- The First Presidency has said: “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.”
He shares with us that we can learn important truths about the gospel through hymns.
- The singing of hymns is one of the best ways to learn the doctrine of the restored gospel.
We learn from the scriptures that hymns were used by the Savior, by the apostle Paul, and instruction was given in our modern times to create a book of hymns for our worship services.
- The scriptures contain many affirmations that hymn singing is a glorious way to worship. Before the Savior and his Apostles left the upper room where they had the sublime experience of the Last Supper, they sang a hymn. After their hymn, the Savior led them to the Mount of Olives.
- The Apostle Paul advised the Colossians that they should be “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
- Modern revelation reaffirms the importance of sacred music. In one of the earliest revelations given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord appointed Emma Smith “to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church.
President Oaks talks about the use of hymns in all areas of our worship services. He shares a personal account of the meetings held by the Apostles and how those meetings always start with a hymn.
- This direction to praise the Lord with singing is not limited to large meetings. When the Lord’s Apostles meet in modern times, the singing of hymns is still part of their meetings. The weekly meetings of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Salt Lake Temple always begin with a hymn. Elder Russell M. Nelson plays the organ accompaniment. The First Presidency, who conduct these meetings, rotate the privilege of selecting the opening song. Most of us record the date each hymn is sung. According to my records, the opening song most frequently sung during the decade of my participation has been “I Need Thee Every Hour.” Picture the spiritual impact of a handful of the Lord’s servants singing that song before praying for his guidance in fulfilling their mighty responsibilities.
Sometimes we find it hard to put into words the expressions of love and gratitude that we have for the Savior. President Oaks encourages us to use the hymns to express our feelings when words don’t come so easily.
- Sacred music has a unique capacity to communicate our feelings of love for the Lord. This kind of communication is a wonderful aid to our worship. Many have difficulty expressing worshipful feelings in words, but all can join in communicating such feelings through the inspired words of our hymns.
President Oaks warns us that we are becoming too casual in our worship meetings when it comes to music. He shares his observations from a Sacrament Meeting that he attended where 1/3 of the congregation was not singing the sacrament song. He counseled us to more diligently participate in the hymns as part of our weekly worship.
- I believe some of us in North America are getting neglectful in our worship, including the singing of hymns. I have observed that the Saints elsewhere are more diligent in doing this. We in the center stakes of Zion should renew our fervent participation in the singing of our hymns.
He talks about musical instruments being played during sacrament meeting and how this can be a great way to enhance the spirit that is present in the room. He also shares that hymns can provide us help when temptations come.
- Our hymns have been chosen because they have been proven effective to invite the Spirit of the Lord. A daughter who plays the violin described that reality. “I love to play classical music,” she said, “but when I play our hymns, I can just feel the Spirit of the Lord in my practice room.”
- Sacred music can help us even where there is no formal performance. For example, when temptation comes, we can neutralize its effect by humming or repeating the words of a favorite hymn.
Finally, he encourages us to find place in our meetings and gatherings for more music. We need to make music part of our worshiping of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We should rely on the hymns to provide us needed strength from temptation.
- We need to make more use of our hymns to put us in tune with the Spirit of the Lord, to unify us, and to help us teach and learn our doctrine. We need to make better use of our hymns in missionary teaching, in gospel classes, in quorum meetings, in home evenings, and in home teaching visits. Music is an effective way to worship our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. We should use hymns when we need spiritual strength and inspiration.
I have always loved the hymns of Zion. From a young age I have tried to memorize hymns that provide me strength and comfort. My kids wonder sometimes why I don’t need a hymnbook to sing most of the sacrament songs. This is because I have them memorized and use them frequently as a support and guide during difficult times. The church is working on creating a new hymnbook over the next couple years and I am sure that much of the guidance from this talk will be used to select hymns that will make a difference in our spiritual lives.