Thursday, November 24, 2016
LDS Hymn #34
This was another "Utah mountain" hymn. I remember singing it once growing up. I immediately liked the tune. I still do. The text is more about finding retreat from the persecutions and tribulation that the early Saints had to flee, and there in those mountains find rest to regain the strength after being so battered the previous 15 years. I like the relief and rest one can feel in the hymn, and the tribute to the beauty they found in their refuge.
But I have a little personal issue with this hymn because of a false notion it can support. When I came out to Utah for college, I encountered people (not all, but enough) who felt or at least acted like Utah and the LDS members who lived there were better than the LDS members who lived outside of it. How they referred to themselves as Zion, not remembering or realizing that Zion is the Pure in Heart. It is not a place, it is a state of mind and being--how we as Saints all over the world should be. Yet the chorus of this song unfortunately promotes the idea that Utah is Zion. If we want to be technical, the only physical place that can be called Zion is in Missouri.
It has always irked me, being a non-native Utah LDS member when the Utah LDS members put themselves above those of us not from there. And claim that they are Zion and the best place to be. That the rest of us are "the mission field." (The mandate to proclaim the Gospel is to all the world, not everywhere but Utah. By the way. Once upon a time there weren't missionaries in Utah, but now there are so can we stop calling the rest of us the mission field? Thank you.) I have come to love being a Utah transplant because of the many temples, being close to attend General Conference, having members in my workplace(!!), have members who are my neighbors, having Church meetings so close, being able to have Gospel discussions outside of my home on an easy, daily basis. But I do not think I am better or more blessed than others outside of Utah. I miss my East coast...everything. This is where the Lord wants me now, and I am grateful and find its joys and beauties. But it does not make this the chosen place anymore! It served its purpose in giving us strength and rejuvenation, and allowed us to move on and up.
Thus, I appreciate this hymn for many aspects, but it also tends to rub me the wrong way at times. Just gotta be honest on that!
From the history book
Who knew--the hymn was written by a man who hadn't seen Utah, yet. He was serving a mission in England. Had been there for ten years, each year being promised if he served another year then he would be released and get to go to Zion. Originally he sang it as a person who had never been to Zion, but later changed a little to fit with those Saints who had gathered to Utah. The tune was "Lily Dale" and even used in a 1939 movie set in the American West. The tune was originally published in 1852. Matching of tune and text first appeared in 1880. I think my favorite thing in the book is that she mentions this song in the figurative text. And in that, I love the song! Seeing the Gospel as a mountain refuge, I can totally get behind that. Then the Zion chorus doesn't bother me in the least.