"But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it. Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents. Wherefore, because of my blessing the Lord God will not suffer that ye shall perish; wherefore, he will be merciful unto you and unto your seed forever." 2 Nephi 4: 5-7
Lehi's promise to the children of his rebellious sons feels very tender to me this week, as I've anguished over information about the residential schools and their devastating impact on generations of innocent children. In the case of the schools, I imagine that the curse Lehi spoke of will be answered upon the heads of those who usurped the role of parent to those children. But what I really appreciate about this passage is its conclusion: "He will be merciful unto... your seed forever."
I believe in that promise. And I believe that the Lord is keenly interested in my fulfilling my part as an instrument of that mercy. Figuring out the how is difficult. But I feel like an important early step is opening my own eyes and heart, being willing to see things as they are and as they have been. Not allowing myself the cowardice of ignorance any longer.
With all of that in mind, I struggled a little singing O Canada in Sacrament Meeting this morning. It was the first time in 16 months that we had been able to sing together. That felt celebratory. And I love my country. But some of the lyrics hurt to sing. Always until now, I've delighted to sing "God keep our land glorious and free." But today, the word "keep" seemed to be a denial of the reality for so many who were demeaned and deprived of their freedom by our government, purely because of their being Indigenous.
And then we sang, "may stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise to keep the steadfast through the years..." Those were bitter words as I thought of the stalwart sons and gentle maidens who weren't allowed to rise.
A friend of mine wrote an additional verse this week for the anthem that I wished we'd been able to sing. But changing the words to a hymn needs more than local permission. So I had to content myself with thinking of the new words and wishing that the whole song could be infused with the humility of the proposed verse:
Ruler Supreme, who cares for every soul,
Show us thy mercy! Touch and make us whole.
Forgive us for our trespasses
And make our hearts anew
Help us to straighten out our paths,
Lord, make the True North true.
But then, we sang the closing hymn. America the Beautiful. And yes, we are in Canada. But our continent is North America, so the hymn applies. I felt the dissonance disappear as we sang phrases like "God shed his grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea;" "God mend thine every flaw;" "who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life." Then we started into the fourth verse and I choked up and couldn't sing another word.
Oh, beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
I believe in that dream. The scriptures are full of God's promise to lead us into a Zion society and to establish a New Jerusalem, undimmed by human tears. All injustices will be mended; all things made right. Father Lehi's dying blessing upon his soon-to-be estranged posterity will be fulfilled. That assurance makes it possible to confront the realities of where we've been and where we're at today. Because God will lead us from here to there and fill us with His perfect love. All I need to do is keeping believing and keep taking the next step as I strive to follow His lead.