Thursday, April 5, 2012

Raising my Ebeneezer

Warning: Many religious videos ahead. But c'mon, it's Easter Weekend!

As Topher mentioned, this weekend was the LDS General Conference. And if you weren't distracted by the amazing commercials (it's kinda like the Mormon Superbowl) there were some pretty great talks and spiritual momments. On Sunday afternoon, as the morning session was ending, we were scrambling around the house to get the kids ready for the traditional Waffle, Ice Cream and Strawberry brunch at my Mother-in-Laws. Despite the rush, I was stopped in my tracks by the closing song. The MoTabs singing Come Thou Fount.
Unless your soul has been replaced by shredded wheat, you probably have your heart in your throat about now. The MoTabs rocked it out (in a spiritual, testimony bearing kind of way.) The lyrics of this song are moving and gorgeous. And while I don't know what it means to "raise my Ebeneezer" I love the recognition that the human heart is "prone to wander" and pleading with the Lord to "take and seal it."It makes me weepy every time. 

But what I find most fun about this song is its weird cult status in the Church. It's like the quintisential Hipster Hymn - everyone wants to believe they have some personal claim in it or that they discovered it first. It even used to be in the hymnal, but was taken out in the last revision. Which makes it all the more mysterious and awesome!! Ask any musical Mormon about it and they will tell you how they heard from their uncle who had a friend on the Mormon Music Committee (the official name, I believe) the reason: It was accidentally dropped on the floor before the final printing, it was a secret revelation, it was just too darn high. And my personal favorite: They heard from the same MMC that it will be in the NEXT hymn book. 

I love the Hipster Hymns. Songs that you don't hear all that often but are amazing none the less. I mean, everyone loves Praise to the Man (Ming-ling's with God!) and Spirit of God but don't you love that confused look at panic around the congregation when one of the Hipster Hymns starts up on the organ (when's the last time you sang The Day Dawn is Breaking? (strangely, this hymn is hugely popular in Italy where I served my LDS mission. Maybe it is because you say "Limpido dí!" instead of "Beautiful Bright Millennial Day!"))

The most popular Hipster Hymn is Lead Kindly Light. You hear it a little more than some of the others, but it gets its Hipster status because it sounds like it should be sung while wearing Birkenstocks in a commune accompanied by someone named Sage playing a guitar. It's sounds a little out of place with an organ (although the flutes in this version help.)

My personal favorite Hipster Hymn is Be Still My Soul. I had never heard this song before going on my LDS Mission. I don't think I knew what it was called in English until I came home. In Italian, it is called Anima Mia (which means "my soul") and it is haunting and earnest and beautiful. (I guess it is all of those things in English, too. But most things sound better in Italian.)  I, alas, couldn't find an Italian version on You Tube.  I could find 1 million versions sung by David Arculetta at firesides recorded on cell phone cams by, I presume, 13 year old girls. But here are the MoTabs with their boring old English version.

So are you more of a A Voice Hath Spoken From the Dust kind of person? Or do you get excited when you hear Know This, That Every Soul is Free? Do you choose The Happy Day at Last Has Come when you get to choose the song in opening exercises. "Oh, what? You've never heard this hymn? Well, it is very obscure." If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you are a fan of the Hipster Hymn. Don't be shy. Raise your Ebeneezer proudly and bind some hearts like a fetter. Remember, people are in awe of your taste in esoteric religious music.  
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