Friday, February 22, 2008

"What Is This Thing That Men Call Death?"

I came across a very interesting article yesterday written by Janice Kapp Perry. I read it online at Meridian Magazine but it was also published in the Deseret News. Take some time to go to that link and read the story behind one of my new favorite hymns: "What Is This Thing That Men Call Death?". The words, which I love, were written by President Hinckley. The music, which I love, was written by Janice Kapp Perry. It's kind of miraculous how it all came together, and just in time to be sung by the Tabernacle Choir at President Hinckley's funeral.

I've since downloaded it into my iTunes and can't get enough of it. It's simple, yet profound; moving, and memorable. You can download the mp3 file for free (both the song and the instrumental version) at this link. If you simply want the sheet music, you can get that here. Some of the most tender and testimony-building times are those in which I've either been witness to, or contemplate, the death of a loved one. This poem, written by Gordon B. Hinckley, speaks of the heart of the gospel:

What is this thing that men call death, This quiet passing in the night?
'Tis not the end but genesis--Of better worlds and greater light.
O God, touch Thou my aching heart--And calm my troubled, haunting fears.
Let hope and faith, transcendent, pure, Give strength and peace beyond my tears.
There is no death, but only change, With recompense for victory won.
The gift of Him who loved all men, The Son of God, the Holy One.


Clean Cut said...

I just read this beautiful and insightful commentary posted on LDS Newsroom website:

SALT LAKE CITY 12 February 2008

“If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). So inquired the anguished Job. On this one fundamental question hang much of the hopes and fears of mankind. And how one answers it will largely determine not only how one approaches death but also how one lives life.

The passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley has moved Latter-day Saints to reflect more deeply upon the meaning of death and its implications for how we live our lives. Death is not the final stop on life’s path but a mere gateway that leads to an eternal course that we continually shape by our choices. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles likened the long journey of human life to “a grand three-act play” in which the first act is a previous pre-mortal existence with God, the second act is the trial of this mortal life, and the third act is a glorious future of eternity. Such a broad vision of life endows each moment with eternal significance.

During President Hinckley’s recent funeral, the choir sang a hymn that he himself composed titled “What Is This Thing That Men Call Death?” There is no doubt how he answered Job’s question. Echoing his typical brightness and optimism, the hymn proclaims that death “’Tis not the end but genesis of better worlds and greater light.”

Accordingly, Mormon funerals are typically marked by an atmosphere of hopefulness and peace. They generally are not burdened by the inconsolable grief and despair so often seen in other funerals. Latter-day Saints who mourn the death of loved ones are lightened by the assurance and understanding that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers. In addition, some might be surprised by the lack of formal ritual in these funerals. The commemoration service is conducted by a lay minister and features heartfelt tributes and comforting music. Moreover, the basic format, tone and length of President Hinckley’s funeral are typical of what might be seen in the funerals of regular Church members.

Regarding the undaunted way in which Latter-day Saints confront death, well-known literary scholar Harold Bloom proclaimed the following: “What is the essence of religion? … Religion rises inevitably from our apprehension of our own death. To give meaning to meaninglessness is the endless quest of all religion. … Of all religions that I know, the one that most vehemently and persuasively defies and denies the reality of death is the original Mormonism of the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator Joseph Smith.”

Most important, this affirmation of life in the face of death arises from faith in God’s abundant mercy. Joseph Smith taught that God is “more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive.” It is on such a foundation that the fears of death can be reconciled with the hopes of life.


David T. said...

Hey Clean,

Thanks for the link of the mp3. Good stuff. I'm sure my wife would like it on her iPod. That was an interesting comment you added, too (Comment #1), especially the part about Mormon funerals. I've been to only two LDS funerals in my life-- and was a pallbearer in both-- and was impressed by their brightness. Like a wake, but with no Jameson's. I wonder how the congregation would respond at a service if an Italian Catholic relation suddenly threw themselves on the coffin wailing. I'll have to make sure a couple are invited to mine and catch it from the other side.

Clean Cut said...

David--your comment made me laugh out loud--Italian Catholic relation wailing on the coffin! I can picture it right now. I seriously love your humor.
On a serious note, I've witnessed a few of those weeping and wailing type funerals on my mission in Ecuador. What a contrast to the sweet, peaceful, and even joyful Spirit-filled LDS funerals I've been to.

Kelli W. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelli W. said...

Kelli W. said...
Hey Spence, I just got caught up on your recent posts, so I'll just comment on this one. Love them. I also love Meridian magazine online and have especially loved The First Principles of Marriage series. Very powerful and life changing words by H. Wallace Goddard. Makes me want to go buy the rest of his books. I love how he explains the role of marriage and how he applies the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every aspect of our relationships. Have you read it? Powerful and inspiring.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Clean Cut said...

Thanks Kelli for the "First Principles of Marriage" recommendation. I just opened up the link to that and I can already tell they're going to be great. I love you!