Excerpt from A Christ-Centered Home Chapter 8, It’s About Joy
There are few things that bring the Spirit of God into a home with greater power and effectiveness than music. Singing together as a family creates bonds, strengthens unity, and teaches the Gospel to children far more effectively than most sermons. Bruce R. McConkie explained it best when he said:
Music is given of God to further his purposes. Sweet melodies mellow the souls of men and help prepare them for the gospel. After men receive the truth, songs of praise to Deity help to sanctify and cleanse their souls.Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (1966), 521
Dad always emphasized this in our home, and in December, we had a list of Christmas carols we would sing. We often sang on the way home from working on our farm, which was about an hour away from our home. Dad would say, “Start us out on a song, Peps [Hannah’s nickname]!” and we would sing and sing until our spirits were cheered up.
Dad even wrote two Christmas carols, both inspired by the Book of Mormon. The Nephite Christmas story is one of the most relevant, and yet overlooked, parts of the Christmas season—a time when faithful Christians were persecuted, a time when you were mocked for belief in miracles, a time when your life was on the line for publicly expecting the coming of Christ. My dad wrote the following Christmas carol memorializing the story, set to a traditional French tune (“Huron Carol“). Whenever we would sing this song, we would feel deep and profound gratitude for those Nephite forefathers, and can only hope that our family will not falter when faced with similar trials.
CAROL OF THE OTHER SHEEP (Nephi’s Testament)
For there were some who said,
“The time was past, our faith was vain.”
My people’s joy and faith were tried,
some sorrowful for fear.
Yet steadfastly watched for that day,
and night, and day, as if no night.
At the going down of sun, His words fulfilled:
For a sign great lights in heav’n.
A day was set apart to put to death
all true believers.
My heart exceeding sorrowful,
I bowed down to my God.
I cried all day with all my might,
His voice came in behalf my people:
“Lift your head, be of cheer; The time at hand.
On this night, the sign is giv’n.”
I come unto My own,
My Word fulfilled from the foundation.
I come to do the will
both of the Father and the Son.
Whoso believeth on the Son,
shall everlasting life receive.
Lamb of God, I am born.
Father for thee, I will glorify Thy Name.
The Father of the Heavens
and the Father of the Earth.
Creator of all things
from the beginning, Son of God.
A new star shall arise,
such an one never hath been seen afore.
Many wonders and signs in heav’n above.
In excelsis gloria!
Lyrics: Mormon, James F. Stoddard (3 Nephi 1, Helaman 14)
Music: “Huron Carol” (or “Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”)
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO LOVE THE HYMNS
“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.”
– “First Presidency Preface,” Hymns, 1985
As a family, we would search through old folk songs, find our favorite tunes, and copy the lyrics into our family songbook—or rewrite them if we thought they should be improved.
Dad bought penny whistles for all the kids and harmonicas for some of the boys. He asked us to learn these unique instruments to add variety in our own family ensemble. When Eliza was five or six, she would walk around the house blowing her whistle until we thought our eardrums would explode. One day, we were quietly studying when suddenly the silence was shattered by Eliza playing her recorder in the office. Eliza had found a computer and discovered how to Google “recorder lessons” on YouTube. The music was far from melodious, but Dad loved to hear her play.
We never did finish learning how to play those whistles, but it is certainly on our list now as we work to continue our family legacy! Our work is not over—it is really just beginning!