Sunday July 10, 2016 – Frankfurt, Germany – The Mormon Tabernacle Choir European Tour ~
Have we really been a whole two weeks already in Europe?! Last Sunday we were in Vienna, providing a memorable performance in the famed Musikverein’s Goldener Hall, with all proceeds given to charity. This Sunday we will truly “rest from our labors” and enjoy worshiping together – all 600 strong – in the ballroom of our hotel.
We will also get a chance to speak with our children later today via video chat, who we are deeply missing. The realization of how long this tour really is has sunk in. The physical and emotional toll of of being away from our families, our familiar routines and foods and our own bed is starting to catch up to all of us. Some of our group are fighting illness. We need a true day of rest.
PARTAKING OF THE SACRAMENT
“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day” – D&C 59:9
We met for breakfast in the largest ballroom of our hotel. After our plates were cleared away the room became our chapel. We opened with singing the hymn “Praise to the Lord The Almighty“, and a prayer was offered to dedicate the meeting. We were welcomed by Brother Ron Gunnel who was conducting the meeting.
We sang the sacramental hymn We’ll Sing All Hail To Jesus’ Name. I have sung that hymn for nearly 50 years, and for the first time one of the lyrics jumped out to me that I never really noticed before, and I found it incredibly poignant and meaningful.
Whenever we “sing all hail to Jesus’ name” – whether literally singing, or speaking of Him, then we are singing His song to the world! We each have the opportunity to share His beckoning, loving voice – calling to each soul in the world we meet – to Come to Him, learn of Him, follow Him, accept the saving gifts of peace and grace that we each desperately need, and that only He can provide. I realized, more than anything, my soul wants to sing His song – and that is why I am serving as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. And that is why I am here right now, in Europe, to sing the Savior’s song of Salvation to each soul in each of our wonderful audiences.
There are countless sermons to be found in sacred hymns. Today, this was a hymn that became personal scripture for me. I pondered all of the verses of this hymn over and over as we sat quietly during the blessing and passing of the Sacrament [communion] in that large hotel room. We partook of the bread [in remembrance of the body of Christ], and the water [in remembrance of the blood of Christ].
As you can imagine the passing of the sacrament took a significant amount of time, but it was performed in a very orderly and reverent manner by some of the men holding the priesthood in our group who had volunteered to do this.
After the Sacrament, we were blessed to hear three inspirational talks. One from a choir member, and then from our spiritual advisers Elder and Sister Kearon.
Choir baritone John Maddox told us a story about the lighthouse in Newport Oregon which stands on a hill to warn the ships that land is ahead, and dangerous cliffs are near. But, as important as the lighthouse is on the hill, it would be nothing without the lower lights placed along the shore that guide the ships through the narrow channel between the rocks to safety.
This story was an allegory for our lives. Jesus Christ is the light on the hill, but He asks us to each be His “lower lights” to help guide and save others. John told the story of a man named Marvin who was one of those “lower lights”. Marvin befriended a man named Dale during their youth, and he guided Dale toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. John told us that because of Marvin Saban, it was the life of his father, Dale Maddox, which was changed. Today, there are countless posterity who have the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives because of one man who reached out and made a difference.
“Let the lower lights be burning. Send a gleam across the way. Some poor fainting, struggling sea man you may rescue, you may save” – from the hymn Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy
SISTER JENNIFER KEARON
Sister Kearon shared personal stories of how she and her sweetheart Patrick Kearon met in England while she was in a study abroad program. At the time they met, Patrick had only been baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 2 years. Jennifer was a life-long member of the church, with a long line of Mormon pioneer heritage. She was a native of Sandy, Utah. But, she chose to leave her home in Utah and marry her sweetheart Patrick, and together they have made their home in Europe and have served in many capacities in the church.
She told us how her life has had many blessings but also many challenges. She shared with us the tender story of their first little baby who was born with a serious heart defect. They sought out the very best doctors and the very best hospital for the intricate life-saving surgery that was needed when he was 8 months old. But, despite all of their efforts, diligence and prayers, their sweet baby died during the surgery.
Sister Kearon was devastated. It felt that she would never be able to find hope, joy or solace again. One day, she heard a song playing by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir which reached down and touched her heart so powerfully that she was able to begin to heal from her grief.
“Consider the sweet tender children, who must suffer on this earth. The pains of all of them He carried, from the day of His birth.
He clothes the lilies of the field, He feeds the lambs of His fold, and He will heal those who trust Him – and make their hearts as gold.”
-excerpt from the song Consider the lilies of the field
Sister Kearon reminded us of the power of our music to heal hearts, and help make them like gold. She acknowledged that three weeks was a very long time for us to be away from our home and families, but she promised us from personal experience that when we return home we will view our lives through fresh eyes. This is an opportunity to reflect on who we really are, and think about our most important relationships – particularly with our Father in Heaven, Savior and Family…
“Go home changed'” she encouraged, “Go home more determined to do things a little differently, a little better…We all sing praises to Him [our Savior] out of our mouths – but too often our words to others are not reflected in the same way.
May we always strive to make all our words reflect our relationship with Him.
ELDER PATRICK KEARON
For the first two weeks during this tour Elder Whitney Clayton and his wife traveled with us as our spiritual advisers. In Zürich, Elder Patrick Kearon and his wife joined us for the remainder of the tour. Elder Kearon is a General Authority of the Church assigned as the European Area representative.
Elder Kearon began his remarks by thanking us for our “great gift” of coming and “nourishing the members, and future members of the church.” There are 39 countries in Europe, speaking 29 languages. But the language of our music can bridge all of those differences.
Elder Kearon got emotional when he told us that we may not be able to see the deep wounds and suffering right now in the hearts of the people of Europe – especially those in Brussels who we will be performing for tomorrow – people who desperately need our music right now. The Lord is aware of them, and He has sent us to them.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from Elder Kearon’s talk. I have created it as a photo quote to highlight it because it meant so much to me.
Elder Kearon shared a true story of a town in Norway that is surrounded so closely by such high mountains that it can never receive sunshine, it is always in shadow. One day, an innovative man found a way to build solar panels and shine them down to the village, When his idea was presented it was mocked and turned down. But he persisted. Eventually, he was given funding to try it, and when the sunshine came into the village, it changed the people’s lives and lifted their spirits.
The Choir and Orchestra have been given a divine calling to shine light into places and hearts that are trapped in shadows. Our ministry is two-fold;
- To protect people from darkness
- To bring people out of darkness into Light.
In conclusion, Elder Kearon promised us that we would be protected to be able to fulfill our ministry, and we would be blessed and our families will be blessed as we share our light with the world.
“Light cleaveth unto light.” – D&C 88:40
Elder Kearon bore his powerful witness of our Savior Jesus Christ, and the power that the light of Christ has in all of our lives to bring us back safely to our heavenly home.
Our sacrament meeting then concluded by the congregation raising our voices in the Hymn “Sing We Now At Parting“. The phrase that touched my heart were these words;
“Help us now to serve Thee in a pleasing way.”
And that is exactly what I know we all hope to do here in Europe.
SMILES ACROSS THE MILES
After such a beautiful, uplifting worship service we were filled with the Spirit of God, and we wanted to hold onto that feeling forever. We had no desire to leave the hotel for the rest of the day, and we didn’t.
We were so happy when we were able to use Facebook Messenger to call our girls. There they were! Their beautiful faces just on the other side of the iPad screen talking to us a if they were just in the next room! What an amazing world we live in. Can you believe that we can actually speak to someone we love and see their faces and hear their voices – even though we are five thousand miles away from each other?!! What a wonderful miracle.
We realized today how very homesick we are feeling to be with each other.But, we wiped away our tears and joyfully chatted sharing all about our experiences. I even got up the courage to walk over to the window and point the iPad camera out into the city and down into the street so the girls could see our view. We laughed when they both felt dizzy! It was so much fun to hear their stories of their week on their own, and celebrate their independence and diligence for being able to care for themselves and each other, attend work and school, and care for the house.
Daughter Bee told us about how she “narrowly escaped” this week being in a car wreck on the Freeway. As she described the situation, we all knew that guardian angels were with her. We continue to marvel how many times on this tour we see miracles of safety and peace for ourselves and for our family at home. The Lord is making sure we can accomplish the work.
I feel like the next few days will be our most challenging of the tour. We are headed into an area of Europe that needs the light of the Choir shining into the darkness more than ever. I want so badly for our final two concerts to be the very best we can give. We are singing next in Brussels Belgium. Up until now we have sung many of our songs in German, including our closing song of “God Be With You”, but in Brussels to be sensitive to the political and cultural climate, we will be singing everything in English. Later we will travel to Amsterdam, and when we perform in nearby Rotterdam we will be singing “God be with you” in Dutch!
Yes, there is still a lot of work to do here during the final 6 days of this tour. Oh, how we needed this day of rest and spiritual rejuvenation! And now the Lord takes us onward, ever onward! – MoSop
During the April 2016 General Conference of the Church Elder Patrick Kearon gave a very memorable and groundbreaking talk about Refugees, including a powerful call to action. Here is a beautiful excerpt I had to share. (and you get to hear his wonderful accent):
This is part of a 3-week series sharing my experience during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European Tour from June 28-July 16, 2016. Due to security concerns, tour participants were not allowed to share anything on social media until we returned.
Check back each day for a new installment!