Listen to the Music
"Music is life itself” ~ Louis Armstrong, Jazz Trumpeter (1901 – 1971)
“Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening” ~ The late, great singer Aretha Louise Franklin
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Where spoken words may not be able to convey a message, the sounds of music can.
Music has played a part in the events of man’s everyday life since his earliest days. For example, in the Old Testament of the Bible in Exodus 15, we learn of the musical festivals after the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. At times music has also accompanied men into battle and has been used to celebrate victories in war. Songs and dance were used to honor kings at their coronation. Throughout history, music has been used to soothe troubled minds, accompany prophesying, and to express personal sorrow. In the Psalms, David used music to describe personal emotions as well as praise to God.
We each have different tastes in music. Some people like classical or jazz, where others may prefer country or contemporary. Some people like nice quiet, soothing music, where others may prefer their music as loud as possible. Regardless of our individual tastes, music plays an important part in each of our lives and can influence us in many ways.
When we are feeling melancholy, certain types of music can have a positive influence on us by lifting us up and making us feel rejuvenated. However, music can also have negative impacts on us. Some songs and types of music can actually make us feel depressed, lonely, unwanted, and unloved. Therefore, we must learn to be discerning about the kinds of music that we listen to as music can invite the Spirit into our homes, or it can drive it away.
In December 1970, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated:
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. (Priesthood Bulletin, December 1970, p.10.)
Perhaps it would be a good idea for us to ask ourselves a few important questions when selecting what music to listen to. Such questions might include the following:
How much time do I spend listening to music?
Why do I listen to music?
What type of music do I enjoy listening to?
Does the type of music that I listen to invite the Spirit into my home?
Have I felt a change in my spirit while listening to this music?
Are the words of the lyrics something that I would comfortably speak to my family and friends?
Does the performing group promote standards that are similar to my own?
Does the music cause me to think, act, or feel contrary to the teachings of Christ?
In an article in the November 1990 Ensign, Ardeth G. Kapp made this statement about music:
Music has a very powerful and wonderful influence in establishing feelings and moods that can lift and elevate your thoughts and your actions. But because it is so powerful, it is clearly used by the adversary to stimulate your thoughts, feelings, and moods, to pollute and poison your mind and cause you to do things you would not otherwise consider doing.
In an address to Brigham Young University on 26 September 1967, Elder Boyd K. Packer stated, “music is one of the most forceful instruments for governing the mind and the spirit of man.”
The Scriptures explicitly warn us of guarding our hearts and minds of evil influences. In Deuteronomy 4:9 we read, “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thou soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.” In Proverbs 4:23 we are taught to, “Keep [our] heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” And in 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are taught to, “[Cast] down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and [bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “It is obvious to remain clean and worthy, one must stay positively and conclusively away from the devil’s territory” (Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, page 232). As Christians, we represent Christ at all times – wherever we go, whatever we say. The music that we listen to, like every other area of our lives, should honor God. We should focus on what our Heavenly Father has done for us and express praises to Him out of gratitude.
President Gordon B. Hinckley gave us this wise counsel about music:
Let there be music in the home. If you have teenagers who have their own recordings, you will be prone to describe the sound as something other than music. Let them occasionally hear something better. Expose them to it. It will speak for itself. More of appreciation will come than you may think. It may not be spoken, but it will be felt, and its influence will become increasingly manifest as the years pass. (Be Thou An Example [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981] , p.56).
In conclusion, here are a few standards to follow when choosing what type of music to listen to:
Does this music honor God and His ways? (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Does this music help me to think about what is right and genuine? (Philippians 4:8)
Does this music reinforce my faith? (Romans 14:22,23)
Does this music approve what God condemns? (Proverbs 19:27)
Do the words of the songs displease God? (Ephesians 4:29)
Can I listen to this music in the name of the Lord Jesus? (Colossians 3:17)
Do my parents approve of this type of music? (Colossians 3:20)
Will listening to this type of music offend the Holy Spirit Who lives within me? (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)
As we carefully and prayerfully select the music that we listen to, may we “Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever [we] do in word or deed, [may we] do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by Him” (Colossians 3:16, 17).
This is my humble prayer in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.