Thursday, March 08, 2007

Adapting Familiar LDS Hymns for Atheist Beliefs

My wife and I grew up in active LDS families. I am now atheist and my wife is agnostic, yet we are still interested in experiencing transcendence and awe on a regular basis and raising our son to enjoy the same. We are now active in a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which supports us in our personal spiritual quests. But, we have also been trying to create new family traditions. Perhaps, I’ll post on some of those efforts later, but today I’d like relate what we have been doing with music.

We would like to have some hymns to sing during family nights that convey our new values and beliefs. Singing of course creates unity, accelerates the learning process, and encourages emotional elevation. The problem is we don’t know any of the Humanist or UU hymns, yet. But, we do know an awful lot of LDS adult and children’s hymns. Unfortunately, the messages in many of those hymns are no longer consistent with our beliefs. So, we decided to do two things. First, go through the LDS hymnbooks and identify hymns that we know and can still use unchanged, such as #92 “For the Beauty of the Earth,” although we did replace the words “Lord of all” with “Mother Earth.” Second, modify existing hymns to teach principles we agree with.

Below are two examples that are slightly modified:

“Families Extend Through All Generations”
To the music of “Families Can Be Together Forever”

1. I have a family here on earth. They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them through all mortality.

Fam’lies extend through all generations through parents and children.
I often like to think of those who went before,
And imagine those who’ll follow me.
Imagine those who’ll follow me.

2. While I am in my early years, I’ll prepare most carefully,
So I can lead my family to live in harmony.

“Love One Another” – modified

As I have loved you, Love one another.
Practice compassion. Love one another.
Be understanding. Show empathic list’ning.
Strive to have love One to another.


James said...

What a lovely idea.

I once did an exercise in the Music class I teach of having people take the Credo of the Nicean Creed ("I believe in One God, father omnipotent...etc)
and rewrite it so it was
their OWN statement of
What They Believed in
at the most important level.

It is an illuminating way, as your hymn exerices is, to clarify one's values, one's relation to one's fellows, and to the infinite universe (is it infinite?).

C.L. Hanson said...

Wow, those are fantastic!!!

This is a great idea. I know the songs I was raised on still have meaning for me, but when one comes back to me and I'm humming along, the supernatural bits strike like a discordant note.

Do you do requests?

Here are a couple that I've had just randomly come back to me at odd moments:

1. Have I done any good in the world today? This was one of my favorite hymns as a child, and I still like it except that one line about "then dream of your mansions above" (meaning part of the motivation for charity is supernatural reward).

2. When upon life's billows... This one is maybe a little more challenging, but it would be nice to have something optimistic to say about your life (other than to thank an imaginary being) when you're discouraged. Especially that other verse "When you look at others with their lands and gold" instead of responding with "think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold" something more along the lines of "think whether that's really what you want to spend your life shooting for"...

Hüffenhardt said...

c. l. hanson:

I will work on revising those hymns and let you know when I am done.