The Song of the Heart–The Doctrine of Music

The Song of the Heart–The Doctrine of Music

If you were asked if there was a doctrine of music in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what would your answer be? Some people might say, “I’ve never heard of it.”  Some would say, “Yes.”  And others might say they were unsure.

The answer is, yes, there is a doctrine of music in the Church.

Within three months of the church being organized, and in a time of frequent mob persecution, threats of harm, and disrupted meetings, the Lord gave Joseph Smith a revelation for his wife, Emma, which is now known as Doctrine and Covenants Section 25.  Among other things, the Lord instructed Emma to do something with music.  He also gave significant enlightenment when he revealed how music is viewed by Deity:

Hymns_Emma_Smith_183511 And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church.

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.

The hymnbook compiled by Emma Smith under the Lord’s direction was completed in 1835 and contained the words to ninety hymns. Thirty-four of these hymns were written by Church members about the restoration of the gospel, and the remaining hymns were selected from those already being used by other churches.

Hymn singing was a great source of comfort and strength to the early saints, especially in light of the Lord’s revelation that singing hymns was not just a formality, but a desirable form of worship, prayer, and blessing.  Later in the Church’s history, as a witness of the Lord’s revelation that the songs of the righteous is a prayer to Him, President J. Reuben Clark affirmed, “We can get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.”(In Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 111.)  As members of the Church in latter days, do we believe and exercise our faith in the statement that the proper use of music in the church will also get us close to our Heavenly Father and allow us to be blessed?

The First Presidency, at the publication of the current LDS hymnal, stated the purpose of music in the Church:  “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” (Hymns, ix).download (5)

We have many other scriptures and statements from the brethren over the years about the importance, power, and necessity of music beginning with the 13th Article of Faith, which states:  “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  This gives us the fundamental will of the Lord regarding music and the other arts in general.

Here are some additional teachings from apostles and prophets about the use of edifying music:

“Music is given of God to further his purposes. Sweet melodies mellow the souls of men and help prepare them for the gospel. After men receive the truth, songs of praise to Deity help to sanctify and cleanse their souls.” –Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (1966), 521.

“Music can set an atmosphere of worship which invites [the] spirit of revelation, of testimony.” –President Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1991, 22.

“Inspiring music may fill the soul with heavenly thoughts, move one to righteous action, or speak peace to the soul.” –President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1974, 67.

“The singing of our sacred hymns, written by the servants of God, has a powerful effect in converting people to the principles of the Gospel, and in promoting peace and spiritual growth.” –President Heber J. Grant, Improvement Era, Sept. 1940, 522.

“Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel. Latter-day Saints should fill their homes with the sound of worthy music.” –First Presidency Preface, Hymns, 1985.

“If you love the Lord, if you love His doctrine, you’ll love the hymns; and when you love them, then you sing them.” –President Thomas S. Monson, Hymnbook Celebration, 1985

As we align ourselves with the Lord’s will for music in his church and in our own lives, we are challenged to do the following:download (4)

1. Understand the Lord’s doctrine of music as revealed to Joseph Smith and taught by modern prophets.  Music is an essential part of the restored gospel.

2. Accept that in our efforts as church members, in our missionary work, our homes, or in whatever we undertake, if we include music, it will be more effective and bring us closer to God.  There is great power in the message being transmitted that becomes firmly settled in our souls when music is associated with it.

3. Renew our efforts to make worshipful music a priority in our homes and Sabbath day observance.  Music will help us in our personal efforts to “always remember [the Lord Jesus Christ]”.

We can know that as we sing “the song of the heart”, we are offering a prayer that will be answered with a blessing on our heads.mfw-thumb

Music for Worship and The Song of the Heart Distribution were established in 2007 in an effort to promote music that is both beautiful and appropriate for sacred worship services, such as LDS sacrament meetings.   Music for Worship currently includes five categories–Vocal Solos (with free solo parts for Violin, Viola, Cello, Flute, Oboe, and Bassoon), Choir Music (perfect for ward choirs), Piano Solos, Songs for Youth, and Children’s Songs–with new music released weekly.

~Rachel Mecham Goates

(Excerpts taken from “The Song of the Heart: Using the Sacred Hymns”, Herbert Klopfer, January 18, 2006.

About The Author

Rachel Mecham Goates is partner and Director of Marketing at Music for Worship and She is an award-winning composer, arranger, and songwriter, whose works have been widely performed in the United States and internationally. Rachel is the mother of seven children and resides in a rural town in central Utah.

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