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Questions Answered: Are all kinds of music good, but the types are just for different occasions? Is it only the words that can make music bad? Is music amoral? Can music alone, independent of its lyrics be both good and bad? What influence does music have upon culture and society? Is there “perfect” music?

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

In nearly all cities or towns of an extensive population there are certain vices, or crimes, not exactly tolerated by law, but yet, borne with by the people as a kind of unavoidable or necessary evil; such, for instance, as gambling, drunkenness, vain and wicked amusements and allurements, directly calculated to corrupt the morals of the people and lead them from the paths of virtue and truth. Among the most conspicuous and fashionable of these we might mention, balls, dances, corrupt and immodest theatrical exhibitions, magical performances, etc., all of which are apt not only to have an evil tendency in themselves, but to mingle the virtuous and the vicious in each others society; not for the improvement of the vicious but rather to corrupt the virtuous.

Nauvoo is now becoming one of the largest towns of the west, and as it was founded, and is still in a great measure managed by the saints, we greatly desire the united influence of all well- wishers to our society, and to good order and morality, to cooperate with us in preserving the general peace and quiet, and in suppressing these and all other vices and evils. . . .

If the people were all righteous, it would do to dance, and to have music, feasting and merriment. But what fellowship has Christ with Belial? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? or what union have the sons and daughters of God with the children of this world, who fear not God nor regard man. All amusement in which saints and sinners are mingled tends to corruption, and has a baneful influence in religious society.

There are amusements which are at once both innocent, instructive, and entertaining; and which the saints can enjoy, in honor to themselves, and without mingling with the world. . . . These, together with our religious devotions, and the increase of light, knowledge and intelligence which flows like a flood of glory from the upper world, are quite sufficient to exercise all our powers of enjoyment. [1]

Is there evil in the theater; in the ball room; in the place of worship; in the dwelling; in the world? Yes, when men are inclined to do evil in any of these places. There is evil in persons meeting simply for a chitchat, if they will allow themselves to commit evil while thus engaged. [2]

Heber J. Grant

The more beautiful the music by which false doctrine is sung, the more dangerous it becomes. I appeal to all Latter-day Saints, and especially to our choirs, never to sing the words of a song, no matter how beautiful and inspiring the music may be, where the teachings are not in perfect accord with the truths of the gospel. [3]

Harold B. Lee

Any of the activities I have named—in the house of worship or in the home, listening to good music, reading good books, engaging in “fireside” discussions that are uplifting or that contribute to our learning—might be considered in harmony with the spirit of the Sabbath. [4]

Lack of inspiration is due to lack of faith in the Bible. Some time ago the secretary of a well-known philosophical society, deploring the lack of inspiration in our day, described the present age as “an age of the government of the uninspired.” There is on all sides much evidence to support his contention. In the realm of art, generally speaking, as he explained, the bizarre tendencies in modern painting, the grotesque figures of modern sculpture, the cacophonies of modern music, and the eccentricities of modern poetry witness the fact that this is an age lacking inspiration. One might add that modern religion, with its readiness either “to be carried about with every wind of doctrine” [5] or to content itself with ritualism in place of spirituality, is another symptom of the same fact.

The man, as nearly as I recall, went on to explain that the trouble undoubtedly lies in the fact that today the source of the needed inspiration, the Bible, is no longer considered by much of the world as reliable, with the result that the Christ of the Bible has become to many a vague, shadowy personality who may or may not have spoken the words attributed to Him.

It is only as we forsake the traditions of men and recover faith in the Bible, the truth of which has been fully established by recent discovery and fulfillment of prophecy, that we shall once again receive that inspiration which is needed by rulers and people alike. [6]

Spencer W. Kimball

Musical sounds can be put together in such a way that they can express feelings-from the most profoundly exalted to the most abjectly vulgar. Or rather, these musical sounds induce in the listener feelings which he responds to, and the response he makes to these sounds has been called a “gesture of the spirit.” Thus, music can act upon our senses to produce or induce feelings of reverence, humility, fervor, assurance, or other feelings attuned to the spirit of worship. [7]

Ezra Taft Benson

Musical sounds can be put together in such a way that they can express feelings-from the most profoundly exalted to the most abjectly vulgar. Or rather, these musical sounds induce in the listener feelings which he responds to, and the response he makes to these sounds has been called a “gesture of the spirit.” Thus, music can act upon our senses to produce or induce feelings of reverence, humility, fervor, assurance, or other feelings attuned to the spirit of worship. [8]

Don’t listen to music that is degrading. Remember Elder Boyd K. Packer’s statement: “Music, once . . . innocent, now is often used for wicked purposes. . . . In our day music itself has been corrupted. Music can, by its tempo, by its beat, by its intensity [and I would add, by its lyrics], dull the spiritual sensitivity of men. . . . Young people,” Elder Packer goes on to say, “you cannot afford to fill your mind with the unworthy hard music of our day.” [9]

Instead, we encourage you to listen to uplifting music, both popular and classical, that builds the spirit. Learn some favorite hymns from our new hymnbook that build faith and spirituality. Attend dances where the music and the lighting and the dance movements are conducive to the Spirit. [10]

Listen to good music. Do your best to be good. [11]

We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t . . . participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading. [12]

Live up to your godly potential. Remember who you are and the priesthood that you bear. Be modern-day sons of Helaman. Put on the whole armor of God. [13] [14]

What fits the purpose of the Sabbath? . . . singing the songs of Zion and listening to inspired music . . . . [15]

Thomas S. Monson

Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father. It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite. However, music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity. You cannot afford to fill your minds with unworthy music. [16]

Scriptures

Alma 5:57
“Come ye out from the wicked and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean things.”

D&C 121:45
“Let virute garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.”

Rock Artists

Giorgio Gomelsky

In the words of Giorgio Gomelsky, and early promoter and producer of the Rolling Stones: “No one in their right mind would deny the lifestyle transformation that music brought about in our society. Take jazz or rock n’ roll. A form of artistic rebellions against the entrenched tastes of the establishment, and considered noise by the same . . . our society has never been the same since” [17]

Debbie Harry

. . . Debbie Harry of Blondie summarizes “I’ve always thought that the main ingredients in rock are sex, really good stage shows, and really sassy music. Sex and sass, I really think that’s where it’s at.” [18]

Graham Nash

Pop music is the mass medium for conditioning the way people think. [19]

Mick Jagger

We are moving after the minds and so are most of the new groups. [20]

Sid Bernstein

Sid Bernstein, who organized three early Beatle concerts, noted: “Only Hitler ever duplicated their power over crowds. I am convinced they could sway a presidential election if they wanted to. [21]

Wendy Williams

Rock ‘n roll has always been sexual. Rock ‘n roll has always been violent. It has teeth. It will scratch your face off. That’s why I like it . . . . If you like having your brains blown out and pushed up against the wall, then it’s for you.” [22]

Little Richard

I was making $10,000 an hour; sometimes $40,000, but I discovered what I never had with money, sex and drugs: peace. . . . I didn’t realize I was working for the devil. Rock ‘n roll clouds the senses and hypnotizes the brain. [23]

Jerry Garcia

It’s much too late to do anything about rock & roll now. [24]

The Edge

Rock and roll isn’t a career or hobby – it’s a life force … it’s just something I have to do. [25]

Supporting Statements

Boyd K. Packer

It has been obvious for centuries that lyrics of the worst kind can be set to music that is innocent of itself. Words which are bad can be set to music which is otherwise good, and lead men astray. [26]

Someone said recently that no music could be degrading, that music in and of itself is harmless and innocent. If that be true, then there should be some explanation for circumstances where local leaders have provided a building—expansive, light, and inviting—and have assembled a party of young people dressed modestly, well-groomed, with manners to match. Then overamplified sounds of hard music are introduced and an influence pours into the room that is repellent to the Spirit of God. [27]

Johann Sebastian Bach

For the glory of the most high God alone, And for my neighbour to learn from. [28]

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. [29]

J. Reuben Clark

A man can get nearer to God by music than any other method except prayer. 1

Richard Nibley

Music creates atmosphere. Atmosphere creates environment. Environment influences behavior. [30]

Tolstoy

Music makes me forget my real situation. It transports me into a state which is not my own. Under the influence of music I really seem to feel what I do not understand, to have powers which I cannot have. [31]

Samuel Tuckerman

Explain it as we may, a martial strain will urge a man into the front rank of battle sooner than an argument, and a fine anthem excite his devotion more certainly than a logical discourse. [32]

Plato

Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State . . . when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them. [33]

Wilson Bryan

The Beatles popularized and culturally legitimized hallucinatory drug usage among teenagers throughout the world. Hallucinatory and addictive drugs had never before been a part of any society’s main cultural value system. Even in places like Indochina, where the French legalized opium as a technique of population management and control, drugs were confined to a minority of users – usually the economically or politically disenfranchised. Certainly, drug usage had never before in the world’s history been advertised heavily – as a record promotion technique – by popular music directed at adolescents. [34]

Kathy Gileadi

grew up in the midst of rock music, and had no way of determining if it was good or bad. However, during my dating years at BYU, I went to a rock dance with a new boyfriend. In the middle of the evening, I had a strong feeling, “This is not the place for you. You do not belong here.” I tried to put it off, but the feeling repeated itself insistently. [35]

Dr. Arthur Henry King

Radio and television, records and tapes–these allow us to bring music into our homes on an unprecedented scale. Unfortunately, there has been over the last few centuries an inverse relationship between technical expertise in producing, recording and broadcasting music and the quality of the music produced. Jazz and rock have now become a predominant moral problem for the whole of Western civilization. I find it difficult to see anything in most of the variants of jazz (ending at the moment with rock) except sex and violence alternating with self-pity. This music exploits musical rhythms in a deliberately excitatory way, and the original purpose of that exploitation was to excite to violence and/or sex. The fact that we surpress our inclinations in those directions doesn’t mean that the music isn’t doing that to us. Jazz rhythms are emphatic, but they ar ealso disturbing and destructive. The spirit of this music is, as a whole, orgiastic; and its mere loudness is one of the ways in which sensitivity is lost (and, indeed, actual physicla damage done ot the hearing). Jazz and rock produce violent sensations which lead to a desire for still greater violence, still greater volume. This music is demonic. [36]

Lex De Azevedo

Yet many people tell us that since some of these songs (light or soft-rock) are so well done there can be no harm in listening to them. We need only look at the drastic changes in society in the last two decades to see their influence. Sexual immorality and drug usage have always gone on in secret, but they ahve never before been the openly admitted and accepted norm of American life. Yet within the last ten to twenty years, society’s values have changed tot he point that all the former taboos are considered light humor in most television shows and movies. Without ever subjecting these vital issues to a rational debate, many Americans have allowed their attitude toward sin to change from hatred to endurance to pity, to embracing, all within a ten- to fifteen-year period called by some the “sexual revolution.” Of the many factors which aided this revolution, music has been a major one. In the words of Giorgio Gomelsky, and early promoter and producer of the Rolling Stones: “No one in their right mind would deny the lifestyle transformation that music brought about in our society. Take jazz or rock n’ roll. A form of artistic rebellions against the entrenched tastes of the establishment, and considered noise by the same . . . our society has never been the same since” [37]

. . . Debbie Harry of Blondie summarizes “I’ve always thought that the main ingredients in rock are sex, really good stage shows, and really sassy music. Sex and sass, I really think that’s where it’s at.” [38] [39]


  1. Epistle of the Twelve to the Church, Moral and Spiritual Guidance, History of the Church, Vol. 7, p. 282
  2. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 243; Journal of Discourses 9:243
  3. Heber J. Grant, Era, 15:786
  4. Harold B. Lee, Ye Are the Light of the World: Selected Sermons and Writings of Harold B. Lee [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974], .
  5. Ephesians 4:14
  6. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 159.
  7. Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 519.
  8. Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 519.
  9. Boyd K. Packer, “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, January 1974, 25, 28.
  10. Ezra Taft Benson, Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 7 – 8.
  11. Ezra Taft Benson, Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 66.
  12. CR April 1986, Ensign 16 [May 1986]: 45.
  13. CR April 1986, Ensign 16 [May 1986]: 46.
  14. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 222.
  15. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 439.
  16. Thomas S. Monson, General Priesthood Session, April 2010; Ensign, May 2010
  17. Giorgio Gomelsky, “Change is the Only Constant,” Billboard, 30 May 1981, p. 16
  18. Hit Parader, September 1979, p. 31
  19. Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills and Nash; Hit parader Yearbook, No. 6, 1967, p. 70
  20. Mick Jagger, Hit Parader, January 1968, p. 10
  21. Time, 22 September 1967, p. 61
  22. Wendy Williams, of the Plasmatics, Entertainment Tonight, 9 January 1982
  23. Little Richard, Deseret News, 17 August 1979, p. A3
  24. Jerry Garcia, member of the Grateful Dead
  25. The Edge
  26. Boyd K. Packer, “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, Jan 1974, p. 25
  27. Boyd K. Packer, “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, Jan 1974, p. 25
  28. Johann Sebastian Bach, epigraph to Little Organ Book, 1717
  29. Johann Sebastian Bach
  30. Richard Nibley, Ensign, December 1971, p. 53
  31. Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata, XXIII
  32. Samuel Tuckerman, American composer
  33. Plato
  34. Wilson Bryan Key, Media Sexploitation, p. 103
  35. Kathy Gileadi, Homeschool Genesis, p. 159
  36. Dr. Arthur Henry King, given at a BYU devotional and also in his book, The Abundances of the Heart, p. 217
  37. Giorgio Gomelsky, “Change is the Only Constant,” Billboard, 30 May 1981, p. 16
  38. Hit Parader, September 1979, p. 31
  39. Lex De Azevedo, Pop Music and Morality, 1982, p. 96-97
  1. “Cemetery Dedication a Fulfillment of Dreams,” LDS Church News (10 August 1991).

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