Stories in this episode: Steve gets to choose the song at his mission farewell and discovers pirates in the hymnal; Lillie finds herself leading a choir of cloistered nuns in singing her least favorite hymn; The last few lines of a treasured song turn out to be Holly’s only solace as she faces heart wrenching disappointment in her journey to adopt.
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Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.
I am really excited because we have something so fun to introduce our theme today. I was scrolling through my social media feed–as one does–and this comedy bit from Steve Soelberg popped up. And as I was watching it, I was like, "Oh, my gosh, he's read my diary about some of the hymns that we sing on Sundays." So I thought there was no better way to get us talking about music and our gospel practice than to start by having a good laugh together. Here's Steve.
You know, I do have this theory, though. I think it is good to be embarrassed and do things that make yourself feel awkward and kind of out of place and stupid sometimes. And I think that's healthy. I think it's good to do that. That's why I went on a, I went on a two year mission for my Church. Because it made me feel embarrassed and awkward. I had a lot of doors slammed in my face, and I think that's healthy.
One of my favorite parts of it was even before I left. Before I left, they said, "Steve, you get to pick the hymns that the congregation is going to sing before you leave." It was like a little farewell thing. And I thought that's cool. That's a big responsibility and I didn't want to mess it up. So I asked my dad, I was like, "What hymn should we sing?" And my dad goes, "I don't care, just don't sing the pirate hymn." And I was like, "Wait, what? There's a pirate hymn? What are you talking about? We have a pirate hymn?"
And I've done some research on the pirate hymn. The pirate hymn–the lyrics are used across many Christian churches. And as far as I know, my Church is the only one that uses this particular tune. The tune is also used by 1950's Disney movie that was about pirates and the ocean. And so I go, "Dad, please explain to me, what is the pirate hymn?" And he goes, "Well, it goes, it goes yeah, da da da da," and I was like, "Okay, that does sound kind of piratey, but keep going." And he goes, "Yeah, da da da da da"
And that felt so piratey I was like, "Oohh... and I started the swashbuckle a little bit"–I don't know why my pirates are Irish, but they are. It just feels . . . I don't know why that's how that goes, but I don't know how to do a pirate accent. It's all Irish. Sorry, if you're in Ireland, and you're watching this.
I didn't recognize the song yet. Right? "Ya da da da da da," I was like, "I don't recognize it yet." And I was like, "Dad, please sing it." And he's like, "Ugh." He didn't want to, but he did. And he goes, "Well, I'm gonna sing it the right way. With the pirate accent." My dad sings, he goes, "Okay, this is the song. 'Who's on the Lord's say who? Now is the time you show.'"
I was like "Oh! That is a pirate hymn." "We ask it fearlessly!" Fearlessly? What is that! Like, running the Jolly Roger up like, "Are you on the Lord's side? Fly the flag then, we ask it fearlessly. Who's on the Lord's side?" And then it doubles down on the pirate theme, it goes yeah, "Ya da da da da da da, ya da da da da da" at that point seaspray is hitting you in the face.
My favorite part, "Who's on the large side who," And the whole congregation sings that line, everybody goes "Whoooooo," You have grandma's next year going "Whooo." Is that how we sing that? Then you look up at the top for direction and it goes "Sing pirately." You go, "Oh there we go. That makes sense." Sing it pirately.
You go, "Are you on the Lard's side?" "The Lord?" "The LORD?" "The Lord?" "The Lord's side! He's on the starboard side." Of course we sang that when I left. I was like, "Dad, I'm shoving off! We gotta sing the pirate hymn." So excited.
That was Steve Soelberg at Dry Bar Comedy. We love Dry Bar and Steve Soelberg for lots of reasons, but the fact that they specifically offer stand up that doesn't make us bleep anything, that's kind of a big deal. In fact, Steve has a whole special that you can watch on the Dry Bar app that doesn't require any bleeping.
So maybe you're a better person than me, but I really resonated with this whole thing. I'm admitting here and now that I have giggled through more than a few hymns in my day, "Scatter sunshine," "Put your shoulder to the wheel," those have always made me feel just a little like we're all "Yo, ho ho ho-ing" through the rest hymn. And I just realized that I miss the rest hymn! I miss it. And if that's not a pandemic miracle, I honestly don't know what is.
Music is such a funny thing in our gospel worship. There are a lot of different camps of opinion about our hymns. Maybe sometimes we wish they were a little more lively or a little bit more modern. Or in the case of the pirate hymns, maybe we wish they were a little less lively? A little more reverent? I think the reason we have so many different feelings and opinions about the music in our church is because sacred music is one of the ways that so many of us connect to heaven. It's the workhorse of our spiritual communion. It can be a conduit of praise and revelation, a way to express our gratitude and keep a prayer in our hearts.
We use it to spiritually prepare ourselves for participating in holy ordinances. And for me, it's often the tool that God uses to soften my heart so that he can correct me and invite me to come closer. Maybe I forgot to list the way that sacred music wends its way into your gospel practice. But if you think about it, I'm sure something came to your mind.
Today we've got two stories about the way our sacred music tutors and blesses us as disciples. Our first story comes from Lillie, whose love for music and languages gave her the unique opportunity to start a choir, quite different from any that she'd been a part of before. Here's Lillie.
The year my husband and I got married, I was teaching high school Spanish so I had summers off, and he was still in school so he had time in the summers as well. So we decided to volunteer. I needed more experience with Latin American countries so that I could feel like I was a better teacher. So I decided to–we signed up for this nonprofit to go and do nonprofit work in Ecuador, with a man named Washington Zambrano, he was actually a bishop at the time too, but he was a dentist. We signed up to be there for almost four months.
And when we got there, there were a bunch of nurses there that were volunteering with him, actual dentists, dental hygienists, so we basically did whatever he asked us to do. One particular service we were asked to do was go and help a bunch of nuns that lived in a monastery there in the historical district of Ecuador and Quito. Cloistered nuns take vows to never leave the convent. And they vow to just basically study and pray and be close to God. So it's pretty amazing that these women chose these things.
Some of the women that we met while we were in there doing their dental work, had actual jobs before they had taken their vows. And so some of them hadn't entered the convent until they were in like their 50's. And others were young, there were a couple of nuns that hadn't taken the vow to be a cloistered nun yet, so those were the nuns that would go out and get food or take some of the prepared food that the nuns made, and give it to the homeless population there in Quito.
So when we went to do dental work for the nuns who obviously hadn't had dental…