it is to God. To us, it’s a painful separation from loved ones as they leave us to go to the dark unknown, never to return. To God, it’s a welcoming home. To us, mortals here on earth, the work (and sometimes, the suffering) continues. To them, the departed, the struggle has ended. And if they died in defense of the truth, or simply in a life lived in truth, they are welcomed in Glory (Alma 14:11).

We also determined that there were a number of different kinds of suffering, and they kinda broke down into three broad categories:

ONE—Stuff Happens. Get over it.

We’re in a mortal, telestial existence here. It ain’t the Garden of Eden any more. There will be trouble, as Job said. I remember going through a crisis of faith when, after eight years of trying to have a child, our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. After many months of asking “Why?”, I finally realized that there was no answer. There was no “why”. Stuff happens. And He helped me get over it.

TWO—Stuff is often cause by the freewill of people who make wrong choices. This can be as simple as the fact that I never took care of my teeth as a child, so now I have to deal with expensive dental work, or when the megalomania of a misguided nation’s leader causes the brutal murder of over 6,000,000 people. And often, God allows these natural consequences so that His judgments on the wicked are full. Remember, many of those that suffered and died are welcomed up in glory.

THREE—There are rare occasions in life when God intentionally puts certain challenges and struggles in our path. These are times when we need them to grow, or to be awakened to our languishing in point two, above. We all have our “lamanites” to scourge us to a remembrance of our God. (1 Ne 24:23-24)

All too often, we misinterpret the events in the world as falling into category three, when I feel that in reality they more likely fall into categories one and two. That we are quick to lay the blame at God’s throne, when He’s really up there, shrugging his shoulders and saying, “Who, Me?”

But in all three cases, He’s very quick to hear the prayers of those that need Him and are willing to listen to His advice.

So we can get over it.

Mark Hansen

Friday, January 14, 2005

Songs of Zion

Fiddlesticks: Return to Nauvoo

Imagine a lazy sunday afternoon in a sort of cool early summer, and you and your sweetheart are sitting on a grassy hill overlooking the city of Nauvoo, and there's a gentle breeze blowing out across the Mississippi. Maybe there's some bugs buzzing nearby and there's some birds chirping. The clear and easy singing, the rich violin, the gentle guitar... This album is the soundtrack to that afternoon.

This CD is both very typical of Fiddlesticks, and also very different for them. The folk and acoustic instrumentation (fiddle, guitar, bodran, flute, hammered dulcimer, cello, etc...) is what the Davis Family are known for all over the west (indeed, over the country). But while many of the other CD's of theirs I've listened to make me want to tap my foot or get up and dance a jig or a reel, this one makes me want to lay back and smile.

This collection is also by far their most "Mormon" of all. In fact, it was planned that way. It's made up entirely of hymn renditions from the Nauvoo period of the history of the Saints. And as such, with more traditional harmonies, instrumentation, and in some cases, more traditional melodies, even, it gave a whole new feel to these familiar songs. It was interesting to hear "All is Well/Come Come Ye Saints" sung with such a freeing, lively lilt, instead of the grandeur that the MoTab Choir has brought to the song. And the alternate melody and arrangement of "Praise to the Man" was so deep and saddening, I could imagine their sorrow and mourning to hear of the martyrdom of their beloved Joseph.

Their arrangement of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" was tasty. Unfortunately, they didn't include all the verses, so one has to sort of fill in the story line from memory. But that's not hard for someone that's been exposed to it all their life. And fortunately they didn't include all the verses, because, I have to admit, that can also get tedious at times.

A couple of things struck me as I was listening to these tunes. One thought was just how powerful and deep the doctrine was in some of these early hyms of Zion. Like "The Earth Was Once a Garden Place" spoke of Adam-Ondi-Ahman and the glories of the Garden of Eden. "If You Could Hie to Kolob" contemplates the true depth of the meaning of "eternity". Even "Praise to the Man" bears testimony of the eternal nature of Joseph's calling and life, and the endlessness of the Priesthood. We don't talk much in those terms anymore. We still believe it, but we don't talk about it or sing about it much.

Another thing that I got from it was just how simple and pure and beautiful their melodies were. As a modern songwriter, I could learn a lot from them.

Fiddlesticks did a great job of delivering them, too. I've seen them live, and I've heard them on CD, and I can't help but wonder how much of it is scored, planned, and memorized and how much of it is improvised. The harmonies (like the ones in "Amazing Grace") are too fresh and perfect to be left to chance, but there's a spontenaity that can't be found in music that's all pre-arranged. I've tried while I've been listening to this CD, and I can't find the lines between.

For an old rocker, all too often, when I read that a CD is "relaxing" or "peaceful", especially among LDS artist, my first reaction is to assume it's another mormon sleeping pill. Fiddlesticks has found a way to ease my body and my soul while engaging my heart and my mind. "Return to Nauvoo" is very relaxing, but it's far far from dull.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

My New LDS Music Site!

WARNING: While I don’t intend on frequently using this blog for shameless self-promotion, I’m going to do so today.

I’ve been able to combine the coolness of the weedshare digital music distribution system with my contacts and friends in the LDS music world to bring a new way to find good, new, LDS music in digital format. I’m so stoked.

You can find it at Those that join up (for free) will get regular announcements of new featured songs that they can download and listen to for free. After three plays, they get the chance to buy the songs (anywhere from .80 to 1.00). It’s a really cool system.

Anyway, come check it out, and share the info with your friends!

Mark Hansen

Friday, January 07, 2005

A Message of Hope for Members of the Church

For those of you who might think that, in the great struggle of good v evil, good is losing…

For those of you who feel like the world is closing around us and righteousness is stumbling and falling…

For those of you who fear that, as a people, we are not doing our part to build the Kingdom of God here on the earth…

I offer my experiences of last night, our ward temple night. To begin with, as we arrived, it was hard to find parking. Then there was a line at the recommend desk. The men’s changing room seemed unusually crowded. I was surprised to find a long line at the name issue desk. The chapel where we wait to begin our session was packed. I mean, packed to the back row. I could have counted the empty spaces on two hands.

When my wife arrived in the chapel after changing, she said that in the women’s changing room, they had run out of lockers. The line at name issue stretched all the way to the outside of the changing room.

The session itself was obviously packed completely full. No extra chairs. And, of course, the Celestial Room was the most crowded I have ever seen. There were no spare seats.

And all this was on a weekday night.

Now I know there are some that won’t see this as a big deal. There were probably several wards and stakes having special temple nights. Very possibly. I’m sure there are other nights when it’s not that crowded. Still others might have complained at the lines and the wait. And I’m sure there are some that wish to fight the church and will read this with frustration.

But for me, it was exciting to see the work being done. It was exciting to see so many people at once in the temple. I’ve seen full sessions before, but never a situation so much as this one.

I’m reminded of the quote from Joseph Smith, “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Two Mo’ Movies

Sons of Provo at our Barbecue

My lovely wife, over the New Year’s Holiday weekend, took me to see a couple of LDS movies. It started the eve of New Year’s Eve, at the Provo First Night film festival. I finally got to SEE the Sons of Provo movie. I say it that way, because I’ve had the soundtrack CD for a long time. The movie is scheduled to be released on six screens in Utah the first weekend in February.

It’s been a long, long time since I laughed at a movie as much or as hard as I did when I was watching this one. So, say what you will about budget, production quality, acting, and and etc… The bottom line is—it was funny! I was laughing almost every minute throughout the show.

The story revolves around Everclean, a three-member LDS boy band, and their struggles to make and promote their art. It stars Will Swenson (the lead from “The Singles Ward”), Kirby Heybourne (the lead from “The RM”), and Danny Tarasevich (a name I didn’t recognize). It’s done in a documentary style, showing more than a subtle homage to “Spinal Tap”.

Beyond just having a great time, I related to it on a lot of different levels:

As a musician: I've played gigs like these, and had these kinds of disasters. I've seen and, unfortunately, done almost every stupid mistake they made.

As a Mormon: There were sooo many LDS cultural and pop culture references. Kirby Heybourne’s character works in a scrapbooking store. And for a guy to do that is, in itself, funny, but he plays it to the hilt. "Scrapbooking is my calling," reads a poster on his wall.

After the screening, there was a Q&A period with one of the producers, and I was surprised to learn that this show has played very well in predominantly NON-LDS film festivals, winning awards at almost all of them. I would have thought that the inside jokes would’ve precluded that.

As a Mormon musician: Been there, done that! In a way, it was humbling, because it showed me some of the pitfalls that can be dangerous if you’re doing spiritual music. It can lead you to frightening self-righteousness and controlling vision, if you’re not careful, or not well-grounded yourself.

The real star of the show, in my opinion was the music itself. It was written mostly by Will Swenson, along with a number of other solid names in the local LDS music scene. Mostly produced by Jennie Jordan Frogley, who was also instrumental (pardon the pun) in producing Jericho Road. So, she was kind of parodying herself…

The music was interesting on a couple of levels, too. On the one hand, it shows just how easy it is to fall into the trap of writing bad, preachy, judgmental, “spirchal” songs. In this, these were masterpieces of intentional badness.

I also found it interesting to note that (and I think I’ve blogged about this before) the tracks themselves were produced with more vigor and strength than JR was. So, I found the parody to actually be better, stronger, hipper than the original. What’s wrong with this picture?

So, when it opens, this is one that I recommend.

The other show we saw was Baptists at Our Barbecue. I liked this one as well, but not as much. It was a fun show, but not as laugh-out-loud funny. Having read the book, there weren’t any real surprises. Still I thought the plot progressed nicely and I wasn’t torn away from the “reality” by production problems or acting.

The characters in the little town were sure a lot of fun. It kinda reminded me of “Northern Exposure”, where an outsider is introduced to a quirky collection of misfits that have somehow managed to fit together for a long time.

I’d also recommend this one, but frankly, I don’t really have a lot to say about it. I didn’t connect with it like I did with “Sons”. But I liked it more than I did “Charly”.

Anyway. A couple of good movies to check out.

Mark Hansen
Turning Life Around

My wife used to be one of the advisors in the young women’s program in our ward. I don’t remember which class she had. Actually, I think in her tenure, she did a couple of them. Laurels and Mia Maids, I think.

Anyway, I can still remember one of her girls was going through a lot of medical problems with her leg. Along with that came a lot of social and emotional issues. I don’t honestly know what the basis of the problems were, I only saw what she was going through. I do remember my wife and her cohorts in the YW put a lot of extra effort into fellowshipping this girl through her difficult times.

She ended up moving to another ward, and I heard later that she’d had to have the leg amputated.

So, the other day, I was in the dentist’s office, wishing I could have my jaw amputated, and I was reading a copy of the Salt Lake City magazine. It’s a pretty posh, high-end social rag, covering topics and activities for the well off. There was an article that talked about people doing wonderful acts of service to the community. And there was the girl’s picture. She was sitting on her couch, wearing her own prosthetic leg, holding another, and with a couple more on the couch next to her.

Apparently, current US liability laws prevent sharing of used prosthetic devices. And that bothered this girl (named Hope B). So, she founded a non-profit called “Limbs of Hope” that collects used limbs and distributes them overseas. She just recently returned from a trip to Cambodia, where she delivered some artificial limbs personally.

“When your income is $300 to $400 a year and that’s what a prosthetic limb costs, which do you choose, feeding your family or walking?” The article goes on, saying she “plays paintball, sled hockey, and softball. Last year she learned to surf and snowboard.”

Anyway, it was really cool to see her and see what she was working on. Go Hope!

Some links:
Limbs of Hope Foundation Website
Help from a young boy
Deseret News

Mark Hansen

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Songs of Zion

Cheri Magill "Ready"

If I were to sum up this CD in one sentence, it would be, “Rock that’s on the edge, but not over it.” It’s a good blend of mostly driving and busy alt rock/pop sounds with a bit of slow and sentimental thrown in for seasoning. Some songs, like, “Play it Safe”, or “Don’t Look Down”, get particularly ornery, but it never strays into really heavy rock.

In addition to the current alt influences, I heard a bit of the retro, like the Pretenders in, “Ready”—which is a great tune to make the title track for a first CD. It’s one of those “announce yourself” kinda songs.

Another possibility for the single-sentence might be, “Strength with hesitation”. This is a strong lady. She’s not afraid to tell you so. The opening track sets you straight, “I refuse to be your typical girl…”, and then she spells out how she doesn’t need constant attention, or doesn’t like mind games, and how she doesn’t like to fake dramas. If I weren’t already married to a girl like this, this is the kinda girl I’d like to marry!

In fact, there were a few tunes in this set that reminded me of my own marriage. “Reluctant Hero” reminds me very much of my wife. She’s the kind who braves other people’s crisis to help them through it, but sometimes feels drained because of it. Yet somehow, she still manages to find the strength for herself as well.

And “As I Do” is about a typical man’s mistake of trying to measure himself up to an imaginary perfection, and how she sees him for the success he really is, even if he feels like a failure at times. My wife sees me that way, when I can’t.

But with all the “strong woman” songs, there were a few that let us see her own fear a bit, too, like the ballad “Easy”, or “Perfect in New York”. That’s good to know that an artist has different sides, sometimes stong, sometimes weak. Too much confidence comes across as arrogance, and too much indecision and you get either Woody Allen, or the depression-ridden angst of most same-ol’-same-ol’ pop bands on the radio today. Cheri has a good balance, here.

I was quite surprised to find that this seems to have been done under the Excel label. It’s much edgier than most of the things they do, even just under distribution. Of course, I have no idea how that will all sort out, now that Excel is Deseret Book, but… I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this one take some Pearls this year. We’ll just have to see.

In the meantime, here’s a great CD. It rocks, it thinks, it feels. What more do you need?

**This post is a part of my "Songs of Zion" series, where I review CD's in the LDS market. If you're an artist and want your CD reviewed, contact me!**

Mark Hansen


Related Posts with Thumbnails