2 Nephi 31:3 (emphasis added)
For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.
When I was a teenager, I had an angry, liberal, bisexual friend whom I loved. Not in a romantic sense, but in a sense that I truly understood her. She was incredibly creative and I wanted her to be successful in her musical and artistic endeavors. We once had a conversation that completely surprised me. She had seemed so anti-religion for as long as I had known her, so when she told me the following, I was completely shocked: “When I saw Tori Amos in concert for the first time, Arthur, I swear I felt something that I never have before. I think I believe in God now… when I saw Tori Amos I somehow knew that there must be a God out there somewhere.”
I told this to my cousin, who is a complete musical snob, and he just made a face as if he had just bitten into a rotten piece of fruit. “Tori Amos? Blechhh.”
And yet, I identify so closely with what my friend had said, and I knew that she had stumbled upon revelation through what seemed like an unlikely source. The ardent atheist had a complete turnaround based on what she’d heard that night. I had a similar experience growing up. It seemed that music taught me that we are somehow divine, because natural selection can’t really explain art to me. Music can make me weep, and I have a hard time getting a strict anti-God Darwinist to explain that one to me satisfactorily.
And so a week ago I sent out a invitation on Facebook, inviting everyone I know to a show I’d be attending: King’s X in Cincinnati. I’d been waiting almost 10 years to see them live. They are one of my favorite living bands and I knew that the experience would be beautiful and blessed, and I wanted to share it with my friends. I got some “maybes” and some excuses, but one response really threw me for a loop. “I’d love to go, Arthur, but I just can’t rationalize these things anymore.” Whaa? My heart caught in my chest and I realized through context that because the show was on Sunday, I was encouraging my LDS friends to do something that they would probably consider to be breaking the Sabbath.
So I sheepishly withdrew my invitation. I was embarrassed. I kind of live my own life and I don’t worry if other people think my lifestyle doesn’t click with theirs, but the idea that I’m “leading others astray” does make me feel bad, I admit.
I went through the week wondering what people thought of me. Do they think I’m some sort of heathen? I asked myself. Am I never going to get a date again in this little branch?
I got to the concert last night and weaseled my way to the front of the stage (this is a fine art if you ask me). My heart pounded in my chest and you could have seen my smile a half mile away. I had been waiting so long to see these guys, they had been my inspiration for so long. Doug Pinnick, the bassist and lead singer (along with Ty Tabor, the other guitarist) had been a poster child for the Christian rock movements of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but Doug came out of the closet in the mid-’90s and was promptly shunned by his Christian constituency. Some of the bitterness of that experience comes out in his music. I wonder about his spirituality nowadays. His lyrics from their latest album seem somewhat telling: “And if you feel what you think is true/if you found peace deep inside of you/if your faith made a mountain move for you/then don’t forget to pray for me.” But this day he smiled and looked out at the crowd, told them how happy he was to see us all on the front row, singing along with his songs.
Then, during his song “Over My Head,” the music quieted down and Doug spoke to the crowd. To paraphrase him, he said this:
This song was written about my grandmother. She was a religious woman. When I was young sometimes I would hear her praying down the hall. She would speak to the Lord, and I’d hear her say: “Thank you Lord. I hear music. Lord, I hear music over my head. What are you trying to tell me, Lord?” Do you feel it deep down in your soul?
At that moment I had the most undeniable feeling in my chest. A feeling that what Doug was saying meant something. He spoke to me. I knew there was a God. I knew He loved me. I knew that this was all a gift from Him, and He spoke to me through what I was hearing. I understood again what my friend was talking about years ago. My testimony of God’s love grew so much that day, and I even prayed at that moment to thank God. To thank Him for the Book of Mormon, for a family that seems to be on the right track. I thanked Him for Joseph Smith and his courage. I thanked Him for sending me the Gospel. And I prayed for Doug.
After the show, the guys in the band went down to the merch booth to sign autographs and I got them to sign my guitar. Right after Doug signed it, he just looked at me and gave me the biggest smile, eyes bright with understanding. And he stuck out his hand to me and I shook it.
I’ll never forget that moment.