My 13-year-old son just bought an Ipod. Maybe we are technology laggards, but it took awhile for him to earn enough to purchase this coveted item. He is a typical teenager, walking around plugged in much of the time, raising his head on occasion with a puzzled look and a “What did you say?” Of course, we confess that this is the real reason we waited. Mom and Dad weren’t quite ready for the tune-out.
Music has power. It brings back memories we associate with songs. We tap our toes to its beat. It makes us dance or smile, sing along or cry. We have a hard time describing its power with words. We just know that music can reach untouched places in our soul.
My husband and I started to notice the power of music after watching our son’s kindergarten teacher. Like magic, she would sing Japanese songs to the kids each time she wanted to move to the carpet for a story or back to their chairs for math. The children quickly learned her cues. She never had to remind them, repeat herself, or talk over their talking. She simply sang a song and the children knew what to do.
We followed her example when we were having trouble getting our kids into a bedtime routine. We made a 10-minute bedtime CD and told the kids that when the music ended they had to be in their pajamas with their teeth brushed and in our room, ready for scriptures and stories. It worked beautifully and eliminated the reminding, cajoling and plain nagging that can accompany bedtime.
Because of music, our children have learned the alphabet, can sing the names of all 50 states and know the parts of speech (think Schoolhouse Rock).
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (known as the Mormons) believe that music is a gracious gift from our Father in Heaven. Because it influences thinking, it can lift and inspire and bring us closer to God. Even Jesus Christ, in preparation for His greatest test, found comfort and strength in a hymn. (Mark 14:26).
For those who have heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, you will know that music is an essential part of worship in the Mormon church.
“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” (D&C 25:12).
Because the the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints emphasizes music in worship, it offers something unique for children. Every Sunday, the children spend at least 30-45 minutes of church services learning and singing songs about gospel principles. Children are taught through music answers to the most important questions of life. They learn who they are (I am a Child of God), why Christ came to earth (He Sent His Son), the importance of keeping the commandments (Keep the Commandments) and the love God has for them (I Feel My Savior’s Love).
There are over 270 songs in the children’s songbook that they learn during the children’s meeting (called Primary). During every sacrament service (the main meeting for adults and children), there are at least three hymns sung with an additional rest hymn or musical number. Music is core to reverence, gospel instruction and worship of our Father in Heaven.
Because of its great power to control our thoughts, music can be inspiring or destructive. Our kids need to know the difference between good and bad music.
“Through music, man’s ability to express himself extends beyond the limits of the spoken language in both subtlety and power. Music can be used to exalt and inspire or to carry messages of degradation and destruction. It is therefore important that… we at all times apply the principles of the gospel and seek the guidance of the Spirit in selecting the music with which we surround ourselves.” (Priesthood Bulletin, Aug. 1973, 3.)
It is pretty normal in today’s music to hear (put to a catchy tune or pulsating beat) that swearing is self-expression, premarital sex has no consequence, hate of others is acceptable and any behavior is right, as long as you feel like doing it.
As a parent, I am glad that Church leaders are an extra resource, giving my children good advice when it comes to music:
“Remember, young people, I want each of you to remember that this is your Church, and He is your Lord and your Savior who stands at the helm. His constant guidance and inspiration are available to you when you keep your mind filled to overflowing with the good, the beautiful, the inspiring. And this is one way to do it. Choose a favorite hymn or song…one with words that are uplifting and music that is reverent, one that makes you feel something akin to inspiration. There are many beautiful songs to choose from. Seek the guidance of the Spirit in making your selection. Go over the song in your mind carefully. Memorize it. Even though you have had no musical training, you can think through a simple song. Now use this as the course for your thoughts to follow. Make it your emergency channel.
Whenever you find shady actors slipping from the sidelines of your thinking onto the stage of your mind, put on this CD, as it were. It will change your whole mood…Because the music is uplifting and clean, the baser thoughts will slip shamefully away. For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light. In due time you will find yourself humming the music inwardly, almost automatically, to drive out unworthy thoughts.
As you young people involve yourselves with righteous and worthwhile things, keep your minds filled with worthy thoughts, for as a man thinketh so is he, and you will have the ability to accomplish those things that will bring fulfillment to your lives.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Message: Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts,” NewEra, Apr 2008, 6–11)
I’m sure that our family’s Ipod use will have its ups and downs, but I hope that my son will choose to follow wise counsel from an apostle of God to use music to its inspiring advantage.