In 2008 Boyd K. Packer in his new book Things of My Soul wrote: "In the earlier days of the Church there was a strength that missionaries received from street meetings. In the Southwest Indian Mission there were very few communities, much less streets. The people were scattered and the missionaries needed some help and encouragement. Brother Kimball was determined to lift their morale, to rally them to service.
Brother Kimball was a musician. He had a very fine voice and could play the piano. He also understood young people. On that occasion we did something that I had never done before, nor have I done it since. I suppose it would not be appropriate except under those very circumstances.
What we did was this: After meeting for much of the day, we were invited to take our hymnbooks and stand and sing "Ye Elders of Israel." As we were singing, Brother Kimball gave the signal for us all to follow him. The side doors of the stake center were swung open, and we followed Brother Kimball down the walk and out into the middle of Main Street in Snowflake, Arizona. All traffic stopped.
The missionaries followed, falling into ranks of four, two hundred of them, singing "Ye Elders of Israel." Brother Kimball and I and President J. Elmer Baird, the mission president, were in the lead. Singing the stirring anthems from the hymnbook all the way, we marched down Main Street through the business district for four blocks, turned one block to the left, marched four blocks back, again around the corner and into the stake center, still singing.
That did something to that mission. The young elders who had never held a street meeting were imbued with courage they had not known before. I learned something from that experience. I learned that you can rally the young elders of Israel. I learned that they will march to a certain sound of the trumpet.
In my generation, we marched away to war. We did not wait to be conscripted. Tyler Nelson and Elmer Yates and Wilford Stokes and hundreds of thousands of others did not return. But that was the price that had to be paid for the cause, and we all went willingly. The youth of Zion will serve a cause and they won't have to be conscripted. They will go if they are taught and they are called!
There is a stirring song entitled "Called to Serve" that was once often heard in a Primary setting but is now in our regular hymnbook. Oh that it could be carried in the heart of every Latter-day Saint young man as he grows toward manhood, and every young woman as she matures! Oh that it could be sung, occasionally at least, in every zone in every mission in the world!" (Boyd K. Packer, Things of My Soul, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2008, pp. 138-139).
In April 2007 Conference Jay E. Jenson gave an address called "The Nourishing Power of Hymns" in which he said:
"This magnificent choir gives inspiring sermons. In fact,“some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns.”1 My testimony and conversion to the
restored gospel were strongly influenced by singing the hymns of Zion as a young boy. grew up in the small town of Mapleton, Utah, and attended meetings in what is known today as the “old white church.” My 95-year-old mother still lives in Mapleton. When I visit her, I drive past the “old white church,” and a flood of sweet memories fills my mind. Among them is the converting power of the hymns we sang in priesthood, Sunday School, and sacrament meetings. My experiences were similar to that of President Hinckley when, as a deacon, he attended a stake priesthood meeting with his father. They sang “Praise to the Man.” Later he would say, “I had an impression that has never left that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God.” I believe that many of our Saints experience this again and again. Hymns play an essential role in spirituality, revelation, and conversion."
In 2005 M. Russell Ballard said: "make sure all of our youth understand who they are. From their earliest days in Primary, our children sing “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301). Help them to know what it really means to be a child of God. Remind them that they are here at this particular time in the history of the world, with the fulness of the gospel at their fingertips, because they made valiant choices in the premortal existence. Our youth need to stand firm for righteousness and truth. They need the vision of the blessings that can be theirs as they demonstrate their love for Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ through their willingness to serve."
In 2004 President Gordon B. Hinckley told of the example of a missionary couple who served like Ammon: "Neil Darlington is a chemical engineer who worked for a large industrial company in Ghana. Eventually, he retired.
He and his wife were then called as a missionary couple. They were sent to Ghana. Brother Darlington says, “In areas of famine, disease, and social unrest, we were there as representatives of the Church, extending a helping hand to the destitute, the hungry, the distressed.”
In small villages they drilled new wells and repaired old ones. Those of us who have fresh, clean water in abundance can scarcely appreciate the circumstances of those who are without.
Can you picture this couple, devoted Latter-day Saint missionaries? They drill into the dry earth. Their drill reaches the water table below, and the miracle liquid comes to the surface and spills over the dry and thirsty soil. There is rejoicing. There are tears. There is now water to drink, water with which to wash, water to grow crops. There is nothing more treasured in a dry land than water. How absolutely beautiful is water pouring from a new well.
On one occasion, when the tribal chiefs and the elders of the village gathered to thank them, Brother Darlington asked the chief if he and Sister Darlington could sing a song for them. They looked into the eyes of the dark-skinned men and women before them and sang “I Am a Child of God” as an expression of their common brotherhood.
This one couple, through their efforts, have provided water for an estimated 190,000 people in remote villages and refugee camps. Contemplate, if you will, the miracle of this accomplishment.
And now, literally thousands of their kind, married couples, couples who otherwise might simply have lived out their lives in largely idle pursuits, have served, and are serving, in scores of ways and in scores of places. They have worked and continue to work in the impoverished areas of America. They have worked, and still do so, in India and Indonesia, in Thailand and Cambodia, in Russia and the Baltic nations. And so the work expands."
In 2003 Joseph Fielding McConkie in the Bruce R. McConkie Story wrote about his father's musical ability: " Bruce McConkie had the ability neither to carry a tune nor to tell the difference. "When I was a young teen, between eleven and fourteen," Vivian recalled, "Dad asked me if I would like to go with him to his stake conference assignment on Sunday. The conference was in Logan, which was a two- or three-hour drive. Dad happened to be what we always called 'tone deaf.' Some people have tried to insist that there is no such thing, but he could not carry a tune or even approximate one. His voice seems to slide about in his throat. On our homeward journey, he sang hymns much of the way. He knew all the words to all the verses of an hour's worth of hymns, none of which could be recognized by their tune or any tune at all. I would occasionally say, 'It goes like this,' and try to give him the pitch. 'That's what I sang, wasn't it?' he would say, and go on with something unrecognizable. It was interesting to hear the words sung out of their usual habitat and be forced to center attention on their meaning."
He frequently capitalized on his inability to carry a tune when teaching how our premortal life affects who and what we are in our present estate. To illustrate that he was "playing hooky" when he should have been in a premortal music class, he would simply sing a few lines from a Church hymn. His efforts were most convincing and quite humorous. In this demonstration, he also gave everyone present a chance to laugh at themselves, for we all came into this world with an interesting collection of both abilities and inabilities. What he could not do with music, he did with words, expressing his plight this way:
When once I dwelt in realms of light,
Where music could be read by sight,
I was so blind I could not see,
Nor did I know what ought to be-
Alas, Alas, I cut the class,
And failed my music test to pass;
And so to me sweet strains of song
Now seem like some resounding gong.
"To say that Bruce did not like good music," Amelia said, "would not really be true. He even had a saxophone at one time and played in the Junior High orchestra. He claims that it was not because he was any good at it but that he was the only person in school at that time who had a saxophone." This account leaves the origin of his possession of the saxophone as something of a mystery, as he was the oldest child in the family and thus would not have inherited it from an older sibling.
In the Eastern States Mission, where he served, the missionaries used to speak in street meetings. To begin these meetings, they would usually sing a few hymns. In his first experience at such a meeting, he stood by a sister missionary who had taught music in school. When they finished their first hymn, she said, "Elder McConkie, either stop singing or go down to the other end of the line." He did both. "From then on," Amelia recalled, "he would sing only when he was alone or when he and I were in the car going someplace."
Though his inability to carry a tune made him reluctant to sing, he knew the Church hymns well and could quote all the verses of most of them by heart. Once while traveling with Amelia he suggested a contest. He would sing the second verse from one of our Latter-day Saint hymns, and she would have to identify it. When she could not name the hymn, he would teasingly say, "Oh, I'm ashamed of you."
"When he was not home," Amelia recalled, "I generally had the radio tuned to the BYU classical music station, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but knowing it was not his idea of real beautiful music, I would turn it off while he was there. To be fair, he did not care for the so-called popular stuff either."
When he was called to the First Council of Seventy, he received tickets for concerts that were being held in the Tabernacle. Mother generally got someone else to share the tickets with her. Then came the day when a really famous orchestra was scheduled to play at the Tabernacle, with a world-famous conductor. Hence the following experience.
"I'll get one of my friends to go with me, if it is all right with you."
"No," he said, "I'll take you."
"But you don't have to. I know there is someone close by who would enjoy going."
"No, I'll take you."
So it was that he went to the concert. As the evening progressed, Bruce spent all his time jotting down ideas he had for the book he was writing. Knowing he was simply making the time pass and was utterly miserable, Mother couldn't enjoy the music, either. Finally the concert was over, and as they left, he said, "I'll get you a stereo and all the records you want if you never ask me to go to one of these things again."
So the deal was made, and Dad got Mother her stereo and records to go with it.
All this is not to say that Dad was totally without appreciation for music. At Christmastime one year, he came home with the entire set of Handel's Messiah. Then he put the records on to play. He lay on the floor with his scriptures and the script that came with the recordings, and he spent the full four hours of Messiah thoroughly enjoying himself.
While the love of music was not natural to him, the power of its message was, as evidenced in his poem "I Believe in Christ," now a favorite Latter-day Saint hymn. He also wrote a fourth verse for the hymn "Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice," which was included in the 1985 edition of the LDS hymnal. The words, which suggest his own spiritual quest, are as follows:
Then heed the words of truth and light
That flow from fountains pure.
Yea, keep His law with all thy might
Till thine election's sure.
Till thou shalt hear the holy voice
Assure eternal reign,
While joy and cheer attend thy choice,
As one who shall obtain." (Bruce R. McConkie Story, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003, p. 16).
On 28 September 2002 Elder James E. Faust said in a CES Fireside broadcast: "We receive spiritual light when we sing the hymns. Singing the hymns strengthens us and brings us together spiritually."
In 2002 Jeffrey R. Holland said: "We seldom face anything like those circumstances today, though many missionaries and members still sacrifice greatly to do the work of the Lord. As blessings come and the Church matures, we all hope that service will never be so difficult as these early members found it, but as missionaries are singing this day from Oslo to Osorno and from Seattle to Cebu, we are “called to serve.”
In the Ensign in 2000 Laury Livsey describes the results of when Elder Richard H. Winkel of the Seventy asked missionaries in the California San Bernadino Mission to sing: "As the elders approach the home of their scheduled appointment, Elder Burton says, “I think we should sing here. It will be a good time to do it, and I know she’ll feel the Spirit.”
On a recent tour of this mission, Elder Richard H. Winkel of the Seventy challenged the missionaries to sometimes sing to their investigators. “Elder Winkel promised us our investigators will feel the Spirit. We don’t sound great when we sing, but the Lord blesses the people listening and allows the Spirit to come through. We really like doing it, and it has caught on in our mission,” Elder Burton says.
Elders Burton and Paventy are greeted warmly by the investigator, a middle-aged woman whose daughter joined the Church in Hawaii. The mother saw how her daughter changed and wanted to know why. The daughter called the mission home and requested the missionaries visit her mother. A few weeks earlier they did, and here they are for another discussion.
Before they leave, the missionaries do ask if they can finish with a song. They sing “Love Is Spoken Here.” No, they’re not the world’s best singers. But they’re right. You can feel the Spirit."
In conference in 2000 James E. Faust shared the determination of President Heber J. Grant to learn to sing: "Singing was another challenge for President Grant. As a small child, he could not carry a tune. When he was 10, a music instructor tried to teach him the simplest song and finally gave up in despair. At age 26, when he became an Apostle, he asked Professor Sims if he could teach him how to sing. After listening to him, Professor Sims replied, “Yes, you can learn to sing, but I would like to be forty miles away while you are doing it.” This only challenged him to try harder.
President Grant one time said, “I have practiced on the ‘Doxology’ 10 between three and four hundred times, and there are only four lines, and I cannot sing it yet.” It is reported that on a trip to Arizona with Elder Rudger Clawson and Elder J. Golden Kimball, President Grant “asked them if he could sing one hundred songs on the way. They thought he was joking and said, ‘Fine, go right ahead.’ After the first forty, they assured him if he sang the other sixty they would both have a nervous breakdown. He sang the other sixty.”
By practicing all of his life he made some improvement in singing but perhaps not as much as in baseball and penmanship, which he mastered. President Grant had a favorite quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson which he lived by: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.”
In May 2000 Jay E. Jenson of the Seventy said: "In the First Presidency preface of the current hymnal, we are reminded that “inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. … 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).
Many hymns reveal the doctrines of the great plan of redemption. Some hymns came as a result of great sacrifice, the ultimate being death, and they communicate a spirit of holiness and consecration to lead us to conversion to the Father and His plan.
With the teacher improvement emphasis this year, parents, teachers, and missionaries will improve gospel teaching by ensuring they understand the plan themselves and sing the hymns that carry the same spirit. Sing them—hopefully not in a perfunctory way, rather with purpose—to begin and end meetings and as part of lessons or to introduce or summarize ideas in the lessons."
In 1999 Quentin L. Cook of the Seventy said: "In fact, I think one of the most important callings in the Church is the Primary music director. It is certainly the calling that has had the biggest impact on our family. My wife, Mary, served in that calling, so we often sang Primary songs while our children were growing up. Whenever we were riding in the car, and usually for family home evening, we sang Primary songs. Mary taught the songs with such enthusiasm and excitement that even the younger children were interested.
After we sang, we often talked about the lyrics, or words, to the song. Some of our best gospel discussions have come after singing Primary songs. What a glorious and fun way to learn gospel principles.
As an area president, I tour the missions in my area and I usually invite Mary to lead the missionaries in singing a Primary song. You ought to see them sing! There’s a spark in their smile, a light in their eyes. They all know and love those songs."
In a workshop on Church Music at Brigham Young University on 4 August 1998 Merrill J. Bateman said: "Many years ago, while living in the East, I attended a stake conference that left an indelible impression with regard to the sacred role played by music in a Church setting. Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was the visiting authority. Fifteen minutes before the general session began, Elder Packer took his place on the stand along with the stake presidency. Many in the congregation had traveled 75 to 100 miles to attend and were engaged in conversation with friends from other wards and branches. Some were seated, while others were visiting with friends as they entered the chapel. The organist had chosen various Bach selections for the prelude and was absorbed in presenting a Bach concert. As the music crescendoed it forced the members visiting with each other to raise their voices. The louder the din, the more determined the organist, and the volume of voices and music rose higher and higher.
Five minutes before the session was to begin, Elder Packer suddenly stood up and approached the podium. He asked the organist to stop. He asked the congregation to cease speaking and find their seats. He spoke clearly and firmly to the congregation, reminding them of their need to be reverent and prepare for the general session. He then turned toward the organ and told the organist that he had a special responsibility to bring the Spirit into the building and prepare the members for the meeting. Elder Packer continued, “This can be accomplished best by playing hymns.” He then suggested that hymns be a central part of the prelude for subsequent conferences in that stake.
In the intervening years, that experience has returned often in memory and caused me to reflect on the various sacred and important roles performed by hymns both in Church settings and in our personal lives. Church hymns are a form of worship; they serve as a prayer of thanks and an expression of commitment. Many hymns build unity among the Saints as well as build a community of Saints. They invite the Spirit into meetings and into our lives. They teach doctrine. Hymns often express testimony and may even be a form of protection or a source of comfort and healing."
Also in the same talk Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy relates an incident about missionaries singing: "Another hymn which binds both Saints and missionaries together is “Called to Serve.” A few years ago when Elder Packer was assigned to the Missionary Department, he felt the need for a missionary anthem. As he and Sister Packer discussed what a special hymn could accomplish, she reminded him of “Called to Serve.” He knew immediately that it was the appropriate song. I remember being in the BYU stadium in 1997 for the pioneer sesquicentennial celebration. After various vignettes depicting the pioneer beginnings and subsequent Church history, the last number included all of the missionaries from the Missionary Training Center marching into the stadium carrying flags of the various nations and singing “Called to Serve.” Instantaneously 60,000 people in the stands stood on their feet and began cheering the missionaries. This was followed by the audience joining in singing the hymn with them.
Each time that hymn is sung, my chest becomes heavy and a lump enters my throat as I see in my mind’s eye 50,000 or more missionaries scattered across the earth teaching the gospel. I see mothers waiting for the weekly letter and dads embracing sons and daughters as they leave the airport and when they return. I see missionaries knocking on doors and stopping people in the street. I see men and women clothed in white standing in baptismal fonts, near the beach, or at the river’s edge. I envision happy people of every race, color, and nation new to the gospel but embraced by other Saints who, like them, are also converts."
In the 19 March 1995 Church News Gerry Avant related this experience about President James E. Faust and his desire to sing as a soldier during World War II after having served as a missionary in Brazil:
"During World War II, when he was in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he was the only Latter-day Saint on a ship while being transferred to the South Pacific. Off the coast of New Zealand, his ship was ordered to pull a tanker that had burned out. The stricken vessel was larger than the ship he was on. Towing it took 83 days.
For nearly a dozen Sundays, he worshiped alone after having searched for places where he could sing from a pocket-size hymnal, read scriptures, meditate and pray in private. He had served 33 months as a missionary in Brazil before he was drafted into the military, so the Sunday activities were important to him. "Most often, I would go way up in the front of the ship, out in the open, where the waves would drown out my singing, and I would have my own service as best I could," he said."
“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 25:11–12).
In a revelation given through another prophet a generation later, the Lord commanded his people to “praise the Lord with singing, [and] with music” (D&C 136:28).
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” (Hymns, 1985, no. 98). 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.
The veil is very thin in the temples, especially when we join in worshipping through music. At temple dedications I have seen more tears of joy elicited by music than by the spoken word. I have read accounts of angelic choirs joining in these hymns of praise, and I think I have experienced this on several occasions. In dedicatory sessions featuring beautiful and well-trained choirs of about thirty voices, there are times when I have heard what seemed to be ten times thirty voices praising God with a quality and intensity of feeling that can be experienced but not explained. Some who are listening today will know what I mean.
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.
When a congregation worships through singing, all present should participate. Here I share another experience. I had finished a special assignment on a Sunday morning in Salt Lake City and desired to attend a sacrament meeting. I stopped at a convenient ward meetinghouse and slipped unnoticed into the overflow area just as the congregation was beginning to sing these sacred words of the sacrament song:
’Tis sweet to sing the matchless love
Of Him who left his home above
And came to earth—oh, wondrous plan—
To suffer, bleed, and die for man!
(Hymns, 1985, no. 177)
My heart swelled as we sang this worshipful hymn and contemplated renewing our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. Our voices raised the concluding strains:
For Jesus died on Calvary,
That all thru him might ransomed be.
Then sing hosannas to his name;
Let heav’n and earth his love proclaim.
As we sang these words, I glanced around at members of the congregation and was stunned to observe that about a third of them were not singing. How could this be? Were those who did not even mouth the words suggesting that for them it was not “sweet to sing the matchless love” or to “sing hosannas to his name”? What are we saying, what are we thinking, when we fail to join in singing in our worship services?
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.
There are a few conventions all of us should observe as we worship through music. As we sing we should think about the messages of the words. Our hymns contain matchless doctrinal sermons, surpassed only by the scriptures in their truth and poetic impact."
In 1993 Mary Ellen Edmunds shared the following story from her mission: "On a Monday in April 1964, several of us who were serving as missionaries in the Philippines traveled to Montalbon to visit a place called the Fairy Cave. We hiked deep into the cave, then stopped and blew out our candles and turned off our flashlights. We shared our feelings about being in the Philippine Islands at a time when the work of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ was just beginning. We spoke of how dark it was in the cave and of how dark it had been in many places in the world for so many years as people waited for the truth. We spoke of light and of our opportunity to bring the light of the gospel to the wonderful Filipino people.
One of the missionaries suggested that we sing a hymn while we stood there in the dark and damp of the cave. The only one all of us could sing without a book was “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” And so our little band of missionaries sang with much feeling:
We thank thee, O God, for a prophet
To guide us in these latter days.
We thank thee for sending the gospel
To lighten our minds with its rays.
We sang the entire hymn. It was sobering to sing that those who rejected the glad message would never such happiness know. The hymn had never had more meaning for me. I had sung it often without thinking very much about its message. But this time was different. The setting was different, and so was our experience. Our little team had been called and set apart to announce to the Filipino people that God had called a prophet to guide us in these latter days. He could lead us to the light of truth. He could show us the way back into our Heavenly Father’s presence.
I still remember how I felt as we stood in the darkness and sang. I remember the unity we felt with one another, and the strong, deep desire to share that unity with as many others as possible."
In 1992 M. Russell Ballard talked about the gift to sing his grandfather had and how he sang on a mission: "I was ten years old when my grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, died. Grandfather Ballard was an Apostle. As a young boy, I didn’t fully appreciate what it meant to be an Apostle, but I understood that he was a great missionary.
While my grandmother was expecting her first child, Grandfather Ballard was called on a mission in the United States. He was sent to the Midwest, and he provided music at missionary meetings at which he, Brother B. H. Roberts, and Brother George Pyper taught the gospel. When Brother Roberts and Brother Pyper went back to Salt Lake City, Utah, Grandfather was left alone in Illinois. He was discouraged and lonely. He missed his wife and his firstborn son—my father—who was born after he left. Then he came across the hymn “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.”* He had a beautiful baritone voice, and he sang that hymn often.
When he became a member of the Council of the Twelve, he was put in charge of the Music Committee of the Church. When the hymnbook was updated in 1927, he saw to it that “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” was included. I think that this hymn has the greatest missionary message of any of our hymns. It has affected my life much the same as it did my grandfather’s. My commitment to go wherever the Lord wants me to go has taken me to almost every corner of the earth. As a General Authority, I have visited Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the United States, Canada, and Russia. Truly the commitment to be a missionary has prepared me for a lifetime of service to the Lord.
As a young boy, I was a little bit timid, but I had the desire to be a missionary because I knew that that was what my grandfather wanted me to do. I knew that that was also what my mother and father wanted me to do. When I turned nineteen, I was eager to serve.
There has never been a time in my life that was more important than my own mission in preparing me for what I am now doing as a General Authority. I served in the British Mission from 1948 to 1950. All of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland were part of that mission. The Church had gone through a difficult period in the British Isles after World War II, and we were reopening the area to missionary work. We would knock on doors and hand out tracts about the Church.
You can’t be timid for long as a missionary. Street meetings were a very popular form of our missionary work. We’d set up a stand in the marketplace or town square, sing a few hymns, then bear our testimonies and answer questions.
The second day I was in England, I attended my first street meeting at Hyde Park in London. Six missionaries and our mission president, Selvoy J. Boyer, were there. President Boyer called on two missionaries to speak, and I was one of them.
On my way up to the stand, he said to me, “Elder Ballard, you preach the gospel.” I quickly picked the principle of baptism and said everything I knew about it in about thirty seconds. That was a good experience because it made me realize very quickly how much I did not know. I realized that I had a lot of studying to do.
While I was on that mission, the plan of salvation came into focus for me. I knew that we had the truth and the scriptures, so it was not frightening to bear my testimony in public. I began to understand that Heavenly Father is willing to give all that He has to His faithful children.
Serving a mission is a great opportunity to show our love for Heavenly Father. I think it is very important that young boys and girls save money for their missions. Young people who help pay for their own missions are better missionaries. I tell young people wherever I go that out of every dollar they earn, they ought to pay ten cents for tithing, save forty cents for their missionary fund, and keep fifty cents for their use.
If I could go back and relive my life, I would start preparing for a mission much earlier. I would read the scripture storybooks. I would read the scriptures daily with my family. I would pay more attention in Primary. I would spend that time in my youth really trying to understand the message of the Restoration."
In 1991 Vaughn J. Featherstone in his book More Purity Give Me related the writing of the song O That I Were An Angel: " Wanda West Palmer, who composed the beautiful music to the song "O That I Were an Angel," told a group of missionaries (I was present) of her experience at a sacrament meeting. She said that a returned missionary was reporting on his mission. At the conclusion of his talk, he humbly opened the scriptures to Alma 29:1 and began to quote it. As he read, she heard music. She turned to the organist and said, "Can you hear that music?" She could not. Sister Palmer said that after she went home, she put one hand on her scriptures and the other hand on the piano and knelt down and asked, "Dear Heavenly Father, please give me the privilege of putting this scripture to music." She got up from her knees, and within one hour the song was given to her. She said she was not a music technician, and after the song was given to her, it took her over six months to put the full harmony and accompaniment with it. Now we all thrill as we sing "O That I Were an Angel." (Vaughn J. Featherstone, More Purity Give Me, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991, p. 12).
In 1989 Bruce B.Hafen wrote in his book Broken Heart: " The singing of "O My Father" had also stimulated my memory to recall, for some reason, an evening in the home of a warm, bright, and sensitive woman in Germany. As missionaries, we had gone to her home for a peaceful few minutes of refreshment and conversation with her family following their baptism. Because she spoke fluent English, she had added some Tabernacle Choir records to her collection during her investigation of the Church. The records were playing in the background as we sat together and talked about our blessings. When the choir began to sing a beautiful, moving arrangement of "O My Father," we stopped visiting and sat back to listen to the hymn. When it was over, we were all a little misty-eyed.
Then she told us in quiet, reverent tones that listening to this song had been a major turning point in her prayerful quest to receive the restored gospel. She told us about the German word Sehnsucht, a poignant, meaningful word that has no exact equivalent in English. I suppose the closest translation would be "a longing for home," but the German word has elements of both longing and searching. She told us that during most of her life she had felt a strange longing for home-a Sehnsucht-that had often made her melancholy and at times a little lonely; but she had never been able to identify that for which she longed. She had been impressed with the occasional references to such a feeling in the writings of some European authors, who thought the Sehnsucht might have something to do with an innate, almost subconscious human yearning to make contact with the essence of nature and meaning in a universal, cosmic sense.
The first time she heard the choir sing this song, she instinctively knew what her longing was and where it came from: "Yet ofttimes a secret something whispered, 'You're a stranger here,' And I felt that I had wandered from a more exalted sphere. . . . But, until the key of knowledge was restored, I knew not why." Then, "When I leave this frail existence, . . . Father, Mother, may I meet you. . . ." As she described it, I too felt the Sehnsucht and knew where it came from." (Bruce B. Hafen, A Broken Heart, Salt Lake City; Deseret Book, 1989).
In June 1988 M. Russell Ballard told missionary couples: "You could teach in the auxiliaries, build chicken coops, train local leaders, bottle tomatoes, fellowship potential or new members, repair fences, reactivate less-active members, teach people how to plant and care for gardens, preach the gospel, love and listen, sing in choirs, paint, baptize, pull weeds—anything and everything that finds access to people’s hearts in faithful, loving ways. The list is endless. Missionary couples are guided by the Spirit to perform many things that can help direct our Heavenly Father’s children toward the Lord and his kingdom."
In 1988 M. Russell Ballard addressing the CES teachers said: "This building is special to me. In 1985 we had the privilege of meeting with all of the full-time mission presidents and their wives in this building. They came from all over the world to a special mission presidents’ conference. At that time I was serving as the Executive Director of the Missionary Department. I was a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy and working under the direction of the Missionary Executive Council. Elder Boyd K. Packer was chairman of the council and Elder Bruce R. McConkie and Elder Dallin H. Oaks were members of the Twelve serving on that council.
As we talked about what ought to happen with the mission presidents and their wives when they came here, we felt an urgency that they had to feel something very special while they were here. They had to feel the power of their calling. I am going to share with you some of that experience.
As we were talking one morning, Elder Packer said, “How would you feel if some missionaries from the Missionary Training Center sang to the mission presidents and their wives?” He told us that an impression came to him and his good wife, Donna, that the song “Called to Serve” (Hymns, no. 249) should be sung at the conference. As we thought about missionaries singing this song we got excited.
After Elder Packer’s closing remarks at the conference in this building, the missionaries marched down the aisles singing “Called to Serve.” Missionaries assigned to forty-eight different missions sang, and everyone felt the Spirit of the Lord. It was very special. (M. Russell Ballard, “Respond to the Prompting of the Spirit,” Address to CES Religious Educators, Temple Square Assembly Hall 8 January 1988).
In 1985 Barbara K. Christensen in her book Making Your Home an MTC described an experience with Spencer W. Kimball: " In the days when stake conferences consisted of two sessions during the day and a stake fireside in the evening, the visiting general authority always attended the 10:00 A.M. and the 2:00 P.M. sessions and occasionally remained as the speaker for the evening fireside. On one particular day it was our good fortune in the Wasatch Stake (Heber City, Utah) to have Elder Spencer W. Kimball as the guest for the day. Our family had been somewhat acquainted with Elder Kimball and were overjoyed when he accepted our invitation to have dinner with us and remain at our home until time for the evening meeting.
My eight sisters and I did a great deal of singing during the time we grew up and were accustomed to invitations to sing that didn't give us a great deal of time for preparation. On that conference afternoon, the telephone rang, and I heard the voice of our stake president, H. Clay Cummings, on the other end. He told me that the person previously asked to sing for the evening fireside couldn't perform, and he wondered if our family would provide some music. I placed my hand over the phone while I relayed the message and asked the others for their opinion. I mentioned to them that it was extremely short notice and that perhaps we should tell him no.
While a short discussion ensued, our guest taught us all a great lesson: "Tell President Cummings we'd love to," Elder Kimball remarked. "Your father and I will do the men's parts and two of you girls can do the others, and we'll sing them one of the beautiful hymns."
I sheepishly gave the message to President Cummings and hung up the phone. Immediately we gathered around the piano and prepared our presentation for that evening.
Can you imagine the thrill of singing that number with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, the future president of the Church? It was an experience I shall never forget." (Joe J. and Barbara K. Christensen, Making Your Home An MTC, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985, 8).
Joe J. and Barbara K. Christensen give four thing parents can do to prepare their missionaries to sing on their missions:
"There are some important practical steps parents can take to ensure that young people receive the value of good music in their lives:
1. Sing hymns often. Barbara will never forget that each morning their family sang a traditional hymn called "Let Us Join in a Song in the Morning." It helped start each day positively and reverently. Often it was the beginning of singing other hymns and songs as they performed their morning chores. If a quarrel among the children would start, Barbara's mother would suggest a hymn for them to sing. She said, "Children can't argue while they are singing." The singing not only made their home more pleasant, but in time the family developed a noted capacity to harmonize together, and many other opportunities were provided to them to sing in the Church and community.
2. Tune your radio to stations that provide good music and obtain recordings of uplifting music. These are easy and natural ways for children to learn to enjoy good music. One young man recalled, "It always made me feel good when I would come home and find high quality music playing. It is one of the most satisfying memories of my early years."
3. Make good use of family home evenings to bring uplifting music into your family. Family home evenings provide a good time to sing and perform together or individually. You can also use home evenings as a time to attend concerts and high quality musical performances. Some of a missionary's fondest memories could be of those times together when music was a common bond, and recalling these memories can be enjoyable and uplifting.
4. Where possible, arrange for music lessons of some kind. Missionaries find many opportunities to serve through music. It is especially valuable for them to be able to play the piano or organ because of their almost universal availability and the policy that missionaries should not bring musical instruments into the field." (Joe J. and Barbara K. Christensen, Making Your Home An MTC, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985, 8).
In 1981 Jacob de Jager of the Seventy said: "The light to be spread was carried by a group of dedicated young men and women who had taken upon themselves to bring the light of the gospel into every home that they were allowed to enter. Their power stations were the mission headquarters in Southeast Asia, and their power lines were the lines of priesthood authority, without which the system could never function.
These missionaries also witnessed joy and gratitude when the first glimpses of eternal light were brought into the lives of their converts and when the new members learned to sing in their own language during family home evening, “There is beauty all around, when there’s love at home.” (“There Is Beauty All Around,” Hymns, no. 169.)"
In 1981 Boyd K. Packer shared this experience of Wilford Woodruff: "After President Wilford Woodruff joined the Church he desired to serve a mission.
“I was but a Teacher,” he wrote, “and it is not a Teacher’s office to go abroad and preach. I dared not tell any of the authorities of the Church that I wanted to preach, lest they might think I was seeking for an office.”
He prayed to the Lord, and without disclosing his desire to any others, he was ordained a priest and sent on a mission. He and his companion went to the Arkansas Territory.
They struggled through 100 miles of alligator-infested swamps, wet, muddy, and tired. Brother Woodruff developed a sharp pain in his knee and could go no further. His companion left him sitting on a log and went home. Brother Woodruff knelt down in the mud and prayed for help. He was healed and continued his mission alone.
Three days later he arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, weary, hungry, and very muddy. He went to the largest inn and asked for something to eat and for a place to sleep, although he had no money to pay for either.
When the innkeeper found he was a preacher, he laughed and decided to have some fun with him. He offered Brother Woodruff a meal if he would preach to his friends.
A large audience of the rich and fashionable people of Memphis gathered and were quite amused by this mud-stained missionary.
None would sing or pray, so Brother Woodruff did both. He knelt before them and begged the Lord to give him His Spirit and to show him the hearts of the people. And the Spirit came! Brother Woodruff preached with great power. He was able to reveal the secret deeds of those who came to ridicule him.
When he was finished, no one laughed at this humble holder of the Aaronic Priesthood. Thereafter he was treated with kindness."
In May 1975 A. Theodore Tuttle said: "And now to you young people. In the Church you will find that you won’t sit in the bleachers and watch. You will be on the team. You will play basketball and softball, baseball and tennis, checkers and Ping-Pong, volleyball and golf. There is much to do. You will be able to help with service projects. You will give talks, be in plays, sing in choruses, compose skits. You are the leaders, advised by adults. You young men get to be missionaries and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ someplace in the world for two years at your own expense. You young ladies get to give them up while they serve. Somehow all this works out well and makes better marriage partners of both.
In a lonely world, brotherhood in the Church really means something. Everyone needs to be loved. Everyone needs to be needed. Everyone has some kind of talent and wants to use it. Somehow in the magic of this marvelous organization you can find your place and make your contribution. When you serve, you find purpose to life. The Church hath need of every member. (See D&C 84:110.) You need not be alone. We are a busy and active people and love to serve each other. Whether you are young or old, married or single, you are needed in the Church. You get involved in wholesome activities that build and strengthen friendships."
In 1973 O. Leslie Stone, an Assistant to the Twelve said: "Our task has been set out very well by Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve, who, with Elder Mark E. Petersen, is an adviser to the department. Elder Packer said: “The music of the Church should not just please musicians but should bring inspiration to the general membership. What might be considered great art may not necessarily be appropriate for Latter-day Saint worship. Our great challenge is not so much to lead out in art, but to inspire. We should work to build music that is musically beautiful and perfect, but which also has inspirational value. If we must sacrifice, let it not be in inspirational value. All musical offerings should be selected and performed so as to inspire the listener, for without the presence of the Spirit, music becomes mere ‘brass and tinkling cymbal.’
The gospel is preached through song as well as in other ways, and therefore, appropriate music is vital in our worship. For instance, we have reached the point where in some stake conferences the Saints don’t sing hymns as often as they should. We may be having too many special anthems by choirs, without involving the congregation. It is all right to have both anthems and hymns, as our advisers pointed out, but we should emphasize hymns. In other words, we want functional music in our worship service. By functional I mean inspirational. If it isn’t inspirational, why are we singing it? The publication Simplified Accompaniments, Hymns: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Deseret Book Co., 1972] is a step in the right direction to help us sing our hymns a little better."
In 1972 John J. Stewart in the Life of Joseph Fielding Smith related this missionary experience about singing: " Louie had never been able to get Joseph to sing with her at the piano. Supposing that he would have to do some singing as a missionary she was anxious to learn how he was getting on with it. "You want to know how I am getting on with my singing," he replied. "Well, I have no voice in the first place, and what I have in its place is like a file. I would never be able to sing here if there was any sing in me. I am a singer after the order of Dr. James E. Talmage." But like many another missionary who thinks he cannot sing, Joseph eventually learned that you sing anyway. He and three other elders even organized a quartet known as "The Sagebrush Singers," to sing at street meetings. "After listening to us sing, people were glad to hear us talk!"
In April 1962 Conference Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said: "On January 9, 1921, President David O. McKay, while touring the missions of the world, turned the key to unlock the door of this great area of the earth have read his prayer again and again. It is at once a prayer and a dedication and a prophecy.
One or two statements from that prayer offered in the "Forbidden City" of Peking appear particularly significant to me. He prayed: "Heavenly Father . . . break the bonds of superstition, and may the young men and young women come out of the darkness of the past into the glorious light now shining among the children of men. Grant, our Father, that these young men and young women may through upright, virtuous lives and prayerful study be prepared and inclined to declare this message of salvation in their own tongue to their fellow men."
I bear testimony that God is answering that supplication. The shackles of superstition are falling. The young men and the young women are coming out of the darkness of the past. I wish that you might have been with us recently in a conference in Hong Kong to hear our young Chinese brethren and sisters sing the songs of Zion in their native Cantonese and bear witness of the truth of this work to congregations numbering more than eight hundred. I wish you might have talked, as I did, with our young native Chinese elders who are serving as missionaries. One said: "I hated Americans. I hated all foreigners until I met the missionaries." Another responded, paraphrasing an old Chinese proverb, "As I look at foreigners, I think, he is not American; he is not British; he is not Canadian; he is my brother."
In the October 1960 Conference Spencer W. Kimball described the work done by missionaries in the Southwest Indian Mission: " The missionaries are having great experiences in proselyting, in teaching, in organizing, in carrying on Primaries, Relief Societies. They direct women in making quilts and towels and pot holders, which they say they can sell faster than they can make them; but always a Relief Society bazaar is in their future plans. They pound up broken pottery and clay to make new pottery. They do beadwork, learn cooking; they are taught first aid, bleeding-stoppage, use of splints, resuscitation, moving the injured; they are taught to speak and to sing. Three lovely Lamanite sisters sang a trio in one of our meetings. Two elders in one area were actually teaching the women how to make diapers."
In October 1953 Conference Elder Thomas E. McKay told of an experience in the mission in which he was presiding: "we went down to Frankfurt on the Main, and I had headquarters in that mission for thirty months. I was worried, of course, about the conference. I had the responsibility. We had the largest hall in Frankfurt at one of the big hotels. We had freedom there. Frankfurt is what we call a freistadt, and always has been, a free city; it did not belong to any kingdom but did belong to the German Empire.
We had to register our meetings, however, and we became acquainted with the policemen who used to attend, and we would always speak to them on the streets as we met them, and they were our friends. But at this conference-it was new, we had to register it, of course none of our friends came to represent the authorities, but a young officer (in a new suit, his sword shined) came in. Our reception committee met him and offered to show him to a seat on the stand, but that would not do. He took a seat in the choir, the soprano section. He made himself conspicuous. He had me worried. I thought, maybe we will have some trouble here, but after the first song by the congregation, and the prayer, Sister Emma Lucy Gates Bowen, sang "I Know that My Redeemer Lives," and oh, how she did sing it. Right after that the choir, and we had a good choir-the missionaries were there helping, as usual-sang that favorite Mormon hymn, "Oh, My Father." They stood up to sing it. When they sat down, I looked for our German officer, but he had disappeared. He was so ashamed of the way he had acted there and then to hear that beautiful singing and see that wonderful choir and hear them, he decided that this was not any place for him."
In April 1949 Conference Thomas E. McKay said: "The mission home is a credit to the Church, beautifully located in a new residential section. It is what I call an ideal mission home, not just a place for the mission president and his wife, but a place where the missionaries are made to feel at home. Sister Pierce in her quiet, generous way, looking after everybody, can always make room for one more When missionaries are ailing, they are brought to the home and nursed back to health. They are made to feel welcome. Each morning at seven o'clock a class in Spanish is held for the office force and those who are there recuperating. At eight o'clock the gong sounds; they come to breakfast; they sing a song around the piano and stand in a circle, and each one repeats in Spanish a passage of scripture he must learn by heart, then they kneel in a circle in prayer. I think that prayer circle does more for these missionaries who are recuperating and probably a little discouraged and homesick, maybe lovesick, than almost anything else."
In April 1946 Thomas E. McKay said: "There should be a choir in every ward, choruses, Aaronic Priesthood choruses, girls' choruses, and others. I know in the mission field what a great value our choirs are. Scores of families are in the Church today because of our choirs. Our friends who love music and can sing are invited to join the choir, and after singing the songs of Zion for a while, and associating with the missionaries and members, they begin studying the gospel, and then, quite often, apply for baptism. These contacts change their lives. As one young man expressed in a testimony meeting, where he was confirmed a member of the Church, his getting acquainted with the missionaries and the members, and especially the singing of the songs of Zion, had entirely changed his outlook on life. He said, "It is really like coming from the darkness into the light....
The gospel has certainly been a light shining in the darkness for our members in the war-torn countries, and also and especially for our servicemen and women during the terrible war years just ended-at least we hope they are ended. Scores of letters have been received testifying of the comfort and blessings of the gospel. I will take time to refer to only one or two. Here is a paragraph written by one of our Mormon chaplains, addressed to the servicemen's committee:
Not many days ago I had a deeply spiritual experience that gave me added proof of the power of the gospel to make men brothers spiritually By chance I read in one of the theater news sheets the reports of a Christmas program conducted by Protestant and Catholic German P.O.W. chaplains stationed at the 99th Field Hospital near Pisa. The news item stated that the special music was presented by the P.O.W. orchestra and a "Mormon" vocal soloist. The following day I went in search of this "Mormon" P.O.W., and with the help of an American chaplain I found him, a former Dresden District missionary, who served for a year and a half under President Rees in the East German Mission-Elder Hans Karl Schade, 25 Sebnitzer Street, Dresden, Germany. A few days previous to our meeting, the theater chaplain, Colonel Frank Brown, had met Elder Schade at a worship service and when he found Elder Schade was a Latter-day Saint, he gave him my name. And so when I first saw Elder Schade in the eye clinic where he now works, he extended his right hand and said, as he walked towards me, "Brother Braithwaite, thank God for this meeting." I shall never forget that expression-nor Elder Schade. In the presence of another chaplain and my interpreter, we spoke with complete freedom and with an understanding that destroys distrust, vengeance, or hate. We met on common ground, and thanked God for our fellowship in the Gospel. It was the time when I asked him to sing for me and our men, and to attend our L.D.S. services in Leghorn, that he reminded me he was a prisoner of war. However, even the restrictions involved caused no seeming barriers in our relationship. An understanding commanding officer gave permission for him to sing for us, and for us to go to his office to visit him.
The work of the army occupation tests the moral fiber of our men as perhaps it was not tested in war. Temptations are great and many. It demands a clear understanding of why we are here, patience, self-discipline, and self-control. Our job is important, and by and large, the L.D.S. men are meeting the demands it makes on them."
In October 1945 General Conference President George Albert Smith told this experience from his mission: " We sang, "Do What Is Right." When I was in the mission field first, I went into a section of country where that hymn was known to the community, apparently. Two humble missionaries after walking until late in the afternoon in the sun, in the heat of summer, came to a small house that was at the bottom of a hill. When the missionaries arrived, they found friends who invited them in to partake of their meager refreshment. And then they were asked to go outside in the cool of the afternoon shade, on one of those comfortable, open southern porches between two rooms and sing some hymns. The people were not members of the Church, but they enjoyed Latter-day Saint hymns.
The missionaries had been threatened in that section. One of the men who had threatened them had kept watch of the road and in that way learned when they arrived. He sent word to his associates who saddled their horses and took their guns, and rode to the top of the hill overlooking the little house. The missionaries knew nothing about it; they did not know that right over their heads, not very far away, were a considerable number of armed horsemen. But they had the spirit of the Lord, and as they sat there in the cool of the afternoon and sang hymns, the one hymn that seemed to have been prepared for the occasion was, "Do What Is Right." They happened to be good singers, and their voices went out into the quiet air. They had only sung one verse when the leader of the mob took off his hat. They sang another verse, and he got off his horse, and the others got off their horses, and by the time the last verse had been sung, those men were repentant. Upon the advice of their leader, they rode away without making heir presence known. The leader was so impressed with what he heard the missionaries sing that he said to his associates: "We made a mistake. These are not the kind of men we thought they were. Wicked men can't sing like angels, and these men sing like angels. They must be servants of the Lord."
The result was that this man became converted to the Church and later was baptized. And I never hear that hymn sung but I think of that very unusual experience when two missionaries, under the influence of the spirit of God, turned the arms of the adversary away from them and brought repentance into the minds of those who had come to destroy them."
In the September 1940 Improvement Era Heber J. Grant wrote: "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. Singing is a prayer to the Lord, as He has said: "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] ("Songs of the Heart," IE1940Sep:522).
In April 1939 Conference Orlando C. Williams, president of the Spanish-American Mission said: "We have often heard it preached that after this life we would sit on a golden throne and play a golden harp or sing songs, and while we know that this is not so, I do hope that there will be "Singing Mothers" in heaven, because I have been inspired this morning by their songs and by the spirit of the same. In some of the missions we have a lack of choirs that are properly trained. Ofttimes the missionaries are unable to sing the songs of Zion as we would love to have them do, to carry the spirit that comes through singing, but we are trying to develop the talents that are natural to our people, and where there is a large enough congregation in our Branches we are developing that part of the work.
The Lord has poured out his Spirit upon us, and recently in a tour of the mission we reached over three thousand people who are not members of the Church, and were able to preach the Gospel to them. The work of the mission quartet was outstanding, and it has opened the doors of many hundreds of people to our missionaries. The missionaries report that in nearly every instance the doors are open to them, and all we need is more missionaries to help take care of the work, to preach the Gospel to those who are anxiously awaiting it. I feel with you that the motto of this people is, onward and forward, in a progressive movement that is natural and normal, although I believe it will be more phenomenal in the future than it has been in the past."
In the October 1935 General Conference President Heber J. Grant announced that the choir and congregation would sing the hymn, "School thy feelings, O my brother." This hymn, the President said, was written by Elder Charles W. Penrose after he had given ten years of his life as a missionary, without purse or scrip. When he started on his mission he lent his furniture to the British Mission, and after completing ten years of missionary work he took back his battered furniture, it having been used by the elders during this time, and sold it to get money with which to help him immigrate to Utah. He was accused of stealing the furniture out of the British Mission home. He went home and wrote this hymn for his own consolation after being falsely accused."
In 1934 Melvin J. Ballard in the Improvement Era wrote: " We never will feel the thrilling power and force and effect of our singing if we merely listlessly sing. * * * When we sing, "Oh Ye Mountains High," how splendid it would be if we could put ourselves into the attitude of President Penrose when he wrote that stirring hymn. He had spent ten years of missionary work in England, each year hoping to be released that he might come to Zion. The elders had created such an ambition in his heart to come that he lived from year to year in the fond expectation of coming. When he had reached the end of his ninth year, he went to headquarters expecting to receive his honorable release and to be given the privilege of coming to Zion. But the mission was short of missionaries, he had been a wonderful missionary and could not be spared and so he heard the old story: "Brother Penrose, we cannot spare you just now, you will have to stay another year." "Hope deferred," they say, "maketh the heart sick." Temporarily it did make his heart sick, and with a heavy heart he picked up his grip and started again on another period of missionary service, postponing his long expected dreams. And then when he found himself alone, the pent-up feelings of his heart were allowed to express themselves, and he shed tears, he wept over his disappointment, and then there came into his soul the ability to express his feelings when he cried out:
"Oh, ye mountains high,
Where the clear blue sky
Arches over the vales of the free:
Where the pure breezes blow
And the clear streamlets flow,
How I long to your bosom to flee."
It was the cry of the pilgrim, the exile, almost the outcast, longing for that which he had not been privileged to enjoy. When you get that spirit, what a feeling of gratitude for your mountain home comes! So, with all our singing, let us feel what we sing, and every word of it."
On the 29th of June 1933 Sheri Dew related Gordon B. Hinckley his first experience of singing on his mission in her biography: " Elder Hinckley had been in England less than forty-eight hours when, holding an old, grained-leather satchel in one hand and a briefcase in the other, he stepped onto the flagstone platform of Preston Station in the late afternoon of June 29 and spotted a young American waiting for him. Elder Kent S. Bramwell, a bright and enthusiastic district president from Ogden, Utah, vigorously shook his hand and then led the way to their "digs" at 15 Wadham Road.
Elder Bramwell had no intention of breaking his new companion in gradually, and as they walked home he announced that they were set to hold a street meeting that night at the marketplace in the public square. The thought of preaching to uninterested passersby was daunting, and Elder Hinckley responded immediately, "You've got the wrong man to go with you." But Elder Bramwell was undeterred, and a few hours later the two missionaries walked to the market and began to sing. Gradually a crowd gathered, and both missionaries taught and bore testimony. "I was terrified," Elder Hinckley later admitted. "I stepped up onto that little stand, looked at that crowd of people, and wondered what I was doing there. They were dreadfully poor and looked to have absolutely no interest in religion."
In the October 1930 Conference James H. Moyle, president of the Eastern States Mission said: " During the last five months we have developed preaching the Gospel, as predicted in the Book of Mormon, from the house tops, or more literally over the radio free of charge in a number of large and prominent cities in the Mission. This is being done by young inexperienced missionaries. They write their own addresses and deliver them, first submitting them to us for revision. But in only a few cases has there been any substantial revision. Young men coming to the Mission at nineteen and twenty years of age. One, and I think the one who has led most successfully in obtaining this privilege, came to the Mission only twenty years of age. At first we were given only ten or twelve minutes in which to speak, the balance of the half hour to be devoted to music. Oh, if we could have more missionaries who, could sing! If you will furnish us with singers we will secure the radio for preaching the Gospel free. It was not long before the time was extended to a full hour in some cases, a half hour for preaching and a half our for singing and music. And in all cases the time to preach has been extended."
In Conference April 1916 Anthon H. Lund said: "We would like you who have not attended a session of the Religion Classes to do so and see how our brethren and sisters are teaching the young that attend the classes. The classes are opened by singing, led by the teacher or by one of the children, as he or she may direct. The singing is not accompanied with instrumental music. We like them to be independent of such help and able to strike the right pitch themselves. When our young men are called to go out into the missionary field, you know what a blessing it is to them to be able to sing. When they stand on the street corner, with their backs to a lamp-post and a large congregation before them, they have no instrument to help them in starting the song, it is well for them if they are able to do it correctly. How many of you brethren have not had experience of this kind?"
In 1912 Elder Reed Smoot said about the elders singing: " There is one thing known to the people of all countries, whether they approve of our religion or not, that is the remarkable musical ability of the "Mormon" people. People, in general, appreciate the songs our missionaries sing, and the spirit with which they are sung. I have met many men in my travels, and in conversation some have said, "Yes, I remember hearing your elders sing upon the street corners of England, or in America, or in some other place as the case might be. In some cases Elders had visited a gentleman's home and had sung our gospel hymns. They pleased him, and impressed him with the thought that our songs carried with them the true spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am always proud, and it gives me joy to be able to testify to the world that the "Mormon" people as a whole are lovers of music, and that we have talented students in many of the musical academies of the world."
In 1907 B. H. Roberts said: " Singing is a training that our Elders very much need to equip them for their mission work. . . .
And in the selection of hymns and songs, and choruses, appropriateness should be carefully considered. Let the strong, stalwart hymns of the present dispensation be practiced in the quorums, and not the namby, pamby, childish hymns that sometimes find their way into the repertoire of songs sung by our Elders in the mission field. Let us have such hymns as,
"The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
Lo! Zion's standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day
Majestic rises on the world."
A trumpet blast within itself. Such hymns as,
"An angel from on high,
The long, long silence broke," etc.
"Israel, Israel, God is calling,
Calling thee from lands of woe," etc. . . .
"O say, what is Truth? 'Tis the fairest gem," etc. . . .
Mormon hymns that . . . are vibrant with the spirit of the latter-day work because it produced them-inspired them, and they are more appropriate . . . for missionaries. . . . Let us learn to sing Mormonism as well as to preach it. (Seventies Course in Theology, first year [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1907], pp. viii-ix.)
In the April 1906 Conference Hyrum Mack Smith said: "I am thankful for the work that is being done among the children of the Latter-day Saints. The tens of thousands of little ones, born under the covenant, are being instructed in the various organizations of the Church in the ways of the Lord. We had an illustration yesterday of some work which is being done among the children by Brother Stephens-a work that is grand indeed, and the full value of which is not, I suppose, entirely understood. They are learning to sing the songs of Zion, and these songs breathe the spirit of the Gospel, and within them is contained the truth. The principles and doctrines of the Church are very often embodied in the hymns which are sung by both young and old among the Latter-day Saints; and this, together with the instructions they receive in the Religion Classes, the Primary Associations, the Sabbath schools and the Mutual Improvement Associations, will assist to develop them into men and women thoroughly indoctrinated in the principles of the Gospel, and make them familiar with the plan of life and salvation."
In the April 1902 Conference Anthon H. Lund said: "I would say let our Sunday school children learn singing. When they grow up, the boys especially, and become missionaries, what a blessing it is to them to be able to sing."
In 1901 Heber J. Grant said: "I have no ambition to become a singer. But I do feel that there is a great deal lost in the homes of the people by not having the songs of Zion sung therein. Many a missionary robs himself of strength and power and ability to accomplish good, and to make friends, by not knowing how to sing. Another thing, he prevents himself from getting many a supper and many a bed and breakfast, which he could get if he only knew how to sing. People would invite him in, and welcome him, if he knew how to sing. The songs of Zion bring a good influence into our homes.
It is not the eloquence that you possess which will carry conviction to the hearts of the people, but it is the Spirit of Almighty God that is burning in your hearts, and your desire for the salvation of souls. Brigham Young said that the Spirit of the Lord would do more to convert people than the eloquence of men. And I say that the singing of the songs of Zion, though imperfectly, with the inspiration of God, will touch the hearts of the honest more effectively than if sung well without the Spirit of God. Sing with the Spirit of God. Love the words that you sing. I love the songs of Zion.(Heber J. Grant, Improvement Era, (1901) 4:686)."
At the April 1901 General Conference shortly before going on a mission to Japan Heber J. Grant said:
I regret that I failed in my object lesson. I would have been glad had I been able to sing that song through without a mistake. I have only sung it through five times today without a mistake, but when I tried it the sixth time I got an error in it. But I haven't got over my nervousness when standing before the assembled people to sing. I suppose the reason is, I don't know "where I am at." I am like a boat without a rudder, so to speak, when I try to sing. To give you an illustration: I was a short time ago at a dinner party at Brother Cannon's and one of the people present requested me to sing "O, My Father," and simultaneously another one of the company asked me to sing, "God moves in a mysterious way." I asked Sister Snow if she would kindly play that in the key of F. She had heard one of the parties ask me to sing one piece and I had heard the other ask me for the other one, and she played "O, My Father," and I sang "God moves in a mysterious way." As good fortune would have it, the first three notes of these songs are identically the same, and Sister Snow discovered what I was trying to do, and therefore played, "God moves in a mysterious way," and we got through all right. I thought the music sounded a little strange, although I had heard it a great many times before; but it hadn't made any such impression upon me that I was able to tell the difference.
I have a letter clear from the Philippine Islands, in which I was told, among other things, "Don't try to sing." The writer says: "I am in earnest." He is one of my nearest friends too, Major Young; in fact, he and I grew up together, almost. And he tells his reason he says, "Because you will be subjected to ridicule, and there will be a great deal of criticism." I have had a great many of my friends come to me and beg me not to sing. Six months ago one of my fellow Apostles said to me, "Come in, Heber, but don't sing." The same Apostle last night asked me to sing "God moves in a mysterious way," and after I got through complimented me upon it. I said afterward, "I noted your remarks in the Priesthood meeting, when you told men who had been ordained to the office of Patriarch, that they could not enjoy the spirit of the office unless they gave patriarchial blessings; and now," said I, "if you will tell me how I will learn to sing without singing, I will thank you." He said, "Sing every chance you get, Brother Grant, but do your first singing down in Mexico or Arizona or somewhere a long way off." I said, "I have already tried that." and I have tried it at home, and I sang this same song the other night at home. But I will never learn to sing before a large audience until I try. I propose to sing the "Holy City" in the big Tabernacle before I get through with it, and I propose to sing it without a mistake. I do not say this boastingly, because I believe what Alma of old said, in the 29th chapter of his book, that "God granteth unto men according to their desires, whether they be for good or for evil, for joy or remorse of conscience." I desire to sing, and I expect to work at it and to stay right with it until I learn. The most I ever worked was to sing 400 songs in four days; that is the biggest amount of work I have ever done in the singing line. There are a great many people that can learn to sing very easily. When I started to learn to sing it took me four months to learn a couple of simple hymns and recently I learned one in three hours by the watch and then sang it without a mistake.
That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased." I propose to keep at it until my power to do is increased to the extent that I can sing the songs of Zion. Nobody knows the joy I have taken in standing up in the Tabernacle and other places and joining in the singing, because it used to be a perfect annoyance to me to try and to fail, besides annoying those around me; because I would sing, because I loved the words of the songs of Zion.
I am very sorry now for having persecuted people as I used to. In our meetings in the Temple the brethren would say "That is as impossible as it is for Brother Grant to carry a tune," and that settled it; everybody acknowledged that was one of the impossibilities. I believe what the Lord says, "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 head." I desire to serve the Lord, and pray unto him in the songs of Zion; and I know that it produces a good influence."
In 1900 Heber J. Grant said about singing: "President Brigham Young once remarked that the Spirit of the Lord would do more to convert people than the eloquence of man. The same is true of singing. It is not always the ability that a missionary has to sing in a creditable and entertaining way that will aid him most in his missionary work; but on the contrary, if he can sing some of our beautiful hymns with the spirit in which they were written, he will be able to carry conviction to the hearts of his hearers as to the truths of the gospel. As an example of this: Elders J. Golden Kimball and Charles A. Welch, neither of whom claim to sing well, while on a mission in the southern states, were about to baptize some converts; a mob had assembled, and the brethren were given to understand that if they carried out their intentions of baptizing, the mob would throw them into the river. The brethren determined to go ahead no matter what the result might be. Before doing so, however, they sang a song. The song seemed to have such an effect upon the mob that they were almost transfixed. The brethren proceeded with their baptisms, and then went some distance to attend to confirming the baptized. A message came from the mob asking them to come and sing that song again, and the request was complied with. The leader of the mob, Joseph Jarvis, afterwards joined the Church, and he stated to Elder Kimball that the sentiments of the hymn and the inspiration attending the singing converted him to the gospel.... (Heber J. Grant, Improvement Era, (1900)3:886)."
He also said in the same address, "I am confident that the hymns of Zion, when sung with the proper spirit, bring a peaceful and heavenly influence into our homes, and also aid in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I recommend to the youth of Zion, that they go to work with determination and learn to sing. Particularly is this recommendation made to the young men, because, next to a familiarity with the scriptures, the ability to sing will assist them when they are called to the nations of the earth to preach the gospel. It will insure them many a friend, furnish them many a meal and bed, which they would otherwise go without. (Heber J. Grant, Improvement Era, (1900)3:886)."
In Conference October 1899 Joseph F. Smith said: "When we listen to this choir . . . we listen to music, and music is truth. Good music is gracious praise of God. It is delightsome to the ear, and it is one of our most acceptable methods of worshipping God. And those who sing in this choir and in all the choirs of the Saints, should sing with the Spirit and with understanding. They should not sing merely because it is a profession, or because they have a good voice; but they should sing also because they have the spirit of it and can enter into the spirit of prayer and praise to God who gave them their sweet voices. My soul is always lifted up and my spirit cheered and comforted when I hear good music. I rejoice in it very much indeed." (Conference Reports, October 1899, p. 69).
In 1896 Melvin J. Ballard told of his mission with Elder B. H. Roberts with whom he was called especially to be a singing missionary as he conducted talks across the U.S.: "In the evening we decided to hold a street meeting. Never shall I forget the feeling I had in contemplating this effort. I would grow sick, then chill. We started by singing 'Oh, Say, What Is Truth?' After the usual preliminary exercises Brother Spencer began speaking. We started with fifty present. He spoke for twenty minutes and then asked me to speak. I stepped into the ring feeling very weak, but with the determination to do my best. After I had said a few words a man commenced heckling. This aroused me, and I broke forth speaking at the top of my voice. All fear left me, and I scarcely realized what I was doing until I paused; then I heard my voice echoing among the tall buildings and realized I must start again amid the noise and din. I had great liberty in bearing testimony to the message I love and in crying repentance to the people of this generation. When I finished, the people numbered three hundred. This kind of meeting may reach some honest souls, but it brings much ridicule on the work and on the elders. Yet, I feel it is the right thing to do, as I feel so good when it is over."
This was an experience never to be forgotten. His graphic description of street preaching will remind all missionaries who have gone through it of their own first unforgettable effort. There is no other missionary experience just like it. The fast beating pulse, the nervous anxiety that fills one's mind, and the echo of one's own voice, keyed higher than usual, make a combination never to be forgotten. (Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons of Melvin J. Ballard, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1949)."
I hope these quotes will motivate you to sing as missionaries. Singing while on a mission is a worthwhile thing that can make a difference in bring people to the gospel. I know this post is a little long but I enjoyed researching singing and missionaries.