In Our Lovely Deseret: The power of hymns and good music

Published: Sunday, Aug. 21 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Members of the Young Single Adult Spanish speaking wards from the Salt Lake area line the sidewalks outside Temple Square to sing hymns before the Sunday after session of the 178th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008.

Jason Olson, Deseret News archives

In the book of Job, God asks: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? ... When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Throughout time, music has been an element of purity and an element of praise. There were strains of the most joyous music in the heavens proclaiming the Savior’s birth; as Luke says, “There was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host... “

The sons and daughters of God — were even some of us among that wondrous gathering who rejoiced in song that the Savior of mankind had at last come to earth? Victor Hugo said that “music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Sometimes the feelings and desires of our soul go deeper and higher than words can go, yet they yearn for some kind of expression or embodiment! It's recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 25, "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me." Echoing these words of deity, J. Reuben Clark said, "We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer."

We need the cleansing, uplifting power of music in our lives now more than ever. Yet, do we sing the songs of Zion from the heart — or even from the mind?

When I grew up in old Salt Lake City in the 1950s my parents did not have home nights nor teach us the hymns along with scripture study, yet my friends, my sisters and I knew the words, knew the spirit and the meaning of dozens of songs that became favorites and went straight to our hearts — to be drawn out countless times through all the years ahead when we needed them — needed them for times of fear and uncertainty; for times of spiritual quiet and learning; for times of celebration and joy.

Do we admit and entertain other kinds of music in our families, the endless varieties that are copied to iPods and listened to through earphones for hours on end? What of the music of the great masters, so in harmony with the music of the Restoration? Have both perhaps been squeezed out by the sounds of the world? Many of these “musical sounds” embody darkness, and the temptations of Babylon to both body and spirit. On the other hand, Henry Ward Beecher said, “Music cleanses the understanding; inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself.”

Now is the time spoken of in scripture: “The righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy.”

We, too, and the children in our homes are in need of heavenly thoughts, peace to the soul and courage for righteous action that the hymns of the kingdom can bring. In the preface to the 1985 edition of the LDS hymnal (with the green cover), the First Presidency says: "Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality ... teach your children to love the hymns. ... Sing as you work, as you play, and as you travel together. ... Hymns can also help us withstand the temptations of the adversary. We encourage you to memorize your favorite hymns ... "

“The spirit of revelation,” President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, promises us can come from the atmosphere of worship that music invites.

As the Lord describes powerfully in Doctrine and Covenants 133: "And the graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night, forever and ever."

Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books. She has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She is the mother of six children.

Email: susasays@broadweave.net

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