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Commentary

Prophetic Statements

First Presidency

Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel. Latter-day Saints should fill their homes with the sound of worthy music. Ours is a hymnbook for the home as well as for the meetinghouse. We hope the hymnbook will take a prominent place among the scriptures and other religious books in our homes. The hymns can bring families a spirit of beauty and peace and can inspire love and unity among family members. Teach your children to love the hymns. Sing them on the Sabbath, in home evening, during scripture study, at prayer time. Sing as you work, as you play, and as you travel together. Sing hymns as lullabies to build faith and testimony in your young ones. [1]

Brigham Young

If they wish to dance, let them dance; let them talk and play; but not do any wrong. They must not get angry with each other; and if any do wrong instruct them to do right. If our children are thus taught, they will be patterns of piety and their conduct will be worthy of imitation. [2]

On reflection, I have come to the conclusion that it would be better if we would pay more attention to these public exercises, and direct the minds of our children by observing them, taking a course to have them avoid getting into the habit of drinking and every kind of rowdyism, and other things that are unbecoming; and in all of our amusements have objects of improvement that are worthy of pursuit. We should have more of the children attend Sunday school, and the teachers should continually place objects before them that will lead them to study to improve in their manners, in their words, in their looks and in their behavior; and that will guide their minds aright. You will find we can place before them objects that will do them much good in their thoughts and reflections, that will improve their young and tender minds, and have an influence upon their future lives for good; and we can thus bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord by taking a course to lead their minds. [3]

We are trying to be the image of those who live in heaven; we are trying to pattern after them, to look like them, to walk and talk like them. [4]

Joseph F. Smith

The character and variety of our amusements have so much to do with the welfare and character of our young people that they should be guarded with the utmost jealousy for the preservation of the morals and stamina of the youth of Zion. . . . They should be trained to appreciate more and more amusements of a social and intellectual character. Home parties, concerts that develop the talents of youth, and public amusements that bring together both young and old, are preferable . . . our amusements should be consistent with our religious spirit of fraternity and religious devotion. In too many instances the ball room is devoid of our supplication for Divine protection. Our dancing should be, as far as possible, under the supervision of some Church organization, and we should be scrupulously careful to open the dance by prayer. The question of amusements is one of such far-reaching importance to the welfare of the Saints that the presiding authorities of every ward should give it their most careful attention and consideration. . . . it is to be feared that in many homes, parents abandon all regulation respecting the amusement of their children, and set them adrift to find their fun wherever and whenever they can. Parents should never lose control of the amusements of their children during their tender years, and should be scrupulously careful about the companionship of their young people in places of amusements. [5]

Heber J. Grant

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. [6]

I am confident that the hymns of Zion, when sung with the proper spirit, bring a peaceful and heavenly influence to 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. [7]

I rejoice in hearing the choir and congregation sing all four verses of the great pioneer song, “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” It has been a source of regret to me that [formerly] we seldom if ever heard that fourth verse. I remember, on one occasion, while speaking in this hall, I made the request that whenever the choir or congregation should sing this hymn they sing the fourth verse. As I listened to the remarks of our prophet, I was deeply impressed. He [President Joseph F. Smith] asked the question, “Are we as faithful, are we as diligent as our fathers and mothers were?” While that hymn was being sung I remembered his words; and as we were singing it, I asked myself the question, Do I feel as did our parents?–

And should we die before our journey’s through,

Happy day! all is well!

We then are free from toil and sorrow too;

With the just we shall dwell.

Do we feel that, if we die, all is well? Are we living so that if the summons should come to us, that we are worthy to go back to our Heavenly Father, when we leave this earth, and be welcomed there? Are we so living that we are worthy of the blessings we have received? I ask myself the question, am I doing all I possibly can for the uplifting not only of myself but of my fellows, am I in very deed a shining light to the people, by reason of the example I set before them? [8]

George Albert Smith

I wonder sometimes if we realize the importance of music. I wonder if we know that the Lord himself is concerned about it. He has given us the information that the song of praise is a prayer unto him. In our day he has given revelation about music. He gave instruction that Emma Smith was to gather the hymns that were to be sung in the Church. He said to her: “And verily I say unto thee, thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for things of a better. And it shall be given thee also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me to be had in my Church. 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. [9] So to this fine chorus, the choir and these other musicians, I would like to call attention to the fact that in our day our Heavenly Father has given a revelation, teaching us that it is our privilege, yea, our blessing, to sing, and that our songs should be sung in righteousness. [10]

Joseph Fielding Smith

I would like to say right here that it delights my heart to see our people everywhere improving their talents as good singers. Everywhere we go among our people we find sweet voices and talent for music. I believe that this is a manifestation to us of the purpose of the Lord in this direction toward our people, that they will excel in these things, as they should excel in every other good thing. I can remember, when I was a young boy, hearing my father sing. I do not know how much of a singer he was, for at that time I was not capable of judging as to the quality of his singing, but the hymns he sang became familiar to me in the days of my childhood.

When we listen to this choir, we listen to music, and music is truth. Good music is gracious praise of the Lord. It is delightsome to the ear, and it is one of our most acceptable methods of worshipping. And those who sing in the 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 the Lord 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. [11]

Harold B. Lee

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 afterward. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. 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.” [12]

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. Watch those shows and entertainment that lift the spirit and promote clean thoughts and actions. Read books and magazines that do the same. [13]

Spencer W. Kimball

About sixty years ago, F. M. Bareham wrote the following:

A century ago [in 1809] men were following with bated breath the march of Napoleon and waiting with feverish impatience for news of the wars. And all the while in their homes babies were being born. But who could think about babies? Everybody was thinking about battles.

In one year between Trafalgar and Waterloo there stole into the world a host of heroes: Gladstone was born in Liverpool; Tennyson at the Somersby Rectory; and Oliver Wendell Holmes in Massachusetts. Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, and music was enriched by the advent of Felix Mendelssohn in Hamburg.

But nobody thought of babies, everybody was thinking of battles. Yet which of the battles of 1809 mattered more than the babies of 1809? We fancy God can manage His world only with great battalions, when all the time he is doing it with beautiful babies.

When a wrong wants righting, or a truth wants preaching, or a continent wants discovering, God sends a baby into the world to do it.

While most of the thousands of precious infants born every hour will never be known outside their own neighborhoods, there are great souls being born who will rise above their surroundings. [14]

You can change by changing your environment. Let go of lower things, and reach for higher. Surround yourself with the best in books, music, art, and people. [15]

Down in New Zealand, I was the recipient of many courtesies while there. They sang and danced and rolled their eyes and stuck out their tongues. And so we applaud them, you know, and think it wonderful to encourage the continuation of that culture. But as it was interpreted to me, . . . they chant and sing battle hymns — not peace hymns. And so I said to some of the leaders: “With all your beautiful voices, your wonderful talent, why don’t you develop some impressive songs on the themes surrounding the coming of Christ, about the restoration of the gospel, about lofty ideals, the latter-day exodus, the glories and good things which the gospel and the Church have brought us?” In all cultures, let us perpetuate not the mating dances, the sex stories, but the good and the beautiful and lofty as we sing and as we dance.

We should be perpetuating Mormonism and the gospel; the true way of life. That doesn’t mean we need to bury all things of the past; but, if there is anything associated with paganism or sectarianism or sex, we eliminate. And so, we are building a great culture entirely different from that out there in the sectarian world. We are building a glorious culture of cleanliness and morality with high-minded, wonderful people. And, all the things the Church does — the singing of the songs, the speaking in public, the organization — the everything is devoted to this one thing: building a great spiritual culture that the Lord wants.[16]

Enthusiastic singing enhances meetings. It is sad to me to see in the congregations many people standing silent when they could be singing “their hearts out.” I wonder constantly if they would sing happily today if for twelve years they could only move their lips through thousands of songs and could make no sound? I wonder if the silent ones can even imagine what it is like to be unable to join fellow singers in praise to their Lord in music? . . .

If the conductor sings also, it will encourage the congregation and help them remember the words. . . . In every beat of the baton should be the pleading to the Saints of God: Sing. Sing. Sing from your hearts. [17]

Ezra Taft Benson

One of our fine musicians has suggested a top ten for great music. May I just mention them-at least three or four of them. Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” known to you as the pop tune, “Joy”; Handel’s Messiah-start by listening to single numbers and then expand as they become familiar, (the “Hallelujah Chorus” may be a good starting point); Mozart’s “Symphony No. 40 in G minor” (you will recognize this also from the pops version); Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5 in C Minor;” and so on. [18] [19]

Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.[20]

Successful parents have found that it is not easy to rear children in an environment polluted with evil. Therefore, they take deliberate steps to provide the best of wholesome influences. . . . Good and uplifting music is provided. [21]

I enjoy music. I am grateful for good music. I think it is the finest of the fine arts. I am grateful to our Heavenly Father that He has blessed some of His children with a fine musical talent and that He has blessed others with an appreciation of good music. [22] [23]

The magnetism of television and radio is in the accessibility of their mediocrity. Lovely is not an adjective to describe most of their products. The inventors of these wonders were inspired by the Lord. But once their good works were introduced to the world, the powers of darkness began to employ them for our destruction. [24]

Give more than lip service to the Thirteenth Article of Faith, and actually seek after that “which is lovely and of good report.” Enlist your parents in a project to replace your record library with music of the masters, of your heritage. Peter pictured the times so evident today when in the last days he saw “scoffers walking after their own lusts” [25]. The scoffers are “in” and your will must be strong to stay a “square.” [26] [27]

Teach children gospel principles. Teach them it pays to be good. Teach them there is no safety in sin. . . .Teach them the importance of the right kind of entertainment, including appropriate . . . music . . . .[28]

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 afterward. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. 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.” [29] 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. Watch those shows and entertainment that lift the spirit and promote clean thoughts and actions. Read books and magazines that do the same. [30]

Thursday, February 7, 1946: London England. In the evening accepted invitation of President and Sister Brown and enjoyed a Tchaikovsky concert by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall. The place was practically filled. There are seven floor levels. It was a brilliant and inspiring performance. Thank the Lord for great music! [31]

Saturday, June 1, 1946: London, England. Saw a matinee of “Song of Norway” showing life and music of Grieg. It was exquisite and most enjoyable. Wished my family could have seen it. [32]

Singing songs and hymns can be a means of bringing inspiring music into the home and of helping each child to build his own musical vocabulary. Many parents have simply turned the musical education of their children over to the local rock radio station, with increasingly unpleasant results. Most children are delighted to discover music of genuine merit when their parents help to make it available to them. Bringing great music into the home can be an enriching and exciting experience not only for children but for parents as well. The main value of a talent time is the manner in which it can help children overcome shyness and reticence when performing before an audience. [33]

Gordon B. Hinckley

Let there be music in the home. If you have teenagers who have their own recordings, you will be prone to describe the sound as something other than music.

Let them occasionally hear something better. Expose them to it. It will speak for itself.

More of appreciation will come than you may think.

It may not be spoken, but it will be felt, and its influence will become increasingly manifest as the years pass. [34]

Enjoy music. Not the kind that rocks and rolls, but the music of the masters, the music that has lived through the centuries, the music that has lifted people. If you do not have a taste for it, listen to it thoughtfully. If you do not like it the first time, listen to it again and keep listening. It will be something like going to the temple. The more often you go, the more beautiful will be the experience. [35]

Scriptures

Rock Artists

Supporting Statements

Douglas L. Callister

If we could part the veil and observe our heavenly home, we would be impressed with the cultivated minds and hearts of those who so happily live there. I imagine that our heavenly parents are exquisitely refined.

In this great gospel of emulation, one of the purposes of our earthly probation is to become like them in every conceivable way so that we may be comfortable in the presence of heavenly parentage . . . The nearer we get to God, the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things. . . .If we could peek behind the veil, we would likely be inspired by the music of heaven, which is probably more glorious than any music we have heard on this earth. . . . If a young person grows up on a steady diet of hamburgers and french fries, he is not likely to become a gourmet. But the fault is not with fine food.

He just grew up on something less. Some have grown up on a steady diet of musical french fries.

. . . sift through your music library and choose primarily that which uplifts and inspires. It is part of the maturing process of your eternal journey.

. . . Your Father in Heaven has sent you away His presence to have experiences you would not have had in your heavenly home–all in preparation for the conferral of a kingdom. He doesn’t want you to lose your vision. You are children of an exalted being. You are foreordained to preside as kings and queens. You will live in a home and environment of infinite refinement and beauty, as reflected in the language, literature, music, art and order of heaven. [36]

Neal A. Maxwell

We . . . live in a world that is too prone to the tasteless and we need to provide an opportunity to cultivate a taste for the finest music. And likewise, we’re in a world that’s so attuned to the now. We need to permit people to be more attuned to the best music of all the ages. [37]

Handel

After the first performance of Messiah, Handel, responding to a compliment, said, “My lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them–I wish to make them better.” [38]

Haydn

Haydn “dressed in his best clothes to compose because he said he was going before his maker.” [39]

David Starr Jordan

To be vulgar is to do that which is not the best of its kind.

It is to do poor things in poor ways, and to be satisfied with that . . . It is vulgar to like poor music, to read weak books, to feed on sensational newspapers . . . to find amusement in trashy novels, to enjoy vulgar theaters, to find pleasure in cheap jokes.” [40]


  1. Preface to the LDS Hymnbook
  2. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 241; Journal of Discourses 12:239
  3. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 241; Journal of Discourses 12:238-239
  4. Brigham Young, “Remarks,” Deseret News, Mar. 5, 1862, 1.
  5. Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 39, March 1, 1904, pp. 144, 145; Gospel Doctrine, p. 321
  6. Heber J. Grant, Era, 4:686
  7. Heber J. Grant, Era, 3:894
  8. Heber J. Grant, CR April, 1909
  9. Doctrine and Covenants 25:10-12
  10. George Albert Smith, Church Section, Deseret News, February 16, 1946.
  11. Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1969, pp. 109-110
  12. “Inspiring Music Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, January 1974, 25, 28.
  13. Ezra Taft Benson, Come Listen To A Prophet’s Voice
  14. Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], 323.
  15. Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 172.
  16. Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 394
  17. Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 518-519
  18. BYU Ten-Stake Fireside, Provo, Utah, 7 May 1972.
  19. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 324 – 325.
  20. Ezra Taft Benson, Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 46.
  21. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 321.
  22. Czechoslovakia, 26 November 1946.
  23. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 324.
  24. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 325 – 326.
  25. 2 Peter 3:3
  26. BYU Ten-Stake Fireside, Provo, Utah, 7 May 1972.
  27. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 327.
  28. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 517.
  29. “Inspiring Music & Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, January 1974, 25, 28.
  30. Ezra Taft Benson, Come Listen To A Prophet’s Voice, p. 7-8
  31. Ezra Taft Benson, A Labor of Love: The 1946 European Mission of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 20.
  32. Ezra Taft Benson, A Labor of Love: The 1946 European Mission of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 113.
  33. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 528
  34. Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 394
  35. Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 395-6
  36. Douglas Callister, from a devotional address given at BYU on September 19, 2006
  37. Neal A. Maxwell, in LaMar Barrus, “The Joy of Music,” New Perspectives” Apr. 1997, p. 10
  38. In “A Tribute to Handel,” Improvement Era, May 1929, 574
  39. In Hal Williams, “Dr. Reid Nibley on Acquiring a Taste for Classical Music,” BYU Today Apr. 1980, 14
  40. David Starr Jordan, former president of Standford University, “The Strength of Being Clean,” in Inspirational Classics for LDS, Jack Lyon (2000), 191

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One thought to “15) CLASSICAL: If you don’t like classical music, can you and should you develop a taste for it? Is all classical music good?”

  • Nate Richardson

    It’s been a long journey for me to get away from the fallen culture we live in regarding music. I’ve made lots of progress, but this article is an answer to prayer to help me take some yet needed steps in my journey to being consistent and completely dedicated. No man can serve 2 masters. Thank you

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