Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bonus Blessing: The Power of Music

We interrupt this Hawaiian vacation report for a few Sunday thoughts.

This past week I sat and watched the Michael Jackson memorial on TV. I thought it was excellent by the way. Many times, especially during the Heal the World/We are the World medley I found myself in tears and contemplating the power of music. At that moment I got a call from a Bishopric member asking if I would give a short concluding talk at the end of a sacrament meeting of musical numbers. He asked me to speak on the power of music in our lives. Um, yes. I will do that.

While preparing my talk I thought I'd check my 52 Blessings Project posts from last year to see what I'd written about music. I was SHOCKED to see that I hadn't included one of the most important blessings in my life- music.

I decided to post my thoughts from my talk here today because so much of what I said is about my personal experiences with Church music shaping my testimony of Jesus Christ.

The Power of Music

I believe music is THE most powerful tool that the Spirit has to speak to our spirits. I also believe that it is a vital part of our spiritual growth in the gospel.

Only 3 months after the Church was organized the Lord, through the prophet Joseph Smith called Emma Smith to compile a selection of hymns for the Church. Why? Because as He said in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart, yea the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.”

When we sing the hymns, it is the same as saying a prayer- and it should be treated as such. We will be blessed for singing those hymns from our hearts.

Some of the finest music in the Church is taught in Primary. Children all over the world have learned the basics of the gospel through those songs… and when they learn those songs, they will never forget the principles taught because of the music.

Every child in the Church knows that they are each a Child of God.

If you ask them which Church they belong to and what they believe, they know thanks to the song “The Church of Jesus Christ.”

They know where they come from as they sing “I Lived in Heaven”

They know about temples when they sing “I Love to See the Temple” and “Families Can Be Together Forever.”

They know about modern day prophets and the ancient prophets they sing about in “Follow the Prophet”

They recognize the Holy Ghost because of the song, “A Still Small Voice”

They know that kindness begins with them, that reverence is more than just quietly sitting, how to choose the right way to be happy and they feel their Savior’s love in all the world around them.

I could go on and on about how many gospel topics our children have learned through their Primary Songs.

It is exciting to me that they learn a hymn each year too. Last year my 4 year olds favorite song was “Called to Serve”. This year they are learning “How Firm a Foundation” This music will uplift and strengthen them throughout their lives. If any of you didn’t get to be in Primary as a child or don’t know some of the newer songs, I am sure the children would love you to come down and learn with them from time to time.

I know that is where my own testimony began to grow. Singing in Primary always felt good and I knew what they taught was true. In fact as I thought about this talk this week I was overwhelmed with what an important role music has played in my own life.

When I was Primary age I remember learning that to get a bad word or thought out of my head or even the feelings after a scary dream all I needed to do was to sing a church song in my head and soon I would feel good again.

When I was a teenager I gained my testimony of Jesus Christ through music. My mom had just finished teaching an Easter Family Home Evening lesson about the Savior. When everyone went up for their treat, I sat on the couch with a hymn book opened to “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”. As I quietly sang to myself the Spirit came so strongly and at that moment I knew. I knew it and can never deny that Jesus Christ lives and He is my Savior. It is often very hard for me to get through that hymn anymore with dry eyes as those feelings return.

In college there was an incident where the spontaneous singing of “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet” by a student filled Marriott Center calmed us in a time of fear and even helped in securing the safety of President Hunter from a disturbed intruder.

More recently I had another experience with music when my grandma passed away rather suddenly. She was seriously an angel on earth and she loved music with all her heart. A week or so after she passed I was in the basement doing laundry, not thinking of anything in particular. In my head I began to hear her voice singing her favorite hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour”. I’m not saying that she was actually there, but I’m not saying she wasn’t either. What was important was that I felt that she was bearing her testimony to me one more time. The hymn brought me comfort while strengthening my testimony of Jesus Christ and eternal families.

I’m sure we all have had experiences where gospel music has spoken to our hearts and taught us important truths. There truly is power in the hymns.

There is a lot of good music out in the world. Classical music is powerful and moving.
Even good modern music uplifts us and helps us to feel happy and positive.

But nothing is as powerful as a hymn and nothing invites the spirit but a hymn (because it is a prayer.) In the moment a hymn begins to play, the feeling in the room changes, the Spirit is present. I want to encourage all of us to know the hymns and learn from them. I challenge you to use the hymns to learn and understand gospel principles better. Use the hymns to strengthen your testimony. If there’s a topic you want to study, go to the topical guide in the back of the hymn book. Choose a hymn related to your topic. Sing the hymn and learn from it’s words. Then continue to the scripture references at the bottom of the page which take you into the scriptures for study. The Spirit will be with you. Have this music in your homes, in your cars, on your iPod- wherever you are so that you can invite the Spirit to be with you when you need Him most.


Abby said...

What a great talk Nikki! I agree that the hymns strengthen our testimonies. I can't seem to get through "I believe in Christ" without getting teary.

Thanks so much for sharing your talk with us.

Amanda :-) said...

Hey, I'm Facebook free!!

This is such a good post. I don't know any of these LDS hymns, but you've got me thinking of my favourite Church of England hymns. For one, I love 'Tell Out My Soul'. My old school anthem is based on this hymn, but it is this hymn that I had at our wedding, and I also requested it be sung at Isla's baptism. It absolutely has me streaming with tears. This clip, though, is only the first verse. Look up the entire lyrics, if you have time?

Amanda :-) said...

Ohhh, you really got me thinking about my favourite hymns. This is reeeeally a big one for me. I can only sing about a third of it before I am physically unable to carry on because I cry so much over the words. I just can't get over the conviction of the last few verses because I so thoroughly believe it. When will I ever be able to open my mouth up to get those words out??!

Shan said...

Fantastic talk Nik. I got chills thinking of each of those songs and the lesson they teach. I love primary songs just as much as the hymns. I love the story about your Grandma- hymns remind me so much of my dad and I can't get through a few of them without thinking of him . So grateful for the power of music and the blessing it is in our lives!

Robyn said...

I couldn't agree more. Just today in church, a woman got up to give a talk and starting singing "How Great Thou Art" a capella. It was so powerful, I cannot even describe the feeling. The tears started down my face immediately and got to the point where I could hardly keep myself composed (above and beyond the usual testimony meeting/touched by the spirit kind of feeling). When she started a second verse, I thought, "Oh please, have mercy"... thankfully she ended there, the focus was about nature and God's creations. It was beautiful. I'm so thankful for music in general, but very thankful for Primary music that teaches my kids too. Great post!

Sunny said...

Beautiful! And PERFECT! I spoke in church yesterday too :)

staci-d said...

What an uplifting talk! Thank you for sharing!!

Leanne said...

>>When we sing the hymns, it is the same as saying a prayer- and it should be treated as such.<<<

I looove this! What a great way to think of it. I doubt I'll look at a hymn another way from now on.

Thanks Nikki for sharing your talk with us. Actually, I mean sharing you talk and your testimony.

Fabulous job.

Dad said...

Inspired remarks, we all agree!
The power of music is also understood by the adversary and uses it's power for evil influence. A word to the wise and those who raise children.
(I expect music's influence is profoundly understood beyond the veil?)