Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Scriptures for Musicians, Part II
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

As I was cleaning out my email box earlier today, I came across this string of postings I’d gotten myself tangled up in. As I read it over, I realized it was a big part of some things I’ve been wanting to say in my blog. Rita and Bruce are members of a forum of LDS Musicians I’m in. I’ve excerpted their comments as they were quoted in my response.

--- Rita wrote:

…I can't even sing anymore and that breaks my heart. If I could get a blessing to restore my average singing voice so I could sing songs of praise to God and the things I hear in my head I would!

---Bruce wrote:

EVERYONE ON EARTH CAN SING. It is only mankind's perception of 'quality' that is in question. Some of the most wonderful singers I know have, technically, the most wretched voices - it is their love and testimony that make them beautiful. AND THE LORD LOOKS AT THE QUALTIY OF THE HEART; NOT THE QUALITY OF THE VOICE.

---I wrote:

OK, I'm going to way get in trouble for this one, I know. But it's something that over the years I've
come to feel very strongly about:

Some scriptures:

Psalm 66:1 "Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands"

Now, I'm not a biblical scholar, nor do I know much (or anything, really) about translation from ancient Hebrew, but I find it very interesting that the text uses the word "noise" rather than the word "music". Part of me thinks that it's because the Lord wants it to be joyful, (here's the dangerous part) and he doesn't care if it's professional.

Another scripture:

D & C 4, my comments added:

1 “Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.”

This is usually applied to the work of the building of the Kingdom, and missionary work. But let's apply this to the work of creating great music for the edifying of the saints.

2 “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.”

As we jump into this work of creating great music, we have to do it, as all that we do for Him, with everything that we have.

3 “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;”

The only requirement for the calling is a desire to sing/write/create for His glory.

4 “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his
might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;”

The need for good music is there. There are people ready and waiting for it. If we dive in and provide that need in any way we can, we will be blessed.

Now here's the good (and dangerous part): This next verse is where the Lord lists all of the qualification requirements for participating in this great and marvelous work and wonder:

5 “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.”

Hmmm... I didn't catch the work "skill" in the list. Let me check again. Hmmmmm... Nope. What about "talent"... Not there. Maybe He phrased it differently. Maybe He said "Beautiful voice", or "good at it". Checking... Nope. Still nothing.

6 “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”

Now here He's listing all of the qualities that will benefit someone who's wanting to join the work. These are things that, when applied, will make their work for the Kingdom more effective. Hmmmmm... Nope. Still no mention of "skills". "Talent"? Whoa, not there either!

Now, there is a mention of "knowledge", and "diligence". I think that means that the Lord wants
us to learn and work hard, so that we can continuously get better, and more effective in our service.

And as He helps us get better, He wants us to stay humble, and recognize where those talents and skills came from, and what they need to be used for.

7 “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.”

This is the most beautiful promise of all. If we want the "skills" and we want the "talent" so that we can turn around and use that to bless the lives of others, all we need to do to begin that process is to ask for it.

So (more dangerous stuff, so you might not want to read this), if someone ever tells you that you're not any good, or that you're "not professional enough" or that you "sound bad" or whatever, realize that even though some people might think that, God doesn't care.

Let me say that again:

God Doesn't Care

He gave you one, three, or five talents, and he expects you to do your best with them. Notice that
the one with three got the same reward as the one with five. The only one that got punished was the one who hid his one.

So, sing out!

Make a Joyful Noise all ye lands!

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Scriptures for Musicians Part I

I was reading the Book of Mormon last night, and I came across a scripture that jumped out at me.

Our Elder’s Quorum instructor would call that a “Gem”.

So, I stumbled across this gem, from First Nephi, chapter 6. This is where Nephi is talking about what stuff is written on what plates. They’ve just come back from getting the plates of Brass, and Dad has just finished looking them over and discovering what’s inside. Nephi doesn’t want to include it all in this record, so he just glosses over it. Then he explains what things he’s going to write about…

4 “For the fullness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.

5 “Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.”

Now, in context, it’s clear that he’s talking about writing scripture. But in the context of my own place, it struck me that it applies to songwriting, too. Why do I write songs? Well, for self-expression, sure, and for fun, too, but ultimately, it’s to help people come to God. That’s what would really be cool.

So, why should I write things that the world likes? Why should I worry about writing pop tunes so that they’ll sell? Why don’t I write what’s pleasing to God, and let the notes fall where they may?

Well, first of all, I need to make sure that I know what God wants me to write. If I’m off kilter, spiritually, then I’m not going to be an effective conduit through which songs can come.

It’s just musings right now, but it struck me, and made me once again contemplate my motives and my drive.

Mark Hansen

Friday, August 13, 2004

"Saints and Soldiers"

My wife and I went to see this much acclaimed and much awaited movie tonight. And belive me, it was worth the wait, and merited the acclaim.

It's powerfully done, great drama... I just can't say enough good about it.

After the show, my wife asked me what I thought the message of the show was. I had to think about that one for a moment. There were so many underlying messages. It was tough to pick the one that came through as the point.

But I think I found it.

There are ugly situations in life. Like war. But even in very ugly times, very horrible circumstances, there are people who are good. Who do good. Who see good in others, even in the enemy (even the enemy that should be on your own side). And these good people inspire others around them to be good, or at least better.

It also had an underlying subtext of forgiveness and redemption. As Deacon learns to forgive himself for a horrible mistake, as others around him learn to forgive perceived wrongs.

Just like Brigham City was way more than a murder mystery, Soldiers was way more than a war movie.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Leaving the Church

I have a tough time with this one, especially over the last few days.

Not long ago, a friend of mine was visiting Tal Bachman’s website, where his bio announced that he had made the difficult decision to leave the Church. He had read evidence that had convinced him that Joseph Smith was a fraud, that the Church is not true.

This hit me for a number of reasons.

First of all, I always admired Tal. His music and his seeming commitment to the gospel was a light to me. It was exciting to see someone that represented morality and spirituality making it in the music world where sleaze seems to be predominant.

But this goes to show just how important it is not to base your faith or your testimony on someone else. If the core of my faith was “Tal (or “My dad” or “whoever”) says it’s true, so it must be”, then I’m in big trouble when that person recants, or even lapses in choices.

I mean, many have fallen away due to sin, never leaving their faith, but feeling they can no longer practice it. Others fall away because they perceive some flaw in the core beliefs. Some fall away because of sin, and justify it by “discovering” a perceived flaw in the core beliefs.

Which leads me to the second reason it hit me:

Several years ago, a neighbor of mine went through this process. He found a lot of anti-church websites and eventually fell prey to their rhetoric. It was pretty ugly. He left the church, and joined another denomination, and eventually became one of the Temple Square street preachers that harass the temple and conference goers. Soon, his wife, who was trying to hold on to her family, ended up filing for divorce. The oldest son went on a mission, and struggled through all that while trying to preach the gospel. The youngest son still struggles, as do they all, but so far, all of the children of the family have remained faithful.

As I spoke with the family, it was revealed to me that before the breakdown, there was years and years of misdeeds on the part of the father. Lots of steps down the wrong roads that eventually led to the final snap.

It’s sad to me to see. It makes me realize just how precious my own testimony is, and how fragile it can be if I don’t constantly nurture it.

It gives new meaning to the phrase, “Ask and ye shall receive. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” We usually interpret that to be referring to obtaining spiritual witnesses. But it also applies to darkness. Whatever you ask for, you’ll receive. Whatever you seek, you will find.


Monday, August 02, 2004

A Little Raving About my Friend Greg...

Rene posted a reply and said that she liked Greg Simpson.

There’s another hot button. I think Greg is one of the LDS Music’s best kept secrets. And it bugs me, because I don’t think it should be a secret.

I’ve got both of his albums and I go see him perform every chance I get. He’s a really nice guy, too. Not big headed at all. Of course, frankly, nobody in the LDS music world is "big" enough to get a big head anyway. Still, he's as cool as they come.

And he's one of my favorites.

I think I’d have a hard time deciding whether I like “Seven Wonders” better than “Unspoken”. There are moments on both of them that really give me chills.

“The Better Angels of Our Nature” is a powerful one off of “Unspoken”. It really talks to the need for us to be compassionate when judging others, because we ourselves are in such need of compassion when being judged by our maker.

“…But I looked in his tears and I caught my reflection
And I knew that I could not cast the first stone.

“Let the gavel fall slowly, though truth’s been revealed
Sequester the jury for a moment to feel
In the courts of compassion, I hope we can appeal
To the better angels of our nature.”

And the one that is probably my favorite is from “Wonders”:

“One solitary question
Opened heaven once again
Bringing in the restoration
Piercing veil and parting friends..”

And then there’s fun ones like, “Best of Me” and of course, “Seven Wonders”.

It’s funny, because Greg is by far and away my favorite of the LDS artists I listen to. He’s not as hard or heavy as I’d like him to be, but he’s as close as it gets in the rockers. And he’s got the depth in his writing that really draws me in.

And I thought as I watched him perform the opening number at this year’s Pearls, how many times he’s been nominated, but never got the prize. THAT’s a shame…

Mark Hansen


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