Cultural Change Requires Celebration

Entertainment is Celebration

A heartfelt movie stirs something deep and vital that warms, comforts, energizes, and clarifies my life. The tears that brim my eyes come from the spring of truth: truth about human love and human angst. Inspiring paintings, stirring music, captivating stories, poems, and sonnets, sculptures that give voice to the noble yearnings of the human heart, even social media posts and comments that boldly ring out a simple truth; these are entertaining because they are celebrations of the good, the noble, the free, and the truth. They have ennobling power in our souls.

Entertainment that moves is always a form of celebration otherwise it lacks sufficient traction with its audience and no one buys the tickets, paintings, or songs necessary to sustain it. This key connection between entertainment and celebration can be leveraged to restore a healthy culture of respect, honesty, thrift, and love. So let’s examine celebrations.

A Brief Study of Celebration

A celebration is a fluttering of the heart fueled by remembering and recognizing important values that generate happy, positive feelings. It creates a need to share something holy. There is harmony, a feeling like a triumphant achievement that brings dignified pleasure. An example might be The Stars and Stripes Forever by John Phillip Sousa. It’s our National March and it stirs our souls. I have thought that if we just played this march as background music at our polls, we would vote our way back to good government. Just listen to it for a moment.

The short introduction to the march talks about its creation: “The inspiration of this march was born [in Sousa’s mind] of a combination of homesickness, fond memories of his time as leader of the Marine Band, and his stirring recollection of the flag flying over the White House.” So this march, like every other inspiring entertainment, was born of a prior inspiration. This is a key principle in creating cultural objects that have power: they have to inspire, not just grab attention.

How We Do It

Leading our culture back to goodness means we must figure out how to celebrate goodness so that it is entertaining. That’s pretty simple and pretty clear. Again, the key to inspiring entertainment is inspiration.

Mascot Owl Facing Left

Many people find that a combination of three things brings inspiration: desire, dedication, and humility. I find that when I have those three going simultaneously in my heart, that inspiration usually comes. I can pump up my desire by just working on it. I can dedicate myself to some task by deciding I will dedicate myself to that task. The humility comes easy when I remember how little I have actually created by myself. My greatest works have always been based on inspiration. Let me briefly relate one of these.

A New Message

In the fall of 1975 my wife and I attended Cleon Skousen’s initial lectures that launched the Freeman Institute. Cleon was a master storyteller. He made the founding fathers and the Constitution come alive. After about 8 of those sessions, my desire to write something politically useful was reawakened. I had enough confidence that I thought I could write something useful but my problem was that I was an unknown author. I knelt by my bed after returning home that night and explained my desires and my problem to God finishing by simply saying, “If I can be of some help, I would be very pleased.”

Two hours later I awoke with the exciting idea that I could speak for the founding fathers: I could be their scribe. As I thought about that, a speech began to fill my mind and I soon was writing as fast as I could to capture the stirring words that were coming. Tears filled my eyes while I wrote for over an hour completely overcome with emotion. During the following weeks, I had to keep a pad and pencil with me for I didn’t know when this would recur. It happened many times. The resulting eight essays were published monthly as the featured series called A New Message for our Bicentennial. The President of the Rockford College Institute who later republished the series said it was the best writing of the Bicentennial. I received comments from around the world. I still marvel when I read them. My only credit for that miracle is that I asked and I was ready.

I tried to learn from that incredible experience and have found that if I will pray and go to sleep pondering an issue or a need that I often wake up at 4:30 am with at least a seed of an answer. I know many others are having the same experience. I am convinced that this can work for anyone who seeks to build up and celebrate truth, freedom, and love.

We Have God’s Promise

We live in an exciting and rewarding era, one that has never had its equal in history. We are in the throes of the restitution of all things; apparently of both good and evil things. We have the solemn promise from God’s prophet, that “In coming days, we will see the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen. Between now and the time He returns with power and great glory, He will bestow countless privileges, blessings, and miracles upon the faithful.” President Russell M.Nelson

In that same talk he quoted President Ezra Taft Benson saying, “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace.” Turning your life over to God does not mean becoming his puppet. For example, when I said “If I can be of some help, I would be very pleased,” I turned over a significant part of my life to God.

I remember knowing a business manager who seemed to be wonderful at everything he did and how I wished I could be his personal secretary, ombudsman, and advisor. I was taken with how much I would learn and grow in that work. Turning over discretionary time to God is that kind of opportunity.

I am convinced that those “countless privileges, blessings, and miracles” are just waiting for us to be ready and to ask.

Our Call to Action

There is a famous talk: “Gospel Vision of the Arts”, a First Presidency Message published in the Ensign in July 1977, which quotes President John Taylor thus: “You will see the day that Zion will be far ahead of the outside world in everything pertaining to learning of every kind as we are today in regard to religious matters. God expects Zion to become the praise and glory of the whole earth, so that kings hearing of her fame will come and gaze upon her glory. …” And Brigham Young thus: “Every accomplishment, every polished grace, every useful attainment in mathematics, music, and in all sciences and art belong to the Saints.”

Let’s prey, let’s talk, let’s work, let’s exercise our faith in the prophecies and promises of Jesus Christ whose Zion we are charged to gather.

“… men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause … for the power is in them…” D&C 58:27 – 28

“… whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” Philipians 4:8

“I can do all things through a Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13

Jackson Pemberton
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