I became really interested in this topic of Zion this last year as I studied the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had been on a few “Zion’s Camp” trips as a youth growing up and watched some of the short clips about that but had never understood how important this idea was to the early saints. Shortly after the church was established in 1830, Joseph Smith received revelation on the Book of Moses with chapters 6 and 7 about the story of Enoch and the city of Zion. As this new revelation was circulated, Zion became a focus for members from the very early days of the church…in fact, THEY were to build the city of Zion. Furthermore, Joseph Smith said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object.”
Edward Partridge was ordained as the first Bishop of the church in February 1831 and ultimately oversaw the young church’s purchase and planned development of lands in Jackson County, Missouri on the site dedicated for the Temple. His entire life revolved around the building up of Zion and though it never came to full fruition in his lifetime, He never faltered. He penned these beautiful words:
Let Zion in her beauty rise;
Her light begins to shine.
Ere long her King will rend the skies,
Majestic and divine,
The gospel spreading thru the land,
A people to prepare
To meet the Lord and Enoch’s band
Triumphant in the air.
I wanted to bring this song to light in a fresh new way and I had recently learned from President Russell M. Nelson’s focus on Covenant Israel that the song “Hope of Israel” is really about the youth of the church rising up ‘in might!” The first line of the song connected the two songs immediately for me: “Hope of Israel, Zion’s army.” I then knew that these songs needed to be mashed up together showing that when the youth of the church rise up and stand for truth and right “Her light begins to shine!” The concept of Zion is a powerful one as an inspiring end goal of all that we strive and hope for as disciples of Christ. “And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18)
But the ultimate “beauty” in this concept of Zion is the power to change lives for the better through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And by doing so, creating a covenant people who are focused on preparing themselves and the world for the 2nd Coming of Christ. So this new album is dedicated to all who built Zion, all who are building Zion, and all who will yet building Zion.
“Living in this world with change all around,
But with the prophet’s words, I’ll stand on solid ground.”
I cannot convey how much those words have comforted me in the last few months as I see what almost amounts to utter chaos encircling us. Coronavirus, fires, riots, lost jobs, needless deaths, violence, food and medication shortages, protesting, political maneuvering, media hysteria, shutdowns, racial injustice, blackouts, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes…did I forget anything? The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that none of this is surprising and in fact somewhat expected. But when you are in the middle of it, it still can be frightening. Yet there comes a profound peace from one simply living, striving for and becoming what you believe.
A passage from the Book of Mormon that has brought tremendous comfort and certainty to me in these crazy times is 1 Nephi 22:16-17 as Nephi prophesies about all that will happen in the last days.
For the time soon cometh that the fullness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.
Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fullness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.
One may think, “But I’m not ‘righteous’ enough” or “that promise is for someone else, I’m not doing everything I can.” However, the message of hope from the gospel is that Jesus Christ has atoned for everyone without price and that we can all be greater than we think we are now through his Light, Mercy, and Glory. We will all have those moments of small miracles or tender mercies that remind us that God is watching over us and protecting us and that He is in control.
Elder Holland’s words from the last April General Conference should echo in our hearts,
“We all need to believe that what we desire in righteousness can someday, some way, somehow be ours…may we press forward with love in our hearts, walking in the ‘brightness of hope’ that lights the path of holy anticipation that we’ve been on now for 200 years…we have every reason to hope for blessings even greater than those we have already received, because this is the work of Almighty God, this is the Church of continuing revelation, this is the gospel of Christ’s unlimited grace and benevolence.”
In light of all this, I am posting the minus track of I Will Be What I Believe for all of the primaries and others who desire to use it in virtual meetings or personally to strengthen each and every one of us as we navigate these challenging yet amazing times. May I give my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who think about, pray for, and uplift the beautiful children of the world with spirit-filled music and empowering messages of hope and peace. Let us all be a Light in the dark, Calm in the chaos, Joy in the sadness, Hope in the emptiness, Faith over the fear, and Love midst the anger. Let us all be examples of the believers, even disciples of Jesus Christ. 😀
Lori Walker is a enthusiastic primary music leader in Springville Utah and contacted me on writing a primary song together in the fall of 2018. She really wanted to write a song that reflected how the Holy Ghost speaks to us as individuals and especially to teach the children how to recognize when the Holy Ghost speaks to them. She personally equated it to “sunshine in my soul!“ Tragically, Lori was severely injured in a cabin explosion in Heber causing multiple burns and injuries. She miraculously was rescued by three courageous men and has lived to tell the tale of her incredible journey. We reconnected after this tragedy and were able to write this song together throughout the course of her recovery. Lori Walker and her family are and will continue to be a shining light of resilience, love, and faith. For more details of her miraculous story, please go to courageandkindness.org.
Enjoy brand new music for Primary children! These beautiful arrangements, in print and on CD, feature classic Primary tunes and all new pieces, like "Heavenly Father Loves Me" and "I Will Be What I Believe." With music and lyrics focused on gospel truths, these songs are perfect for young voices.
This Primary music journey all started with a challenge from my wife, Kaicie, when she simply said, "Hey, you should write a Primary song." She was the Primary chorister and I was her sleepy pianist (I was an orthopedic surgery resident at the time). We had been a music duo in our ward for a couple of years, and she wanted some fresh music. I had written a few EFY-style songs in high school and on my mission, plus a couple of wedding songs for her, but I had never attempted a Primary song. I'm usually up to a challenge so I said, "Yes!" I thought about my favorite stories of the Church: Joseph Smith, the pioneers, the stripling warriors, Nephi, and missionaries. I decided to roll them all up into one great song. At the time, I had also been studying one of my all-time favorite talks: "The Challenge to Become"" by Dallin H. Oaks from the October 2000 general conference. He describes that the gospel isn't about knowing something, but it is in fact about "becoming"" something. Then, "I Will Be What I Believe" was born. The strange thing is that I never planned to do mash-ups necessarily. I had been jazzing up Janice Kapp Perry's "Army of Helaman" in Primary for a while and by sheer happenstance realized that I could sing "Army of Helaman" over the top of the chorus of "I Will Be What I Believe." I worried that the kids wouldn't be able to sing the mash-up part without getting lost or offbeat. However, I discovered through all of this that the kids can actually pull it off. What I came to love about mash-ups is that the mixing of songs is both musically interesting and spiritually enlightening. I found that, in general, this song style not only powerfully reinforces the quintessence of the song, but it also shines fresh light on a classic song, allowing you to think about it in a different way that enlarges the soul.
You'll notice that in most of the mash-ups, I typically use the most commonly sung verses. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, almost all of us know the first verse to most of these songs and can generally sing it without looking at the words. I don't want people to be burdened by trying to learn multiple verses. I've been the choir director as well, and you always need a song that can be learned easily and quickly. But the most important reason why I use the first verse is that I want people to be able to sing these songs without music. I want them to feel the beauty of the words and the musical intricacies of the mash-ups. Sometimes when singing mash-ups, you have to put the music down, close your eyes, trust in the basic beat and your knowledge of the song, and just sing it!
Throughout this whole process, I have come to love writing Primary songs. They teach important gospel principles in simple terms and are the backbone to many testimonies. I often think about how I was touched by both the music and the words of many Primary songs growing up. In times of difficulty and trial, the words of Primary songs still come to my mind and answer my heart's deepest questions. Their messages provide solace to the soul. Moreover, I also love watching a child's face as they learn a new song, internalize the words, and then sing this new piece of their testimony with commitment and strength. Plus, the simple melodies are easier to write and play, which is something I appreciate since I'm not a great sight reader myself. I hope and pray that you find joy in the music, and that we build up a new generation of children who "become" what they believe.