Choir singing 'Spirit of God' brings plenty of tears in Kirtland Temple
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The most impressive singing by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on its current tour did not bring any applause, but it brought plenty of tears and a heightened sense of spirituality.
During a 2 1/2-hour visit to Kirtland July 24, the 290 choir members on tour, spouses and guests crowded into the Kirtland Temple where director Jerold D. Ottley led the choir in an emotional rendition of "The Spirit of God," a hymn that was sung at the dedication of the temple on March 27, 1836.With many fighting back tears and trying to sing despite the lumps in their throats, Tabernacle Choir members filled the historic and much-loved edifice with a joyful and magnificent sound, unparalleled by anything they could possibly produce on a concert stage.
Several choir members later indicated they felt they were a part of history, and that the past is not so long separated from the present. "I went to Kirtland with a purpose," reflected Cosette West, one of the singers, as she spoke of the historical significance of Kirtland and its temple in her life. "I am a descendant of Hyrum Smith through his first wife, Jerusha Barden, who died in Kirtland while Hyrum was on a mission to Missouri. She had five children. I went to the cemetery next to the Kirtland Temple and saw the marker that has been erected in memory `of two valiant women.' Jerusha was one of those women.
"When we were singing in the temple, I felt Jerusha was there with me, and that she approved of me being there. I was very involved emotionally. I couldn't sing a note of any consequence. I cried and cried. I had four distinct impressions: that Jerusha was there, that she knew who I was, that she is happy, and that she wants me to be a good person. I'm grateful for the experience we had in Kirtland. It is definitely the highlight of the tour for me. I can't imagine anything that could impress me more."
Deanne Walker, another choir member, said singing in the Kirtland Temple was an entirely overwhelming feeling. "I kept thinking of all that had happened there, all that was sacred and what had gone into building that temple. I had not been feeling well the night before, but singing in the temple rejuvenated me and gave me the energy to continue on."
Scott Woodbury had been a member of the choir just nine weeks when the group left Salt Lake City July 19. "I thought the highlight of the tour for me would be singing the solo part of the song `So Many Voices' during the concerts in Toronto and Rochester (Mich.), but as neat as that experience was, it didn't compare to singing with the choir in the Kirtland Temple. It was so overwhelming emotionally that the words needed to express what I felt just don't exist. Such a strong spirit was there. I shed tears like you wouldn't believe. When we were singing, I came to know why this is called `the Lord's choir.' We've had long bus rides and long waits in line for buses and elevators, and we're exhausted, but that one experience in Kirtland made the whole trip worth everything."
The Kirtland Temple is owned and maintained by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose leaders consented to host the Tabernacle Choir during its brief visit to Kirtland.
Karl Anderson, former regional representative and general chairman of the Tabernacle Choir Visit Committee, arranged for the choir's visit to this significant city in Church history. He approached David Ettinger, executive director of the Restoration Trail Foundation, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and arrangements were made for the choir's visit. The two men work closely on the restoration and maintenance of historical sites that are of interest to both churches.
Before the choir sang in the temple, Allen Walters, senior historic interpreter for the RLDS Church at the Kirtland Temple, spoke to the gathering, explaining significant events in the history of the temple.
David Ettinger, in offering a prayer after the choir sang "The Spirit of God," said, "What a precious moment this has been." He mentioned he knew how "spiritual an experience it has been for everyone here." He further said the voices of the Tabernacle Choir had "been joined by all the saints through all the years who had the same dream of the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ."
Before leaving the temple, the choir sang "The Lord's Prayer." Once outside the temple, many choir members seemed reluctant to interrupt the spirit of the occasion. Several women in the choir hugged each other and wept.