Sarah Jane Weaver: As political unrest erupted this week in Washington D.C., these words from a Baptist pastor brought me rest

I was eating a socially distanced lunch with friends when I heard the news this week.

The United States Capitol in Washington D.C. had been breached.

The thing that surprised me most in the moment was that I was not surprised at all. Instead, the feeling that has weighed on me for months consumed me.

I was tired.

Writing about the pandemic, helping my children navigate home school and coronavirus-related disappointments, and watching my husband deal with the realities of a home office is exhausting. So is worrying about the emotional, physical and financial health of loved ones and watching the nation wrestle with issues of race, incivility and political instability.

In this time of enforced isolation, issues of faith have also risen to the surface for my family, friends and ward members — sending me to my knees begging for understanding about the LGBTQ community, mental health, addiction, unfulfilled expectations and much more.

The past months have felt like a long, hard journey. 

As my lunchtime friends spoke about the events in Washington D.C., I became distracted — physically distanced by COVID-19 and now emotionally distanced by my own thoughts.

The Rev. Amos C. Brown is interviewed during the 110th annual national convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People July 21, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan.
The Rev. Amos C. Brown is interviewed during the 110th annual national convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People July 21, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News

I was thinking about the historic Third Baptist Church of San Francisco. A few days earlier they had selected “Come, Come, Ye Saints” as their “Anthem of the Morning” during Sunday worship services.

I have never participated in services there or even seen the building. But I have met their pastor, The Rev. Amos Brown — a widely recognized civil rights activist and a former student of Martin Luther King Jr. The Rev. Brown was not at the meeting Sunday; still his congregation sang the Latter-day Saint hymn.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I grew up singing the words to “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” I have also written about those words and performed them in sacrament meeting musical numbers.

But I did not love them. At least not until I listened to The Rev. Brown speak them during an interview at the NAACP National Convention in Detroit, Michigan, in July 2019. With beautiful diction, he emphasized the phrases slowly and deliberately. When spoken by him, the words were poetry.

Video: Civil rights activist quotes stirring version of ‘Come, Come, Ye Saints’ and what it symbolizes for the NAACP

He compared and contrasted the words to our hymn with the words of the NAACP national anthem — “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” He spoke of people (mine and his) who endured challenge, trial and adversity.

“Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died,” he said, quoting “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

And then he said, “Come, Come, Ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear … Grace shall be as your day. … Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake; And soon we’ll have this tale to tell — All is well! All is well!”

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the Rev. Amos C. Brown at the 110th annual national convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Detroit on Sunday, July 21, 2019.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the Rev. Amos C. Brown at the 110th annual national convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Detroit on Sunday, July 21, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News

As I thought about violence at the U.S. Capitol, the words of those anthems filled my soul.

During this time when so many of us are exhausted, the very thought of the quiet ringing of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” from the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco was a sweet healing balm. A message that all will be well.

“They didn’t get bitter,” The Rev. Brown said in 2019 of early Latter-day Saints. “They got better.”

In spite of being oppressed, they excelled, achieved and remained loyal to their God, he noted.

It is a message exemplified not only by those who penned the words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” but also by The Rev. Brown and President Russell M. Nelson.

In October general conference, President Nelson said when a person’s greatest desire is to “let God prevail,” to be part of Israel, so many decisions become easier. It is a task, he said, that will take “both faith and courage.”

“I think you will be astounded. … As you choose to let God prevail in your lives, you will experience for yourselves that our God is ‘a God of miracles’ (Mormon 9:11).”

On the same day that the U.S. Capitol was breached, just as members of Congress were resuming their important responsibilities, I learned that my friend and colleague had lost her husband to COVID-19.

In my tired state, I thought about the pioneers who also lost loved ones and endured other trials, wending their way with joy. Somehow they sang the words “All is well.”

In Matthew 11:28-29, the Savior promises, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

The early Saints found joy in their journey, exemplifying the Savior’s teaching that we all find joy in Him. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” (John 15:11).

And I started to feel better. I came to understand that even in the midst of a hard journey, there is joy.

I felt joy as I worshiped this year at home, as our family was part of a home missionary training center, and on the first Sunday we attended sacrament meeting in person. I felt joy when we accompanied our daughter to the temple, as we celebrated Christmas with our ward by filling our neighborhood with luminarias and light, and during thousands of other moments.

This week, as so much weighed me down, I felt joy recalling how The Rev. Amos Brown articulated the words of “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”

On the very week that tension and strife spilled from the U.S. Capitol, those very words filled the historic Third Baptist Church of San Francisco and delivered rest to my tired heart.