Thursday, June 02, 2016

"Oh that I were an angel, and could whack them upside the head"

When I first heard the song "Oh That I Were an Angel" it was sung by a lyric soprano in a missionary meeting almost forty years ago.
The soprano sounded something like these three ladies:

The melody makes it sound like a sort of "oh, wouldn't it be lovely if I could just float around and unmistakably spread this sweet, lovely, good, profound message of God to everyone".

Except that the lyrics to this song are from the first verse of chapter 29 of the book of Alma.  And Alma isn't talking about just general spreading of the good news to your average, usual, somewhat sinful people in your average everyday city or town.

"A tremendous slaughter"..."even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem,"
tens of thousands of people slain in a single battle,
tens of thousands of families dealing with deep grief,
and the fighting continuing for FIFTEEN years.
which fifteen years of horrible stuff he attributes to "the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men."

He has witnessed people fully embracing hate and evil, doing horrible things and causing devastating grief and pain because of it.  And not stopping.

And...  If you think about it...

What kind of angel has Alma encountered before?

The kind that has a voice and a demeanor that rattles you through and through, dumps you on the ground, shakes the earth, and leaves you comatose, harrowed up by your sins and finally able to realize how horrible you've been.  (Mosiah 27)

This is not "oh, wouldn't it be lovely if I could just be a glorious angel and go about clearly and loudly and sweetly declaring glad tidings."

This is "God, what is happening here is HORRIBLE. And I really, really, REALLY want to be able to WHACK these people upside the head the way I was whacked."

I think we need a composer to come up with a different melody.

Also, understanding where he is coming from and what he has witnessed makes the verses that follow (29:2-9) a pretty powerful statement about humility, justice, agency and trust in God when in a situation such as his.

1 comment:

Margrethe said...

How did I miss this one? I appreciate your insights. Thank you.