Monday, March 25, 2013

Thoughts on Thomas and being present

I attended a performance of Rob Gardner’s The Lamb of God performed by the Michigan Concert Choir over the weekend. While I don’t intend to give a review of the performance, let me say I was really glad I went. Such a production is a significant undertaking; it’s technically difficult and it’s large in scope. The Michigan Concert Choir is an all-volunteer choir that includes many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but also quite a few non-members, as well.

The oratorio depicts key events from the last week of the Savior’s life and His teachings after the resurrection. I had a number of realizations during the performance, and one of them was about Thomas.

We know that Thomas was a faithful apostle. When news came of Larazus’ death and the Savior’s plan to visit, some of the apostles were concerned for their safety: “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” (John 11:8)

But it was Thomas who said “unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16).

Of course it is this same faithful Thomas who was not present when the resurrected Savior appeared to the apostles. They testified that they had seen him, “But he said unto them, Except I shall shee in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (20:25).

I have always attributed to Thomas a lack of faith. It was not much different from his fellow disciples’ lack of faith, however; they were still shut up in secret even after Mary Magdalene’s testimony of the Risen Lord.

As I listened to Gardner’s words in The Lamb of God, I had a different thought. Thomas sings,

You’ve seen the Lord?
You’ve seen Him risen?
You’ve seen His hands and touched His side,
And you are certain?
But I’ve not seen Him.
And I must see Him.
Until I’ve seen His wounded side,
Until my hands have felt His hands,
I will not know, nor yet believe…

As I heard these words, I heard his regret that he was not there. We don’t know why Thomas was absent. It’s likely that it was for a very good reason he was not with the others when the Savior came; they did not know He would come. But Thomas was not there. He missed the meeting.

I thought about the Nephites who were a generation away from King Benjamin’s address. Because they were not there, they did not believe in the same way as those who were there.

I thought about meetings I have attended through the years that others did not attend, meetings that were particularly meaningful and useful to me, but whose message I could scarcely communicate to someone who was not there. And I found myself wondering about meetings I missed, usually with a very good reason, wondering what thing I did not learn because I was not there.

I thought about the effort that adult leaders of youth make to invite the spirit into so many different kinds of activities in hopes that our youth will be present – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually – so that they will see and feel and know and believe.

May we be present.

BTW, you can read my latest post, "The Unequal Burden of Women" at Real Intent here.


  1. Such good insights. I too have wondered what I've missed when I'm not at a particular meeting. My mission president taught us to be where we should be physically and our spirits would catch up. That has motivated me my whole adult life to get myself to meetings especially when I'm don't feel like going. Those, so often are the ones I needed most. Thanks for sharing.

  2. RL, thanks! It occurs to me that being present is more than attending meetings. It's also being present in our relationships, in our activities -- being focused and aware of those around us, listening to others, listening to the spirit.

    But I'm with your mission president: being physically present, whether at a meeting, at a service opportunity, at work, or at home, is the first step.