“How Does She Know Our Songs?”

By Mark Cannon

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    Our family has always enjoyed music. As we have sung together in family home evening and at church, we have felt the unifying effects of music as it brings us closer to each other and to our Father in Heaven. But it wasn’t until recently that we learned that the language of song can be universal.

    A Latter-day Saint family came to the United States from Taiwan to attend the wedding of their daughter in the Washington Temple. The following week they attended a reception our New York ward held to honor the newlyweds. The reception was lovely, but my wife and I were concerned as the bride’s parents struggled to communicate with guests through a translator. Although they smiled as they greeted everyone, it was obvious that they were uncomfortable in such foreign surroundings. We wanted to do more.

    Knowing that this was their first trip to this part of the United States, we offered to take them to visit the Sacred Grove and the Hill Cumorah. They enthusiastically accepted the invitation, and the following morning, we picked up the bride’s parents and the newlyweds and left for Palmyra.

    Although our family struggled to talk with them on the three-hour drive to Palmyra, our conversations were relatively brief and simple. As time went on, the silence became increasingly uncomfortable.

    When we arrived, we noticed few people at the visitor sites. Although the solitude gave us all an opportunity to contemplate the events of the Restoration, it also emphasized the formidable barrier between our two families and cultures. We felt a strong desire to share our feelings with them as we walked through the Sacred Grove. But as my wife sat with the bride’s mother, they were able to exchange only the simplest of words, not knowing for certain if the other understood.

    During the long drive home, two of our children began singing Primary songs to pass the time. “Book of Mormon Stories” soon filled our station wagon, and to our surprise, the new bride began singing along in Chinese. Our children stopped singing and listened. “They’re from Taiwan!” our children said. “How does she know our songs?”

    Our children and their daughter began singing more Primary songs. Our children sang more and more verses, and the bride kept right up with them—verse for verse.

    Soon everyone was involved. It became a game to see who could sing a Primary song that couldn’t be sung in Chinese. We sang “I Love to See the Temple,” “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus,” “Love One Another,” “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam,” “The Golden Plates,” and many more. To our astonishment, they knew them all. They even knew the actions that go along with the words of “Popcorn Popping.”

    Mile after mile we sailed along, singing and laughing. As we sang, our music seemed to fill me and to brighten everything around us, and my love for our Chinese guests grew without limit. For I had discovered once again that we are all brothers and sisters, children of the very same loving Father. And as members of the Church, we are bound together by the gospel of Jesus Christ and by the music that sings his praises.

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    • Mark Cannon is a member of the Schenectady Ward, Albany New York Stake.