“The Music of Peace—in Prison,” Ensign, Aug. 2002, 70
I remember years ago sitting with my peers in our 14- to 15-year-old Sunday School class, discussing which hymn we might sing that day. One of us mentioned, “If You Could Hie to Kolob” (Hymns, no. 284). We all broke out in laughter. To us, this title seemed the funniest and most old-fogy-sounding in the hymnbook.
After discovering this hymn’s title, it became a standing joke with my group of friends. Whenever there came a chance to suggest a hymn for any occasion, one of us would call out, “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” and we would all have a good laugh.
I don’t think any of us had ever actually heard the hymn—I certainly hadn’t. At the time, rock and roll was the only kind of music I was interested in.
About 18 years later, in a very different setting, I sat in a cold concrete cell as an inmate in a state prison. I was watching TV and wearing headphones so as to hear the program and tune out the ever-present noise and profanity of my surroundings. I was listening to the Saturday afternoon session of general conference. Years of Church inactivity, battles with drug addiction, and the experience of being incarcerated had brought me to the depths of humility. The path I had followed had been a horrible way to realize that nothing is more important in life than the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A musical selection by the Brigham Young University combined choir was announced, and my memory of youthful laughter was jogged when I heard the title: “If You Could Hie to Kolob.” It struck me that through all this time and the many changes in my life, I still had never heard this hymn. Before I could think any further, the music began.
Before the first verse ended, I recognized I was hearing a holy hymn of uncommon and intricate beauty. The choir and organist performed magnificently. My soul was pierced by the Spirit of God, which I felt strongly through these inspired, eternal words of truth and heavenly music.
Tears began to flow, initially tears of shame and regret for my pride and ignorance that had so long separated me from the blessings of the gospel. Quickly, however, my pain was transformed into joy as I was at once consoled and instructed by the Spirit. Before the hymn ended, what had started as a pricking of my heart became the beginning of the healing of my soul.
In the several years since my release from prison, the Savior’s love has continued to heal me. My life isn’t easy, but living the gospel has brought me many blessings. I hold a responsible job and serve in various Church callings. I share a good relationship with my less-active parents. In my work as a facilitator in the Church’s Substance Abuse Recovery Program, I now help others overcome their addictions. And the sweetest blessing of all is the one I received five years ago when I was sealed for time and eternity to a righteous young woman in the temple. I have the deepest gratitude to a patient, loving Father who truly has the power to transform the bitter into sweet.