In a Sacrament meeting recently, I sang “The Star Spangled Banner” along with the rest of the congregation. As the national anthem, it is a song that we hear quite often, which has probably resulted in me taking it for granted.
This particular day though, Verse 2 created beautiful imagery in my mind and especially caused me to reflect on how frightening that morning would have been as a watcher across the water, just waiting to see which flag was flying in the early morning light.
This feeling of awe continued to build as we sang Verse 3:
Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
One phrase kept coming to my mind, “We never sing the next verse!” As an American public, it is rare indeed to hear about being blessed with victory and peace, and especially we never secularly hear about praising the Heavenly Father that preserves us and provides these gifts for us. I’m not sure that we ever collectively think about trusting in God, and conquering when our cause is just when we hear the national anthem. As with many songs and poems, the thoughts and sentiments build to a crescendo at the end, and yet, we are only singing the first verse and not fully experiencing the message.
The phrase, “Sing the next verse” has been on my mind a lot lately. It applies to more of life’s circumstances than might be expected.
To youth in the church who in the midst of making daily conduct choices that seem far above their pay grade, don’t forget that there is a next verse. Stay focused on your goal, and keep singing.
To young women and young men preparing for college, worried about being away from home for the first time, “Sing the next verse.” Yes, your time at home and in school has been great. It’s your first verse. Trust me on this, it builds. I can barely remember my life before I was married to my sweetheart and my children joined my life. Settle into your new place in the choir, and sing out energetically.
To the young man or young woman recently returned from a mission, I want to say, “Sing the next verse.” It is so tempting to feel that you have reached the high point of your song, and it’s all downhill from here. Sing the next verse. Heavenly Father will take everything that He has taught you in the past two years, and keep building that crescendo in ways that you can’t possibly imagine right now. Remember how leaving the MTC was scary as you entered the real world of missionary work? How you felt like you were floundering and how much you felt unprepared and unable to meet the next challenge? I would bargain that you do remember, because that’s when you grew. Just like the Jaredite barges, it was when you were completely underwater that you made the most progress on your mission.
We read in Ether 6:5-6:
5 And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
6 And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.
Just like the Jaredites, Heavenly Father is blowing you toward the promised land that He has in store for you. In many ways, serving a mission is like living in the MTC in preparation for your life. You were taught and trained, and now that you are home, you have in reality, been transferred to the REAL mission field. Here is where you put what you learned on your mission into practice without all the safety nets of District Leaders, Zone Leaders, and Mission Presidents. Your mission hasn’t ended; it’s only really just begun. Do all of those things that you taught your investigators to do to stay close to Heavenly Father and feel His influence in your life now that you have transferred to a new area. Sing the next verse.
To young parents, you’ve heard it a million times, but I promise that it’s said so often because it’s true, these sleepless nights and Lego piles are going to be gone in a blink of an eye. Wipe the sticky fingerprints off the music and keep singing.
Older friends who might be experiencing loneliness or health concerns, your experienced voices are especially needed in these later and more important verses. Please don’t ever feel unnecessary or superfluous. You bring security and joy to all around you in ways that you sometimes cannot see. Please keep singing, even when it’s difficult. We need you.
President Boyd K. Packer taught about this concept by using the analogy of the acts of a play rather than verses of a song. He said, “Remember this! The line ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That Line belongs in the third act when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.”
Nowhere in the scriptures does it say, “And the Lord desired that His people should be comfortable.” He wants us to keep singing to reach that last verse, where the trials and troubles of previous verses culminate in a testimony of who He really is, and ultimately of who we really are. “In God is our Trust”, and we must continue pressing forward toward Him, just as the 2016 mutual theme teaches. Even if you’ve seen it before, I invite you to watch this video and prayerfully consider how you can sing the next verse in your life.