In some way or other, we’re all looking for the answers to the secrets of the universe. It’s the unending quest of the infinitely curious human species.
But sometimes in our quest for that destination that is the answer to our question, we lose sight of the fact that it’s our journey for the answer that provides the greatest insights. The quest itself carries more illumination than just the answer we sought.
This piece came to me after several agonizing months doing nothing with music.
I understand the concept of the tortured artist, because I’ve lived it. The constant struggle for acceptance and success takes it’s toll when living your dream always feels just barely out of reach. I once heard a quote that got me thinking about this, and it was in the spirit of this idea that I got out my equipment, dusted it off, and composed this music.
“You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.” —Harold B. Lee
He’s right, of course. But sometimes the appearing light doesn’t come immediately. Sometimes it doesn’t even come a short or even long time later. Sometimes we need to walk in the darkness for a long time before the light appears.
It is at those times we become truly acquainted with the dark. It’s not the dark of evil, but the dark of everything unknown. It’s the dark of living and working and striving day after day to find your place—to know your purpose—basically walking out into the darkness, and continuing to walk, and walk, and walk. Yet the light does not come. You continue because your heart says to do so, yet the light doesn’t come. You pray, you seek, you work, and you walk, and yet the light doesn’t come.
Some become bitter. Others panic. But the truly courageous hold to the journey, not because they can see, but because it’s right. And because they continue to walk, they gain something far greater than light. They gain faith—real, lasting, unquenchable faith. To those that hold to this perilous journey, no darkness can stop them. Even as they stumble, they make it through. And they find and help others along the way. They lift, and they lead, and they strengthen, and they build that faith in others.
In essence, they become a light to others, even while their own vision is obscured. But they’re not the blind leading the blind. They have vision beyond what light can offer.
Don’t fear the dark. It is there to make light out of you.
A week ago, Jenni and I learned that our baby, due March 2014, had miscarried. I can’t express in words the kinds of emotions I’ve been experiencing for this last week. The closest thing I can think to say is that our hearts are broken, but our faith is strong.
I’ve been trying to come up with the appropriate arrangement of Count Your Blessings for several weeks, and before last week, nothing I tried felt right. I attempted numerous times to come up with something that worked for me, but it just wouldn’t click. If I can’t get a spark in a piece, I can’t publish it. I just can’t bring myself to do it. If there’s no spark, the arrangement doesn’t leave my computer. That’s what was happening with this one.
Then we got the news.
The first day, I took the day off to be with my family. When things like this happen, the most precious things in life suddenly become even more dear to me. The next day wasn’t easy, but I knew I had to keep going. When I sat down to make another attempt at “Count Your Blessings,” it came so fast and effortlessly that I’m confident I had help. It was so different than all my previous attempts, but this time, it sparked immediately.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve never struggled to record my voice as much I did with this piece. In order to even get through it, I had to force myself to not think about what I’d just been through. Have you ever tried to force yourself not to think about something? Let alone something this big?
Anyway, it got me thinking about the words a bit. How exactly does a cheerful, optimistic person (like I’m always striving to become) deal with tragedy? How do I see the upside, or silver lining, in the loss of a loved one? How do I find happiness in that?
Well, one way, at least, is simply this: to count my blessings. I have the most loving, beautiful wife in the world, and the sweetest, funnest kids in the world. I’ve been blessed with an absolute certainty of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the eternal nature of the family and life itself. I’m so blessed.
Download “Jesus the Very Thought of Thee,” Sheet Music or Free MP3
Thoughts have power. They shape our character. They shape our existence. They shape the nature of our being. No wonder we’re encouraged to watch our thoughts, guard them, and direct them for good.
We sometimes picture our minds as being storage spaces, and that we’re constantly sifting through files, gathering, grouping, and organizing information into something that will benefit us in a practical way.
I don’t see thoughts that way at all. Thoughts have no boundaries. They’re not limited by space, time, or possibility. They are like an energy cloud of infinite space and potential. They can create, reform, and change the course of universes. They influence everything, because everything we see is from the paradigm of our thoughts. And we, in physical form, effect the things we see.
But, some may argue, you can’t effect someone on the other side of the world just by thinking about them.
I disagree. You most certainly can. Think about that person enough, with real depth, and you’ll reach a point where you can’t not act out physically on your thoughts. Those thoughts leak out in your actions, words, and eyes, and in your interactions with other people. You are the embodiment of your thoughts. You can change yourself by your thoughts. You can change the world with your thoughts. The more you think on a thing, the more that thing comes into being. Eventually, things happen to effect that one person on the other side of the world. That’s the power of thought. Thoughts determine choices, and choices change the world.
Given enough time and attention, a single thought can alter the course of the world.
How much more effective then, is your thought of the creator of everything you’ve ever seen.
Jesus Christ is a man—a perfect, resurrected, omnipotent, and powerful man, but He is a man. He has thoughts, and His thoughts govern the universe.
And if you, also a human being, think on that eternal being, and connect with Him, your influence over the universe expands beyond anything you might think on your own. The very thought of the Savior, who both created and bought the universe, empowers you to do so much more than you could otherwise do.
You may long for his presence. You may picture His face, the very embodiment of eternity. You may think of His life, His choices, His sacrifice. You may think of His perfection, atonement, and His eternal glory. You may think of your own experiences with Him. You may think of Him daily. But whatever you do, think of Him. The very thought of the Savior has power to shape the universe, for you, for your loved ones, and for the whole human race, now and forever.
You can get the sheet music or free MP3 of this music on my website.
From Joseph’s 1832 account of the first vision:
“At about the age of twelve years my mind became seriously impressed with regard to the all-important concerns for the welfare of my immortal soul, which led me to searching the scriptures, believing, as I was taught, that they contained the word of God. Thus, applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel exceedingly, for I discovered that they did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository.
“This was a grief to my soul. Thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind, the contentions and divisions, the wickedness and abominations, and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind. My mind became exceedingly distressed, for I became convinced of my sins, and by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith. And there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. And I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world, for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever, that he was no respecter of persons, for he was God.
“For I looked upon the sun—the glorious luminary of the earth—and also the moon, rolling in their majesty through the heavens, and also the stars shining in their courses, and the earth also upon which I stood, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters, and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in majesty and in the strength of beauty. . . . And when I considered upon these things, my heart exclaimed, ‘Well hath the wise man said it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God.’
“My heart exclaimed, ‘All these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power, a being who maketh laws and decreeth and bindeth all things in their bounds, who filleth eternity, who was and is and will be from all eternity to eternity.’ And when I considered all these things and that that being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth, therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy, for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy.
And the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord, in the [15th] year of my age, a pillar of firelight above the brightness of the sun at noon day came down from above and rested upon me, and I was filled with the spirit of God. And the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.
And he spake unto me saying, ‘Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way, walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. Behold, I am the Lord of glory. I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have eternal life. Behold, the world lieth in sin at this time, and none doeth good, no not one. They have turned aside from the gospel and keep not my commandments. They draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me. And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to this ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles. Behold and lo, I come quickly, as is written of me, in the cloud, clothed in the glory of my Father.’
And my soul was filled with love, and for many days I could rejoice with great joy, and the Lord was with me, but could find none that would believe the heavenly vision.”
(Joseph Smith, “Kirtland Letter Book” [MS, LDS Historian’s Library], 1829–1835, 1–6; the original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar have been altered to conform to contemporary usage). Also cited in the Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, pages 5-6.
President David O. McKay said, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother”
(quoted from Theodore Hesburgh, Reader’s Digest, Jan. 1963, 25; in Richard Evans’ Quote Book , 11).
“Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.”
-Bible Dictionary, “Temple”
“Arthur Gordon shared this story in a national magazine:”
“When I was around thirteen and my brother ten, Father had promised to take us to the circus. But at lunchtime there was a phone call; some urgent business required his attention downtown. We braced ourselves for disappointment. Then we heard him say [into the phone], ‘No, I won’t be down. It’ll have to wait.’
“When he came back to the table, Mother smiled. ‘The circus keeps coming back, you know.’
“ ‘I know,’ said Father. ‘But childhood doesn’t.’ ”
—Arthur Gordon, A Touch of Wonder (1974), 77–78
I would love to have a shirt that says, “Sorry, I can’t come. My kids are growing up that day, and I don’t want to miss it.”
A happy, loving home life involves living each day to the fullest. This is an account related by Thomas S. Monson:
“Elder Monte J. Brough, formerly of the Seventy, tells of a summer at his childhood home in Randolph, Utah, when he and his younger brother, Max, decided to build a tree house in a large tree in the backyard. They made plans for the most wonderful creation of their lives. They gathered building materials from all over the neighborhood and carried them up to a part of the tree where two branches provided an ideal location for the house. It was difficult, and they were anxious to complete their work. The vision of the finished tree house provided tremendous motivation for them to complete the project.
“They worked all summer, and finally in the fall just before school began, their house was completed. Elder Brough said he will never forget the feelings of joy and satisfaction which were theirs when they finally were able to enjoy the fruit of their work. They sat in the tree house, looked around for a few minutes, climbed down from the tree—and never returned. The completed project, as wonderful as it was, could not hold their interest for even one day. In other words, the process of planning, gathering, building, and working—not the completed project—provided the enduring satisfaction and pleasure they had experienced.
“Let us relish life as we live it and, as did Elder Brough and his brother, Max, find joy in the journey.”
Thomas S. Monson, “Treasure of Eternal Value,” Liahona, Apr 2008, 2–7
After centuries of watching, waiting, anticipating, sometimes with an almost agonizing hope, and other times with pain and sorrow as we watched our older Brother suffer in preparation for the event—to see Him willingly give His life must have been agonizing, but just like a mother’s joy when her baby arrives, we must have forgotten all the hurt, all the anxiety, and all the pain as He took on His new perfected life.
Can you imagine the party that must have taken place? We’re humans, we like to celebrate. Can you imagine the celebration Father must have had with us?
The beautiful thing about this celebration is that it continues. We mourn at the loss of every loved one. But the Savior’s resurrection opened an eternal gate, guaranteeing every person ever to be born the gift of immortality. The celebration of the resurrection is the celebration of every person we have ever loved, because thanks to Jesus Christ, we will all return to life.