This is the Christ

A generally short song with a powerful message. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published this song as part of its Ensign magazine in 2006, but thanks to social media it can garner more attention and reach a wider audience than it did in print.

We can debate which version on YouTube is best. I like this one.

1. They heard His voice, a voice so mild.
It pierced them through and made their souls to quake.
They saw Him come, a man in white,
The Savior, who had suffered for their sake.
They felt the wounds in hands and side,
And each could testify:

This is the Christ.
This is the Christ, the holy Son of God,
Our Savior, Lord, Redeemer of mankind.
This is the Christ, the Healer of our souls,
Who ransomed us with love divine.

2. I read His words, the words He prayed
While bearing sorrow in Gethsemane.
I feel His love, the price He paid.
How many drops of blood were spilled for me?
With Saints of old in joyful cry
I too can testify:

Words: James E. Faust, b. 1920, and Jan Pinborough, b. 1954

Joy to the World is NOT a Christmas Song

img_20141223_144803This is one of those posts that gets me labeled as the crazy relative at family gatherings.  Yes, I’m that guy.  Sometimes at church we discuss talents and when we do I get to share that I have the ability to take any normal conversation and make it awkward faster than anyone else.  It’s not a talent I’m proud of per-se, but it’s one I’ve come to live with.

So, this is one of those things.  Joy to the World is a wonderful song, but it is not a Christmas song.  People who sing it at Christmas time are woefully ignorant of what century they live in and are singing about.

Jesus Once of Humble Birth shows the contrast of Christ’s comings.  The first one was under very humble circumstances.  The second will be in his glory.  Which one does Joy to the World speak of?  Let’s take a look at Jesus Once of Humble Birth:

1. Jesus, once of humble birth,
Now in glory comes to earth.
Once he suffered grief and pain;
Now he comes on earth to reign.
Now he comes on earth to reign.
2. Once a meek and lowly Lamb,
Now the Lord, the great I Am.
Once upon the cross he bowed;
Now his chariot is the cloud.
Now his chariot is the cloud.
3. Once he groaned in blood and tears;
Now in glory he appears.
Once rejected by his own,
Now their King he shall be known.
Now their King he shall be known.
4. Once forsaken, left alone,
Now exalted to a throne.
Once all things he meekly bore,
But he now will bear no more.
But he now will bear no more.
Again, this hymn shows the contrast between Christ’s arrival for his mortal ministry and his second coming.  Let’s see which even Joy to the World speaks of (based on the lyrics):
1. Joy to the world, the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And Saints and angels sing,
And Saints and angels sing,
And Saints, and Saints and angels sing.
2. Rejoice! Rejoice when Jesus reigns,
And Saints their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
3. No more will sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found,
Far as the curse was found,
Far as, far as the curse was found.
4. Rejoice! Rejoice in the Most High,
While Israel spreads abroad
Like stars that glitter in the sky,
And ever worship God,
And ever worship God,
And ever, and ever worship God.
Ok, Sir Isaac Watts.  What were you writing about here?  If verse 3 wasn’t the clincher, I don’t know what is.  We’ve definitely got sin and sorrow now, but we wont at the second coming.  If you think this is a Christmas song.  You’re wrong.
img_1525_31368Now, if you’re feeling sad because you’ve been doing it wrong don’t worry.  You’re in good company.  I’m right along there with you.  I love this song, especially around the holidays.
But, if I’m not good enough company for you to feel comforted then I’ve got another bit of news for you.  There’s a lot of people who are wrong about this song with us.  According to Wikipedia it’s the most published Christmas song in the world.  That’s a lot of people being wrong together.
So, enjoy singing the world’s most popular second coming song during the part of the year when we celebrate Christ’s birth.
Being wrong about what you’re singing and when might just be another sign that we all need to repent and that can use the Savior in our lives.

The Individuality of the Atonement

[This post is my farewell talk in the Grafenwoehr Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints delivered on the same day of publication]

For those of you who don’t know me my name is Jacob Roecker and I’d like to talk about the individuality of the atonement.  Everyone of us is marvelously unique.  If I asked everyone to imagine a butterfly and we all had the skills to draw what our imagination sees no two butterflies would be alike even though butterflies are symmetrical creatures.  

Some of us are more obviously unique than others.  I’m sure there’s many of you who fall into this category.  Just for living the gospel’s standards you’re often seen as unique.  For me once you get passed the gospel standards I have a few more quirks that help set me apart.  I’ve made a covenant not to eat chocolate and haven’t consciously touched the stuff since 1999.  

I like computers.  I have a twisted passion for fonts.  They’re the clothes you put on your letters.  They let you dress up or dress down your words.  Everyone loves what Helvetica did to the industry and knows the story about how Microsoft didn’t want to purchase the license for Helvetica on Windows so it modified a few letters and called it Arial.  Arial completely misses the semi-serifed lowercase a and also creates a very unbalanced capital R.  When it comes to resumes, Times New Roman is the sweatpants of fonts.  It’s functional but so worn that it’s just not pretty anymore.  That classic font was commissioned in 1931 by the Times newspaper in England after letters to the editor complained their font wasn’t modern enough.

Everyone makes fun of Comic Sans.  This font should be kept as far away from anything professional as possible.  But interestingly enough it’s design makes it much easier for early readers to develop their language skills and it works well on low resolution screens.  Yes, if Comic Sans has a place in this world than so do each one of us.  In fact, that should be a gospel meme.  I’ll have to write the Church about that one.

Speaking of the Church did you know that fonts are so important the Church commissioned a very specific font for its logo update in 1995.  The Jesus Christ on the logo is a font owned solely by the Church.  If you wanted to explore its cousins you could take a look at

  • Trajan

  • Goudy Trajan

  • ITC Galliard

  • Mantinia (used for the public edition of the The Book of Mormon)

  • Requiem

  • Waters Titling

So, I’m a font nerd.  I bring this up not just because it’s fun to share, but also because if you think inside yourself you each have something unique that you love.  It may not meet the standards for a ward talent night, but nonetheless you’ve got passions that make you, you and that helps make you wonderful.

One of my other quirks is finding and loving unique phrases in the scriptures.  Did you know that the Book of Mormon mentions dragons?  Did you notice how Alma used food words to talk about faith?  The only time the word delicious is used in our scriptures is when Alma talks about growing faith.  

Did you notice that Nephi’s brother Jacob finished his contribution to the Book of Mormon with such eloquence that Joseph Smith had to use a French word to make the translation more accurate?

Harrowed was one of those other words that leaps out of the scriptures at me.  In the book of Job it’s mentioned in the same verse as the word unicorn so that’s pretty cool, but in the Book of Mormon we see it more used to describe Alma’s conversion process.  Harrowing soil is the process of plowing it to turn it over and get it ready for planting.  Ancient plows contain two blades.  The first blade cuts horizontally under the ground lifting the soil while the second blade cuts vertically and turns it over.  My time in Germany has not been without its harrowing experiences.

I’ve read a 500+ page book on Jacob 5, the olive tree allegory, and while my head may be full of facts about olives and early Roman economic depressions due to crop development as a result of olive production, I still maintain my same attitude towards the longest chapter in the Book of Mormon as I did when I was in early morning seminary.  The Lord of the Vineyard loves his vineyard and he takes the time and effort needed to make it fruitful.  He’s not afraid to put his hands in dung if it makes the harvest better.

We should not be afraid when our lives are harrowed at the hands of the master.  When Abraham had his harrowing experience of being asked to kill Isaac he did as the Lord commanded and in the process earned a great promise.  Job is by far one of my favorite bible stories.  In Job 38:7 it we read how “all the sons of God shouted for joy.”  This is in reference to the council in heaven where we were presented with the plan to come here to earth and be tested.  We shouted for joy not just for the good parts of this mortal life but also for the challenges.  That’s why the full conversation reads better as  “Job, where wast thou when,  the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” or Job, I know this his hard, but don’t you remember that you shouted for joy?

Job also teaches us about eternal families, but for the purposes of this talk he teaches us about what to do when our lives are being harrowed and the answer is in the first half of Job 42:10,  “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends.”  Job’s curse was lifted when he prayed for others; when he went beyond himself.

Brothers and Sisters my talk is on the individuality of the atonement.  Luke’s gospel (written as one of the greatest research papers of all time) does a wonderful job illustrating the Savior’s atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Chapter 22 verse 44 reads “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”  The active verb in that verse is prayer.  

J Devn Cornish of the Seventy talked about how for our prayers of repentance to work they must be “specific, profound, and lasting.”  If the prayers we use for repentance must be specific then I don’t believe it too difficult to conclude that the prayer that enabled repentance was specific as well.  One way I’ve taught this is to think of the time Christ spent just on you while he was bleeding out of every pore.  How much time were you worth?  Would it be measured in seconds, minutes, or hours?

Each of us occupied a unique amount of our Lord’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane because when he sees us he sees each of us as being valuable to his kingdom.  His time with you says you’re worth it.  You were born to make a difference in heaven.  Whatever you do that makes you you is exactly what makes you so valuable to our Savior.  He spent time with you and I bear my testimony that if you’ll spend time with him by repenting of everything you’ll walk with a contagious confidence of how valuable you really are to his kingdom.