Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stay With Me

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Lyrics and Music by Stephen Sondheim
Album: Into the Woods

In this song, the witch has caught Rapunzel allowing her prince to visit her in the tower. She, of course, is furious with Rapunzel. But then the story takes a twist as the witch explains why she locked Rapunzel in the tower. She has raised Rapunzel as her own daughter and now is afraid that Rapunzel will leave her forever. She basically asks her what was wrong, was she not handsome enough like the prince was? She sadly states, "I am old. I am ugly. I embarrass you." When Rapunzel protests that she was lonely and wanted to see the world, the witch's heart nearly breaks. "Don't you know what's out there in the world?" she asks. As a witch, she has been shunned and treated poorly by society, making her react the only way she saw fit, by being a "wicked" witch. Basically, the witch wants Rapunzel to protect her innocence.

She tells Rapunzel, "Princes wait there in the world, it's true. Princes, yes, but wolves and humans, too." Yes, there are so many wonderful things out there in the adult world. But there are so many horrible things as well. I have tasted both. I have been through betrayels, heartache, and despair just as I have been through friendships, love, and joy. Referring to these last few things, the witch asks, "Who out there could love you more than I? What out there that I cannot supply? Stay with me. The world is dark and wild. Stay a child while you can be a child with me." But people are so eager to grow up. They shed their innocence, seeking for something new and exciting. I, on the other hand, cling to innocence as much as I can.

The lesson in this song however, reveals that perhaps both Rapunzel AND the witch have the wrong philosophy. Rapunzel wants to leave her home and her family to explore the world. That isn't right. We have families to help us face the world. Yes, people need to have independence, but they should not cut themselves off from those that matter most. As for the witch, she cannot create an Eden for her daughter. We were put on earth to face challenges and endure trials and heartache. It is only by doing so that we can recognize joy, love, and friendship for what they are worth. It is not easy, but it is the best way. All the same, I can sympathize with the witch's plea for Rapunzel to remain a child as long as possible. Once you grow up and face the hardships of life, you wish to prolong those hardships as long as possible for those that you care about. But the fact of the matter is, you cannot shelter anybody. They need to confront the challenges of life. The best thing I can do for those that I care about is to be there as their support. It is not easy to stand on the sidelines and watch a loved one endure a difficult trial. That is perhaps the hardest lesson I have ever been taught in my life. It is a lesson I am still learning.

Once Upon a Dream

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artisit: Lyrics and Music by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn
Album: Jekyll & Hyde

There are two songs in Jekyll & Hyde with this title. The first is sung by Emma and she recalls the relationship she once had with Jekyll that is now dissipating. The other is sung by Jekyll as he realizes that his dream is being shattered. Both are sung to the same music and are very powerful. In Emma's, she says, "Once upon a dream, I was lost in love's embrace...Once there was a time like no other time before." Then, at the end of the song, she sadly reflects, "Once upon a dream, you were heaven-sent to me. Was it never meant to be? Are you just a dream? Could we begin again?" This song captures the sadness of having lost someone you love. In the play, Jekyll has not included her in what he is doing because he does not want her to know the kind of monster he has become. Little does he realize how much Emma still loves him and wants to be a part of his life. Their relationship even seemed heaven-sent. It was perfect, but now it is fading quickly. I know the feeling all too well.

When Jekyll sings, he recalls his dream: "I conceived a perfect plan that would change the face of man! . . . For it was my dream to create a perfect world! . . . "And I was unafraid. The dream was so enticing! But now I see it fade and I stand here, alone! Once upon a dream, all I had to do was try. Too late now to wonder why it can never be. Could I begin again?" Well, my ambitions are not quite as high as Jekyll's. I am not trying to create a perfect world, but it is my dream to create a better world. I want to change the world in some way for the better. I know I can do that! And yet, all that I have done seems to have come to nothing thus far. It is very discouraging.

What I like about these songs is that they both end on a hopeful note. Emma and Jekyll both had wonderful dreams, and they had never been happier than while wrapped in their dreams. Sadly, both of these dreams were ruined. But they both wonder if they could begin again. That is the hopeful part. Some of my greatest dreams have been shattered, but that does not mean that I will never dream again. I can begin again. I can create new dreams. I am a dreamer and as such I will continue thinking of dreams to pursue. Hopefully, another dream will come true soon.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Neal Morse
Album: One

This song concludes the amazing album. "Now there is no separation!" comes the joyous shout.

"Now the way is open for us,
A sacrifice made to restore us
To bring us back the way we used to be!
As we once were in the garden,
Through His Son He gave the pardon.
Now we can come back as priests and kings!"

Once again, the message of the album is given: only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ can we be one with God again. The prodigal son thought it would be wonderful to be hired as a servant by his father, but instead was recognized as his father's son. Likewise, with us, though we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God, we can return as priests and kings. The Atonement is truly a miracle.

One of the most powerful lessons I learned on my mission is how merciful the Savior is. One night, during the time I worked in the office, I went to my mission president and told him I didn't feel comfortable with a recent decision that was made to baptize someone I felt shouldn't be baptized. My mission president told me, "Elder, when we get to the other side, I think we're going to be amazed at how merciful the Savior is." He then proceeded to tell me a story, which I won't mention here, but it was about an experience he had while serving on the stake High Council. The message of his story was that the Savior doesn't want to punish us to drive us away from Him. He wants us to repent and come back to Him and He will do what He needs to in order to get us to repent. We then started talking about the investigator who was going to be baptized. We talked about his motives were pure and how much he was doing to try to have an eternal family. By the time we finished talking, I felt really good about baptizing this person. It was a lesson that I will never forget. Our Father truly is the Father of Forgiveness. Jesus really can heal us of all suffering and shame. Through Him, our sins can be blotted out and one day we will find ourselves together again with Him. Then we shall be one forever.

Father of Forgiveness

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Neal Morse
Album: One

This song takes place when the man finally begins his return Home. The song begins from the perspective of the Father, using very similar imagery as the parable of the Prodigal Son. He sees the man from a long way off and wonders, "Has he come home to stay?" and all he desires is one thing: "Let's take it back to the beginning!"

Then, when the man finds himself in the Father's embrace, he says, ashamed, "Oh, Father, I've returned. I'm sorry. I was wrong. I feel so undeserving after all I've done. But I see your open arms and I feel your Spirit rise within my chest." Through his tears, the man asks, "Father, what do you want of me?" He wants to offer the Father everything he has, but realizes, "I don't have much to give, but a heart that needs forgiving." And he finds that forgiveness he seeks. To his amazement, he realizes, "You give me Your kingdom, and tell me it's my own!" He concludes, "I know that I have found my place of rest. You're the Father of forgiveness!"

When Jesus was with His apostles in Gethsemane, He found them asleep and warned them, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." The man switches these two phrases around and says, "The flesh is tired, but the spirit's willing." He is tired, but he is finally willing to repent. And because he does, he discovers the miracle of forgiveness.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Help Me/Spirit and the Flesh

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Neal Morse
Album: One

As you may recall, the album One is about the Creation, Fall, and Atonement. This song actually takes place immediately after Cradle to the Grave. The man is finally ready to change, but he can't. He has tried so hard to save himself, to find happiness, but he has looked in all the wrong places. He has looked to alcohol to ease the pain, but has only found chains instead of freedom. He says it is like he has tried to heal his cuts with razors. He has tried so many things but has only ended up a slave to vice. In his desperation he cries out, "Help me! I have fallen and I can't get up!" At last, he is finally turning to the One who has stood, waiting to receive Him.

The song is full of turmoil and anguish. Then, in the midst of the chaos, the music suddenly drops to become very calm, even hope coming through it, and the Father answers, "I have heard you crying in the night. I have heard your prayers at the morning light. I have loved you since before your birth. Now, I'll dwell among you on the Earth. I'll send my Son!"

Then the music picks up again. Only this time, it is not full of turmoil. It is full of rejoicing! The rest of the song talks about all the miracles that Jesus did while He was on the earth. He raised the dead, fed the starving, and comforted people in their pain. Then comes the message of the album: He can still do these miracles for you! "Jesus understands the heart of every man. Though the soul had died, it can be made alive!" We cannot find true happiness anywhere else. The man tries to get wealthy, tries chemicals, tries to live however he wants as though there are no consequences, but in the end he only finds himself miserable. It is only when he turns to the Savior that he discovers the meaning of true freedom and true joy. Jesus will heal us of everything. If we, like this man, are chained with addictions, Jesus can break those chains. If we feel dead inside, He can revive us. If we are too weak to continue on, His strength will fortify us. The Atonement is not the best answer to life's problems, it is the ONLY answer. How grateful I am for it!

As We Go Along

Genre: Rock
Artist: The Monkees
Album: Head

I began to like this song back when I was in high school. There was one night when I couldn't get to sleep. You know the feeling of having a storm inside your head? Everything around you is perfectly still, but you don't notice because such a huge commotion is going on inside. I was feeling like this, listening to my Monkees Anthology on random on my CD player. Suddenly this song came on. It begins very softly (the whole song is very soft, actually). It is very soft and very simple and even the singing is quiet and soothing. As I listened to the words, I began to calm down. "I can tell by your face that you're looking to find a place to settle your mind and reveal who you are." That pretty much described how I was feeling, especially the settling my mind part.

The second verse says, "Why think about who's gonna win out? We'll make up our story as we go along! There's so little time...and so many highways to travel upon..." That part really hit me. Why spend so much time stressing? In fact, by stressing, I was only losing time to do so many other wonderful things! I just had to go and see what happens. People know that I am big on goal-setting and making plans. Sometimes these goals and plans don't work out the way that I want them to. Although it is sometimes very difficult for me to deal with, I just need to make things up as I go. I was going to be a Seminary teacher, but then that plan didn't work out. Why stress out about it? Make up a new story! I'll be a writer now! I shouldn't spend my time stressing about my future. I'll just go for what I want. If it doesn't work out, I'll make a new goal. The key is to keep moving forward.

The chorus says, "Open your mind! Get up off your chair! There's so much to do in the sunlight!" It's true! There is so much out there! There are adventures awaiting me and dreams to be realized! If I spend all my time locked away, I will never discover them for myself.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Whatever You Imagine

Genre: Soundtrack
Artist: Music by Barry Mann and James Horner; Lyrics by Cynthia Weil
Album: The Pagemaster

"Whatever you imagine can one day come to be! There are dreams to awaken, roads to be taken. Follow them, and they will set you free!" I love the term, "dreams to awaken." Dreams don't have to be something that happens just when you are asleep. Everybody has dreams inside of them, but sometimes we hide them, bury them, and some even let them be destroyed. All the same, all of us have a dream sleeping inside of us. If we awaken those dreams and follow the road to which it they point, we will be living what once seemed impossible.

"Imagine you and I can fly past the sun and leave all our doubts and fears behind us! You see, that's just what can happen when you look inside your mind. There's no limit to the wonders you can find!" When I was young, I let my imagination roam free and sometimes it felt like I really could fly past the sun. I can almost feel the sun on my back as I fly through the clouds to worlds yet to be explored, where happiness and contentment are the only feelings I know. Now that I am older, doubt and fear seem to be more common. But if I look inside me and see who I really am, I can forget my doubts and fears. There is so much good in this world! If I do not limit myself, I can discover all those wonders. There is something wonderful in everyone, including me. If I look for it, I will find it.

"Whatever you imagine can make your life brand new. There are miracles waiting, so keep concentrating. And I promise you that if you do, whatever you imagine can come true." Imagination is a powerful thing. It is the key to a door that leads to a thousand worlds. It is the lifeblood of dreams. Dreams are the foundation of effort. Effort yields miracles. If we imagine something and dream it long enough and strong enough, we have the power to make it come true.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

This is Who You Are

Genre: Rock Opera
Artist: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Album: Beethoven's Last Night

In this song, Beethoven comes to the realization that every event in his life, good or bad, has contributed to who he is now. "It's the strangers in your life that you never thought you'd meet, it's the hand the picked you up when you're laying in the street, it's the hand that cut you down, it's the dream that someone shared, when you thought that all was lost it's the friend that wasn't there--you can run from all the memories but never get that far, for in the end they'll find you for this is who you are!" He learns that by changing just one aspect of his life would affect all the rest. If you change one note, you change the entire score.

I have had my share of good and bad experiences. I have had friends who have both picked me up and cut me down. I have shared dreams with some people and I have also had moments where I felt abandoned with nobody willing to support me. I have made wonderful choices that have been life-altering and full of blessings, but I have also made choices that have caused me deep sorrow and regret, even today. But I've learned that the most important thing is what I do with these experiences.

If I make a bad choice, I can either wallow in it or else I can learn from it and move on. Everybody except the Savior has failed to some degree. Those who we consider to be great men are the ones who didn't stay down. They got back up and fought for success. All the success I have had thus far in my life is because I wouldn't stay down. I keep moving forward. As my life goes on, I will likely encounter several more failures. I need to learn from them and then move on, never looking back to dwell on past mistakes. I am who I am today because of my past and what I have done with it. My future is still a clean slate and I am excited to make it what I want it to be by taking the best with me from my past and leaving the rest behind.

The Age of Not Believing

Genre: Disney
Artist: Music and Lyrics by Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman
Album: Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Yes, of course this would be one of my favorites. The age of not believing could also be called the age where one "grows up." Now, of course we all physically age, and of course as we get older we need to accept responsibilities and fulfill them. But should there ever come a day when we stop believing? NO!

When I was younger, I would dream of being a famous explorer, or an astronaut. I would dream of finding buried pirate treasure, or of being able to fly. I would dream of opening a closet and finding myself in Narnia, or else finding a magic lamp with a genie inside. So many dreams! As I've gotten older, these dreams have changed. I no longer dream about being a famous explorer, but I do dream about helping the youth discover the power within themselves. No longer do I search for a magic lamp, but I still have wishes. No longer do I hope to find a magical wardrobe that will take me to Narnia, but I do dream about changing the world I'm in for the better. No longer do I dream about finding buried treasure, but I do dream about selling fantasy books and making enough money that way to support myself. And, ok, I do still dream about flying quite frequently. The point is, even though I have grown, I have not given up my dreams. I am still a believer in something magical in the world, but this magical thing doesn't come from lamps, wardrobes, or pixie dust. This magical thing comes from inside.

When we lose sight of our dreams, we lost sight of who we are. "When you set aside your childhood heroes and your dreams are lost upon a shelf, you're at the age of not believing. And worst of all: you doubt yourself. You're a castaway where no one hears you on a barren isle in a lonely sea. Where did all the happy endings go? Where can all the good times be?" We make our own happy endings. We make our own good times. If we stop believing in these things, then it is our own fault that we have lost them and isolated ourselves.

"You must face the age of not believing...until at last you start believing there's something wonderful in you!" Everyone will have to face this age at some point. I have on multiple occasions. But the important thing is to discover who you are and release that magic inside of you! Then, you will see the world through different, believing eyes.