Sacred Music

There is something that bugs me. Well, there’s a lot of things that bug me, but here is one that has been really bugging me for a while. This is a message for anyone that goes to church. I don’t care what religion you are, I think it will apply.

When you go to church, please be on time so you can sing the opening hymn. Please.

Sing all of the congregational songs. Please.

There is a reason that we have music in our church services. It is not to hear only the people who have a degree in vocal performance. It is not to have a break between speakers or sermons. It is not to quickly check your phone for any texts.

The reason we have music in church is to bring the Spirit. Music brings the Spirit more than anything else. Again, I’m not talking to just my Mormon readers here. I’ve attended other churches, I have family members of other religions, and I have studied a bit of sacred music, being a music major and all. The hymns are inspired pieces of work. They are little prayers and sermons themselves. If you actually sing the hymns, you will feel the Spirit. You will feel your relationship with God grow a little closer. You will feel uplifted and edified.

The LDS hymnbook has a great little introduction that talks about hymns in our church meetings, hymns in our homes, and hymns in our personal lives. Under the section about church meetings, it says,

“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.

We hope to see an increase of hymn singing in our congregations. We encourage all members, whether musically inclined or not, to join with us in singing the hymns. We hope leaders, teachers, and members who are called on to speak will turn often to the hymnbook to find sermons presented powerfully and beautifully in verse.”

Now, back to the part about what bugs me. See, we have a large congregation, and I sit in the front so I can hear whether people are singing or not.

They aren’t.

Most of the time it’s because they are late for church and are messing with their kids and getting in their seats so they don’t even bother to open their books, much less sing. I am in charge of the music for Relief Society (the women’s organization in my church). People have already been in the building for two hours by the time Relief Society starts. No one is late. Still, no one is singing. A lot of the women too busy talking to the person next to them. Many women are just sitting there. They aren’t talking, but they aren’t singing, either. I just don’t get it. How can you invite the Spirit to our meetings if you aren’t singing? When someone prays, we all bow our heads, close our eyes, fold our arms, and reverently say “Amen” at the end of the prayer. Singing along with the hymns is the same thing as participating in the prayer.

Get to church on time. I get it. You have kids and it’s hard to find their shoes and comb hair and make sure everyone actually made it into the vehicle before you get out of the driveway. So leave earlier. Get up ten minutes earlier. I don’t care. Get there on time.

Open the book and sing. I don’t care if the woman in front of you is a professional opera singer and you didn’t even make it into your middle school choir. God gave you a voice. Use it. I firmly believe that everyone knows how to sing (there are some people who are just more talented and able than others. I am not one of those more talented and able). You have no excuse not to sing. Chances are, you’re better than you thought, anyway. And if you don’t have a voice, sign it. Some of the most beautiful singing I’ve heard I never actually heard. I saw deaf people signing the hymns.

Fellowship is nice. Fellowship is wonderful. But when it is time to sing, it is not time to fellowship with other members of the congregation. Cut the conversation short and sing the song. You can talk to your friends after the meetings are finished.

Music is one of THE most important things. I understand that I’m a little biased, but if it weren’t that important, it wouldn’t be there. Our church leaders wouldn’t ask us to sing so much. They wouldn’t sponsor musical events. We wouldn’t have choirs like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (which is awesome live, by the way. Even for a snobby instrumentalist like myself who doesn’t like choral music all that much). Think about how different your spiritual meetings would be if you didn’t have any music. It would fall flat. The speaker would have to work ten times harder to bring the right spirit to the meeting. The congregation would have to work at least that much harder to feel the right spirit! Music just makes it all possible. What else is there that can be a sermon, a lesson, a prayer, and praise all rolled into one?

So now… Go. Do. Get to church on time and make an effort. Sing. Sing! SING!!!!


9 responses to “Sacred Music

  1. Yeeeah, we’re on time *EVERY* week…..


    I agree with you though. When I get to go to RS it’s like I’m the only one singing! (but…when I’m stuck in primary I read my scriptures during singing time. i can’t sing along. Really. I can’t. My mind is fragile enough as it is. They’re singing one that sounds like a muppet song right now!!! I can’t handle it!!!!!!!!)

  2. ah man, it didn’t do my comment right! I think I accidentally did html. oops.
    It was supposed to say:

    *Timber nervously tugs at shirt collar* Yeeeah, we’re on time *EVERY* week….. *earnest nodding*

    (and then the rest of the comment!)

  3. Yay for your new (old) background!! When I pulled up your blog it made me smile. =) And as far as singing is concerned – I completely agree with you. I am not a great singer by any stretch of the imagination, but I belt it out on Sunday mornings. I truly do feel more connected to God during praise time. How can someone NOT want to feel that?!

  4. I’m right there with you! Fortuately we have what I like to call a singing ward. It’s great, but when we visit anywhere else, I always feel like I’m the only one singing. There are some Sundays when I feel like I got way more out of the music than I did the talks. However, I also wish we could loosen up a little bit and go all happy-clappy. Chris & I went to Calvary Baptist once in Salt Lake. They have a fairly well-known choir, and it was AWESOME.

  5. Of course, I am not able to comment on regular churchgoers who routinely fail to sing. I guess these are all very familiar songs that everyone has heard over and over? Because, if not — like if there’s a big hymn book full of obscure songs written in the 1850s, or if they’re singing some modern, hippie-guitar-peace-and-love thing from the 1970s (the churches I’ve been in have pretty much covered the spectrum) — then it’s hard to sing along sometimes, because you don’t know the tune. Usually I’ll try a few lines, singing quietly so that if I mess up the timing or if my voice goes up when everyone else is singing low, it’s not as noticeable.

  6. Sorry Sariah, I get to church early, but I don’t sing…

    I tend to get the notes mixed up when I sing so I force myself to ambitiously count in my head instead. On a positive note, “Joy to the World” is coming up and I plan on using the “Bells” stop, I’ve been waiting all year.

    • Candi, I don’t konw who you are but your comment made me giggle. Clearly you’re the organist? I am a pianist and no good comes from me singing while playing, either.

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