Music and the Spoken Word: ‘That’s what a community is’

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given Jan. 19, 2020.

How does a group of individuals, all with different backgrounds and different perspectives on life, become a united community? Well-known author and newspaper columnist David Brooks believes that the answer lies in how we see each other. “That’s what a community is,” he says, “a bunch of people looking after each other. A bunch of people seeing each other, and seeing each other deeply. Taking the time to really enter into relationships with each other and to depend upon one another. … That’s the glue that’s holding us together” (see “BYU Forum: The Lies of Meritocracy,” by Kaylee Esplin, Brigham Young University News, Oct. 22, 2019, ).

Can that really happen? Brooks believes it can and it does — when great teachers see deeply into their students, when loving spouses see deeply into each other. This kind of seeing goes beyond stereotypes and outward appearances, building bridges of understanding.

The aspen tree is an excellent metaphor for the unity and strength that can come from community. Above the ground, each aspen may appear solitary and strong in its beauty and majesty. Yet if we could see deeply, below the ground, we would find that each tree is connected with its neighbors through an enormous root system. An aspen gets its strength from its connection with the aspens that surround it. In a sense, the entire aspen forest is really one plant — one of the largest living organisms in the world. A single grove in central Utah, called Pando or “the trembling giant,” spans 106 acres, weighs an estimated 13 million pounds and consists of over 40,000 trees, all with the same genetic makeup (see “Pando (I Spread),” United States Department of Agriculture,

If we open our eyes to see and our hearts to understand, we can build a community in a similar way. After all, we all share, if not the same DNA, then a common humanity. We all want happiness and peace; we all want to make a difference. Because we’re more alike in important ways than we are different, we already have it in us to see and know each other deeply, to look after each other, to build a strong community.

None of us is truly solitary, alone in this world. We are more like aspen trees. If we see and know each other deeply, we will come to understand that we all share common roots. We all need each other. That’s where we get our strength. That’s what a community is.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM,, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the, and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at