Awesome Lord: Miracles and Praises in Rhyme


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Beautiful Nature Poems

Now there were no excuses to put off my quiet time. When I was able to hold my Bible, I read. And read. And prayed. To my surprise, God spoke through the Scriptures, teaching me new lessons. That had never happened before. Looking back, the Lord had to knock me flat to get my attention and teach me things I desperately needed to know.

Believe me, He had my full attention. I was a student again and Holy Spirit was my kind, patient Teacher. He and I spent many hours together day after day, and I learned my lessons well at His knee. After about ten days, the infectious disease specialists finally cracked my case: the diagnosis was bacterial pneumonia and mononucleosis. Everyone was relieved to finally have an answer. They tapped my lungs, and the fluid was clear. Although I was still very sick, things were looking up. After being a patient for two weeks, the doctors finally dismissed me to go home.

Out of worry, my parents had interrupted their trip to the Holy Land to return to my side. For the next week I had to convalesce at their home because I was too weak to walk. After what seemed like an eternity, I was eventually able to go home to my family. It was so wonderful to be home again. I steadily gained back my strength over the next four months and resumed driving. Slowly, things returned to normal.

But one thing changed for good. I had learned that I must have a heart for the Lord and always put Him first. This illness, however, left me a souvenir—chronic asthma. As a result of the pneumonia, I would have to continually be on meds to help me breathe. Each shallow breath in and wheeze out was a constant reminder to pray for healing. As I trusted God in faithful prayer, my children and household duties pushed away that dreaded fear of asthma. Several months passed. One particularly busy week, I had forgotten to take my meds.

My mistake jolted me into instant panic. But after I calmed down, I discovered that I could breathe. That was the reason why I had forgotten! I tested my lung capacity by drawing in a deep breath and exhaling. After testing my lungs many times, I broke down in tears of praise. Jesus had healed me! The joy that filled me that day was incredible. God carried me through that dark valley of sickness and brought me out to the other side. The sun was shining down on me in this new place of freedom. My healing was complete that day, and all these years later still is. I personally know God as my Jehovah Rapha.

Most of us have been witness to such healing powers in others, but experiencing it oneself is a miracle. I have been blessed to have also been touched by His healing hand. When I share these details with others they can only agree in amazement at His work in our lives. We are blessed to have you serving on our special blog ministry team.

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Through our HeartWings Blog, we send our testimonies and messages of faith, hope, and love into a complex and troubled world. As we shine His light into the vast darkness, we pray that our readers will be drawn closer to God through our blog messages so that they will be used to reach many hearts around the world to further His kingdom. Thanks so much, Joyce. Your testimonies are truly miraculous and encouraging to all who read your words. Blessings, sweet sister, and much love. Praying it will encourage others. I am thankful He is our healer! Thanks Becky! It builds our faith to share these testimonies, and I agree with you in prayer that it will bring encouragement.

Oh what a wonderful testimony the Lord gave you to glorify His Holy name! That is such a sweet story. Thank you so much for sharing with our HeartWings Blog readers. Jehova Rapha still heals today! And rime with Him is so important! When she was around ten months old, Ringworms were going around the church family.


  • Smoothies & Co (Mini gourmands) (French Edition).
  • 49 Gratitude Quotes and A Poem of Thankfulness?
  • Red Lory.

There were at least six other babies just her age, like all born in the same year, and she got a couple on her hiney in the wet diaper area- a perfect environment for ringworms. They spread. That next Sunday morning. I took her up front and the elders anointed her oil and prayed a prayer of faith. I praise Jehovah Rapha. What a wonderful thing, that He healed my precious baby girl my third child after two boys. How we praised and again that night when the time came to share testimonies!

Thank you so much for visiting us. I know that takes so much time. Also that all you do, you do for Him! Love you, sweet sister mine. Thanks so much, dear Caryl! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Not till we know that sin is death Can we receive the Spirit's light; Compassionate with every breath, Our prophets call our sins by name. When we arise, our bodies new, And Jesus greets us as his own, We'll know the prophets' words were true And led us to our Father's throne. The first three lines of each stanza seem to follow a familiar form. The first two lines don't rhyme, but the third line rhymes with the first line. Instead, the fourth line doesn't rhyme with any of the lines that went before.

It feels wrong; it leaves the reader hanging, waiting for the other shoe or rhyme to drop. Then we enter the refrain, and there we get a rhyme again -- but it's a rhyme with the last word of the verse. It resolves that "wrong" word, but still leaves us dangling, waiting for a word that will rhyme with the second line of the verse.

Which finally comes in the second line of the refrain. But the "cleverness" is compounded by a rhythmic game: The refrain, instead of being in the simple tetrameter of the verse, is suddenly in pentameter, the nonmusical five-foot line that is so brilliant in Shakespeare, but so awful for composers to work with. Musically, then, the refrain will have to be markedly different from the stanzas, so even as the first two lines of each refrain resolve the rhymes, they create a new tension with the extra foot in each line.

Then the final couplet of the refrain, which is the same each time, drags the whole hymn down to failure. It does not move us, it merely reminds us, with an obvious rhyme and an overlong line, of what we already know. Can this hymn be saved? Yes -- by jettisoning most, but not all, of the "cleverness. Get rid of that extra foot! Second, eliminate the last couplet of the refrain completely. It adds nothing to the hymn; the congregation would be sick of singing it long before they got through the whole song. Third, get rid of the second verse entirely.

It's negative, criticizing the world at large, and it includes awkward words that don't feel right to sing, like pitiless and lies. The Prophets Often Sweetly Speak simplified version; 6 The prophets often sweetly speak Of hope, of broken hearts reborn; Sometimes of futures far more bleak, If prideful hearts do not repent. In grief our Savior's head was bent; In joy he rose to greet the morn. For us they journey through the night To find the souls they can reclaim. When we arise, our bodies new, And Jesus greets us as his own, We'll know the prophets' words were true And led us to our Father's throne: That holy place where searching ends, And prophets greet us all as friends.

Now we don't have a refrain at all, do we? Instead, we have three six-line stanzas. They keep that intricate ABACCB rhyme scheme, but now each stanza ends with the resolution of that long-withheld B rhyme, providing a much stronger closure than the empty couplet ever did. Notice, though, that the last stanza does not and never did retain the intricate rhyme scheme. That, too, provides closure, and ends the hymn on a simpler note. It may not yet be perfect, but by eliminating most of the "cleverness," it is obviously much improved.

Working Out the Plan You have no idea how embarrassing this is -- showing you hymns that I once was very proud of, but which now I realize don't work. It would be so much more pleasant to try to give you the illusion that I only write good hymns. But you learn more from other writers' errors than from their successes. With all that I've already said, I imagine you'll have no trouble at all figuring out why this one is a mess: The Plan 7 Our Father gave us, by his grace, This earth to be our dwelling place. He set our hand To till and tend, And gave us hearing, speech, and sight For lives of music, truth, and light.

How we rejoiced when he told us his plan To give us our agency, woman and man! If we live as he taught, with joy we will meet face to face. Our children give us, as they grow, A taste of God's work here below. When, being free, They disobey, We grieve for all the grief they earn And comfort them when they return. If we live as he taught, what joy every family will know! Our Savior, having paid the cost, Brings home the ones who once were lost. The soul contrite, The broken heart Will hear of sweet forgiveness: "Nor Do I condemn -- go, sin no more.

If we live as he taught, what joy when he gives us his trust! Once again, there's nothing wrong with the overall movement of the hymn. It begins with the Lord giving us our mortal bodies and the chance to live on earth. The second stanza is about the main work of our mortal lives, to rear children and learn to use our free agency wisely. The final stanza is about the final gift of God, the sacrifice of the Savior so that we can be redeemed from the consequence of sins we repent of. Why, then, is this hymn so long and unwieldy?

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By now you already know. First the refrain has got to go. The repeating couplet isn't bad, with the rhyme of "plan" and "man. It's too long, and it's too "on the nose," a little homily to make sure nobody could possibly miss the point of the hymn. Read through the hymn just deleting those final lines and you'll see how much improved it already is!

There is still some needless intricacy in the stanzas: That middle couplet with the slant rhyme should be cast as a single line that seems not to rhyme with anything. The internal slant rhyme will still be there, however, so the line won't feel as if it comes out of nowhere. Finally, we need to work on the last couplet in the last verse. The enjambment can't be helped and shouldn't be: Nor is the rhyme with more , so it has to be left dangling at the end of the penultimate line. What needs fixing is the dash, followed by go , followed by a comma.

It puts too heavy a burden on the composer to come up with a melody that doesn't clash with the phrasing of the words. The Plan improved version; 7 Our Father gave us, by his grace, This earth to be our dwelling place. He set our hand to till and tend, And gave us hearing, speech, and sight For lives of music, truth, and light. When, being free, they disobey, We grieve for all the grief they earn And comfort them when they return.

The soul contrite, the broken heart Will hear of sweet forgiveness: "Nor Do I condemn thee. Sin no more. So this hymn might end up with the strangeness that would come from being ten measures long. But then, perhaps that would be a welcome change! There is no rule that says intricacy and cleverness are bad. But they're dangerous; they impose extra burdens on the singers and on the composer.

A little intricacy goes a long way, and cleverness should never call attention to itself. But that doesn't mean that hymns don't lend themselves to humor. I remember as a child being delighted when I picked up a hymnal that some intrepid soul had turned into a scavenger hunt. At the top of one hymn there was a pencil scrawl: "Go to My reward, at last, was to be led to a hymn where the graffitero had left behind some lame joke or unkind remark about another kid.

It kept me sane during many a high council Sunday. Of course, being a righteous child, I never defaced a hymnbook in such a disrespectful manner myself. As a seminary student in Mesa, Arizona, it was hard to find a hymn booklet that hadn't been joked up. Lighter, Brighter Hymns Of course these misuses of the hymnbooks -- and the hymns! But the fact is that our hymnbooks include many different kinds of songs. Yet even those are not all the same, or we would weary of singing them, no matter how earnestly we believe in the message they convey.

What can be more thrilling than hearing a chapel full of men and boys in priesthood meeting boldly singing "Ye Elders of Israel" or "Israel, Israel, God Is Calling"? There was the traditional one, which is lovely The other one, while not as popular, had the virtue of taking us through the same words at a much faster pace and with a brighter mood.

It's no accident, then, that it is the traditional melody that we sing at funerals -- it's that somber. But I miss the other melody. I thought it was a good one. And I appreciated the chance to sing those words of Eliza R. Snow's without having to be depressed. Earnestness What all the hymns in the hymnbook have in common is earnestness. No matter what mood they convey, they mean what they say. Irony need not apply. But I can't help it -- ironic hymns do occur to me. I know they could never be sung in church. But that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be written or shared.

For instance, just for the sheer joy of it, on a day when I was nearly knocked down by a couple of nine-year-old boys charging down the corridor just as the meetings let out, I wrote a hymn that you will never hear during a Primary program in sacrament meeting: Hymn of the Primary Boys 39 [sung to the tune of "There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today"] We're at church, and so we must be good.

No more running in the hall. Listen to the teachers like we should. No spitwads on the wall. If a gospel lesson is the goal And the classroom is a dud, Rolls of toilet paper down the hole Will teach of Noah's flood. For the bishop, etc. We can whisper, but we cannot shout; Raise our hands before we speak; Act like angels till they let us out, Then devils through the week. When I emailed this hymn to a friend a few months ago, she wrote back and said, "Don't you ever, ever dare to publish this hymn! The last thing I need is for you to give my boys ideas! Satire -- A Call for Correction Some people believe that satirical humor is making fun of sacred things -- and it certainly can do that.

I remember a book that was published some years back consisting of hymn texts designed to scorn or ridicule a large number of Saints -- mostly those who weren't as enlightened as the intellectuals who wrote the book. It was mean-spirited and hurtful. But that doesn't mean all satire has a dark or selfish purpose. On the one hand, Christ told us not to judge, lest we be judged. On the other hand, he certainly had no qualms about calling for correction of other people's sins, and sometimes in an ironic way: "Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.

They were not mocking for the sake of appearing smart; they saw something wrong, and wrote in such a way as to ridicule the error and call for correction. The fact that it was humorous merely sweetened the taste of the medicine. The result is that by taking the mistreatment of the Irish to an extreme, Swift actually calls for the English to treat the Irish better.

Then again, "A Modest Proposal" was not intended to be read aloud from the pulpit. Just as this satirical hymn is not meant to be sung in church: Bless Even the Noisy Children 8 Bless even the noisy children, Home teachers we never see, The lofty ones talking down, The gossips who hear bad news with glee: The weakest of all is me. We thank thee for endless lessons, Ward dinners we cannot eat, For people who said they'd help, For bushels of weevils mixed with wheat: What's done in thy name is sweet.

O Savior, thy sure forgiveness Was born in thy pain and grief: O Harvester of the righteous, Forgive us our stubborn unbelief And gather us in thy sheaf. I hope this is at least amusing to read; and many of the things I point out are unfortunate or ironic aspects of Mormon life. I am, indeed, calling for correction. But at no point is the hymnist standing outside the Church, mocking those within. The speaker of these words numbers himself among the foolish ones; he honors even what is badly done, as long as it is well meant. In a way, this is a doubling of the irony: the audience has been led to expect a wryly mocking tone, and suddenly the words are forthright and passionate.

Though the ironic tone is not fully set aside, in the call for forgiveness of "our stubborn unbelief. Booth, in his indispensable book The Rhetoric of Irony , explains that irony only works when the reader can tell where the writer wants him to stand. The meaning of ironic writing comes, not from the things that are ridiculed, but rather from the things which are not -- from the things that the ironist believes in. In "Bless Even the Noisy Children," the ironist may find gossip, untended children, pride, and unreliability in service to be deserving of mockery -- but what he does not mock is sincere intent, or the need we all have for God's forgiveness.

Hymns like these are meant to be passed from hand to hand, rather like the graffiti in those hymnbooks I pored through as a child trapped in a dull meeting. But that doesn't mean they don't serve a worthy purpose. Even the righteous are entitled to smile from time to time -- and laugh, as long as they don't do it too loudly, or at the wrong time.

But if you thought that, you'd be wrong. There's plenty of variety in the book, mind you. It's just that some gospel subjects are hard to write a convincing hymn about. To those who learned their grammar rules from misinformed teachers: It's perfectly acceptable in the English language to end a sentence with a preposition that functions as part of the verb. Please don't write to me about it. And to those of you who still want to write to me about it: Please do some actual research, find out that I'm right, and stop correcting people who aren't wrong.

For instance, it's a core doctrine of the Church that we came to earth to get a physical body and to be tested. But how, exactly, do you write that into a hymn? One practical problem is that few useful hymn-words rhyme with body. Or do you give up and try words with t , like naughty , haughty, or spotty? How could you make these rhymes have anything to do with the gospel? Well, besides naughty. No, you have to give up on ending any line with body and be a little more oblique about it: Oh joyful day!

O wondrous plan That gave this mortal flesh to man! Despite the way it makes us sin, It's great for being mortal in. How versatile our birthday suit, That makes men manly, ladies cute. Though frail or healthy, thin or fat, A mortal body's where it's at. Quite apart from the fact that I couldn't resist ending both stanzas with prepositions, I think we can all agree that these verses don't have much of a future in the LDS hymnbook.

But even if I had tried to be serious, what exactly do you say about most LDS doctrines that is remotely singable?

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Imagine that you're bringing your dearest non-member friends to sacrament meeting for the first time, and when the opening hymn begins, the words are: "Genealogy! We are doing it! Ironically, in most cases the children who sing "Genealogy! Gossip There are topics that cry out for hymn-singing that are almost completely ignored.

Where is the song condemning gossip? We who would obey the Lord And love our neighbor as he taught Know well that it is deeply wrong To pass a hurtful tale along, When a single whisper's done The tale is heard by everyone. Like poison spreading through a ward It sickens all. O gossip not! There is so much wrong with this "hymn" that it's almost not worth listing the errors, but part of the problem is the use of unhymnlike words. Gossip and ward , though they are polite words whose meaning, within the Church, at least, is clear, are too specific to feel right in a hymn.

But even if the diction in my example had been right, we just don't sing hymns that condemn specific sins. For instance, the one hymn that is explicitly about gossip -- "Nay, Speak No Ill" -- is almost never sung. I would have said never , but then thirty people would have written to me that in their ward it was sung just last week. Do you even recognize these lines? It's one thing to condemn gossip; quite another to urge people never to be the first to point out someone's fault.

After all, we have church courts precisely because some sins cannot be ignored. Besides which, it's hard to enjoy singing archaic words like "fain" and "efface," not to mention "nay"; the tone is too arch to inspire us. Other anti-gossip hymns are less direct, and if they're too preachy to be effective, they are also relentlessly positive. But how awkwardly it does it: It's so convoluted that by the end, half the congregation has no idea what they just sang.

It may be that an effective hymn about gossip simply can't be written. Still, there are some commandments so important that they ought to have hymns. Tithing Right, that's what we need -- a hymn that tells us: Now, before thy money's spent, Set aside that ten percent. On gross increase be it set; Base it not upon the net.

The secret to writing a good hymn about tithing is to avoid a flat-out statement of the specific commandment, but instead focus on the intent or the result of the law. With tithing, what are the intent and the result? As a writing teacher, I long ago learned that if I use a rigorous screening process, admitting only the most talented applicants to my class, I usually end up with a miserable bunch of students. Because they aren't joining the class to learn, they're joining the class because it's the prize they get for "winning" the competition to get in.

All they want is validation. If I give no talent test at all, but merely charge a ridiculously high price, I invariably end up with a class that is hardworking, willing to learn and change, so it's worth taking the time to teach them. Because they are making a sacrifice to get into the class, and now they're going to work hard and learn and change, because if they don't, they wasted their money and time. Likewise, if all it took to be a Latter-day Saint was to say you believe and then show outward signs of piety, it would be much easier to be a member -- but being a member wouldn't mean as much, and we would accomplish far less as a people.

Instead, we are required to make a serious financial commitment in order to be a member in good enough standing that we can go to the temple. So the doctrine of tithing results in sacrifice, is about commitment, and is based on the debt we owe the Lord and on the principle of consecration.

Take heed of his word: Discover its worth By returning a share. The treasures and towers We own while we live Will be lost in a breath, For nothing is ours Except what we give Out of love, out of faith. This hymn is definitely about tithes and offerings, as a part of how we repay our great debt to our Father in heaven.

Instead, it speaks of the righteous use of the gifts we are given by God in our mortality. The Earth belongs to the Lord; we must replenish and tend it. To serve God, we beat swords into ploughshares and try to "turn a foe to a friend. My only misgiving about the meaning of the hymn is that these three stanzas end with a reference to how we lose all our possessions at death -- which is true, but not a cheery way to end a hymn that means to be positive. So as I was writing this column, I composed an additional verse: His gifts are a trust: The goods we have earned Are not ours to hold.

These treasures that rust, When shared, can be turned Into heavenly gold. This is a much more upbeat ending. The trouble is that I duplicate a rhyme-word from the second stanza -- trust. This is a weakness. So if I were to include this fourth stanza, I would probably need to revise the second one to avoid the repetition of that rhyme word.

However it ends, this is a tithing hymn that never overtly mentions tithing. It's stronger and more effective precisely because of it. As a hymn text, it offers a few challenges to the composer. This forces the composer to work without the safety net of a structure based on fours. Another difficulty the composer will face is that the final metrical foot of the first line in each stanza is a single syllable -- Lord, Lord's -- until we get to the third verse, when suddenly it has two syllables -- towers.

This is fine if the composer has given "Lord" and "Lord's" two notes each, like the first syllable, "gen" in "Gently raise the sacred strain. As with "heaven", "tower" is a word that can be sung on one note or two. But we don't like singing "heav'n. That extra fourth stanza's third line, "Are not ours to hold," would naturally be accented with the stress on ours : "Are not ours to hold. That's a lot of sound to pack into a brief note.

If this stanza is used, the composer will need to make sure there's time enough on those notes to make all those sounds. Welfare Singing about picking cherries or weeding sweet potatoes on the welfare farm might be fun, but the resulting song is highly unlikely to be appreciated in sacrament meeting. Instead, the hymn should be about the reasons or results.

It is our responsibility to take care of each other's material needs -- to share. Let no heart be filled with fear. Let no child uncared-for be. Where the need is, O let me! Leave no broken heart alone. Leave no lonely soul unknown. Lead all wanderers to Thee. Set the world's desires aside. Set all sail against the tide. Set the weeping captive free.

Give the beggar what he asks. Give the willing worker tasks. Give to all unstintingly. We are part of Lehi's dream. Hold the rod beside the stream. Taste the fruit upon the tree: Love of God, so sweet to me! Note that the work-for-food principle -- a cornerstone of the Church's welfare program -- is included by the line "Let no hands be idle here. So the broadest principles of welfare are included in this hymn -- even in the anomalous final stanza, which not only breaks the "O let me" pattern, but seems to have changed the subject entirely.

How did we suddenly get from the generalities of the first four stanzas to a specific mention of a prophet and his particular vision? In this case, the congregation is metaphorically being included in a familiar vision. If they hold to the rod the word of God they can in time taste the sweet fruit of the love of God, which, in the vision, really does grow on trees. Ultimately, the poem is about our individual responsibility to help others in need; it is only obliquely about the welfare program, rather the way Newell Dayley's words to "Faith in Every Footstep" were only obliquely about the early plains-crossing pioneers.

Five stanzas, though, are too many for the hymnbook. If published there, this hymn would ordinarily have one or even two stanzas dropped entirely or included as words alone, after the music. Elder McConkie's eight-stanza "I Believe in Christ" got around this by repeating the melody twice, virtually unchanged, so that each "stanza" is really two stanzas. Which of these stanzas should be dropped? I would propose that the third stanza is the least essential.

The metaphor of sailing against the tide is undeveloped; the "weeping captive" is not really part of the Church's welfare program. I believe it belongs in the hymn, ideally; but in practical terms, it's the one that would be least missed. The more obvious choice would be to delete that final stanza.

But that would be a mistake, because the differences between it and all the other stanzas actually serve to provide a stronger closure for the hymn.

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Genealogy It's time for me to accept the challenge I set out at the beginning, when I pointed out how inappropriate "Genealogy! The key, once again, is to focus on the reason for doing genealogy, and the result. Genealogy is not an end in itself; its purpose is to offer saving ordinances to those who have died before us. It is an act of love toward ancestors we may never have met. Pedigree charts and family group sheets have no place in a hymn, but our feelings toward our forebears can be sung about: Honor Them 44 Those who taught us as we grew, Beloved ones no longer here, Brought us farther than they knew, So heaven's light is bright and clear.

Chorus Honor them: They did their part. So great their gifts! So few their claims! Hold them dear in home and heart; In temples, let us bless their names. Like the links that form a chain, Each generation lifts the rest. Which was first these gifts to gain? Before and after, all are blessed. Those who lived before our day Still shape our lives in all we do. Here is how we can repay: We'll raise our children strong and true.

What makes this hymn work if it does is that it takes in a wider set of tasks than merely doing genealogy. It calls for us to honor our forebears not only by finding the "links that form a chain," but also by speaking about them in our homes and by raising our children to continue in the path of righteousness. Many people, however, have ancestors -- or closer relatives -- who were not good people, deserving of honor. How would an abused child feel, singing this hymn? I kept this in mind while I was writing the text.

First, though, let's remember the principle once articulated by Elder Boyd K. Packer, when he was responding to critics who thought the Brethren should not stress commandments in a way that would hurt the feelings of those who had broken them. Elder Packer answered that in the Church, we must teach the general rules so that everyone knows that this is what we aspire to; and then, individually, we must be compassionate to those who have not yet found a way to achieve those aspirations.

This came home to me recently when some parents complained about a program that taught young children to aspire to a temple marriage. The complaint came from parents in part-member families or parents who had not gone to the temple. Instead of complaining that the teaching of temple marriage should be abolished, just to avoid hurting their feelings, those parents should be embracing the program and affirming to their children, "Yes, we did not follow that pattern when we married, and we still have a good and happy family.

But raising your children in righteousness will be easier if you have made those temple covenants before you bring them into the world. Still, I can imagine that a hymn that relentlessly praised our forebears could be unpleasant for someone whose heritage includes an abusive relative. And, ultimately, it would be perceived by everyone as false -- nobody's genealogy includes only ancestors who lived worthy of celestial glory. So in writing the hymn, I made sure that the hymn is not all-inclusive -- that is, there is room to interpret the hymn as referring to righteous ancestors, the ones who taught us as we grew instead of harming us ; the ones who are beloved in memory, not the ones who were feared and resented in life.

The final verse is deliberately ambiguous: Those who lived before our day still shape our lives, even if they do so negatively. So if you read that stanza as an abused child, you can still sing it: We repay a wicked parent by raising our own children in love and righteousness.

Reading the Scriptures There are already hymns urging us to read the scriptures, like, for instance, "Thy Holy Word," hymn This is a good hymn text, with each stanza treating a different reason for or result of reading the scriptures: Hearing the word of God taught to us; reading and pondering it ourselves; preaching it as missionaries; and finally a prayer for the Lord to help us live by his word.

But just because there's already one hymn about reading scriptures doesn't mean there isn't room for another. When hope is driven out By worldly lies, O save me, Lord, from doubt: Thy word is wise. And when to those who seek My steps are led, O give me words to speak And they'll be fed.

Again, this is a five-stanza hymn; the expendable one is, once again, the middle stanza. Because this is the one with the unredeemably awkward phrase "worldly lies. It is also a little too "on the nose" -- better to stick with the vagueness of metaphors like "the dark of night," "the icy storm," and hiding one's face in shame. I've shown three examples of "topical hymns," but of course there are many doctrines and commandments that still lack good hymns.

The Word of Wisdom, for instance, consisting as it does of highly specific prohibitions, is very hard to hymn about. And how can you write a hymn encouraging church attendance, especially since the people who most need the message are, by definition, not there to sing it?

Above all, we still have that crying need for hymns that encourage us not to gossip -- because that remains one of the cruelest, most damaging forces that disrupt our religious lives in the tiny villages where we, as Latter-day Saints, spend so much of our lives: our wards and branches.

Many helpful hymns remain to be written. Which is actually encouraging to those of us who spend serious amounts of time writing hymns. The hymnal is never a finished book. The former are general expressions of gratitude to the Lord; the latter would be occasional hymns designed to be sung the Sunday before or after the American or Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. The hymn that we use most for that particular holiday is Henry Alford's "Come, Ye Thankful People" 93 in the hymnbook.

Even though we are no longer an agricultural society, it's good to remember that the Lord's bounty, which makes our whole civilization possible, is founded on the natural cycle of the growing season, and all that we have is built on a foundation of plentiful harvests. Another hymn often used at Thanksgiving is also appropriate throughout the year. The only hymn that has the word "Thanksgiving" in its title is, however, not really a hymn of thanksgiving. And the blessing prayed for is victory in conflict. Written in the Netherlands and translated by Theodore Baker, the hymn clearly dates from an era of persecution.

So despite its title, this hymn is not really appropriate for the Thanksgiving holiday, except in times and places where the Saints are persecuted and praying for relief. Most of the time, we should thank the Lord that we don't need to sing this hymn. Praise As Thanks Our supply of hymns of thanksgiving increases greatly if we realize that hymns of praise are, by implication, also thanksgiving hymns. While he begins by talking about praise itself, and how he is determined to spend his life doing it, when he gets to the actual business of praising God, he comes up with a list as full as any thanksgiving hymn: "His truth forever stands secure.

When you speak to someone about his good works, you thank him; when you speak about his good works to others, you praise him. So when our voices ring out in James Allen's "Glory to God on High" 67 , we are praising God because we are singing about him; if we were singing to him, this would be explicitly a song of thanks. When we're looking for thanksgiving hymns, or even for Thanksgiving hymns, we should not overlook the hymns of praise.

This means we have a lot of hymns of thanks in our hymnal; do we need more? The reason there is room for more such hymns is that each one provides its own list of things a congregation can be grateful for. I add my hymns to the mix because I felt a need to give thanks for gifts that are not mentioned in the present hymns. Hymn of Thanks 15 O Father, for this mortal life, This tabernacle made of flesh, For father, mother, husband, wife, For children we protect and teach, For truth to learn, lost sheep to save, For love that yearns beyond the grave, We thank thee, Lord of Light.

O Father, for the sacrifice Of thy Beloved in the flesh, His blood that paid our mortal price, His pain that grants the sinner's wish, The blind who see, the lame who walk, The church on revelation's rock, We thank thee, Lord of Truth. O Father, for our fellow saints Who labor with us in the flesh, Who share with us to meet our wants, Whom we can also serve and bless, Whose free forgiveness lifts us up, Whose lips receive the bread, the cup, We thank thee, God of Love. This hymn does something that few if any other hymns attempt: In it the singer thanks the Lord for the other members of the Church who are singing with him, including thanking the Lord for the fact that those other Saints forgive him for his flaws.

God, Our Jehovah Rapha

Obliquely, then, in this hymn we give thanks to the Lord for the Church itself, which allows us -- or requires us -- to associate with brothers and sisters who are as flawed as we are, but who, like us, come to the Lord for forgiveness when we take the sacrament. The problem with this hymn is the first stanza, which gives thanks for family.

While everyone has ancestors -- "For love that yearns beyond the grave" -- not everyone has a husband or a wife. Could an unmarried or widowed or divorced Saint sing this stanza? I would like to think that with generosity of heart, such members of the Church could join in giving thanks even though they currently lack a spouse. After all, the doctrine is that all who are worthy of celestial glory will enter that state married; so can we not all give thanks, if not for a present spouse, then for a future one? For me, the second stanza also strikes an equally dissonant note: While Jesus certainly healed the lame and the blind during his mortal ministry, and miracles are still possible today, my wife and I spent many years of our lives yearning to see our handicapped son Charlie rise up and walk.

That blessing was never granted during his mortal life; but because we believe in the resurrection, we know that now he does walk in the spirit and will someday walk in the flesh. During his mortal life, that stanza would have caused us a pang, of course; that's why "Teach Me to Walk in the Light" was hard for us to sing or even hear despite the fact that it had always been one of my favorite hymns precisely because walking was something our own dear son could not do. Yet we never resented the fact that others could sing that great song without pain -- even then, we knew that in the Lord's own time, Charlie would receive all the blessings that are in the Lord's gift.

So even though a hymn of thanksgiving -- all hymns, in fact -- should strive for universality, it is probably impossible to write a hymn that will not cause someone in the congregation to feel pain or at least irony while singing it. Once, when I was a victim of vicious gossip in the ward I then lived in, we sang "Nay, Speak No Ill"; the words stuck in my throat.

But it was precisely because of experiences like mine that the hymn needed to be sung! Universality is the goal; but it is unreachable, and good hymns should not be banished from the hymnal because of it, as long as they can be sung wholeheartedly by the overwhelming majority of the members of a congregation. Autumn Holiday Universality should even be striven for in a hymn deliberately tied to the November holiday or October, ye Canadians! For the Harvest 38 For the harvest of this year, For all the work of every hand, For the loved ones gathered here, For all the joy our days have spanned chorus Father, wilt thou hear our prayer Of thanks we have not words to say?

Here is how we will repay: All gifts we have, we gladly share. For the lessons we have learned, Forgiveness of the wrong we've done, Hope that was so dearly earned, The gift of thy beloved Son chorus Father, wilt thou hear our prayer Of thanks we have not words to say? The hymn begins by referring to the harvest, but then goes on to include "the work of every hand. The next line, about "loved ones gathered here," refers to the holiday again, but more directly: It's a time when many families reassemble.

But even those who do not have family members coming home for Thanksgiving, they can still sing this line, giving thanks for their beloved friends in that congregation or for their own family members still at home. The second stanza is even more universal. No longer tied to the harvest of the farm, now the "harvest of this year" is stretched to include "the lessons we have learned" and then to the universal gift of the Savior's atonement for our sins. And the chorus, repeated after each verse, ends with a covenant of consecration: Because we can't repay the Lord directly for his gifts, we will share them with others.

The promise changes meaning with the two stanzas, though. With the first stanza, it refers to sharing the gifts of the harvest and of the love and joy that come from being part of a community. But because the second stanza refers to forgiveness and the atonement, a promise to share these gifts is a promise to teach the gospel and to forgive others.

For the composer, this hymn poses the challenge that both verses are incomplete sentences: They must be completed by the refrain to even make sense, since it is the chorus that contains both the subject and verb of the sentence! Thus the music for the verse should not close, but should flow on smoothly into the chorus, so that there is no closure until "we gladly share. Be not afraid! What a glorious life! A daily gift Of freedom, work, and dreams, To learn of love.

Sons and daughters of God! We all can show The image of his face, Our father's eyes. Life is good! But a hymn that is nothing but rhapsody will usually feel insufficient. The first two stanzas here are rhapsodic. But the third stanza changes, reminding one's fellow children of God that besides our gratitude to God for his great gifts, we have a responsibility to be part of those gifts in the lives of others.

Our lives should be emblems of his goodness. The very last line may be too rhapsodic, however, especially because "Life is good! A hot cup of cocoa after coming in from the snow can prompt us to say "Ah, life is good"; such quotidian uses of those words might weaken their effectiveness at the end of a hymn of thanksgiving and praise to God. Or -- and this is my hope -- their very familiarity might well extend the meaning of this hymn to include all those moments of joy, large and small, which come to us because of God's great gifts to us.

Another slight problem comes in the third stanza. While I stand by this idea, as metaphor at least, I can foresee problems with getting it past the Correlation Committee; their job is to guard against even the implication of false doctrine, and they might well balk at the idea of suggesting that God is somehow "in us," with its Nicene or pantheistic implications.

Thanks without Thanking It is not necessary for a hymn ever to say anything about thanking the Lord to be a hymn of thanksgiving. This hymn is a list of things that I -- and everyone -- can certainly be thankful for. But instead of saying so, what the hymn asserts in every stanza is that everything I have belongs to God; it came from him, and returns to him. The progression, however, follows the harvest-hymn progression.

It begins with the literal harvest of farm, herd, orchard, or even what is gathered or gleaned. The second stanza remains tied to the physical possessions of life, but with the third stanza we move to "possessions" that are held only in memory and imagination: Our hopes, our experiences, our learning, our joy. And the final stanza makes this even more explicit, including griefs, good works, and love.

And here we the singers assert that these things -- trust, memory, good works, love -- do truly belong to us; but even at the moment of asserting that these are the possessions we can take with us into eternity, we offer them up to the Lord, asserting that even what is "truly mine, it is already thine. This is because, while remaining more or less universal, it is very specific in its language; and also because it may well be the best hymn I ever wrote, or will ever write.

I wasn't yet thirty years old when I wrote it, and had no idea what my "memories of age" would be, or what tears I would shed in my life; but it feels truer now to me than it did when I wrote it. Yet it is no surprise that in all these years that this text has been available to the public, no one has set it to music. It offers real challenges to the composer.

These don't form a recipe for ease of hymn-writing. But the biggest problem is probably the fact that this hymn is so relentlessly first-person. It feels private , not public. It should be spoken on one's knees, not in a congregation. Another first-person hymn, "I Stand All Amazed," is intensely personal -- but it is addressed, not to God, but to other people, telling about the mercy of Jesus.

Still, I have hopes that the right composer will find a way to set my best and most poetic hymn to music that will allow it to be sung by a congregation. When we gather together for a funeral or memorial service, we need hymns to sing that will comfort those who feel the grief of death most poignantly. Eliza R. Mostly it is a hymn celebrating good people who have served as God's instruments in blessing our lives -- this alone would make it a favorite hymn. There is comfort in such sharing of grief, and Davidson achieved something sweet and fine with this masterful hymn.

In a way, though, it's a shame that two such important hymns have become so associated with funerals that not only do we sing them more rarely in normal congregational settings, but also we sing them at such a slow, dirgelike tempo that some of the joy inherent in them is lost. Funerals are not the only occasions that cry out for comfort, however.

When we gather to take the sacrament, we never know who among us might be coming before the Lord to beg forgiveness for sin and relief for the suffering of guilt. There is no life untouched by grief or loss of one kind or another. And the gospel offers comfort for all. Snow, and who could know more about the many ways the Saints could suffer than one who had lost her first husband to an assassin's bullet, who bore no children despite her longing, and who witnessed and took part in the suffering, grief and loss of the generation of Saints who were driven out and forced to seek refuge again and again?

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Yet there is surely room for more. Words and music that touch one heart might not reach another; and when we have only a few hymns that carry such themes, perhaps, to avoid repeating them too much, we don't sing hymns of comfort often enough. Father, in the evening Thou hast brought me light; Promised in the night, Dawn will end my grieving. Flood with living water Deserts of despair; Bread enough to share Give me through the winter.

All thy goodness shows me Suffering is brief. Quickly comes relief, For my Father knows me. This hymn is a first-person prayer, spoken by one who grieves. It follows the vagueness rule well enough that it could be sung at a funeral, but also could be sung in an ordinary sacrament meeting. My hope is that even people who are not at the moment feeling grief will remember such feelings in the past; and those whose grief comes from their souls being harrowed up by memory of their own sins will sing this and feel affirmed in the desire to repent and accept the comfort of the Father.

Metrically, the hymn is a bit unusual in its short, three-foot lines, rhymed ABBA, with the A rhyme being a trochee ending on an unstressed syllable and the B rhyme an iamb ending on a stressed syllable. It's a deliberate choice to have each stanza end with the softening effect of a trochee. Musically, it demands a soothing melodic line, a gentle touch. You can't easily bring off a bold or heroic ending on an unstressed syllable; instead the stanzas beg for a melody that fades away.

Asking Why One of the responses we can feel during a time of trial is to ask the question, Why would this happen? I thought there was room for a hymn that did not immediately silence the question, but rather gave it its full expression, while still answering with I hope some comfort. O Child of God 29 O child of God, you wonder why You came to earth to live, to die; Remember you are not alone, And when the seed of love has grown, One day, with joy, you're going home.

O child of God, you wonder why Things break, and Father does not mend, And even those you love must die. Why can't we see beyond the bend What road will take us home? O child of light, you wonder why In darkness every day you stride And many who would lead you lie And true directions are denied.

Keep on, you're heading home. O child of peace, you wonder why Such hatred tears the world apart As parents grieve and orphans cry And trust is lost in every heart And hope can find no home. Be comforted, O child of woe: Your Father knows your pain and fear. There is no place that you can go Where God is not already there. Reach out, and you are home. My thought in writing this was that by ending each stanza with a reference to going home, the hymn would evoke the feeling of comfort we get from the thought of returning to a familiar place where we are surrounded by those who love us most.

I tried to strengthen this by making the person spoken to a "child" in the first line of each stanza. By implication, then, this hymn is spoken, not by mortals to God, but by a loving Father to his children. Literally, this is not necessarily so -- the singer refers to the Father in the third person; the singer is, thus, a surrogate for the Father. The weakness is the plainness of speech. In the second stanza, there is no euphemism for death in "Even those you love must die.

A greater problem in the second stanza is "Things break. I meant it to evoke the experience of children, but also intended that it be taken metaphorically as a reference to adult things that break -- like marriages, hearts, covenants, friendships, and expectations.

The third verse is just as plainspoken, referring to those who, offering to lead us, "lie" and deny us the true directions that we need. This is a common source of much grief for Latter-day Saints, as we are led astray by false teachers. It is unusually specific for a hymn, and this is the stanza that I would remove in order to make this fit the four-stanza norm. My hope is that despite the problems, the hymn might, with the right musical setting, express enough of the feelings of the Saints that it would be a welcome part of our meetings from time to time.

The word "die" might make the song unbearable at funerals How bright is the word Of love and care Within our heart. In darkening days Of plague and war Of famine's blight Bright charity says What life is for, What path is right. We dwelt in the dust Where blind men grope And long for sight. Now, true to his trust, We rise in hope And live in light. This hymn is meant to be specific to the troubled times of latter days, so I don't think the references to "plague and war" and "famine's blight" are out of place.

Note that the answer to these woes is "bright charity," suggesting that we have a responsibility to help alleviate those problems, not merely expecting the Lord to ease them. Musically, this is a complicated hymn. With an ABCABC rhyme scheme in a stanza of six short two-stress lines, let us just say that it won't fit any of the existing hymn tunes in the hymnal -- especially because the A-rhyme lines end with a three-syllable anapest, and all the others with an iamb.

The short lines could easily be combined into standard four-stress lines -- but there'd be only three of them per stanza, which is musically uncomfortable. The solution, musically, is to repeat two lines in each stanza. I didn't plan it this way, but after the hymn was complete I realized that the first and last lines of each stanza are repeatable. If one set of voices sang the first line, and another group immediately repeated it, and did likewise with the last line, we'd have a much more satisfying four-line, four-beat stanza: The light of the Lord the light of the Lord Does not despair, does not depart.

How bright is the word of love and care Within our heart within our heart. Notice that now the A and B rhymes are hidden inside the lines. We still feel and respond to them, but they function more subtly. The drawback is that congregations find it complicated to divide; and I resent it, just a little bit, when there's a line of a hymn that only the women get to sing, so that the men sing an incomplete hymn.

In this case, however, everybody would sing all the words, just not all at the same time.


  1. Related Resources.
  2. Awesome Lord: Miracles and Praises in Rhyme.
  3. Blessed Thanksgiving! | Unity of Port Richey.
  4. The Bird Said Nothing.
  5. For those who are troubled by the grammar of saying "our heart" instead of "our hearts," this is a situation in which either choice would be correct. In the average congregation, there are indeed exactly as many hearts as there are members; but then, each person has but one heart; so either choice is grammatical. And the singular rhymes with "depart," so I used it. Comforting the Sinner One of the greatest functions of the gospel and the Church is to provide a proper setting for confession of sin as part of the process of repentance and receiving the blessing of Christ's atonement.

    But confession of sin is generally a private matter. Gone are the days when testimony meetings were punctuated with specific confessions and pleas for forgiveness. Our sense of decorum now demands that such things be taken care of between sinner and sinned-against, or between sinner and bishop. Yet which of us does not take the sacrament with a keen awareness of how we fall short of the Savior's plea that we be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect?

    If I have uttered idle words or vain, If I have turned aside from want or pain, Lest I myself should suffer through the strain -- Good Lord, forgive! If I have craved for joys that are not mine, If I have let my wayward heart repine, Dwelling on things of earth, not things divine -- Good Lord, forgive!

    I'm not the only one who writes five stanzas when nobody wants to sing more than four. Note that the removable stanza in this hymn is the fourth one, partly because the word "perverse" is out of general use in the sense he means, but mostly because it's very hard to parse what in the world he's talking about with "When thou has given me some part to hold. Someone repenting of a grave sin would find no comfort in this hymn, since it's designed to be sung by people keenly aware of not having any really serious sins.

    In writing the following hymn, I tried to leave room for all sins, both great and small. He Sees 13 He sees into my soul, The scarlet of my sin: His grace will make me whole. The doors of life he opens wide. Eternal joy is found inside. He says to me, "Come in. He knows my deep desire. He teaches me the art Of comforting the ones who mourn, Preparing them to be reborn Ablaze with holy fire. Oh, Sister, join with me. Rise up, dear Brother, rise!

    Let Zion come to be. Where Jesus dwells there is no wall. His gift to one is shared with all: The love that never dies. Now will he set us free, Now will he make us wise, For he will let us see All things that will be, were, and are. The tender child, the farthest star We'll view through Jesus' eyes.

    But "He Sees" speaks from the heart of the sinner already determined to repent. This next one is an attempt at a hymn that tracks the whole process of repentance, beginning with the hopelessness of those who have only recently become keenly aware of the gravity of their sins: The Way 27 Where is the hope for those like me Who waver and who stray, For those who search but cannot see, For we have lost the way?

    To justice, with its stern decree, The Savior now can say: I paid for all their sins; now free The ones who seek my way. In darkest night, now suddenly His coming brings the day. We hear his voice: Come unto me, My friends. I am the way. Using only two rhymes in the entire hymn may feel oppressive; I suppose the test is, if you noticed it, then it was probably excessive; if not, then it worked fine. Rhythmically, this hymn fits the melody of "There Is a Green Hill Far Away," though you'll immediately recognize that it is all wrong for that reflective tune. This is mainly because the tune to "Green Hill" fades toward the end, instead of building to a strong closure.

    Another reason is that this hymn cries out for the strong initial accent to be, not on the first stressed syllable "Where IS the hope for those like me" but rather on the second: "Where is the HOPE for those like me. This works on lines three and four, as well, though line two needs to have only a single pickup note. The pattern, then, would be: Where is the hope for those like me Who wa ver and who stray, For those who search but cannot see, For we have lost the way?

    This works for me, at least, even in the second stanza, where we would end up emphasizing the word "in" in the first line, and the third stanza, where the first line would be emphasized on "with.

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