I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

Are all the “hymns” in our hymnbook really hymns? And if a song isn’t actually a hymn, does it help us worship?

Joyce P. Brown, former member of the music committee of the Sunday School General Board In the Church, we classify as hymns everything in the hymnbook, without making the more academic distinction between what is a true hymn and what is not. A true hymn is technically a sacred song addressed to God—a prayer. But it is also proper to consider as hymns many songs of praise (about God) and songs that teach or encourage.

Examples of true hymns (prayers addressed to God) are “O My Father” and “Sweet Is the Work, My God, My King.” Examples of hymns of praise are “Glory to God on High” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Hymns of encouragement and instruction are such favorites as “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” “Do What Is Right,” “Ere You Left Your Room This Morning,” and “Love at Home.” Psalms, chorales, and gospel songs are other forms of music often classified as hymns.

Hymns of prayer and praise express love and adoration to or about God; hymns of exhortation or instruction elevate, unify, and challenge us to become more like him. All three kinds of hymns are directly or indirectly addressed to God—all are forms of worship.

Elder McConkie has helped us understand what constitutes true worship: “A knowledge of the truth about God and his laws. Deity is worshipped in prayer, song, sermon, and testimony, … in thought, word and deed. But the most perfect of all worship comes from those who first believe the gospel, who then participate in its outward forms, and who finally keep the standards of personal righteousness that appertain to it. Obedience is the true measure of worship” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 848–49).

It was to aid the Church in their worship that Emma Smith was counseled, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, to “make a selection of sacred hymns” (D&C 25:11). She compiled ninety hymn texts, several of which might not be classified as true hymns. Nevertheless they were acceptable and set a precedent for future collections.

The Apostle Paul also commented on appropriate worship through hymn singing: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you 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” (Col. 3:16; italics added).

It is obvious to musician and nonmusician alike that some of the hymns in our present collection are musically more satisfying than others and that some texts are more beautifully and accurately expressed. But the real value of any hymn is measured by the way people respond to it.

If we sing “with grace in [our] hearts,” as the Apostle Paul admonished us to do, our effort will be pleasing to the Lord. If we sing with a spirit of conviction and worship (even those of us who say we can’t sing or read music), we can be moved to reflect upon the beauties of the gospel and further commit to live its principles.

Music speaks to us through the language of the heart. And through music, we speak to God. Indeed, the Lord said: “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (D&C 25:12).

I find myself repeatedly losing my temper with my wife and children. What can I do about it?

Clark Swain, associate professor of marriage and family studies, Boise State University, Idaho, and marriage and family counselor You’ve already done one thing right—you have taken it seriously. A lot of people in your situation simply say, “I have a bad temper,” and expect other people to accommodate them. There’s nothing genetic about a bad temper; it comes from imitating others and from not controlling oneself.

How can we wisely manage anger in our marriage and family relationships? Here are some suggestions:

1. Acknowledge your anger. I’ve found that it’s not very helpful to pretend I’m not angry when I am. Instead, saying clearly, “I am feeling angry” or “I’m feeling mad at you” opens the door to overcoming my anger.

2. Restrain your anger. If necessary, spend time counting to ten, and repeating to yourself such scriptures as, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty” (Prov. 16:32). The truth is, we cannot communicate with another person when our temper is out of control; we hurt him, instead.

In contrast to this, at least one school of thought teaches that the way to get rid of anger is to intensely express it. I have found that just the opposite is true. Marriage and family researchers have discovered that the possibility of physical violence goes up in direct proportion to verbal violence—both from what a couple say and from how loudly they say it. This is why it’s so important to restrain our anger after we have admitted it. Strongly expressing an emotion such as anger increases the intensity of that emotion. In a marriage, we want to increase feelings of love, not hostility. If one person will lower his voice, the other will usually do the same.

3. After admitting your anger and restraining it, carefully and kindly explain why you’re angry. This doesn’t mean accusing or threatening. Instead, simply explain why you became angry. I counseled with a couple whose marriage and family relationships had been chronically damaged by the wife’s misuse of anger. She had a habit of shouting at her husband and children while throwing kitchen utensils and other household items to the floor. Then she would refuse to explain to her family the reason for the angry outburst. She gradually learned from marriage counseling how to admit the fact that she was feeling angry, how to restrain her anger, and how to explain why the anger arose.

It is a good idea for a couple to temporarily get away from each other if one or both of them are falling apart at the “anger seams.” Elder LeGrand Richards of the Council of the Twelve, who performed our temple wedding, told us, “Whenever you feel like arguing, take a walk outdoors in opposite directions. If you will do this, you’ll both get a lot of fresh air and become great outdoorsmen.” There’s truth beneath the humor. The physical exercise can change our emotional state as well as give us time to think through the problem and let the intensity of the emotion fade away.

Memorizing certain scriptures can also help us increase our ability to love and decrease our angry reactions. Paul said,

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger … be put away from you. …

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” (Eph. 4:31–32.)

And James tells us, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20).

Jesus said to the Nephites,

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (3 Ne. 11:29, 30).

4. Remember to forget. One time, just as I was leaving for work, I shouted urgently at my wife, Eleanor. She answered, “It’ll be a long time before I feel like loving you again!”

That night I edged warily into the house, not knowing what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised when she cheerfully said, “Hi, dear!”

“Hey, aren’t you mad at me?” I asked.

“What about?” she countered. She had forgotten, or at least had disregarded, our earlier conflict, and we were able to talk reasonably about its causes.

Sometimes we remember in detail and even memorize the angry words of others, and we let these words—instead of pleasant words or loving feelings—define our relationships with them. As we learn to accentuate the positives in our marriages and families, our relationships will grow and our abilities to cope with anger will increase.

I have a long-term health problem that makes it difficult for me to go to church consistently. How can I still feel involved and belonging?

Shirley M. Armstrong, member of St. Paul First Ward, St. Paul Minnesota Stake; mother of two I can certainly sympathize with your situation. I joined the Church in 1968 and loved being fully engaged in Church callings and activities. But I too have a long-term malady that recurred a few months after my baptism. Within four years I was alone with two children, twenty-five miles from the meetinghouse, and so ill that sometimes during the next seven years I only went once or twice a year. Here are some things I did that helped me continue to feel involved and a part of my ward:

1. I tried to keep up with the lessons. Teachers were very good about sharing reading assignments and on the few occasions I could go I felt right at home. Friends were good to share the points of the class discussion by telephone. One Relief Society teacher gave me her lessons separately by phone for the three years she had that calling.

2. I took the Church magazines and the Church News. Reading them made me feel part of the worldwide Church; and I needed that monthly uplift from the magazines with their messages from the First Presidency, faith-building stories, and shared knowledge.

3. I tried to contribute within my limitations. I had the missionaries over for dinner occasionally. I worked at being a member-missionary. I baked secret treats as surprises for other families. Fortunately, we had a home Primary in the area and I was its librarian and secretary. It was a calling I could do and it helped make me feel a part of things. I also did some decoupage and woodworking projects to raise money for the building fund.

4. Reading the scriptures and praying daily helped me feel close to my Heavenly Father. I learned to really talk with God, no matter how I felt or what my circumstances were. Learning to acknowledge his hand in all things stretched my soul.

5. Our area has broadcasts of some general conference sessions and the Tabernacle Choir program. I love singing along with the hymns I know. Also, tapes from the ward library furnish me with my own personal firesides.

6. I did genealogy—a real blessing. Through correspondence I grew much closer to my family, some of whom traveled to Scandinavia to do research that I was able to submit. It was so uplifting to receive notice that the work had been completed. I also helped others with their research—including one woman who brought her information transcribed on, of all things, a fried chicken container!

7. I acted as if I could go to church. I dressed up every Sunday and made it a special day in other ways. On Fast Sundays, I fasted with a purpose and bore my testimony to my family. Having family home evening and paying tithing were two important parts of bringing the gospel into our home.

8. I appreciated the faithfulness of my home and visiting teachers and tried to let them know it. With the bishop’s permission, the home teachers could administer the sacrament in our home.

9. I had priesthood blessings. I can’t tell you how important they were—how much comfort and strength they gave me. Through one of these blessings I learned that the cause of my illness has been discovered; specialists assure me that treatments will be ready soon. After twenty-five years of waiting, you can imagine how ready I am! And one of my great joys in contemplating a healthy life again is the prospect of going to church regularly.