Updated: Mar 26
My own recent experiences resonate with Ammon's words. He glories in the marvellous 'blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work' (Alma 26:3).
When Covid-19 brought lockdown to the UK, Bishop Olsson asked if I would present a spiritual message on Facebook to local church members. I rigged a mini studio of webcams around my piano and did a broadcast of live music and messages. The novelty meant it was all good, but listening back I cringed at the distortion of the piano sound. I wondered how I could improve it, and with the following week considered why not do the same thing, but broadcast it to all my friends on Facebook. Covid-19 had broken down the barriers of church buildings.
I created a new brand 'Spiritual Messages and Music', and ransacked all the templates of iMovie. I had a repertoire of new recordings I had already made and contacted Ellie Goodare, an incredible artist based in Scotland, to ask if I could accompany her paintings with my music. I remember broadcasting episode one, 'What is Faith?' I was sticking to an 11:00 live schedule, but only an hour before realised the clocks were going forward. I rushed and panicked. My piano segments were one take improvisations.
'Could I have supposed, when [I] started...that God would have granted unto [me] such great blessings' (Alma 26:1)
The ensuing weeks were filled with creativity. The joy of creating a song or finally delivering the right message was profound, accompanied by sobs of inexpressible thanks. I reached out to family members and friends for help.
One highlight was when I tentatively asked my 12 year old son if he would mind sharing a message regarding how he 'hears Him'. He was nervous but willing, and unsure what to share. We talked about how we can hear Christ in all our daily activities. Two hours before I was due to broadcast live, he gathered the courage to share his thoughts. We went into the garden and in a few takes and baskets, nailed it.
'Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise' (Alma 26:8)
In 2013 I had a remarkable personal meeting with Mack Wilberg, director of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. He shared something that has stayed with me - the greatest art form is the one that carries the Spirit. Through this Spirit, the Holy Ghost, we come to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It is my ambition, hope and prayer for my songs and music to be this art form. That they literally become instruments through which the Saviour can do His great work, and not through vague cliche but with considered words and contexts that reveal Him.
'He that repenteth and exerciseth faith and bringeth forth good works and prayeth continually without ceasing - unto such it is given...' (Alma 26:22)
Becoming an instrument in the hands of God has a simple formula. It is finding a project that requires our goodness and the need for heaven's help. The consequent promise of 'revealing things which have never been revealed' has felt wonderfully true for me as I enjoy a new song as though a newborn child had arrived on my lap. It is marvellous and humbling. These songs will go on to have a life of their own. Like an aged parent I will smile with gratitude toward heaven. It was wonderful to be featured in Church News recently alongside lyricist John Connolly for Where Heaven Meets Earth.
'Behold, we went forth even with wrath, with might threatenings to destroy his church. Oh then why did he not consign us to an awful destruction' (Alma 26:18-19)
The joy of becoming an instrument is lined with awe. Knowing our faults, as Ammon knew his, we marvel at how and why Christ still brings us forward, consecrates us and tags His name upon us. It is bewildering. A favourite song of mine is 'I Cannot Sing', based on a talk given by Jeffrey R Holland, Songs Sung and Unsung. I wanted to share this on my channel, but how was I to get a choir together during lockdown? My job in Army music had not stopped and out of the blue I was tasked to record a socially distanced choir, including many senior colleagues, as backing to a song paying tribute to the NHS.
It was a complicated project with 'woos' and 'oohs' populating the new pop song. At the end of the recording I summoned the courage and asked if everyone would mind singing the chorus to my song - and they did. It is a little rough, but I managed to share a song teaching how even when we feel we cannot sing, Jesus can make us an instrument in His choir.
I hope to continue writing Spiritual Messages and Music. I've started this new blog and tried building a website. You are welcome to come and watch my journey unfold. I plan to relate message and music to Come, Follow Me lessons when I can, like this one. I am sure each of us have sufficient gifts to become an instrument in His hands, as we humbly recognise and act on what He would have us do. And while you are here do check out my new song based on this week's scriptures.