Ever since my childhood I have loved The Articles of Faith. It was then that I learned all thirteen with the help of the corresponding primary songs composed by Vanja Watkins. She accomplished something amazing in composing singable music for words that were probably never intended to be sung. These words have no common meter or rhyming scheme, but I can still sing any and all of them on cue!
In the last few years I've discovered great meaning in composing music as a way to bear my testimony. A few years ago I started composing my own musical settings of The Articles of Faith with the goal of trying to write music that really compliments the text and bears my own testimony of these truths. So far I've finished my own arrangements of the first nine Articles of Faith. Doing so has been a wonderful experience and has made the Articles of Faith come alive for me. I see divine design in their organization and sequencing.
The first nine Articles of Faith establish the most fundamental truths, principles and ordinances of our faith--most important among these is that through the Atonement of Christ, all of us may be saved! Indeed, this week's "Come, Follow Me" reading from D&C 76 teaches that by virtue of choosing Heavenly Father's plan and coming to earth we will all be resurrected to a kingdom of glory in the next life! Here are a few other treasured tenets of our faith found in the 13 articles:
All of this is so wonderful, but I have a problem: I'm stuck on the music for the 10th Article of Faith. I'll ask you the question I've been asking myself for a few months now:
What kind of music would adequately describe the literal gathering of Israel, the establishment of Zion, Christ reigning personally on the earth, and the earth receiving paradisiacal glory?
Speaking in italian musical terms, the tenth article of faith is grandioso, sempre crescendo e accelerando--it just keeps getting better and better! We, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the year 2021, find ourselves living out the beginning of this tenth article of faith. We are helping to gather Israel, on both sides of the veil.
My talk today is actually not about the articles of faith, but I think they have helped set the stage very effectively for my actual topic: "Hearts Knit Together in Unity" (from Mosiah 18:21 in The Book of Mormon)
I see this phrase ("Hearts Knit Together in Unity") as a perfect description of a Zion people:
21 And [Alma] commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.
This verse is the only usage of the verb 'KNIT' in The Book of Mormon. This usage is obviously metaphorical. Here's a short description of knitting, from wikipedia. As I read it, see how far you can take the metaphor of knitting to human relationships and communities:
Knitting is a method by which yarn is manipulated to create a textile or fabric. It is used in many types of garments.
Knitted fabric consists of a number of consecutive rows of connected loops that intermesh with the next and previous rows. As each row is formed, each newly created loop is pulled through one or more loops from the prior row and placed on the gaining needle so that the loops from the prior row can be pulled off the other needle without unraveling.
Differences in yarn (varying in fibre type, weight, uniformity and twist), needle size, and stitch type allow for a variety of knitted fabrics with different properties, including color, texture, thickness, heat retention, water resistance, and integrity.
I admit, I've never done any knitting. In preparation for this talk I watched a few video tutorials on hand-knitting, supposedly for beginners. The whole process appeared very challenging to me, but I found myself wanting to try it out sometime. Take a moment to notice the fabric of the clothes you are wearing. It's amazing that people have figured out how to supply such a wonderful thing as off-the-shelf clothing made of durable fabric of almost any color and design you could want or imagine.
As amazing as fabric is, after its initial creation it must be cared for. Think of the various groups and communities of which you are a member. If you imagined a fabric to represent each one, would that fabric be durable? Would it hold in heat? If made into a garment, would it protect the wearer from the sun and other elements? Is the fabric in good condition, or is it unraveling in places? Do holes need to be patched? Have ugly stains distracted from the original beauty of the fabric? When was the last time the fabric was washed clean?
We don't buy clothing with the hope that we will simply be able to wear it forever, never washing or caring for it. Maintaining the fabric of the family requires constant attention. As "The Family", a proclamation to the world states:
Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the quorum of the 12 apostles wrote a short booklet of historical fiction in which he shares imaginary communications from a man called Mahijah to his imaginary friend Omner. The letters describe the reasons for the glory of the city of Enoch, whose inhabitants were called by the Lord Zion, "because they were of one heart, and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness" (Moses 7:18).
Elder Maxwell describes what it might have been like for Mahijah to initially question Enoch, to observe him and his followers and eventually join them in their new city, in the end, being taken up to heaven. I've come to appreciate the descriptions of how the people must have behaved, inspired, of course, by docrtine from the scriptures. Here are a few excerpts:
By now I have had much time to associate with the followers of Enoch, who, incidentally, are speaking of forming a little colony that they think one day might become a city. Enoch's followers are not long-faced and sad; they are happy and smiling people who pay much heed to the needs of each other. Their striking individuality seems to be heightened, not lessened, by their faith in Jesus Christ, who, they say, is the ultimate Redeemer to come. Their unity is not the conformity that you and I have seen imposed by the sword; it rests upon mutual esteem and mutual desires. (Page 7)
Omner, you once said of the afflicted who are all about us that you and I are not responsible for their condition. If you mean their lameness or blindness, then what do you spoke is true. Yet if my experience amongst these people is any guide, you and I are accountable for their present conditions of life; if by withholding fellowship we fail to sweeten their lot, we have added to their affliction. (Page 10)
If I do affiliate with Enoch and his followers, I am sure I will be a better friend of yours. Their love of their God seems to move these people to a greater love of their fellow men, and Enoch is not only a preacher of righteousness but also a performer of righteousness. The small band who follow him claim that among them liberty does not rob order, and order does not mock liberty. Surely such cannot be a harmful thing in a world that is otherwise growing so hard. (Page 11)
Of course, we feel the presence of each other in a city of this size; one gets jostled in the crowd, but accept such with good humor, rather than assuming malevolence on the part of another. At first we feel each other's elbows, but soon we learn to look into each others' eyes and into the radiant faces of those with whom we have made common cause. As I ponder the teachings here, I am struck by these simple but powerful truths. In the teachings of men – without Christ at the center - there will soon be a slackening sense of service to others. Believing in a loving God who is perfect helps us to love our imperfect neighbors. I see now that the first commandment must be first and, therefore, the second commandment must be second, for without a knowledge of love of God and his help our concerns for our neighbors would diminish. Men do not usually love a neighbor simply because he is there; some discover that he exists only after they become persuaded that God exists. (Page 14)
Have you been 'jostled in the crowd' recently? When was the last time you felt an intruding elbow? (Maybe it was a close family member, or maybe another driver on the highway.) The challenge we have is to see all around us as our brothers and sisters with their own unique needs, challenges, and objectives that matter just as much as ours.
Does it excite you to think that we are preparing the world for the second coming of the Savior? If we stick with the gospel and stay on the covenant path, we will see the world get worse before it gets better, but we will also see the same patterns of hearts being knit in unity and love, just like the people of the city of Enoch, most especially in our associations in the church as we all seek to "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him" (Moroni 10:32).
Mosiah chapter 18 contains a beautiful, albeit brief, snapshot of celestial society:
16 And after this manner he did baptize every one that went forth to the place of Mormon; and they were in number about two hundred and four souls; yea, and they were baptized in the waters of Mormon, and were filled with the grace of God.
17 And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church.
18 And it came to pass that Alma, having authority from God, ordained priests...to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
19 And he commanded them that they should...... preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people.
21 And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.
22 And thus he commanded them to preach. And thus they became the children of God.