I have been pondering Joseph Smith history lately. Our ward choir had been practicing and practicing a beautiful arrangement of “Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning” that we performed a few weeks ago. I love this song, not just for the harmonies but for the inspired words. I can’t just listen to it, I have to sing it. That beautiful morning is symbolic of another glorious morning, the Resurrection of our Savior.
Joseph Smith tells us himself of the confusion, discontent and utter despair he experienced leading up to that glorious pillar of light. The way in which he describes the religious climate of his day reminds me of the back and forth contention concerning our current birth climate: “some crying, a ’Lo, here!’ and others, ‘Lo, there!’ Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.” He also described it as a “a strife of words and a contest about opinions.” We see this unfortunate war on message boards, blogs, and in private and public conversations (and even a recent LDS Living poll) concerning the rights of childbearing women and their babies.
In the midst of this Joseph Smith writes, “my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness . . . my feelings were deep and often poignant . . . While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
I am likely not the only woman to have felt her “mind called up to serious reflection” regarding the war of words concerning pregnancy and childbirth. Each pregnancy and birth has brought feelings that were especially “deep and often poignant.” Every time I have felt a certain measure of conflict inside me between the fear-based medicine of the world and the faith-based wisdom of God. I can never take for granted that I know it all. Each pregnancy has offered me the opportunity to study and pray, and, because each time I have lacked wisdom, I ask God. Joseph Smith tells us of his decision to go to God in humble prayer,
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at that very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction–not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being.
There comes a time in the process of conception, pregnancy, labor or birth in which a woman will likely feel astonished at the thick darkness gathered around her. It may come because of infertility, miscarriage, extreme morning sickness, life-threatening pregnancy complications, antepartum or postpartum depression, difficult labor or healing process, and even when a baby is born sick, still, or dies too soon. It is our time to surrender, to come nearer to God. Just when we feel like we are to “sink into despair and abandon ourselves” we are asked to dig deeper, “exerting all [our] powers to call upon God.” Through our tribulation, just like Joseph Smith, we can experience that glorious light-filled morning.
[J]ust at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
One of the feelings I treasure most about birth is basking in the light that follows as I behold my little ones. The night before when we “labor[ed] under extreme difficulties” is forgotten and the brilliant morning beams with light. The process of conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum have become very sacred to me. They have brought me to my knees over and over, becoming acquainted with the beautiful offering of our Lord and Savior, who offers us a brilliant morning of forgiveness through his powerful Atonement. I know HE LIVES, HE IS RISEN, and so WILL WE!
I hope you enjoy these versions of “Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning.” To me this song is also an Easter hymn.
Mormon Tabernacle Choir “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning” (Similar to the version I sang with my ward choir.)
Paul Cardall “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning” (I may have to add this one to my labor relaxation list, so beautiful!)
Wishing you a Lovely Easter Morning!