Sunday, June 8, 2014


The October General Conference marks the beginning of a beloved time of year. With Thanksgiving reunions just around the corner, Christmas surprises close on its heels, and inspired words from our prophet ringing through our hearts, we can’t help but rejoice. And that rejoicing is only increased when we add music to our celebrations.

Consider the Christmas season. Each year, we observe through sacred words, nativities, and gift-giving the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. However, some of my most memorable celebrations have come through my participation in music. For example, each year when I hear “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve or sing the words “yet in my flesh shall I see God” from Handel’s “Messiah,” I inwardly rejoice.

Special commemorations are not the only ways we can celebrate our faith. According to the dictionary, to celebrate also means to proclaim widely and favorably, so when we bear our testimonies in Sacrament Meetings or express our gratitude to God around our Thanksgiving tables, we are, in fact, celebrating our faith. But if we combine those proclamations with music, our rejoicing becomes even more profound. For example, if it wasn’t for the musical celebrations performed each Sunday morning by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, my husband’s father would not have found the church. According to him, years ago neither he nor his family belonged to a church, but they did regularly listen to the Tabernacle Choir’s Sunday radio broadcast. One day, the missionaries came to the door and asked him if he’d like to learn about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He refused. The missionaries then asked him what church he did belong to, and he, not knowing what else to say, said, “The Church of Richard L. Evans.” The two missionaries looked at each other and then said, “That’s us!” Needless to say, my father-in-law let the missionaries in, and his family later joined the church.

This leads me to another way we celebrate our faith. It is not defined in the dictionary, nevertheless, it is very real and comes nearest, I believe, to true heavenly rejoicing. It is the method born of Spirit speaking to spirit and is one of the tender mercies given to us from the Lord. The only feeling I can think of that comes closest to it is like what we feel those first moments after the birth of a baby. But more frequently, that spiritual celebration comes through our hymns.

Elder Merrill J. Bateman told the following story :

“Heather . . . suffered from a rare disease called glutaric acidemia. . . (It) results in acid forming in the muscles similar to that which occurs following a period of intense physical activity . . . (and) As she grew, she was confined to a wheelchair, was unable to speak, and could send messages only with her eyes. A direct gaze and a smile meant yes. A blink meant no. Despite the handicaps, one could feel her vibrant spirit.

“. . . When she was old enough, the parents enrolled Heather in a special school . . .One morning as Heather and the teacher visited about the prior weekend, the teacher learned that Heather had attended Primary. The teacher then sang for Heather “When He Comes Again.”

“The expression on Heather’s face revealed the delight within her. When the teacher asked Heather if she had a favorite song, the young girl’s wide eyes and engaging smile left little doubt. But what was the song? Through a series of questions, the teacher learned that Heather’s song was one she had heard in Primary . . . (and after three days of painstaking work) the teacher (finally) began to sing, “There is sunshine in my soul today.” Heather’s body jumped, and a big smile crossed her face. Her eyes gazed directly into the teacher’s, indicating success . . . Both teacher and student rejoiced.

“. . . After finishing the first verse and chorus, the teacher asked if she wanted to hear the rest of the verses, and Heather’s eyes opened wide with a firm yes. The teacher began to sing:

There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

“Heather’s reaction to these lines was so strong that the teacher stopped. As the reality and significance of the words pressed on the teacher’s mind, she asked: “Heather, is that what you like about the song? . . . Does Jesus . . . hear the songs you cannot sing?”

“The direct, penetrating gaze indicated yes.

“Feeling guided by the Spirit, the teacher asked, “Heather, does Jesus talk to you in your mind and in your heart?”

“Again, the child’s look was penetrating.

“. . . Does Jesus say, ‘Heather, I love you’?”

“Heather’s radiant eyes widened, and she smiled.

“After a pause, the teacher asked next, “Does He say, ‘Heather, you’re special’?”

“The answer again was yes.

“Finally the teacher asked, “Does He say, ‘Heather, be patient; I have great things in store for you’?”

“Heather summoned all her strength, and her head became erect and her eyes penetrated the teacher’s soul. She knew she was
loved, she was special, and she needed only to be patient.

“Two years later, Heather died . . .Her younger brother Mark also suffers from the disease but not to the extent of his older sisters. . . As the parents discussed Heather’s passing and the funeral that would take place, Mark exclaimed, “No go Heather’s funeral!” . . . For two days he could not be persuaded.

“On the morning of the funeral, the father went to Mark’s room to get him up. As he entered the room, Mark was sitting up in bed with a big smile on his face. His first words were, “Dad, go Heather’s funeral!”

“The father responded, “Mark, what has changed your mind?”

“. . . Dad, dreamed about Heather.”

“Mark, what was Heather doing?”

“Oh, Dad, Heather running and jumping and singing, ‘There is sunshine in my soul today.’ Dad, go Heather’s funeral.”

It’s no secret that I love music, especially the hymns of the church. Perhaps that’s because music is one of my talents, or maybe it’s because I grow closer to God through the hymns, but whatever the truth, I am grateful I can celebrate my faith in Jesus Christ through music.

“Because I have loved so deeply,
Because I have loved so long,
God in His great compassion

Gave me the gift of song.” (Paul Laurence Dunbar)

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