I sang in church yesterday. It went very well. I'm very picky about what I sing in church. I like to sing things that are unique and that speak to my heart. I also prefer to stay away from schmaltzy contemporary LDS pop. I went to the local music store and spent a good hour and a half trying to find a decent song. This, I thought, would be an easy task, but nothing was resonating with me.
I finally found an interesting book of uniquely arranged hymns. I initially chose it because it contained an arrangement of one of my favorite hymns, "Our Savior's Love." I played through it and liked it, but wasn't sure it was the right choice. The book came with a CD, so I listened to all the songs and found a few I liked. There was a very interesting version of "If You Could Hie to Kolob," a song which I don't think is sung nearly enough in church wards; a very odd, but strangely beautiful arrangement of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"; a somewhat mournful, but nice arrangement of a song I wasn't familiar with called "Eternal Day"; and an absolutely gorgeous arrangement of a hymn I'm not very fond of called "Guide Me to Thee."
As I was contemplating with of these four I would sing, I was weighing some pros and cons. Eventually I decided that "Eternal Day" sounded a bit sad and almost funereal for a Sacrament Meeting. It was also the most challenging for me to sing. "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" contained a very simple and relevant message and was centered in Christ, which is what Sacrament Meeting ought to be about, but the arrangement seemed off-putting on some level. I liked it a lot and would probably be apt to sing it on another occasion, but it just seemed wrong for this particular meeting for some reason. "If You Could Hie to Kolob" was awesome and different and would certainly wake people up, but something also seemed a little avant garde about it, and I wasn't sure it was right, either (although it ended up being in very close competition with the song I eventually chose, "Guide Me to Thee."
"Guide Me to Thee" was, by far, my favorite of the four songs I considered. The arrangement is absolutely beautiful; almost haunting. I really loved the melody, which is odd since I don't particularly care for the original hymn it is based on. The lyrics were also troublesome to me. On one level, they are kind of depressing and a bit of a downer, especially in this particular arrangement. Here are the lyrics:
Jesus, my Savior true, Guide me to thee.
Help me thy will to do. Guide me to thee.
E'en in the darkest night
As in the morning bright,
Be thou my beacon light. Guide me to thee.
Through this dark world of strife, Guide me to thee.
Teach me a better life. Guide me to thee.
Let thy redeeming pow'r
Be with me ev'ry hour.
Be thou my safety tow'r. Guide me to thee.
When strife and sin arise,
When tears bedim my eyes,
When hopes are crushed and dead,
When earthly joys are fled,
Thy glory round me shed. Guide me to thee.
When silent death draws near, Guide me to thee.
Calm thou my trembling fear. Guide me to thee.
Let me thy mercy prove.
Let thy enduring love
Guide me to heav'n above. Guide me to thee.
I don't know, somehow all this talk about a "dark world of strife" and "strife and sin" and crushed, dead hopes and lack of "earthly joys" and "silent death" creeping up on you seemed a bit depressing and pessimistic and funereal. By nature, I am an optimist, and this song doesn't really speak of that to me even if the underlying message of Jesus guiding one through everything and granting his mercy and eternal love is a positive one.
Part of me just felt this wasn't the right song for me, an excommunicated member, to sing. I am very happy with my life and feel much joy and peace, and this song (and this specific arrangement) doesn't really reflect that, and for my first post-excommunication "performance," I kind of wanted something that reflected what I am feeling in my current life. Yet I am a sucker for a beautifully haunting and discordant melody, which this was. I also loved its simplicity and the underlying message of always following the Savior no matter what life throws at you.
After a lot of praying (and discussing it with my pianist and family members), this felt like the right song to sing. I tend to get emotional when I sing in church, and this song certainly could get me emotional. But I did not want to be emotional or cry during this song. I did very well. Just a hint of breaking down towards the end, but I kept it together.
It was a beautiful piece, and I thought it went really well. I also was pleased that I could "bear my testimony" of the Savior in Sacrament Meeting through song, and it was nice to feel more a part of the ward. I received a lot of compliments from various ward members afterward, and my bishop seemed very grateful for what the music added to the meeting. I don't say that in a boastful way, honest. I was just pleased to feel like I was contributing to the meeting and that hopefully I was able to help others feel the Spirit.
I still like going to church, but it can be frustrating at times to not be able to contribute as much as I wish I could. I loved giving talks, for example. I enjoyed teaching. I enjoyed commenting during lessons (and there are times when I'm dying to say something that I feel will be useful or of import, but I can't). I still read scriptures out loud (which I enjoy) and, of course, sing, and that at least makes me feel like I'm still a part of the ward family. And I enjoy my relationships with many of the people in my mom's ward (the ward I grew up in), so I still feel a part of things in that way as well. But I admit there are times when it is hard to be "left out." I also recognize that as far as the policies and rules that govern the church are concerned, I am "left out" based on my own actions. I get that there are consequences, and I am willing to accept those, and for the most part, I am fine when it comes to my limited participation in church. It just felt nice to be more a part of things today.
In the near future, I may be involved in something that may "out" me to many people in my ward and in my local community. I do not wish to reveal more at this time, but it is something that will cause my sexual orientation to be known to a wider audience. I am a private person by nature, and I know that putting myself out there is a risk of sorts. Yet I have prayed a lot about it, and if done right, I feel it can be a positive thing and maybe shed light or a new perspective on something that needs it. It feels like the right thing to do and the right time to do it. I am not scared or ashamed. I feel it will be a good thing. I will write more about this later, I'm sure, but that's all I wish to say about it now. I just hope when my fellow ward members know more about who I really am that they will react positively. I guess we'll see.