I did not want to be the organist, but I told the bishop I would. After all, I had no reason not to play the organ—at least no reason I thought the bishop would understand. I didn’t even understand the terror that overwhelmed me every time I even thought about playing for a congregation.
“It’s ridiculous for a grown woman to be so frightened of something like this,” I told my husband when I learned that I would begin playing the organ in church two weeks before Christmas.
“It isn’t as though you’ve never played before,” he reminded me, trying to build my self-confidence.
“But that was seven years ago,” I protested, “so it seems like the first time all over again. Besides, it was different back then; I was the only organist in that ward. This ward has several fine organists, so why choose a beginner like me?”
“It sounds as though you resent this calling,” my husband said.
“Well, I do,” I admitted with a trace of belligerence in my voice, “and you’d resent your call, too, if you were consumed with fear like I am. Every time I even think about playing, my heart pounds, my mouth goes dry, and I start shaking all over. It’s not fair that I have to go through this.”
A few days later, I was still nursing my feelings when the words of “The Little Drummer Boy”—the popular Christmas carol of the little boy who played his drum as a gift to the Christ Child—began running through my mind. Suddenly I saw myself as the bearer of a gift for my Savior. “I’ll play the organ for him,” I said out loud.
This new attitude was strengthened when, in my scripture reading, I was guided to a verse in the Book of Mormon that seemed to be addressed to me:
“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul” (2 Ne. 32:9).
As my prayers became petitions for the consecration of my performance, the witness came stronger and stronger that I was not alone in this fearsome venture. Yet I could not shake the terror I felt. I could hardly eat, and some days I became so nervous just practicing that I kept losing my place in the music.
Then I remembered King David and the story of how the Lord commanded him to build an altar on a certain man’s threshing floor. This man offered to give King David his threshing floor as well as his own animals to serve as burnt offerings, but King David refused, saying that he would not offer the Lord a gift which cost him nothing. The words inscribed themselves on my heart, and my fear and anxiety became the price of the gift I was offering to the Lord. How could I say that the price I was asked to pay for this gift to my Savior was too high when I considered the cost of his gift to me? I decided to place myself in his hands, asking only for sufficient strength to offer an acceptable gift.
On the day I first accompanied the congregation, when I sat down on the organ bench, my heart seemed to reverberate through my whole body. I wondered if anyone had ever been so frightened before. With every nerve tingling, I set the registration, arranged my music, and forced my shaking hand to sound the first notes of the simple number I had practiced with such diligence. I avoided even a glance toward the gathering congregation, thinking that if I didn’t see the people, I could pretend I was only practicing.
I gathered all my resources together in one final silent appeal to the Lord for strength, and as I began to play the introduction to the opening hymn, I realized with sudden clarity that I was being sustained by a powerful force. I was so lifted out of myself that my fear of the congregation left, and it made no difference to me if there were millions in the congregation or just one—I was playing for my Savior.
I read the music through a mist of tears. This is really me playing, I kept telling myself, and my heart beat high in a surge of joy and gratitude, for I knew my gift was accepted. I knew exactly how the little drummer boy in the song felt when the Christ Child smiled at him.