Maritime LDS hymns offer hope for surviving life's storms

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

In President Packer’s case, there was a light on the hill, but two elders waiting on the beach with the lower light had fallen asleep and neglected to turn it on. The captain tried to maneuver the boat into the channel with a flashlight, but it was no use. Despite the perilous elements, the boat made for another landing and safely arrived near daylight, in time to dry their clothes and organize a new stake.

“I do not know who had been waiting for us at the beach. I refused to let them tell me,” President Packer said in his conference talk. “But it is true that without that lower light, we all might have been lost.”

Michael L. Moody said he found the imagery in President Packer’s discourse to be beautiful.

“It’s one of the great metaphors in the hymnbook, I believe,” he said. “We are the lower lights, we are the ones who have to go out and rescue.”

'Master the Tempest is Raging'

In the October 1984 general conference, Elder Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, told the story of Mary Ann Baker, who wrote the text for hymn No. 105, “Master, the Tempest is Raging.”

Baker was orphaned at an early age when her parents died of tuberculosis. But her Christian faith was shaken when she later lost her brother to the same disease. She questioned if God loved her.

With time, the Lord calmed the winds and waves of her life and her faith not only returned, it flourished, Elder Hunter said. At the invitation of her Baptist minister, the Rev. H.R. Palmer of Chicago, she recorded her testimony in an effort to help others tried by personal despair. Those words, which reference the New Testament story of the Savior calming the elements in Mark 4:36-41, are now the hymn, “Master, the Tempest is Raging.”

Elder Hunter, who later became the 14th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, promised everyone would see sudden storms and adversity in life. He encouraged members to not be fearful but to trust the Lord.

“Peace was on the lips and in the heart of the Savior no matter how fiercely the tempest was raging,” President Hunter said. “May it be so with us.”

“Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea or demons or men or whatever it be, no waters can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies,” President Hunter quoted. “They all shall sweetly obey (his) will. Peace, be still!”

More seafaring hymns

In 1871, Edward Hopper was pastor of a congregation of sailors at the Mariner’s Church at New York Harbor. He used nautical imagery to write the song, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me,” hymn No. 104.

“Our life is a voyage, and we near the shore only as we near death,” Davidson wrote in her book. “Our only hope of safety is to turn to Jesus, the infallible pilot, who alone has the perfect ‘chart and compass.’ ”

In 1736, Charles Wesley, a Methodist preacher, was sailing from America home to England when his ship encountered a hurricane. He recorded in his journal that the sea washed away sheep, pigs and fowl, and men were continually pumping water out to keep the ship above water. The captain eventually cut down the mast to save the ship from sinking.

“I prayed for … faith in Jesus Christ, continually repeating his name, till I felt the virtue of it at last, and knew that I abode under the shadow of the Almighty,” Wesley wrote.

Wesley likely drew upon that experience to write hymn No. 102, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.”

Other hymns make small references to the sea, including “Count Your Many Blessings” (241), “Be Still My Soul” (124) and “I’m a Pilgrim, I’m a Stranger” (121). One mariner hymn not in the LDS hymnbook is “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” the official hymn of the U.S. Naval Academy.

President Thomas S. Monson served in the United States Navy near the end of World War II. Several times during his half century as a general authority, President Monson has urged church members to look to the lighthouse of the Lord as they sail seas of life.

“There is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what its beacon can rescue. It beckons through the storms of life,” the prophet said during the April 2010 general conference. “The lighthouse of the Lord sends forth signals readily recognized and never failing.”

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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