Through music, man’s ability to express himself extends beyond the limits of the spoken language in both subtlety and power. Music can be used to exalt and inspire or to carry messages of degradation and destruction. It is therefore important that as Latter-day Saints we at all times apply the principles of the gospel and seek the guidance of the Spirit in selecting the music with which we surround ourselves.” 2
Inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord. Home 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. 3
The Latter-day Saints who hearken to the words of the Lord, given to them touching their political, social, and financial concerns, I say, and say it boldly, that they will have wisdom which is altogether superior to the wisdom of the children of darkness, or the children of this world. I know this by the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the results of my own actions. They who have hearkened to the counsels given to them in temporal matters, have invariably bettered their condition temporally and spiritually. 4
A gathering and social spirit seems to be the order of heaven-of the spirit that is in the Gospel we have embraced. Though it may be esteemed as a fault—as an unwarrantable act to separate ourselves from those who do not believe as we believe, yet such is the nature of a portion of our religion pertaining to the performance of outward duties. If the Latter-day Saints can associate together, free from the contaminating influences that are in the world, it is a blessing and a great privilege. What would induce a child to grow up in the wickedness of the wicked world, if it never saw or heard any of it? 5
I repeat that it is not your lawful privilege to yield to anything in the shape of amusement, until you have performed every duty, and obtained the power of God to enable you to withstand and resist all foul spirits that might attack you, and lead you astray; until you have command over them, and by your faith, obtained, through prayer and supplication, the blessings of the Holy Spirit, and it rests upon, and abides continually with you. 6
I have frequently told the people at our places of recreation, if they cannot go there with the Spirit of the Lord, they had better stay at home. 7
I remember the time very well, and many of you do, when we used to commence our theatrical amusements here by prayer. We do not do so much of it now. . . . All our acts should be sanctified to God. You know that we are in the habit of having parties occasionally. I will give you my ideas about some of them. I have attended one or two lately, and I think we are running rather wild, and we do not act as much like gentlemen and ladies as we should, nor quite as much like saints as we ought to do. I think there is a great deal of impudence and pert- ness, a great amount of interfering with other people’s rights in these places, and I think that we need correcting, . . . I think we ought to elevate everything of this kind to its proper standard. We ought not to intrude upon or take advantage of anybody, even in amusements. 8
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. 9
David O. McKay
“A feeling of the brethren on dancing for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been received in a letter to a BYU student from President David O. McKay. President McKay said in his letter that one copy had been sent to President Ernest L. Wilkinson and authorized Miss Chandler to show it ‘to anyone you desire.’
‘I am answering your letter because it raises a question on which I desire all youth of the Church to know my views.” THE DAILY UNIVERSE received permission from Miss Chandler to print the letter in its entirety, so that all BYU students will know how the President of the Church feels about the dance issue.
‘THE STANDARDS of acceptable dancing for the young men and women of our Church are being set forth in a revised booklet entitled ‘For the Strength of the Youth.’ This little booklet, as soon as it comes off the press, will contain the statement which I am enclosing herewith. I note you say that you enjoy what you characterize as ‘stomp dances,’ but you are willing to follow my counsel no matter what the answer. I congratulate you on this attitude. You also say that many people have no evil intentions in dancing these dances. May I give you the following guidelines in reply:
- THE ENCLOSED statement of acceptable dancing states that if one concentrates on good dance posture, many dances can be danced in a manner which will meet LDS standards. Examples of these dances are the waltz, the fox trot, tango, rhumba, cha-cha, samba, and the swing, and most of the folk dances, for which the Brigham Young University has a very wholesome and fine reputation. The seven dances which I have enumerated have all been approved by the General Boards of the Mutual Improvement Associations. This should provide a sufficient variety of dances to enable the youth of Zion to have a good time.
- YOU ENCLOSED with your letter a photograph appearing in the Daily Universe of an off-campus ‘stomp’ dance. I do not believe that those photographed in that picture are concentrating on good posture. Indeed, I doubt whether it is possible to dance most of the prevalent fad dances in a manner that will meet LDS standards, and I know that is why President Wilkinson, who has the complete support of the Board of Trustees, criticized certain dances in his address to the student body. The standards which he outlined for BYU are standards approved by the General Authorities.
- I admit that many of the young people of our Church do not have any evil intentions in dancing certain current fad dances. However, we do not think the test of a proper dance is whether the dancers have evil intentions, but whether the dance is of such dignity and propriety that, even to an onlooker, it suggests nothing but style and good grace. AFTER ALL, young men and women of our Church should shun even the appearance of evil, and that is why we would very much prefer that you and others avoid the current trend of what, to many of us, appears to be vulgar dancing. There are too many fine things in this world for the young people to engage in without resorting to dances that are questionable.
- You inquired as to what is wrong with electronic bands. I am informed that moderate and modest music can be played by electronic bands, but I also understand that most electronic bands have a very loud beat which is inconsistent with the standards we desire to have observed; also, that in some places, two bands are employed because the traditional band or orchestra is not satisfactory for the wild and loud beat necessary for certain fad dances. That is why, in general, electronic bands are not approved.
‘I HOPE THAT you and your friends will follow my advice by dancing in accordance with the standards. You will find that when you accept those standards you will get much more joy and wholesome satisfaction than you do from the questionable dancing engaged in by many, and you will not be in an atmosphere where there is smoking or drinking as described by you in one of the places where you dance.'” 10
Harold B. Lee
Music is the language of the soul. Someone [has] said, “Music is the language of the soul.” I remembered what the Lord said in a revelation to Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet, “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” 11. There is truly no finer companion to true religion than great music. At the same time music can be prostituted to Satan’s purposes. Napoleon is quoted as having said, “Music of all the liberal arts has the greatest influence over the passions and is that which the legislator ought to give the greatest encouragement.” May I paraphrase and say, “Music in the Church of Jesus Christ is that to which every leader of youth should give his greatest concern to see that the wrong kinds of passions are not aroused by our introduction of sensuous music into our youth programs.” Your test of greatness, whether you be youth or whether you be adult, is not to be measured by the question about your wealth, how much you are worth financially speaking, or how much knowledge you have gained in the world, or what great talents you have, but your measure of greatness or just mediocrity, or less than that, may be measured by your answer to one simple question, “What do you like?” Do you like pornographic pictures rather than pictures of great art? Do you like to go to vulgar shows rather than The Sound of Music? Do you love the sensuous music rather than to hear great symphonies or the work of the masters? You answer to yourselves and then see what your youth like and you will have the answer to their souls, for music indeed is the language of the soul, whether it be uplifting or otherwise. It is the index to where we are today. 12
I could only wish in your dancing parties that you would encourage frequent changes of partners during the evening, as well as group dances, and faster dances of beauty and grace with music that makes an appeal to beauty and harmony rather than to boisterous performances that might well be confined to the circus or the vaudeville stage. 13
Ezra Taft Benson
Sometimes, from behind the pulpit, in our classrooms, in our council meetings, and in our Church publications, we hear, read, or witness things that do not square with the truth. . . . Now, do not let this serve as an excuse for your own wrongdoing. The Lord is letting the wheat and the tares mature before He fully purges the Church. He is also testing you to see if you will be misled. The devil is trying to deceive the very elect.
Let me give you a crucial key to help you avoid being deceived. It is this-learn to keep your eye on the prophet. He is the Lord’s mouthpiece and the only man who can speak for the Lord today. Let his inspired counsel take precedence. Let his inspired words be a basis for evaluating the counsel of all lesser authorities. Then live close to the Spirit so you may know the truth of all things. 14
Have you been listening to the music that many young folks are hearing today? Some of it is nerve-jamming in nature and much of it has been deliberately designed to promote revolution, dope, immorality, and a gap between parent and child. And some of this music has invaded our Church cultural halls.
Have you noticed some of our Church dances lately? Have they been praiseworthy, lovely, and of good report? 15 “I doubt,” said President David O. McKay, “whether it is possible to dance most of the prevalent fad dances in a manner to meet LDS standards.” 16 17
Youth leaders, are you holding aloft our standards, or have you compromised them for the lowest common denominator in order to appease the deceived or vile within the Church? Are the dances and music in your cultural halls virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report, or do they represent a modern Sodom with short skirts, loud, beat, strobe lights, and darkness?
Will our youth leaders accept the standards set for young John Wesley by his mother? Hear her sound counsel:
Would you judge of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of pleasure? Take this rule: Now note whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself.
Have we, as Moroni warned, “polluted the holy church of God”? 18 The auxiliaries of the Church are to be a help, not a hindrance, to parents and the priesthood as they strive to lead their families back to God. . . .
Today because some parents have refused to become informed and then stand up and inform their children, they are witnessing the gradual physical and spiritual destruction of their posterity. If we would become like God, knowing good and evil, then we had best find out what is undermining us, how to avoid it, and what we can do about it.
It is time that the hearts of us fathers are turned to our children and the hearts of the children are turned to the fathers, or we shall both be cursed. 19
We attach to most of our chapels a cultural hall so that our youth may have a place to dance, to perform their talents in musicals and other uplifting entertainment, and we hope our youth leaders as trustees of the building will see to it that only wholesome, uplifting activities are performed in this building. Should you have any reservations whether or not an activity, a style of dancing or tempo of music is in accord with Church standards, may I suggest this guide: Does it uplift and inspire one to higher ideals? Does it develop wholesome relationships between young men and women, or appeal to and arouse their baser instincts? Will it cause one to be a better Latter-day Saint and lead one closer to the Savior? Avoid all activities and dances which bring the world’s demoralizing standards into this sacred meeting place. If you adult leaders will counsel the youth, they can understand the inconsistency of opening our meetings with prayer asking that the Lord’s Spirit be with us, and then engaging in an activity which repels His Spirit. We ask you to be very mindful of this. 20 21 ,
We seek that which is praiseworthy, lovely, virtuous, and of good report, and we salute Beethoven . . . 22. In due time, we will also have more of our own giants-particularly great father-patriarchs and noble companions and mothers of men. There is certain music heard, feminine-like hair styles seen on men, art displayed, and clothes worn among our youth and some adults also that must pass away-not because the styles change, but because our standards will be improved. 23 24
The Church must not compromise standards before popular demands. Surely tobacco, coffee, and alcohol users have been alienated by uncompromising standards as much as today’s rocking miniskirts. Never has the Church had a finer group of young people. They are choice spirits—sent to earth in this most challenging and important period of the world. Charged with the great responsibility of building up the kingdom of God on earth, they have an awesome challenge.
This great and momentous responsibility and challenge comes at a most difficult time. Never have the forces of evil been so insidious, widespread, and enticing. Everywhere there seems to be a cheapening, weakening, down-grading of all that is fine, good, and uplifting—all aimed at our youth, while many of their parents are lulled away into a false security as they enjoy their comfortable complacency. All is not well in Zion. The inspired Book of Mormon prophets saw this day and, as watchmen on the towers, issued grave warnings, such as this one:
For behold, at that day shall he [the devil] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. . . . Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! 25 The Lord, through a modern prophet, has given us a solemn charge: Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations. 26
For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments. 27
Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. 28 We love the youth of the Church and we know the Lord loves them. There isn’t anything the Church wouldn’t do that’s right to help our young people—to save them. 29
A state of confusion is an effective environment for Satan. There is much confusion today. He employs several methods to create it. One is the distortion of definitions. Tolerance is a word valuable in the service of Satan. Alexander Pope warned 200 years ago that:
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace. “An Essay on Man”. 30
Boyd K. Packer
We have not given sufficient counsel and attention, I think, to the music that our young people consume. And “consume” is a proper word. . . . The breach between the world and the extremes of its music and the Church is wider in our day than ever in generations past. 31
Vice is a monster of so frightful mein. As to be hated, needs but to be seen; yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace.
J. Reuben Clark
We may not, under our duty, provide or tolerate an unwholesome amusement on the theory that if we do not provide it the youth will go elsewhere to get it. We could hardly set up a roulette table in the Church amusement hall for gambling purposes, with the excuse that if we do not provide it the youth would go to a gambling hall to gamble. We can never really hold our youth thus. Our task is to help the home to plant better standards in the minds of the youth. 32
- 2 Nephi 4: 34
- First Presidency, Priesthood Bulletin, August 1973
- Preface to LDS Hymn Book
- Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 219; Journal of Discourses 12:118
- Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 237; Journal of Discourses 7:267
- Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 239; Journal of Discourses 1:113
- Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 240; Journal of Discourses 11:283
- John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 15:270-272, January 5, 1873; Gospel Kingdom, p. 62
- Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 39, March 1, 1904, pp. 144, 145; Gospel Doctrine, p. 321
- David O. McKay, as printed in the Daily Universe, Dec. 3 1965, pp. 1-2; and Living Prophets for a Living Church, Church Educational System college student manual, 1974.
- D&C 25:12
- Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 203.
- Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973], 156 – 157.
- Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 134 and An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 317
- Article of Faith 13.
- CR April 1969, Improvement Era 72 [June 1969]: 46-47.
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 325.
- Mormon 8:38
- Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 229.
- Finglas Ireland Branch Dedication, 10 September 1980.
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 153.
- Article of Faith 13
- Salt Lake City, Utah, October 1961.
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 456 – 457.
- 2 Nephi 28:20–22, 24–26
- D&C 115:5
- D&C 82:14
- D&C 27:15
- Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 245.
- Ezra Taft Benson quoting Richard Nibley, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 247.
- Boyd K. Packer, “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 25
- J. Reuben Clark, as quoted in Boyd K. Packer, “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 25
The prophet Nephi gave true counsel regarding where we should put our faith and trust. Nephi taught that we should not put our trust in the arm of flesh, but solely in the Lord 1. The word of the Lord in scripture, personal revelation and the word of inspired leaders should be our anchor.