on a literal odyssey
In the heart of Texas stands Baylor University, the largest Baptist University in the world; a University whose students have changed my outlook on life, community and inter-religious relations.
In October of 2008, Chris Pillsbury, a student at Baylor University, watched a couple of my videos on YouTube and contacted me with specific questions about them. Working with the University’s Men’s Choir, Chris was wondering if I would be interested in helping them put together a couple of videos that they would put on display as their choir performed. Deeply honored, I agreed without hesitation.
Through subsequent emails and numerous drafts, Chris and I worked closely together to create two videos for Baylor’s upcoming performance on November 2nd, 2008. The Men’s Choir received the videos with gratitude and the films were shown at their concert for an audience of nearly 3,000.
One of those videos, “The Prayer of the Children,”—now published on my YouTube channel—has become one of my personal favorites and continues to receive over 100 views daily:
Not long after Baylor’s concert had ended, the 2008 national elections were held. Among the many things that were voted for, the now infamous Proposition 8 was passed. To say that I was discouraged by the subsequent attacks and protests against Mormons would be an understatement. Having a prominent YouTube channel that is primarily filled with films about the LDS Church and religion in general, I had a front-row seat to the backlash against the proposition. To witness the ignorant hatred against my faith made me seriously question humanity, unity and “tolerance.”
However, within a week of those events I received a package from the Baylor Mens Choir. This was not a surprise since they had said that they wanted to send me one of their albums as a token of their appreciation. I have come to enjoy their music immensely, so I was thrilled to be able to listen to more.
…but what I got was more than I expected and more than I deserved.
Alongside their album was a large card filled with signatures and personal messages from the director and members of the choir. As I stood there holding the card my eyes began to fill up with tears. They may not know it, but their simple act of kindness—their act of brotherhood and community despite doctrinal differences—restored my faith in humanity and strengthened my testimony of the scripture found in Galatians 6:7 “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” and the scripture found in Mosiah 2:17 “that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
In 2009, I had the privilege to work once more with my friends at Baylor University. I again, orchestrated two videos to match the songs they had recorded for me. One of those videos is called “Last Letter Home from a Soldier in Iraq.”
Jacob, a member of the Men’s choir, explained that the choir’s voice combined with the video, provided a powerful mood for the audience. In between the songs, Jacob described that there was a pause:
“However, something happened in that pause – complete silence. That’s something coming from our audience – mostly either freshman or upperclassmen who had missed too many chapels in the past and had to make up a semester. The room was not filled with the gentle glows of dozens of cell phones, nor was it rustling with students finishing homework or whispering. In those pregnant seconds, both we and the students heard the silent echo of [the soldier's] last words.”
In working on these videos for my friends at Baylor, I have been truly blessed to learn something of brotherhood and friendship despite distance and differing doctrine. In an email Chris wrote to saying, “It is hard to express in words the gratitude the Men’s Choir, its director, and officers have for you.” To my Baptist brothers at Baylor, I feel the same way. You’ve gained a faithful and grateful friend.