Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 57: This is What My Talking Gets Me

Okay, this will be a LONG post, but I thought I'd post my talk that I gave in Sacrament Meeting today.  Here goes:  Music Invites Revelation/Revelation Through Music – August 21st, 2011

   Think about any scary movie that you have ever seen.  Consider the most frightening part of that movie and everything about that extremely terrifying scene.  Now consider this, what would happen if you removed the music that is playing during the scary parts?  What happens to the movie?  It suddenly becomes far less frightening.  It’s the music that makes the moment. 
David Tame, a musicologist, spoke of music in his book the Secret Power of Music in these ways:
  . . . Music affects the body in two distinct ways: directly, as the effect of sound upon the cells and organs (in other words, physiologically), and indirectly, by affecting the emotions, which then in turn influence numerous bodily processes.  In other words, for each type of music listened to, a particular emotion is created.  And with each emotion felt, our bodies experience change, for better or worse.
In one study reflecting the interesting and powerful effect of music, researcher Dorothy Retallack looked to see if plants responded to music similarly to how they respond to light. Plants respond to light in an interesting way. If a plant is placed on a windowsill where direct sunlight will shine, its flowers, after a period of time, will turn in the direction of the window and toward the sunlight. If the plant is turned so the flowers face away from the window, after a time, the flowers will again turn in the direction of the sun. Certainly many things are involved here, but one thing is certain, the plant seems to have a preference for sunlight.  They respond positively to the light. Dr. Retellack wanted to see if the plants would respond in a similar way to types of music.
Six separate chambers were used with music speakers and similar plants in each chamber. Each plant received the same amount of water, light, and nourishment.  The only difference for each plant was the type of music that was played in each of the chambers. 
The first plant chamber had country & western music playing for a period of time. The plants exposed to this type of music didn’t appear to respond at all. (No offense to those who love country, but the lack of response comes as no surprise to me, but that’s beside the point.)  The second chamber of plants had the music of Claude Debussy playing continuously. The plants in this chamber responded by leaning away from the speakers by about 30%. The plants didn’t appear to have a preference for this type of music. The plants in the third chamber were exposed to Jazz music. They responded by leaning toward the speakers by about 10% (Again, another surprise, I didn’t think anybody listened to jazz). The fourth chamber had Indian Sitar music playing. The plants in this chamber were reported to respond by leaning toward the speakers by about 75%. These plants appeared to show a great preference for this type of music. The next chamber had adagio movements of baroque music continuously playing (in other words, the typical classical pieces by composers like Beethoven, Bach, Pachelbel, etc). The plants in this chamber responded the same way as those exposed to the Indian Sitar music. However those plants that were closest to the speakers actually wrapped some of their branches around the speakersThe final chamber of plants was exposed to the music of Led Zeppelin, a rock and roll group from the 1970’s. The results showed that these plants, after a short period of time withered and died.
You may be asking yourself, “Why is she bringing up all of these examples of scientifically researched studies on the effects of music on plants?  What the heck does any of this have to do with me, and what I choose to put on my iTunes or Pandora account?”  Or even more, “What does this have to do with the gospel?”  Well, whether you did or not, I’m glad you asked.
I’ll answer that question with another.  If different types of music can affect the growth and very survival rates of plants, how much more can and does music affect the emotional and spiritual progress of humans? 

Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explains, “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.”  We have been further taught by President Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve, that worthy “music can set an atmosphere of worship which invites [the] spirit of revelation, of testimony.”  It is on this powerful and life-saving principle, that being revelation through uplifting and worthy music, that I would like to focus the remainder of my talk.

I’d like each of you to think about the last time you felt the spirit.  It could very well have been just a moment ago while Chemene was playing so beautifully.  If it was, why was it so much easier to feel the spirit while listening to a hymn vs. when we are listening to the radio?  What is the difference?  Jay E. Jensen, of the First Quorum of the Seventy explains that, “Hymns…invite the Spirit of the Lord…[they] create a feeling of reverence…they often do this quicker than anything else we may do.  President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said, ‘We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.’”  And we learn in Doctrine & Covenants that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto [the Lord]”, so really, you could say that music is the best of both revelatory worlds. 

I am sure that if I were to ask for a show of hands of those who have been touched, inspired, uplifted or even moved to tears while hearing a hymn sung or played (especially when they're performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or the Orchestra on Temple Square), most everyone’s hand would go up.

I have always loved music.  I remember the feelings of love I felt from my parents as they sang to me when I was a little girl.  They sang to me about how I was a Child of God, about how someday I could go to the temple, that my family was a forever family, that Jesus loves me and died for me, and that there were trees that could actually pop corn!  The simple words of the songs from the Primary Songbook, put to beautiful music, provided the perfect atmosphere where the Spirit of the Lord could testify to me of the truthfulness of what I was being taught (excluding of course the popcorn song…I think that one was meant for wholesome fun). 

Growing up, I listed to two types of music: referred to by my husband as “old people” and “churchy” music.  I’d list some of the groups and singers I love, but probably only a handful of people in this room would know who I was talking about!  I specifically remember going to youth dances and only knowing the words to a few of the songs.  However, if you sat me in front of a seminary video, I’d know every song sung.  Most teenagers would blast the radio, but I?  I blasted my “churchy” cds.  In fact, the more I sat in my room and sang along with them, the more I grew to love the messages shared; they became a part of me and have given me comfort, peace and inspiration when I needed them most. 

As many of you may know, my husband and I are in the waiting stage of the adoption process.  It has been a long road and an emotional journey, especially for me, and there was a period of time when I was not handling it well at all.  I believe it was September (about 4 years ago) and I had just received the 36th baby shower invite (that year) when my sister-in-law called to announce they were expecting their second baby.  Needless to say, I lost it.  I felt so alone and so hurt.  I didn’t understand why God was denying my righteous desire to be a mother, or why my forever family was taking forever to start or why I was suffering so much if I was so loved by Jesus.  All the principles in the songs I had loved growing up seemed to be betraying me.  I prayed for help.  My heart began to feel lighter, however, it wasn’t until that next Sunday during the Sacrament hymn that my heart was softened and my eyes were opened. 
Reverently and Meekly Now (Hymn #185)

Rev'rently and meekly now,
Let thy head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee.

In this bread now blest for thee,
Emblem of my body see;
In this water or this wine,
Emblem of my blood divine.
Oh, remember what was done
That the sinner might be won.
On the cross of Calvary
I have suffered death for thee.

Bid thine heart all strife to cease;
With thy brethren be at peace.
Oh, forgive as thou wouldst be
E'en forgiven now by me.
In the solemn faith of prayer
Cast upon me all thy care,
And my Spirit's grace shall be
Like a fountain unto thee.

At the throne I intercede;
For thee ever do I plead.
I have loved thee as thy friend,
With a love that cannot end.
Be obedient, I implore,
Prayerful, watchful evermore,
And be constant unto me,
That thy Savior I may be.
The words of that song touched my heart like no scripture had been able to do alone.  I got on my knees and turned to the Lord in prayer.  I told him I couldn’t deal with the pain one second longer.  I was “casting on Him all my care”.  As I knelt by my couch and cried my weight in tears, His spirit flowed into me and healed my totally broken heart.  I felt freed.

President Packer said, “Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings. “  The First Presidency Message (found at the front of the Hymnbook) states, “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. 
“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.”
Elder Nelson said, “Music has a sweet power to promote unity and love in the family.  “Music has power to provide spiritual nourishment.  It has healing power.  It has the power to facilitate worship, allowing us to contemplate the Atonement and the Restoration of the gospel, with its saving principles and exalting ordinances.  It provides power for us to express prayerful thoughts and bear testimony of sacred truths.”

I testify that the hymns of the church, or other uplifting music, can and will bring us revelation.  That beautiful sacrament hymn changed my life.  In just four verses I had confirmed to me that Jesus truly did die for me, that no matter what struggles I am dealing with, He has felt my pain and knows how to succor me, and that if I try to do my part He will be my advocate with the Father.

Brothers and sisters, these moments of spiritual enlightenment are not just limited to Sacrament meetings.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught that, “We need to make more use of our hymns to put us in tune with the Spirit of the Lord.”  We can take the hymns with us everywhere we go.  We have been encouraged to play them in our homes, sing them with our children and make them a part of FHE.  “Worthy music is not only a source of power but also of protection.” (Russell M. Nelson)  [They] can bring families a spirit of beauty and peace and can inspire love and unity among family members. (Jay E. Jensen)

We too are like the tender plants I first mentioned.  Our spirits are sensitive to all that surrounds us but if we cling to that which is uplifting, we can be fortified and receive knowledge.  I echo the wise counsel of Bro. Jensen when he said, “I pray that we may eliminate any inappropriate music from our lives and follow the counsel of the First Presidency: “Brothers and sisters, let us use the hymns to invite the Spirit of the Lord into our congregations, our homes, and our personal lives. Let us memorize and ponder them, recite and sing them, and partake of their spiritual nourishment. Know that the song of the righteous is a prayer unto our Father in Heaven, ‘and it shall be answered with a blessing upon [your] heads.’” 18 Of these truths I also testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Ha ha:
I had just gotten home from a walk with Peter and I was on the phone with my dad.  My hands were full but I needed to drop Peter's "unmentionables" in the garbage.  Whilst holding my phone, my keys, his "unmentionables" and the trash lid, I tossed the bag into the garbage and along went my keys!  Fortunately my new phone has a flashlight app on it and I could easily see where they were but that cool app didn't make the situation any less gross! (shudder)


  1. Your ha ha moment reminds me the time I threw my keys out with the trash as well, in a dumpster at my condo complex, it was raining, I had to run up to my condo and grab a kitchen chair and a flashlight so I could gingerly reach in (and not fall) and grab my keys, I now remember to keep my keys in my pocket whilst throwing out the trash!

  2. Love you talk! Love you! Miss you! From your adoring (and adorable!!ha!) mother