Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Rock and Roll and the Hole in my Soul

We’ve been having this interesting discussion on the LDSMusicians group, and it prompted a response from me that I’d like to share here. It all started when one of the group members, a concerned mom, asked if there were an “LDS equivalent to Weezer”. It seems her son has gotten into the band and has gotten some of their CD’s.

That opened the discussion to lots of suggestions of LDS artists, but it was determined very quickly that there isn’t an LDS equivalent to many mainstream artists, especially in the rock world.

Many suggested some artists from the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) world. One person responded to that by saying, “The thing that throws me about some Christian musicians is that doctrine is sometimes off in certain lyrics. Of course with regular musicians you often get worse than that, but I wonder about the subtlety of catching stuff that's close to right, but not quite. So I think even with CCM, it pays to be selective, and I gave up, because I didn't have the patience to sort through songs.”

I took a moment and thought to myself and wrote out my thoughts and posted them to the list. And, I share them here:

I'm going to get myself in trouble for saying this, but...

The kind of music I would love to listen to simply does not exist currently.

By that, I mean:

• hard rock,
• produced to a major label quality,
• by active members of the church,
• writing songs that explore the experience of living the gospel in a difficult world.

There are artists that have attained a few of these criteria, but I've not encountered more than a song or two that meets them all. I don't think my own work even matches all these parameters.

So, as a result, I make compromises. I listen to a lot of Christian Rock, which is good, hard rock, produced on a major label quality level. But it's not speaking directly to my life's experiences as a Mormon. Still, I really like most of what I hear, like Petra, Superchick, DC Talk, Toby Mac, Michael Sweet (Stryper has reunited, BTW, and put out a new CD!)

There are Mormons making "rock" music that is of major label quality. But it's not, for the most part, good hard rock. A bit edgy, perhaps, but not as heavy as I like it. It's good stuff, and I like it (like Greg Simpson, or Cherie Magill), but it's not heavy, as much as they might like to pretend it is.

There are Mormons making good heavy, hard rock music. But most of those aren't doing it on the quality level of the big boys (my own stuff falls in this category, and the likes of Fast Sundae, etc...). I really like this stuff, and I listen to it a lot (especially FS!). But it's still lacking in quality.

There are also some Mormons making heavy music that doesn't really address life as a church member. I don't mean they have to be quoting scripture, but the songs are innocuous. I like this stuff a lot, too, but to me, it's not as fulfilling. "Beyond Braille" falls into this category.

I like a lot of stuff. I like Cherie Call, who's not heavy at all, but is an incredible writer. I like Border Crossing and Dave Edwards for the same reasons.

There is a lot of music out there that is wonderful music, and I enjoy listening to it. But when it comes to the kind of music that would really hit me where I like it, I can't find it. It simply doesn't exist yet. And I find that very frustrating.

So, thanks for letting me vent a little.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Faith and Works

Another common point of contention between Mormons and other Christian religions is the nature of the balance between faith (or grace) and works. The Christians say to us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” -Eph 2:8-9

And we say back to them: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” -James 2: 17

And the problem is that we mormons tend to forget that we can do all the good works that we want, but we’ll never be good enough to make it back to heaven, that’s why we need the Lord’s Grace. And the Christian world tends to forget that Jesus wanted everyone to be “Doers of the word, not hearers only”.

So, with that in mind, I recently noticed some interesting quirkiness in a couple of bits of religious pop culture.

One is the recently produced children’s story called “The Parable of the Bicycle”, and another is a number of CD’s currently out on the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) market, particularly DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak” CD.

The “Bicycle” story is an adaptation of the story that forms the basis of the book “Believing Christ”. It talks about a little girl who wants a bike. Her dad says, “Save as much as you can, and we’ll see about the rest”. So, she does, but in the end falls hopelessly short of the amount needed for the bike. And her dad buys the bike anyway. The comparison is made with the atonement. No matter how hard we try, we can’t make it alone. But Jesus steps in and makes up the difference. The story has a very strong tone of “believe, and everything will be OK”. Which is a very orthodox Christian approach to the gospel. But the book is written by and published by Mormons.

And there are several songs by DC Talk on this CD that talk about how important it is to be kind to people and treat them well, and help them and act like Christians instead of just claiming to be forgiven. Which, to me, sounds a lot like emphasizing works, which is a very common Mormon approach to the gospel.

The reality is, of course, not so polarized. We do need to follow Christ’s teachings. We do need to do good. We do need to live well. But we also need to put our faith in the Lord, and not try to do it alone. Remember: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” 2 Ne. 4: 34, (Book of Mormon)

I guess, in a lot of ways, we Mormons and Orthodox Christians aren’t so different after all, eh? Shhh… Don’t tell…

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What does "God" Mean?

So much arguing, so little understanding.

I was reading on a forum in MySpace about “The Trinity”. It said that, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I don’t believe in “The Trinity”.

And it reminded me once when someone actually asked me that. The question was posed just that way: “Do you believe in the Trinity?”

My first thought at the time was, “That depends on how you define ‘Trinity’…”

See, so much of what I’m discovering as I interact with those of other faiths is that we tend to associate different meanings to the same words. Then we argue with each other and accuse each other of blasphemy or heresy because our words mean different things.

There are a lot of words that carry different meanings. “Polytheism” and “Monotheism” are good examples. One could look at my beliefs and say that I’m a polytheist. Another could look at me and also say that I’m a monotheist. And using their own definitions, they’d both be right.

“God” is another word that a lot of people argue about. The way we use the word “God” as mormons confused me for a long time. Until I realized that, like a lot of words in English, “God” has many shades of meaning. I think I’ll go there first:

“God” to me, simply means a being that has achieved a certain awesome level of spiritual power. So much so that His/Her glory and existence is beyond what a mortal can fully comprehend. In that sense, I am a polytheist. There are, in fact, many “Gods”. There will yet be many more “Gods” to come.

“God” is also used in Mormonism (in English) to refer to a particular being that has achieved this level of spiritual power to such an extreme that He created all of us. We also refer to Him as “God the Father”, “Heavenly Father”, and “Elohim”. He is the God that I worship. He is the God that I pray to. I don’t pray to any other God. There are no other Gods that are “before Him” or that supercede Him. In that sense, I am a monotheist.

“God” is also the name we often use to refer to another being. This is Jesus Christ, or Jehovah. He is one of the many spirit children of God the Father, just like all of the rest of us. He, however, progressed in his spiritual power to achieve the title of “God” much earlier than the rest of us. He, under the direction of God the Father, created the earth. The people of the Old Testament referred to Him as God. Moses and Abraham walked and talked with Him face to face. He is referred to in the New Testament as “The Word made flesh”. When the verse says, “The Word was God”, it’s reaffirming Jesus’ title as “God”. When it says, “The Word was with God”, it’s explaining that Jesus was with God the Father in the very beginning.

God, the Son, by his own admission and instruction, does nothing that He didn’t receive by instruction from God, the Father. When I pray, I pray to God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ.

It’s not as common, but there are also times when we refer to the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, as “God” also. He is “The Spirit of God”. He also has achieved the title of “God” and, like Jesus Christ, works under the direction of God the Father.

But there are verses in LDS scripture that directly refer to all three as “One God”. In 2 Ne. 31: 21, it says, “And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.”

How can that be? We believe them to be separate beings! And that verse lists them as separate entities! And then it tells us they are one!

Again it comes down to the meanings in words. As Mormons, we often refer to the three beings together as “God”. Sometimes we also call them “The Godhead”. How can three distinct individuals be called by the name “God”? It’s singular! But we often refer to groups of people by singular nouns. That’s nothing new. “The Presidency”, “Congress”, “The Choir”… If the three “Gods” are a council working together for the same aim (our eternal life), why can’t we call that council “God”?

So, the three individual “God” beings, known as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, are a council that’s also called “God”. The three, individually, are themselves “Gods”. The three, together, are one “God”.

So, yes I believe in “The Trinity”. But not in the same meaning as others might think. I also believe that many Gods exist. I worship one God.

And, ultimately, the one “God” being that I worship as a member of the church is my Heavenly Father. And I thank him often that I have the support of God, the Holy Ghost, and the atonement and intercession of God, the Son, on my behalf.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My Wife!

Well, Jacob’s finally getting a new wheelchair. One that fits him, and one that he can learn to grab the wheels and move. We’re pretty excited. Jodi’s been working on this for over a year, now.

That’s really what I wanted to blog about. Just how amazingly incredibly persistent and on top of things my wonderful wife is. She takes such good care of all of Jacob’s issues, from fighting insurance companies, to dealing with government agencies. It’s all overwhelming, but she tackles it and gets it all done.

And, now, in her spare time, she’s blogging! http://jodisjovialjargin.blogspot.com/ It’s just her first post, but it’ll be fun to follow along as she tells you all about her days.

I love her. She’s put up with me for 18 years, now, and our boys for 8. We’ve had an interesting trip through life together, and I’m very grateful for that.

Mark Hansen


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