On Worshiping Through Music

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Summary

This talk suggests that we music is an essential part of our worship services, our family activities, and our personal lives. We should be more purposeful in planning the musical components of our lives. In this way The Spirit will be available to help us.

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Title Page

On Worshiping Through Music

A Talk in Sacrament Meeting of the
Sterling Park Ward, Ashburn, VA Stake

By D. Calvin Andrus, Bishop
mailto:calvin.andrus@gmail.com

10 January 2010, Version 1.0

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Talk

This talk was inspired by Elder Russel M. Nelson's 2009 Ensign article, "The Power and Protection of Worthy Music."

Introduction

I want to thank the other speakers this morning. They have invited the Spirit into the meeting this morning. I pray the Spirit will use my words to continue to uplift and inspire us.

(The following history is paraphrased from the Wikipedia.)

In 1885, there was a young man, aged 25. His name was Carl Boberg and he lived along the eastern coast of Southern Sweden. One Sunday afternoon, Carl and his friends were walking home from church and were caught in a tremendous thunderstorm. There was bright lightning, loud thunder, strong wind, and drenching rain. By the time Carl got home, the storm had past and the weather was calm and a rainbow appeared. From his window, he looked out over the bay below his town. The waters had smoothed out, which allowed the songs of the birds in the woods across the bay to reach him. He could also hear church bells, calling worshipers to a funeral service.

While taking in the scene, young Carl called to mind Psalms 8.

1. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
   who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, 
   that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
   the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man,
   that thou visitest him?
5. For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,
   and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6. Thou madest him to have adominion over the works of thy hands; 
   thou hast put all things under his feet:
7. All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8. The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, 
   and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Verses 3 and 9 had a particular impact on Carl. Let me re-read just those two verses and let us try to keep them in our minds:

3. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
   the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
9. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

At that moment, Carl took a pen and paper and wrote a poem. Let me read Stuart Hines' 1949 English translation of the poem. Notice how Carl weaves the storm, the calm, and Psalms 8 verses 3 and 9 together.

   O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
   Consider all the works Thy hands have made.
   I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
   Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
 
       Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
       How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
 
   When through the woods and forest glades I wander
   And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
   When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
   And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
 
       Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee:
       How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

This is hymn number 86 in our current hymnal. It is one of our favorite hymns. We feel The Spirit when we sing it. It brings many of us to tears. Through this hymn, we join together to worship our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. We are better people after we sing this song.

Music in Church

Allow me to read what the First Presidency said in the preface to our hymnal about music in our church meetings.

Inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. The hymns
invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as
members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.
 
Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns. Hymns
move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort
the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end.
 
We hope to see an increase of hymn singing in our congregations. We encourage
all members, whether musically inclined or not, to join with us in singing
the hymns. We hope leaders, teachers, and members who are called on to speak will
turn often to the hymnbook to find sermons presented powerfully and beautifully in verse.

This year the songs in the Hymns and the Children's Songbook will serve as the basis for our Sacrament Meeting talks. When we ask you to speak, we will assign a topic and also give a suggestion of which hymns and songs go along with this topic, to include in your talks. We join with the First Presidency and hope that we will find a powerful voice to our messages through these beautiful verses.

Music in our Families

As most of you know, our oldest daughter, Brooke, was married this last summer. She held her wedding reception in the Stone House in Cascades. Our oldest son, Stan, had the assignment to put together a play list of music on his iPod, which was played over speakers during the reception. About two-thirds of the way through the reception, my daughter called for dancing. First, she and her new husband danced. Then the groom with his mother and the bride with her father danced. It snowballed from there. When Brooke and I danced, it was to a song that has special meaning for our family. The song is called I Do It For You. It was written and performed in 1991 by Bryan Adams and was made famous by the movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. When they were young, Brooke and Chelsea would sing this song as a duet, with Janet accompanying on the piano, and I played simple chords on the guitar. The four of us would often play and sing this song together.

The song has a good message and it was a perfect song for Brooke and me to dance to at her reception. Let me read part of one verse:

Look into my eyes you will see,
What you mean to me.
Search your heart, search your soul,
And when you find me there,
You'll search no more.
. . .
You know it's true.
Everything I do - I do it for you.
 
(Copyright 1991 A&M Records)

But what you may not know, is that as Brooke and I danced, we were following a scriptural injunction. Doctrine and Covenants section 136 verse 28 reads:

If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing,
and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

Brothers and sisters, let me encourage you to purposefully plan to praise the Lord in your families through music. Please find ways to increase the amount of good music in your homes. As the psalmist says,

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth:
make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

Music in our Personal Lives

The first Israelite king, Saul, had a career that started in humble circumstances. He was catapulted to the top of the Israelite political, military, and social worlds. He let his position go to his head, and seriously disobeyed the then living prophet, Samuel. The kingdom was taken from Saul and his family and given to another.

But even during the best years of his reign, Saul had good days and bad days. Just like us--we have our good days and bad. Saul found that on those days when the temptations to do evil were particularly heavy to bear, he would turn to music to help him through his trials. We read,

I Samuel 16
 
22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee,
   stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.
23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul,
   that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was
   refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

Do any of us suffer from temptations? Do we feel beset by the evil one? Do we need strength to overcome our spiritual problems? Would we like some help to have the evil spirit depart from us? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Let us follow Saul's example, and use music to fight the temptations in our lives. Let me give some illustrative cases from my own life.

  • There have been times in my life when I was tempted to start my day without prayer. I cultivated Hymn #140, "Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?"
  • Only once or twice in my seven plus years as bishop, have I felt like calling the Stake President to ask to be released. At that moment, I recalled hymn #147. "Sweet is the work . . . oh may my heart in tune be found, like David's harp, of solemn sound."
  • When I suffer temptations to sin, I bring forth hymn #97, "I need thee every hour, in joy or pain. Come quickly and abide, or life is vain."

Brothers and sisters, please comb your own memories and feelings for your favorite hymns. Pre-position them in your mind so they are "at the ready" when needed to be called into service. When you are fighting temptation, there is nothing like getting a good hymn stuck in your head to see you through the crisis.

Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, let me bear my testimony through a quote from the Children's Songbook (#253): "Singing a song is fun to do, fun to do, fun to do. Singing a song is fun to do, to do, to do, to do." Like you, I can testify that the Spirit loves music. He comes when we worship through song. We are inspired as we worship through music. When we are beset by spiritual and other problems of this world, we can find strength and relief through the wise application of music. Finally, let us plan to increase the amount of good music in our lives--in our Family Home Evenings, in our social celebrations, and in our personal lives.

In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.