The Lower Lights: A Hymn Revival Volume 2

The Lower Lights // I Saw The Light from The Lower Lights on Vimeo.

The Lower Lights is a group of amazing musicians and performers who have taken it upon themselves to rework some of our hymns in a style that is newer and somewhat less, well, churchy and starchy than we may be used to. The style of their albums is folky and bluegrassy, yet still spiritual and perhaps even more meaningful than the original arrangement, at least to some. We’ve talked about them before, when their first album came out. I’m happy to let you know that their second volume of hymns came out last month, and even happier to tell you that it’s even better than volume 1 (which is saying something). Continue reading

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Kony 2012

I Don’t Want To Go To Heaven If I Can’t Get In

The title of this post comes from a recently released single, called “Heaven” by the band O.A.R. (which apparently stands for “Of A Revolution”).

This is not a band I follow much, so I’m not very familiar with their other work, but I like a lot of what I have heard of their music. This particular track, the first single of the bands album King which was released this year, caught my attention partly because it’s a catchy tune and has been getting some radio play, but mostly because of the lyrics.

Of course, it’s just a dumb pop song in some ways, but it resonates with some people and is causing some small stir in the Christian community, partly because it captures, in a very articulate and pithy way, a view that is very widespread in our culture and is the reason, I believe, why many people want nothing to do with any organized religion, including ours. That view is that religion pitches heaven (the ultimate goal of existence) as a kind of exclusive country club, and the kind of person you are is really not welcome there. Continue reading

Huntsman 2012 – The Hip Choice?

This article on the nascent Huntsman campaign is the first one I’ve read that actually makes a credible case for how Huntsman could win a presidential race. After reading it, I’m still not sure he’s running this time around, and there seems to be some possibility he might wait until 2016, but his political strategy appears to be that he intends to pitch himself as (you ready for this?) the cool republican. Continue reading

The Atonement and The Book of Mormon Musical

I’m always astonished to hear that there is little or no coordination among the speakers at General Conference. We correlate and pre-approve everything in this Church, but apparently, to a great extent, conference has escaped this tendency. Yet somehow, despite this, there is always a broad span of subjects covered and rarely a lot of overlap. This time, however, there were two talks on the Atonement. An overzealous attempt at correlation might have squelched one of these, but that would have been a mistake, as they covered the topic in different ways and they bracketed the conference nicely, one occurring in the Saturday morning session and one in the Sunday afternoon session. Both were by members of the seventy, the first by Elder Kent F. Richards, and the last by Elder C. Scott Grow (no relation to his more famous counterpart, Elder C. Spot Run) (ok, I apologize for that joke). Continue reading

Jacob, Prophet and Poet

Reading from Jacob in the Book of Mormon tonight, we were struck by this verse, near the end of Jacob’s writings, just before he dies:

And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; and the record of this people being kept on the other plates of Nephi, wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.

I don’t know why I never noticed this verse before, but tonight it hit us like a brick, my wife and I in particular. Maybe because we’re finally getting close to the age Jacob might have been when he wrote it, or maybe we just know a little more about what Jacob is talking about now, or maybe we’re just getting sappy, but the epic sadness of it just cried out from the page for the first time. My wife started crying while reading and had to stop. Continue reading

Musical Snobbery

As Mormons, we are musical snobs. There is approved music and unapproved music. The borders of the musical promised land and the musical slums are as hard and fast as any railroad tracks that separate the good part of town from the bad, and that extends to instruments as well. Or at least that has been the case within my memory. You don’t get to play much music other than Hymns in the chapel. And no matter what you play, you better play it on an approved instrument. The list of instruments that you have heard in your chapel is probably as short as the list of instruments I have heard in mine: organ, piano, violin or viola, cello. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ve heard an occasional flute or bass viol, but not much else. Is there a good reason for this? Continue reading