Singing at the MTC
So the Men’s Chorus sang at the MTC tonight. It was a very telling experience, and I hope and pray that I can record all that happened and that I felt before I get distracted or something dumb like that.
I went into the MTC in Provo nearly five years ago and haven’t been back since, until tonight. Then I was barely over 19 years of age, had never lived out of Utah before, and knew basically what form my life was going to take for at least two years. Now, I’ve lived out of Utah for 3 1/2 years, am 24 years of age, and have no idea what’s going to happen even within a month or so, let alone for the next few years. Times do change.
Yet as I looked across the audience of missionaries that attended our devotional tonight I couldn’t help but think back to the days when I sat in one of those chairs on the gym floor, eager to serve a mission yet overwhelmed by the prospect of the thing. I had no idea what lay in store for me, nor the potential that I had for becoming an effective servant in the Lord’s hands. As I looked into the eyes of those missionaries tonight I could see that potential, far more clearly than I could when I was in that place. In each missionary’s eyes I could see men on street corners feeling guilty for not talking with those friendly Americans. I could see elderly ladies suddenly receiving help from two nice young men when she needed it the most. I could see young 20-something college students, struggling to find peace in the world around them, only to hear a knock at the door and find all the answers to his questions. I could see entire families dressed in white, finally receiving the ordinances and covenants that would bind them together throughout eternity in a loving unit. Every single face in that congregation tonight had been set apart to do the Lord’s will, 24/7, and whether they knew and/or felt it or not, the Lord and His angels were and are with them. I was there too, once, and I had no idea what it really meant at that time. I’m sure that I still don’t even have an inkling as to what it really means. But revisiting that place certainly brought a new perspective to my service to the Lord and what it has meant and does mean, both to me and to those I served.
But that’s not the only insight I gained tonight. Sister Rosalind Hall, the director of the BYU Men’s Chorus, believes that the purpose of the chorus is to change the world. To that end, the presidency of the chorus, without Sister Hall’s knowledge, arranged a service project. We would each in the chorus donate a little bit of money (the suggested amount was $5 per person) to an envelope passed around class. Then, some members of the chorus would, on a certain Saturday, head to the store and buy a lot of Christmas gifts for some eight teenagers living in a foster home in Sandy. Then, on December 10th (a Sunday), a large part of the chorus (including myself) would drive up to Sandy, sing these kids some Christmas songs, and deliver the presents. The whole thing would be videotaped, edited, and presented to Sister Hall as a Christmas gift at the end of the semester; in fact, after the MTC concert tonight.
When we met in front of the Museum of Art on the BYU Campus to go up to Sandy on Dec. 10th, it was raining. The winter season so far had been disappointing in terms of snow: we’d had a few flurries here and there but nothing had really built up. But as I started to drive to Sandy with four other Men’s Chorus members, the rain gradually turned into snow. By the time we got to Draper, it was awfully heavy snow, and when we finally arrived in Sandy (and found out that we actually were going to Midvale, just taking the 9000 S. Sandy exit), it was very thick. Nevertheless, it was still relatively warm, and when we got out of the car the air had that wonderful pink glow that comes with nighttime snowstorms, and is the reason I love snow so much. We exited the cars and headed toward the foster home a street over. Imagine these kids’ surprise when suddenly, over 100 college men break out in song right on their front lawn, bearing an enormous Christmas tree. Imagine their expressions when in the middle of one of these songs, Santa Claus (who I greatly suspect was the “father” of the foster home) shows up, bearing over $2,000 worth of gifts. Imagine how they, and we, felt, as Santa took each one of them onto his knee (while the Men’s Chorus chanted each of their names as a cheer) and asked what they wanted for Christmas. Some were embarrassed and whispered in Santa’s ear, some were bold about what they wanted (“a ride on a humpback whale!”), and some just had some very heartfelt wishes (“I wish I had my Dad” or “I just want to be free”). After we sang “Silent Night” with them, we left them with their presents and headed back to Provo, where, for some reason, it had barely snowed at all. In fact, it felt like it had only snowed in the vicinity of that home.
Today, Provo received the first really big snowstorm of the winter season, giving tonight that same pinkish glow that existed in Midvale the week before. After the concert tonight, the Men’s Chorus met in the main LGM room in the #1 building of the MTC. This (in)famous room is the same one in which new missionaries bid goodbye to their families every Wednesday and embark upon their two-year service to the Lord. Sister Hall was a bit embarrassed to receive a big red box from the Men’s Chorus as a Christmas gift, and a bit confused when she opened it and all that was inside was a DVD with no label and a box of tissues. Nevertheless, somebody placed the DVD into the A/V system of the room and the projector played the entire story of our service project for these eight kids, ending with a lot of quotes, both from the kids and members of the chorus. When it ended Sister Hall could not even speak, so strong was the emotion in the room. All she could say was, “God bless you. God bless you all.”
That room inside the MTC holds a lot of different memories for me. It was the beginning of the most amazing journey of my life. It was where I bid goodbye to my family for two years. It was there that I saw my earthly father for the very last time in this life. And now, it is there that, during this very difficult and confusing period of my life, I can remember what it is all really about and what we are all really here to do.
For years and years I’ve celebrated Christmas, but often it just seems like a stressful time of year when finals are upon us and the family gets together to be annoyed by the step-family and other things like that. This is the first time since at least my mission, and possibly before that, that it has truly felt like the Christmas season.
God bless you. God bless you all.