Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hymns: Enlivening Your Spirit

Hymns: Enlivening Your Spirit

The lesson Joanne and I gave today in our 15-year-old Sunday School class was “How can I use Church music to learn about the plan of salvation?” President Boyd K. Packer one said, "Music can set an atmosphere of worship which invites that spirit of revelation, of testimony.”

I would dare say that each of us has a particular hymn that enlivens our spirit, buoys us up, reminds us of a sacred happening or event, and creates in us a sacred feeling of doing what the Lord wills. Probably one of the most powerful hymns to me is "We Thank Thee OGod for a Prophet."  This sacred hymn struck a sensitive chord to me in 1977 in Santiago, Chile.

It was the time of Chile's area conference, and we had traveled almost 18 hours by bus to reach Santiago from southern Chile. In a huge auditorium, 10,000 people were visiting and waiting for the area conference to begin. As I sat there listening and watching and participating in conversation with my fellow missionaries, the noise sounded more like a dull roar I was accustomed to at basketball games.

Just before the appointed hour, however, something happened that I will never forget. Like a light fog on a still morning, the quietness swept over and settled on the entire congregation. To my left, President Spencer W. Kimball entered through a small door. Instantly, the entire congregation rose simultaneously while singing "We Thank Thee for a Prophet." 

Never before had I felt such a spiritual awakening as I did on that day. The words to that sacred hymn reverberated through the auditorium and entered my heart, enlarging my spiritual substance, encouraging me to do better. The spirit spoke truth to me, and, I suspect, to all those who were there: Spencer W. Kimball is a prophet of God.

Each of us needs to contemplate those sacred moments. We have all had them. And at times, we all require that sacred moment of contemplation—to remember who we are and whose we are and whose care we truly are in and who is the greatest, yea even the least among us.

In that same area conference so many years ago, a wonderful choir composed of Chileans, many of them with the blood of Lehi richly running through their veins, sang Parley P. Pratt's magnificent text put to music by John E. Tullidge, "An Angel  from on High."  Its glorious message spoke of the restoration:

An angel from on high
The long, long silence broke;
Descending from the sky,
These gracious words he spoke:
Lo! in Cumorah's lonely hill
A sacred record lies concealed.

Sealed by Moroni's hand,
It has for ages lain
To wait the Lord's command,
From dust to speak again.
It shall again to light come forth
To usher in Christ's reign on earth.

And makes the remnant known
Of nations long since dead,
Who once had dwelt alone.
The fullness of the gospel, too,
Its pages will reveal to view.

The sweetness of this hymn rose quietly and penetrated the hearts of all those who sat there—for, indeed, these were remnants of "nations long since dead."  They had "blossomed like a rose" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:24); they had accepted the gospel, and its light had empowered them to make subtle and great changes in their lives. The power of this hymn could not be mistaken.

The hymns of the church are, in essence, grandiose texts, yes even poetry, highly symbolic and unequivocal language that reverently proclaim the gospel truths. These texts have been put to music that reverberates of spirituality, of a sense of adoration to the most High God and His works.

Many sacred hymns teach about Christ's birth, His lineage, His life on earth, His miracles He performed, the importance of good works, His resurrection, His immortal attributes, His atonement for our sins, the final judgment day, His kingdom on earth and in heaven, His love for us, the second coming—all gospel truths.

The First Presidency has said: "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...” (Hymns, pp. ix, x).

So sing away and learn about gospel truths and be inspired!

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