A Chapel Entrance Plaque

Raychurch, Mormon, music, Peace, reverence 11 Comments

Recently, I was in a meetinghouse in our area for the first time. On the wall directly above the entrance to the chapel, there is a small plaque.

I intended to craft a thoughtful post elaborating on the message it gives to those who enter the chapel, but I just couldn’t get it started. I literally was drawing a blank. As I struggled to find the words I wanted to share, the corresponding hymn came to mind, instead, so I have linked it to the message itself. The link provides the option to play the hymn in various ways, so feel free to experiment and enjoy.

Above the doors to that chapel, the plaque simply reads:

“Peace – Be Still.”

Comments 11

  1. That’s a hard one to interpret, extracted from it’s scriptural context. Certainly is a popular little phrase…though I think more useful in context. Without it I read it more like it’s “scripture-ese” loaded cultural context: “PLEASE, be still…” But that may not be what was meant…

    Are they wishing to reference Psalm 46:10, in which case our peace and stillness is in recognizing, in knowing — whatever that epistemologically means — that our God is mighty and will be exalted among the whole earth. That’s an interesting juxtaposition: the concept of stillness with this mighty, dynamic stature of God’s rule and exaltation. (Of course other Psalms use other emotional terms, and some of them more energetically, to describe a similar recognition of God’s mightiness. So “stillness” may just be one way we show confidence in God’s power and authority, among many, and not necessarily the “standard.”)

    Are they referencing the words of Jesus in Matthew 8 where Jesus commands the raging tempest to cease its danger to the ship? In the other two synoptics we get the story without any specific verbiage. Is it peace Jesus commanded? Subjugation to his will and authority? Did He say so gently or with force? What does this statement in Matthew really mean? Is it a reference to Psalms or is it a reference to reverence in quietness? Jesus certainly demonstrated other ways His divine authority: compassion, patience, defiance, and even anger.

  2. When I was younger and even more cynical than I am now I was strongly critical of the silence imposed or at least expected in sacrament meeting.

    Now with three wonderfully noisy kids and a career in litigation I begin to enjoy the peace that comes from silence.

    It is good to tackle the meaning of silence in a person’s own context. For me, silent contemplation is not a abject obedience to authority whereby I silence my own thoughts to the will others, or even a silence in respect to others. Silence, for me, is a process of active listening to what I need to know. I am not a spiritual role model for anyone, but I find a lot of peace contemplating what I should do to carry that peace with me and into the world.

    There were three congregations in Palmyra when Joseph Smith was a boy. One of those congregations was the Society of Friends – Quakers. The meetings are conducted in silence – ‘active listening’ – in a sense every meeting was a testimony meeting with the focus being a meeting together to concentrate on what was waiting to be heard. I think that is part of the traditions that Joseph Smith took into the early church. That may make the silence more meaningful to those who still attend.

  3. Oh, I really dislike that hymn for some reason, I think it has more to do with the music than the words: I have never heard a decent arrangement of it. (Though, by changing the triplets to quadruplets, I was once able to work up a pretty mean ragtime version!––but it really isn’t the kind of thing you can use in church.) However, the stories in the NT that take place on the water I do find fascinating, and I like the idea of that plaque. It corresponds with what I think is a great paradigm for Sabbath worship: Luke 24, the road to Emmaus.

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    #3 – Latter-day Guy, I actually like that song for its words, but I also share your “problem” with it in the way it usually is played in church. It needs to be played and sung with the message driving the tempo and volume. It needs to accelerate and crescendo through each verse, then slow down and decrescendo through the chorus. It needs to swell like the storms, then abate with the command. It needs to live as it’s sung.

    When done that way, it really is a beautiful song.

    Fwiw, I really like being still. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalms 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God,” – which JfQ referenced in #1. I wish all of us did more of that.

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    #1 – By the way, JfQ, I believe there is a direct link to Psalms 46:10 from Mark 4:39. I believe the disciples probably were aware of Psalms 46:10, and to hear Jesus quote it as He rebuked the storm probably brought “and know that I am God” to their minds later as they recalled Him saying, “Peace, be still” before rebuking the storm.

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    #2 – TGM, I agree totally with the concept of stillness being a condition of active listening. I think that is why it is called the “still, small voice” – NOT the “silent voice”.

  7. Ray–

    I also agree there is a connection between Psalms 46 and the Matthew account of the tempest and exorcism. While the Mark and Luke accounts demonstrate Jesus’ power of nature and demons, I think the dialogue choice within Matthew is significant, not so much for whatever the disciples (in the boat) thought, since this is hardly an eyewitness account. It is relevant that the Matthew author and community considered this dialogue a relevant and important way, like we see again and again in Matthew, to illustrate how Jesus as fulfillment of the Tanakh, the law and the prophets.

    I don’t mind the common LDS interpretation of this scripture, as there is a time for stillness. What I think is interesting is to cast it in context of the psaltery. In Psalms 46A (psalm/lyric preceding the first “Selah”) we have the the fury of nature established, yet we affirm we will not fear. In 46(b) We see that God has established Himself in the midst of the earth (nature) and the nations upon it; He is our refuge. In 46(c) we see that the LOrd unleashes wrath and desolation upon the earth in order to bring an ultimate end to war. Therefore the final call to stillness is like the calm after a storm. We, the earth and heathen are still in the magnificence of his power over all the powers by which we reckon our existence. I think this image of stillness is a different image than the usual “Peace, be still” is intended to connote. I think rather than “silence” it is an active stillness exactly like what Latter-day Guy mentions.

    What I find especially interesting is that Psalm 46 is one of four Psalms to end with “Selah”. Therefore, many scholars read forward to Psalms 47 (and often 48) in connection with 46. So, while we are stilled for a season in the overwhelming majesty and refuge of the LORD, look what follows in 47: the LORD is therefore established as King over all the earth and its peoples. We who call Him Lord, respond how? We respond by clapping, shouting, sounds of trumpets, singing praises. The image of majesty and joy these Psalms portray, and the volume of language and imagery dedicated to this praise and worship, informs me that our stillness has its place and season, but it should lead us to worship befitting our most triumphant King. This is something that the predominant norm of “reverence as quietness” misses out on.

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    “This is something that the predominant norm of “reverence as quietness” misses out on.”

    Yep; I agree with that. Reverence and stillness and quietness are three separate and distinct things.

  9. When you mentioned “Peace Be Still” I recalled another version that I do really enjoy. A Christian music artist by the name of Allan Hall did, what I consider, to be a very nice arrangement of Nearer My God to Thee and Peace Be Still. But it wasn’t the ‘Peace Be Still” you may be familiar with. Here are the lyrics to his version:

    He Says: Peace, peace be still
    Lifts his head
    Peace, be still
    Like a child,
    my heart obeys Him,
    When He says,
    Peace, be still
    He says: Peace, peace be still
    Lifts his head
    Peace, be still
    And like a child
    my heart obeys Him,
    when He says
    Peace, be still
    Hear His voice,
    Peace, be still

    I got the MP3 version from Amazon for $.99. I think it is well worth it. As you note, his reference is to the Lord rebuking the storm in Matthew. This is a good song to hum when the storm clouds gather.

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