RING OUT WILD BELLS:  A Message For Our Day

 

Every first Sunday in January our church sings the hymn, “Ring Out Wild Bells”.  Its music is haunting, but the lyrics have always seemed strange to me, and as I discovered, we only sing three stanzas of the original poem.  I’ve often wondered what it means.  Recently, while researching the idea of Father Time and New Year celebrations in general, I came across the full lyrics of this poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Pondering his words, I found a deeper understanding, which seems eerily applicable to our world today.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (a Baron), lived from 1809 – 1892 in England.  He was poet laureate of the United Kingdom for most of Queen Victoria’s reign.  He is famous for several works, including “Charge of the Light Brigade”, “The Lady of Shalot”, and “In Memoriam”.   “Ring Out Wild Bells” is a section of “In Memoriam” which Tennyson wrote following the death of his close friend, Arthur Hallam.  Hallam was also engaged to Tennyson’s sister and died unexpectedly when he was 23 years old.  If you want to know more, a good biography of Tennyson can be found at internetpoem.com.

Wild Bells

In Britain, the ringing of church bells for special occasions has been a tradition since the early Christian priests rang a handbell to call the faithful to meetings, about 450 a.d.   Over time, bells became “tuned” and compositions written for bell ringers.  Wild bells (with no particular pattern) would be rung in times of danger or joy. 

According to Wikipedia: “It is an accepted English custom to ring English Full circle bells to ring out the old year and ring in the new year over midnight on New Year’s Eve. Sometimes the bells are rung half-muffled for the death of the old year, then the muffles are removed to ring without muffling to mark the birth of the new year.”

Father Time

I searched high and low for a good, comprehensive article about the concept of Father Time.  The best documented article can be found at Wikipedia, and I highly recommend it if you’d like to know more. 

Father Time seems to be an ancient symbol of Time, reaching back to the Greek male god of Chronos, or possibly a more ancient persona.  Tennyson’s use of the pronoun “he” when referring to the old year (“let him die”) reflects this connection.

Time is also a symbol of Truth.  Quote from the article: “Time (in his allegorical form) is often depicted revealing or unveiling the allegorical Truth, sometimes at the expense of a personification of Falsehood, Fraud, or Envy. This theme is related to the idea of veritas filia temporis (Time is the father of Truth).”

“Ring Out, Wild Bells”

In this poem, Tennyson touches upon obvious truths and offers solutions.  See if you can identify them for yourselves as you read each stanza below.  Listen to this beautiful rendition of the full song by the Croft Family.  The poem is so popular in Sweden that each year people gather to listen to readings of it as part of their New Year’s celebrations.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

My Personal Impressions

The first two stanzas seem to be about letting go of the past and freeing yourself to more fully experience the future.  Always good advice, and may reflect the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions, as well.

In the third stanza, Tennyson advises us to overcome our grief for those who have passed on, and to stop arguing over who is rich and who is poor.  His solution: seek redress for everyone who is grieving, rich or poor for grief is universal.  Redress means to set right or remedy a situation.  We have seen countless examples of grieving in 2021 and also countless acts of mercy by those attempting to ease the grief or pain of others, a timeless principle of compassionate outreach.  Jesus Christ said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40).

The fourth stanza appears to address political issues, something we have also had our fair share of in 2021.  I am weary of America’s corrupt political system.  We need to return to the higher road of moral political virtue in all areas of life.  Using the definitions found in the 1802 Webster’s Dictionary, both the Framers of America’s constitutional republic and Tennyson would have defined “moral” and “virtue” thus: Moral is “Relating to the practice, manners or conduct of men as social beings in relation to each other, and with reference to right and wrong. The word moral is applicable to actions that are good or evil, virtuous or vicious, and has reference to the law of God as the standard by which their character is to be determined. The word however may be applied to actions which affect only, or primarily and principally, a person’s own happiness;” and, Virtue is “Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion”.  Yes, a return to moral and virtuous behavior in political life will lead to “purer laws”.   2022 is an election year.  Being moral and virtuous in our personal lives, and choosing moral and virtuous leaders, is the only path towards the restoration of a simpler, wiser, more peaceful America.

Tennyson mourns the lack of compassion humans show towards one another in the fifth stanza.  Daily news headlines in our time reflect this tendency, but there is hope.  Occasionally a story appears of how one individual saw a danger or a need and took action to help someone in distress.  The poet is asking us to shake off the negativity of the time and embrace the spirit of living life to its fulness, in spite of our trials and woes.  The role of a minstrel in ancient times was to uplift his audience with inspiring epic poetry and songs to liven the heart.  Psalm 100 says it best: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations”.

The sixth stanza seems to also be right out of the headlines, as Tennyson berates false nationalism and racial arrogance.  Instead, he asks us to seek the common ground of humanity based upon high principles of truth, justice, and compassion.  As Christ said, when asked what is the greatest commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’” (Matthew 22: 37-40).  It is not your nationality or ethnicity which matter, it is how you treat one another within the bounds of moral and civil law, which has its root in the morality and virtue of the individual.

Wars and rumors of wars, global pandemic, and materialism are the subjects of the seventh stanza, -.  We seem to be a reactionary people, always rushing to put out this fire or that fire, with no real, logically thought out, principled plan of action.  We have forgotten what our common principles are.  Tennyson seeks for the peace of a thousand years, a millennial peace looked forward to by prophets both ancient and modern, but that peace must be based upon truth.  Mankind must understand self-governance in order to govern communities and nations.  Joseph Smith stated it best when asked why there was no crime in Nauvoo, the city built by the Latter-day Saints in Illinois.  He said, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”

In A Nutshell: The Eighth Stanza

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

The New Year of 2022 is open to all possibilities, good and bad.  Ultimately, it is how we govern our own lives that will matter most.  To be valiant and free, to show compassion to those we may encounter, these are the basic principles that will “ring out the darkness” and ring in the Light of Christ.  Then we may experience the thousand years of peace, which Tennyson longed for in his lifetime.

A conversation between Frodo and Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings seems appropriate here. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.  “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  

What will you do with the time and circumstances that are given to you?

Happy New Year, One and All!  It’s going to be a great adventure!  

Librarium: Thoughts on The Great Apostasy by James E. Talmage

First published in 1901, this book is a well-researched and aptly presented review of the history of what is known as “The Great Apostasy”, a time period in which it is said that the purity and simplicity of the Doctrine of Christ as established by Jesus himself during his sojourn and ministry in mortality became corrupted.

The time in which Jesus established his Church is known as the “Meridian of Time, not necessarily an exact division of physical time, but a historical division between the Garden of Eden and what is known as the Millennium. From the Garden of Eden (Adam) to the Great Flood (Noah), to the establishment of the Abrahamic Covenant to the Meridian of Time (First Coming of Christ), to the Great Apostasy followed by the Restoration of the Fulness of Times (Joseph Smith), to the future Millennial period (Second Coming of Christ). These are the markers of historical time.   To simplify: life on earth can be seen in stages of Pre-Flood (when the Promise of Christ was established), Meridian (when the Promise of Christ was fulfilled), and the Millennium (when the Kingdom of God under Christ’s reign will be actualized for this planet).  My personal belief is that we are in the early Millennial stage.

Since the founding of the nation in 1776, life as we know it during the early 2020’s, life has become more globalized and more tyrannical than we in America could ever have imagined.   Before now, various powers have wielded the sword of conquest over the heads of pre-existing nations, but not even the tyranny of Rome (in the Old World) and Spain (in the New World) will be able to rival what we will see before the Second Coming of Christ ushers in the full global governance of the Millennium.  Something for another essay, at another time.

The societal traumas of pandemic, war, poverty, crime, etc., have led to a spiritual discontent and a tendency to cast off everything of the past in a search for something unknown in the future that might be better, but history has shown us that these fearful times always lead to the tyranny of state control rather than the freedom and commitment to the principles of Liberty which have always provided a way to light our way through the darkness and out of chaos.  Again, another story for another day.

There are always evil, self-serving people who take advantage of these situations, both in and out of political, educational, and  religious institutions.   This was the situation in the ancient world which led to the Great Apostasy in the Christian church.   James Talmage gives us some insight into what corrupted the pure doctrine of Christ, why it happened, and the societal consequences.  I’ll discuss three of his main points, and these are the three things which I need to carefully consider in my own life and religious choices.  If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then learning His true doctrine and doing one’s best to live the revealed principles will lead to the best chance of living in a manner which provides blessings for oneself and for others, and to maintain the consistency that should exist in a simple system of belief that purports to be eternal in its existence.  It also means knowing the path of deviation from that doctrine, and how to avoid it.

“The corrupting of simple principles of the gospel by admixture of the so-called philosophic systems of the times.”[1]

Originally, the gospel spread only among the Jews.  Revelation given to Peter soon brought the gospel to the Gentiles (or pagans) as well.   Both Pagans and newly converted Jewish Christians tried to blend and bend Christian doctrine and practices into previous religious traditions.   As Talmage points out (quoting Christ), “No man, said He, putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment and the rent is made worse.  Neither do men put new wine into old bottles; else the bottles break and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16,17).

In our own day, we have been counselled to put aside the “traditions of our fathers”, if they are inconsistent with the principles of the Gospel.  It is a very difficult to “set aside the things of the world”, especially those which have been deeply ingrained into our cultures and societies for generations.   It is very easy to fall into complacency and embrace the philosophies of the world when everyone is doing it and may mock those who choose a different path.  In the Meridian of Time, it was the traditions of Judaism which had corrupted both the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Law.  Followers of Gnosticism worked to merge their teachings with Christian doctrine.  Platonic concepts of God became mixed with the Christian concept of God, leading to false doctrine and bitter conflicts concerning the nature of the Godhead.

Today the battle between the philosophies of Men and the doctrine of God grows ever stronger as we contend with controversies on the very nature of male and female, of the central role of the natural family in stable communities, of societal norms and cultural traditions which distort not only basic moral law, but also God’s Law of Liberty for both individuals and society at large. 

If we are to bring the Light of Christ to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, we need to weave new cloth — using the warp of the Restoration and the weft of Personal Revelation. We need to weave the textures and patterns of a Zion society into the fabric of our daily lives and remove the old worn-out textures and patterns of the philosophies of Man, first as individuals and families, then as influencers in our communities.

“Unauthorized additions to the ceremonies of the Church, and the introduction of vital changes in essential ordinances.”[2]

The Great Apostasy saw the beginning of several controversies, which still continue today.  Wars have been fought over these issues, the ordinance of Baptism being one of the most important.   Baptism by immersion, baptism by sprinkling, infant baptism (christening), or baptism of adults only….” What should we do?”, our religious ancestors asked themselves.  The Baptist sect of Protestantism was founded on this very issue.  Other sects have taught that baptism is not necessary for salvation.  In the Meridian of Time, Christ set the example of baptism by immersion by one having the authority of the Aaronic priesthood when he was baptized by John, who became known as John the Baptist.  Adam and Eve, Enoch, and others who lived before Christ, taught and practiced baptism by immersion.[3] The fullness of this ordinance was lost during Apostasy era, and has now been restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1829[4], thus re-establishing the continuity between times past, times present, and into the future.

Our awareness of the history of the ordinance of Baptism[5] can help us prevent a second Apostasy, both in our personal lives and in the body of the Church.

There are other “essential” ordinances. The word “essential” is defined by Noah Webster (1812 dictionary) as something that is “necessary to the constitution or existence of a thing”; and “important in the highest degree”.  The following are those ordinances which are considered to be “essential” to salvation: Confirmation, Priesthood Ordinations and Setting Apart, Administering to the Sick, and Administering the Sacrament.  Specific instructions[6] for each ordinance have been restored, to which Latter-Day Saint Christians should strictly adhere in order to prevent apostasy.

Baptism is just one example of the many changes which were made by the 4th century A.D.  Talmage examines more of these in Chapter X.

“Unauthorized changes in Church organization and government.”[7]

“The principle of self-government, or common consent, was respected in apostolic days with a care amounting to a sacred duty”.[8]

From the initial establishment of local congregations, through the 2nd century A.D., each were independent of the others, without any sort of coordinating body overseeing them.  “Each Christian assembly was a little state, governed by its own laws, which were either enacted, or at least approved of, by the society.[9]   Talmage details the development of a universal church and the pontificate that later emerged in Rome.  I highly recommend reading it, for the history of the rise of apostate Christianity is the history of Western Civilization, a basic understanding of which is necessary to understanding it’s wars and contentions, it’s Crusades and other societal conflicts.

The Restoration of the fulness of the gospel in our time, from 1830 A.D onward, has seen many authorized changes – from independent congregations coordinated by a prophet, later the Quorum of the Twelve, to the global establishment requiring a central authority working with the governments of the earth in order to open doors to the preaching of that gospel, the tension between local control and central control is always a sensitive balancing act.   The recent pandemic crisis is a case in point.  

Governments were not consistent in their policies.  In America, state policies regarding masking or gatherings or vaccinations were neither clear nor consistent.  How can the Church of Jesus Christ maneuver through the muddy waters of individual rights, governing authority so the greater part of the people will have guidance?  I think we began to see the light, when the responsibility for such decisions was returned to local authority, with bishops and the ward councils deciding if cancelling meetings or mask mandates were the best way to meet the needs of their congregations.   One way to avoid a general church Apostasy, is to return to the ideas of self-government and local autonomy in matters specific to conditions in various geographical and political locations, while still maintaining communication and adherence to the actual doctrine of the Gospel, rather than establishing policies, which may or may be applicable in all areas of a global church.  We live in a day and time with such great technical advantages in the field of communications, unimagined in the times past, that this balance can actually be achieved as we build Zion among every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

Final Thought:

In my opinion, knowing the history of the Great Apostasy will go a long way towards preventing the tendency of Mankind to desire to create a Church in his own image, rather than in God’s image.  Books such as The Great Apostasy can enlighten our minds and strengthen our commitment to preserve and protect the purity of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is widely available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Deseret Books, and other similar outlets.


[1] Discussed in Chapter VII, pages 96 – 112: The Great Apostasy; Talmage, James E.; 1973 edition, Deseret Book Company.

[2] Discussed in Chapter VIII, pages 113 – 129: The Great Apostasy; Talmage, James E.; 1973 edition, Deseret Book Company.

[3] Woodford, Robert J.; How Much Do We Know About Baptism Before Christ’s Time?, article in July 1991 Ensign magazine.

[4] The Authority to Baptize; https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/content/the-authority-to-baptize?lang=eng

[5] Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost; https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-7?lang=eng

[6] Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings; https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/principles-of-the-gospel/priesthood-ordinances-and-blessings?lang=eng

[7] Discussed in Chapter IX, pages 130 – 149: The Great Apostasy; Talmage, James E.; 1973 edition, Deseret Book Company.

[8] Chapter 11, page 131: The Great Apostasy; Talmage, James E.; 1973 edition, Deseret Book Company.

[9] Chapter 11, page 131: The Great Apostasy; Talmage, James E.; 1973 edition, Deseret Book Company.

The Sea of Glass

Truth in science and truth in religious teachings are, in fact, truth.  They do not negate each other, they complement each other, they support each other.  If they do not meld into one fact now, they may very well do so in the future.  It is up to us to use our minds and spiritual intuition to seek out the correct puzzle piece with which to complete the picture, moving forward in faith, and not settle for a piece that fits, mostly, and force it in.  In this article we may be on the path to just such a discovery.

earths-layers


One morning, as I was listening to this episode one of my favorite podcasts called “Suspicious Observers”, I heard an astounding scientific fact – 97% of white dwarf stars, such as our sun will become, eventually morph into crystal globes.  These globes will eventually gather dust and matter on their surfaces, and it was speculated that perhaps our earth is one of these types of globes, with an old star as its crystalline core.

I did a little more research and found an article on the Space.com website entitled “The Sun Will Turn Into a Giant Crystal Ball After it Dies”.   The facts and information in the article totally astounded me and brought a lot of thoughts to mind.  The lead author of the study is Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay, a physicist at the University of Warwick in England. Here are a few quotes from the article and my thoughts on them:

  • All white dwarfs will crystallize at some point in their evolution.
  • This means that billions of white dwarfs in our galaxy have already completed the process and are essentially crystal spheres in the sky.
  • The sun itself will become a crystal white dwarf in about 10 billion years. 

The author then goes on to explain the importance of oxygen and carbon in the crystallization process, which I found thought-provoking. To quote a section of the article:

“The result is likely a core composed of crystallized oxygen and a mantle dominated by carbon. ‘Not only do we have evidence of heat release upon solidification, but considerably more energy release is needed to explain the observations,” Tremblay said. “We believe this is due to the oxygen crystallizing first and then sinking to the core, a process similar to sedimentation on a riverbed on Earth. This will push the carbon upward, and that separation will release gravitational energy.” 

What this says to me is that the current model of the earth’s core being composed of iron may be fundamentally wrong.  The rest of this paragraph is pure speculation on my part. The oxygen-carbon cycle described may explain why space dust and matter particulates might adhere to such a star in it crystal stage, eventually creating a mantle and a crust.  The crystallization of the oxygen which pushes the carbon created by the heating of matter causes gravity on the planetary body.  It also creates the atmosphere we know today – 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases.  The process by which the other gasses form would be a chemistry lesson for another day.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a higher ratio in the past would have created the greenhouse effect so necessary for life to begin and to sustain that life in abundance, as evidenced by the fossil record.

All this reminded me of several scriptures, which I will share and comment on below:

  • Speaking of the sphere upon which God dwells, John the Revelator says in Revelation 4:6 – “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto a crystal”. 
  • Joseph Smith asked for the Lord for clarification of the meaning of the term “sea of glass”. The answer was given in Doctrine and Covenants 77: 1 – “It is the earth in its sanctified, immortal and eternal state.” 
  • Doctrine and Covenants 88:18-19: “Therefore, [the Earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory; For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father.” 
  • 2 Peter 3:7 speaks of a “burning with fire” of the heavens and earth. Certainly our current sun going through the process of becoming a white dwarf would fit this imagery.  The concept of a cleansing by fire is also mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 64:24. 
  • Perhaps in the process of our sun becoming a white dwarf in its own right, the earth is caught up in the fire of its expansion and is celestialized…”And the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.” [Doctrine and Covenants 29:23] 
  • “The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim. This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s.” [Doctrine and Covenants 130:8-9] 

My commentary:  I believe it is possible that the star cycle of life goes something like this: a star like our sun burns out its energy becoming a white dwarf – which goes through a crystallization process – which then begins to accrue matter about its oxygenated-carbonated crystal core until a planet suitable for life is formed – after an time period allotted by God, this planet goes through a process of celestialization in which the properties of a Urim and Thummin are naturally imbued into the earth crystal itself.

In considering all of these things, I can more easily understand Moses when he says, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” [Moses 1:10].  We seem so insignificant compared to the wonders of the Universe, yet we are so important that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” [John3:16].  We exist symbiotically with the Universe – we are of it and through in and in it.

I leave you with this thought from Max Erhmann’s “Desiderata”:

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Karen Signature