A Heart in Tune

I need to say some things to my fellow saints about the family separations at the border, but to explain it we need to first talk about music for a moment. Whether you sing or play an instrument yourself, or have only seen others perform, you know the familiar ritual of tuning the instrument. Here is a video of the cacophonous yet strangely beautiful process:

It begins with a loud, clear note from an accurate source: an oboe, piano, tuning fork, or the most trusted vocalist in the ensemble holds a single reference note. Everyone else tunes up and down until all converge to match the source. Until all are in tune. In church, we often use this as a metaphor, speaking of being “in tune” with the Spirit, meaning that we need to listen to the source of truth, and adjust ourselves until our hearts produce the same notes, that is, the same responses, judgements, and actions that Jesus would produce. So far so good.

Here’s the thing about how tuning works: as strangely beautiful as the tuning process might be, the concert isn’t done after the tuning. The tuning is just the preparation. It’s there to ensure you do the real performance right, that every note you play is just as correct as it would be if the reference source were playing it. But after the tuning part, you’re supposed to go off and play your own part in the actual performance. 

So my dear fellow saints, let me suggest something: if you’re just going to church and straining your ear to the hear the reference note, and then eagerly playing the exact same note, but that note is all you’re ever playing, you’re doing it wrong. Specifically, this week, let me suggest this: if you were neutral or supportive of the new “zero tolerance” policy of family separation at the border, until you heard that the church came out against ityou’re doing it wrong.

Yes, I saw that happen, members who were neutral or even supportive of Trump’s policy but “tuned in” once the church made a decree. While I’m glad they came around as soon as they saw the church weigh in (certainly even that much is not always the case), I confess I’m deeply disappointed in my fellow saints that years of hanging framed copies of the Proclamation on the Family on our walls like an icon and singing “Families Can Be Together Forever” was apparently not enough to instill in us that family togetherness is important. If that was you, oh belated laborer in the field, I’m talking to you. I’m deeply disappointed that the reference note is the only note you’re ever playing, when that’s not how orchestra concerts work, and that’s not how being a person who is in tune with the Spirit is supposed to work.

You’re supposed to keep your heart in tune with the Spirit so that when you hear audio recorded inside a toddler prison that consists of children crying and wailing in despair, your well-tuned instrument of a heart can independently anticipate exactly what notes the Source would be playing right now if it had your part in this orchestra. Your well-tuned heart would recognize that Jesus would definitely not be ok with that, and as His hands on earth and a person who has covenanted to bear His name, you should be moving heaven and earth to stop it. You’re supposed to be in tune with the Spirit so that when you read in the news that a baby was literally taken from its mother’s breast while breastfeeding, your heart already plays the right tune for this movement of the piece, which is to call that abhorrent and close to the polar opposite of everything good and Christian in the world.

A violinist who sits out entire movements waiting to hear the next tuning note played, so he or she can eagerly play exactly that one note would look ridiculous. And if you’re staying passive and silent in between official church statements on important issues because you think your job is only to play notes when the church releases one, and that habit keeps you on the fence about the morality of needlessly shredding families and irreparably traumatizing children, well, the same is true.

I’m not asking you to go off-message, to play out-of-tune notes. The fact that the church eventually did release a statement condemning this should prove to you that if your heart had been truly in tune, you would have recognized the policy was condemnable.

Tune your heart. Then go play.


  1. This. Is. Brilliant.

  2. Capozaino says:

    I agree with the ultimate conclusion about the family separation policy. And I think it’s worth applauding the church for opposing family separation and the government for ultimately abandoning it.

    But equating being in harmony with a church-taken position to being in tune with the spirit is a two-edged sword. Immigration and the policies surrounding it, the desirability of apologizing for past racist policies, gay marriage, and the desire to extend priesthood ordination to women all come to mind as issues that the church has issued official statements on. But reasonable people can disagree on what is ultimately the right position to take on these issues based on their own connection with the spirit. I don’t like it when people imply that I’m somehow less worthy or less in tune with the spirit because I wish the church would more clearly disavow, and apologize for, the priesthood and temple ban or I support gay marriage and women’s ordination. I prefer not to kick other people in the backside just because the shoe happens to be on the other foot this time.

  3. it's a series of tubes says:

    First off: We should never separate kids from their parents, and the current actions should be stopped. Immediately.

    but: lots of heat on this topic at the moment at BCC. I wonder: where was the outrage when Congress passed the law in question in 1997? Where was the outrage that same year when the 9th circuit determined how it would be applied, in Florez v. Reno? Where was the outrage when the Obama administration built and utilized various of the detention facilities in question? Where was the outrage when my local paper published these photos in 2014 inside one such facility?


    Where was the outrage in 2016 when an appeals court determined that under the Florez agreement, parents should remain detained when their kids are released?

    But I forgot. Posts about how permas opinions are more “moral” or “in tune with the Spirit” than other LDS members on the outrage topic du jour are par for the course around here. Dance, puppet, dance.

  4. I agree with you series of tubes. Little outrage toward Obama expressed on this site. Cannot be silenced when it is Trump.
    It was mentioned in a comment on a prior post that only Ivanka could change the president’s mind. Seems that has been proven true based on news stories. Next time you want to change something you should do it in a tweet to her.
    As for the OP, I agree we should recognize truth without needing it to be laid out for us in an official church statement. The author Anne Perry once said a blank piece of paper had no mistakes on it, but also nothing of value. Perhaps we value the no mistake route. No one wants to be the nail that pops up just to be hammered down. No one wants to publicly take a position the Church later disagrees with. It is embarrassing. Better to remain silent. But then we end life with our papers still blank.

  5. Autumn Meadow says:

    Seies of tubes, that article talks about unaccompanied juveniles, mostly teenagers, who arrived at the border without their parents. That is a VERY different situation from the last few months when toddlers have been forcibly separated from their parents at the border. Can you really not see the difference?

  6. tubes – it’s pretty easy to use the box int he top right corner to search bcc for “immigration”. I was surprised to get results as far back as 2006 (bcc is getting old in internet years). For many, the latest policy may be one step too far, but some of us have been outraged for decades, no matter who was in charge. We can only do so much to try and get you to listen.

  7. it's a series of tubes says:

    Frank, you might consider utilizing that same search box for certain of my recent comments. I don’t think I’m your target person who needs to “listen” on this topic.

  8. There are times, I think, where pointing to something in the past and asking, “where was the outrage then” places the people who are showing outrage now in an uncomfortable position. This is not one of those times. There was no outrage in 1997, or in 2016, because the because the Flores Settlement did not produce the effect of separating children from their parents. It produces that effect only when combined with a directive to prosecute 100% of border crossers for unlawful entry under a “zero tolerance” policy. When the original settlement was made, there was no thought that a president would one day decide to create such a policy, so there was no reason for people to become outraged. Family separation is an unintended consequence of the Flores Settlement. It was the desired outcome of the zero tolerance policy.

    For what it’s worth, I suspect that any decision by a jurisdiction to prosecute 100% of misdemeanor offenses with fines of $250, and to put parents in jail without bail until they went to trial, would result in similar kinds of separation (though less severe because there would be other family members available in most cases to care for the children). If people became outraged by this, it would make no sense to ask, “why weren’t you outraged when they passed the law against parking in the handicapped space”? (A misdemeanor happens to carry the same penalty in my jurisdiction that unlawful entry does in the federal code). It is only when the original law is combined with a vindictive and unnecessarily harsh enforcement policy that the undesirable effects are produce.

    As for the pictures of children detained under Obama, these were not quite the same thing, as these were mainly children who crossed the border alone, trying to find parents who had come to the United States. But there was outrage at that time anyway. Here, for example, is mine:


  9. Kristine says:

    It’s also worth mentioning, tubes, that this is not a political site. Not every political disagreement has a moral angle with Mormon valences, and that’s part of the reason the immigration issue hasn’t been thrashed out here regularly.

  10. Terry and tubes,

    (a) I’m very curious how you think that a policy announced on the official DoJ website in a press release dated April 6, 2018, was started under Obama. Please, do provide me with your explanation or evidence for that. As Autumn noted, previous (also terrible) incidents of immigrant children being housed alone in facilities happened because they did not arrive with their parents.

    (b) There were plenty of us complaining about many things during the Obama years, immigration and otherwise.

  11. it's a series of tubes says:

    -this is not a political site-

    Kristine, I am reminded of a quote from a movie well-beloved in Mormon circles, which begins: “We are both men of action…”

    Let’s not pretend that BCC doesn’t have a clear slant on most political issues, nor that such slant is presented as superior to that of the slant accepted by the majority of LDS sheep.

  12. Hah, apparently I don’t type fast enough (or spend too much time looking up citation links), so in the mean time others have made the same points. I agree with Frank, Mike, and Kristine.

  13. I agree 100% that the separation of children from their parents is immoral, inhumane, and incompatible with gospel teachings about the family. But I am uncomfortable telling my fellow saints “you’re doing it wrong” and saying that I am “deeply disappointed in you” or “if your heart were in tune. . .”. I cannot judge others that way. Yes, I think they are wrong. But then, I too am often wrong. I am not so superior to them. There are times my heart is not in tune. There have been times when my views were not in sync with the Church’s and required some soul-searching on my part. Everyone is on their own journey to come to know and submit to the Lord’s will. Two weeks ago I watched a group of Trump-supporting fellow saints work their tails off for 3 days in the hot sun, on their own time, providing a day camp for special-needs kids. On that occasion, their hearts were more in tune than mine as they went about doing good of their own free will. and I suppose they would have been justified in being “deeply disappointed” in me, who did not contribute. The quest to align our hearts in tune with the will of God is a lifetime task for all of us.

  14. it's a series of tubes says:

    Cynthia – yes, the zero-tolerance policy announcement, noting that the existing law would be strictly enforced, is 100% Trump. As I noted earlier, I think that is idiotic and disagree with it. But you and Autumn are wrong: family separations have been ongoing for decades. They’ve just increased in volume.

  15. Kristine says:

    tubes–I didn’t say that we don’t have political opinions (although they’re more varied than you think); I just said that this isn’t a site devoted to political topics.

  16. Re 2014: It is also worth noting, perhaps as an aside, that, during the big spike in detentions of unaccompanied minors in 2014, when the pictures now being passed around as evidence of Obama’s heartlessness were taken, conservatives were demanding that he be impeached for not being sufficiently hard on these children:


    So, there was outrage. Just in a different direction.

  17. it's a series of tubes says:

    Janna, your comment says what I feel on this topic, better than I could have said it. Thank you.

    This is a thorny topic. Always has been. Always will be. The looking down the nose inherent in the OP isn’t advancing the ball.

  18. I don’t think Capozaino’s comment is getting enough play, and I think it’s spot on.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    A brilliant metaphor, Cynthia, thanks for sharing.

  20. @Capozaino, the entire point of the post is that we’re supposed to get in tune with the Spirit and then think and act for ourselves, rather than just blindly adhering to opinions if (and only if) they are official announcements.

  21. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Cynthia: or, in some familiar words, it is an unprofitable servant which must be commanded in all things.

    Oddly enough, the majority of US Mormons have zero problem taking positions on the legality* of abortion that dramatically exceed the guidelines the Church has established in its public statements, and cite LDS-specific doctrine (i.e., of extra-Biblical origin) to justify their stances. Funny how that works.

    *The Church has of course condemned elective abortion morally–Pres. Nelson wrote an article in the Ensign a bit more than a decade back explaining this–but, hopefully because of the doctrine of agency, the Church refuses to endorse making women carry fetuses to term that will kill them or were conceived through rape, which is why every General Conference you get the wackjob sidewalk protesters on the sidewalks outside Temple Square holding up posters of dead fetuses and proclaiming “MORMONS SUPPORT MURDER.”

  22. Janna – Just because people can and do offer generous service, doesn’t preclude them (us) from also contributing to other horrifying outcomes from their political stances. There are no monsters here. We are all human. But our humanity does not absolve us. Any discomfort I feel in calling out myself and others for ignoring or, worse, supporting this atrocity at our borders is nothing compared to what those children are feeling. I will feel my discomfort and then speak up and act up anyway.

  23. “And if you’re staying passive and silent in between official church statements on important issues because you think your job is only to play notes when the church releases one…”

    What counts as not staying passive? Tweeting my outrage? Commenting on a blog? Bringing it up during family dinner? Contacting my congressperson?

    I just want to make sure I understand what level of outrage I need to express about various atrocities in the world to make sure I’m not “doing it wrong.”

  24. AuntM – I agree. Our flawed humanity does not absolve us from inaction. But 2 years ago it took a nudge from the Church to get me involved with refugees in my community, an endeavor that I am committed to permanently and wholeheartedly. Was I “doing it wrong” or “not in tune” because i required that nudge to set me on that path? Quite possibly, yes. But there it is.

  25. RobL, good question, what do you think?

  26. RobL’s question, though I suspect mostly snark, is actually quite a good one. What is enough? What let’s you live with yourself and sleep at night?

    I think the answer is wrapped up with sacrifice, and that scares me. Because even though I have acted on this issue I have not really sacrificed for it. A little bit of time and money – compared to what I have been given – is not much. There are people who dedicate their lives, their careers, their disposable income to helping people – that is real sacrifice. People who right now are flying to texas, working pro bono, hosting children, creating fundraisers, organizing events, taking time off of work, leaving their families… I am grateful for those who give of themselves so completely.

  27. Capozaino says:

    @Cynthia L. I agree that’s the stated point of the post. I just think it’s undermined when the post goes about making that point by implying that people should have come to the same conclusion about a political policy. It feels good and vindicating when the institutional church issues a statement that confirms the beliefs we’ve formed based on the teachings we get there and our best moral judgment. But I know what it feels like to be on the “wrong side” of enough statements from the church, official or not, on the topics I mentioned. Maybe I misread the post or saw implications that weren’t there. But it feels like at least tubes saw the same kind of thing I did.

    If someone using their best moral judgment still maintained that family separation at the border was a good political policy, despite the church’s official statement, would they be “doing it [right]” in the spirit of your post?

  28. I’m so tired of all the Mormon bashing generally found on most posts. Can’t someone write something informative that doesn’t require bashing the church. Go write on Facebook and get your like minded friends to agree and sympathize with you. A recent post has an excerpt from book “announcing God’s tender mercies..” No comments. I think it should be called byminorityconsent.com and you’all can complain to yourselfs. I am a good person, I have free agency, I live my life the best I can. No one can tell me otherwise.

  29. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Capozaino: moral judgment and intellectual judgment are inextricably intertwined, and almost everyone who supports the policy of family separation believes a number of empirically incorrect things.

    Which is a problem: people are willing to believe verifiably false things that comport with their moral values. Rather than examine their own moral judgment, they insist that up must be down and that two and two must make five.

    The dangerous thing is that people are more prone to doing this with age: i.e., rather than giving wisdom, age can actually make one foolish.

  30. Hep, “people are more prone to doing this with age”. I would be interested in being referred to studies that show this. I think I have observed people of many different ages believing false things comporting with their values. On my very limited, unscientific sample, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that people of any particular age are more prone to that than those of any other age. Though I have indeed seen old folks who do it as well as anyone. Have they become foolish? or were those particular old folks always foolish?

  31. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    JR: the Pew Journalism Center just released a study on this.


    All you really need to know about this, though, is the viewership demographics of Fox News, which has raised to an art form telling people incorrect things that they’re likely to believe because they reinforce their existing prejudices. People under 60 aren’t getting reverse mortgages or Hoverounds.

  32. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    (The real juice of that study is in the appendices, of course, in which a strong negative correlation is shown between age and ability to distinguish fact from opinion, even when controlling for educational attainment–which tends to be lower among Boomers than among Gen X and the older millennials.)

  33. Interesting, Tai, that you think this post is bashing on the church.

  34. Your opinions on how the church members have or have not reacted in regards to your feelings on immigration protocols is offensive to me. Knowing myself and my faults I would never call members of the church out like you did.

  35. Ironically, Tai, your comments here are calling out an active member of the Church. And you know what? Maybe that’s ok. Maybe that’s just the 1 Cor. 14 model of a church composed of people with diverse spiritual gifts at work. Cynthia has spoken what the Spirit impels her to say, you have done the same, and the symphony plays on. Part of what’s great about her metaphor here is that music fundamentally relies on dissonance. It’s not that purely consonant music is boring, exactly, but dissonance makes music so much richer.

  36. Her metaphor is not about dissonance. In regards to her metaphor I think the analogy given by Jesus, Matthew 20:1-16 is a kinder approach.

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