Dear 100 Hour Board,
Today in sacrament meeting we sang the song, "God Speed the Right". A few years ago I clearly remember being told at a stake conference not to sing this hymn because of the line, "if we fail, we fail with glory." Was this a message from the first presidency that many missed, or an insignificant issue to be concerned about?
I've never heard of such a prohibition, but it seems like one that was made on a personal call... kind of like how Church basketball was unequivocally banned in my stake. The Stake Presidency has some say in how to run their ship.
I can't imagine that there would be a church-wide ban on any hymn in the hymnbook, considering that it definitely went through all necessary Church correlation processes and the First Presidency endorsed its contents in the Preface. Plus, this hymn was sung for the opening of a BYU-Hawaii devotional as recently as October 2007. Somehow I imagine presidents of Church universities are typically on the same page as the First Presidency.
Personally, I've always kind of liked that line. Like our band director used to say, "you should play loud, because the note will never come out if you don't; and if you screw up, you'll at least sound like you mean it!"
Failing with Glory,
If there were an official statement banning the use of a hymn, trust me, you'd know about it.
This is what Karen Lynn Davidson, author of <I>Our Latter-Day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages has to say about these lines:
This hymn repeats twelve times a fervent, four-word prayer, 'God speed the right.' These words imply that the 'right' has not yet arrived; we have not seen the day when the literal kingdom of Christ has been established on the earth, binding Satan and his powers. Thus the hymn is not about victory; it is about a struggle and the attitudes we should bring to struggle. For the time being, at least, a proper attitude is the real victory.~Hermia
By earthly standards, the life of Jesus was a failure. Most of his followers deserted him, and he was condemned and executed. yet he foresaw the eventual rewards of this struggle, and every apparent failure was actually consecrated toward a holy cause.
Like our Savior, we will not win every battle in this life, even though we fight on the side of the right. But we carry on without discouragement; it is the struggle on the side of right that counts, not the outcome of a particular battle: 'If we fail we fail with glory.'
Just for the record, here are some stories which could be termed "glorious failures".
The revered Brother Granger was sent by the Church to "contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of the Church" (D&C 117:13) in selling the Church's property that was left behind in Ohio. He failed miserably in this respect; almost all of the land was taken from the Church without having ever been paid for. But the Lord blessed him greatly for it "for his sacrifice [was] more sacred unto [the Lord] than his increase" (D&C 117:13).
The World: 0
The Lord: 1
A militant mob was oppressing the saints in Missouri. The Prophet organized a small militia to come to the rescue of his people, marched 1000 miles under harsh conditions, did almost nothing once they got there, turned around and went home. In the eyes of the world, this was another epic failure of the Church. In the eyes of the Lord, it was a refiner's fire that produced the Church's next generation of leaders including two future presidents of the Church and many apostles.
The World: 0
The Lord: 2
The Life of the Savior
Before you stone me for blasphemy, let me say that the only reason I'm thinking of this example is because of a (general conference) quote from Elder Holland. He said of the Savior,
Indeed, to the layman in the streets of Judea, Christ's career must have seemed a failure, a tragedy, a good man totally overwhelmed by the evils surrounding Him and the misdeeds of others. He was misunderstood or misrepresented, even hated from the beginning. No matter what He said or did, His statements were twisted, His actions suspected, His motives impugned. In the entire history of the world no one has ever loved so purely or served so selflessly-and been treated so diabolically for His effort. Yet nothing could break His faith in His Father's plan or His Father's promises. Even in those darkest hours at Gethsemane and Calvary, he pressed on, continuing to trust in the very God whom He momentarily feared had forsaken Him.
Christ's life was obviously a success even though someone who misunderstood his mission could easily call it a failure for the way it ended.
The World: 0
The Lord: A bajillion
In short, I think that failing with glory is all about perspective. Sometimes we are simply misunderstood and our apparent failures are actually successes. In other cases (such as those of Brother Granger and Zion's Camp), we are commanded to do something not because we will succeed, but precisely because we will fail gloriously.
The Man with a Mustache