• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I learned the words to many songs during my childhood and youth – many of them were hymns – some mere nonsense and others music popular to the time.  The words and sound of most of those songs seem as much a part of me as my fingers or toes, my hair or my nose.

Ephesians 5:19–20 says, “… [Speak] to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

At my request, my husband played the piano today – I said, “just pick something soothing-ish.” (He knows, btw, that I detest dirges). He sat and began to play a song that is one of my favorites: 

“Whenever I hear the song of a bird
Or look at the blue, blue sky,
 Whenever I feel the rain on my face
Or the wind as it rushes by,
Whenever I touch a velvet rose
Or walk by a lilac tree,
I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world
… Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves for me.”

I learned this song, 'My Heavenly Father Loves Me', intimately when I taught it to young children in sign language. (I was working as an ASL Interpreter for kindergarten students at that time and taught a deaf child that age in the Primary class at church that I was assigned to. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known by the nickname Mormon's, provides many valuable resources free of charge.)  Seeking just the right turn of phrase or culturally accepted idiom to transliterate is always fun: keeping it simple enough for a young child is doubly so.

My husband then began to play Hymn 142, "Sweet Hour of Prayer".  He says he chose it randomly. I found myself praising God for the magnanimous blessings I feel in my life every day. In 1946 George Albert Smith said, "I wonder sometimes if we realize the importance of music. I wonder if we know that the Lord himself is concerned about it. He has given us the information that the song of praise is a prayer unto him. . . . It [is] our privilege, yea, our blessing, to sing and . . . our songs should be sung in righteousness."

1. Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

2. Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since he bids me seek his face,
Believe his word, and trust his grace,
I’ll cast on him my ev’ry care
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
I’ll cast on him my ev’ry care
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Text: Attr. to William W. Walford, 1772–1850, alt.
Music: William B. Bradbury, 1816–1868, alt.
Psalm 55:16–17, 22
Philippians 4:6–7

And then my husband began a song I did not know well. I could only call to mind a snatch here and a phrase there, Hymn 157. I had to ask him the name and get to book to refresh it in my mind.  I remember "Thy Spirit Lord, Has Stirred Our Souls" but it is not a song I know well - yet it felt as if I did. Neal A. Maxwell taught, "When we rejoice in beautiful scenery, great art, and great music, it is but the flexing of instincts acquired in another place and another time." May Ensign 1984 pg 21 

1. Thy Spirit, Lord, has stirred our souls,
And by its inward shining glow
We see anew our sacred goals
And feel thy nearness here below.
No burning bush near Sinai
Could show thy presence, Lord, more nigh.

2. “Did not our hearts within us burn?”
We know the Spirit’s fire is here.
It makes our souls for service yearn;
It makes the path of duty clear.
Lord, may it prompt us, day by day,
In all we do, in all we say.

Text: Frank I. Kooyman, 1880–1963. © 1948 IRI
Music: Alexander Schreiner, 1901–1987. © 1948 IRI
Mosiah 5:2
Luke 24:32 (13–35)

In Colossians 3:16 we read, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

Boyd K. Packer a prophet in this, our time, has taught many times about music. He tells us,  "The Spirit does not ratify speech nor confirm music which lacks spiritual substance ... the hymns of the Restoration are, in fact, a course in doctrine!President Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1991, 22  

Other prophets have also instructed us extensively about the media we place in our minds. (See Russel M. Nelson, 'The Power and Protection of Worthy Music' or David A. Bednar, 'Things As They Really Are')

I am not a musician; you might cringe to hear my vocal chords attempt to sing; but gratitude brings tears to my eyes and silences my mouth when I hear such music. Spencer W. Kimball explained that, "We are in a position, as musicians, to touch the souls of those who listen." Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (1982), 520 

The best I can do is to pass along great music I find and to listen to the media I encounter selectively.

The First Presidency teaches further, "The hymns can bring families to a spirit of beauty and peace and can inspire love and unity among family members. Teach your children to love the hymns. Sing them on the Sabbath, in home evening, during scripture study, at prayer time. Sing as you work, as you play, and as you travel together. Sing hymns as lullabies to build faith and testimony in your young ones" (First Presidency preface to Hymns, page x).

I think I will sing more
I think I will take the prophets at their word. 
I think my mother did. She learned it from her mother.

I am grateful.