Let’s Talk about It
Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:
How can hymns help us during times of trial?
In what ways is appropriate music an important part of our worship?
How can hymns affect the atmosphere in our homes?
Song of a Soldier
In June 1945, during World War II, I was with a group of 13 Marines attached to the infantry. It was our job to do the demolition and mine disposal work. Tired, hungry, and dirty, we had been at the front lines of the fighting in Okinawa and were now falling back and being replaced with other infantrymen.
We had marched most of the night in the rain on our way to the northern end of Okinawa, away from the fighting. Finally we came to a large open field that had once been a rice paddy. We flopped to the ground, pulled our ponchos over ourselves, and slept.
The sun was shining brightly the next day when I was awakened by the sound of someone singing. I looked out over the 2,000 men who lay sleeping, steam rising from their wet bodies, and saw a dirty, tired Marine with blond whiskers singing:
I could not believe my ears! I had not heard that hymn since I left my home. I got up, staggered over to where the Marine was, and joined him in singing the hymn. Soon another soldier joined us, and another, and another, until finally about 20 of us were singing together:
(Hymns, no. 30)
When we finished the hymn, we stood in the steaming sunshine and joined with one another in a humble, churchlike meeting. We sought the Lord with an opening prayer, told each other our names and where we were from, and bore our testimonies to each other. Then we remembered it was Sunday morning. The men nearby began to grumble because we had awakened them, but in that former rice paddy, thousands of miles away from home, we had the most moving testimony meeting I have ever been to in all my life.
We then went about our business, and I never saw any of those Latter-day Saints again. But the memory of that impromptu meeting, which began with a simple but powerful hymn, will remain with me forever.—, Taylorsville 12th Ward, Taylorsville Utah West Stake
A Hymn for My Mother
One day when I was about 10 years old, I heard my mother crying. Peeking at her from another room, I could see she was alone. I stood there for a moment, wanting to comfort her but not knowing what to do.
As I turned away and walked near the piano, I had a strong feeling that I should play a hymn. I had been taking piano lessons for several years and could play most of the hymns in the hymnbook. I thought it unusual that I was prompted exactly which hymn to play, but I obeyed the feeling and enthusiastically played all three verses. When I finished, I quietly put the bench back under the piano and went on to other things.
A few hours later, my mother, smiling now, questioned me as to why I had played that hymn at that particular time. I told her I had had the feeling that I should. The answer seemed to please her, and she beamed. She told me she had been praying about a problem that had made her cry and that Heavenly Father had communicated His love to her through a piece of sacred music. She was comforted, and I learned how the Spirit of the Lord can quietly touch a heart through a hymn.—, Pioneer First Ward, Provo Utah Central Stake
Several years ago I worked as an aide in a program for youth with developmental difficulties. One of the students, David, * was autistic and had limited verbal skills. He was a daily challenge for all the aides to handle because instead of sitting still to work, he often would run around the room, turn off the lights, stand on the table, and yell and laugh. It was not uncommon for us to have to call in one of his disheartened parents to try to calm him down.
One afternoon my session with David was even more frustrating than usual. I finally decided to take him to an area away from the other children so that he could no longer take their things and disrupt their sessions. He followed somewhat reluctantly as I led him to the top of a stairwell.
“Let’s say our numbers,” I said when I had gotten myself situated.
“No!” He threw his arms upward. “You go out. Now!” He pointed down the stairs. I repeated the same request several times, but he became even more agitated.
“How about looking at your picture book?” I suggested.
“I said no!”
“Tell you what. If you do your work, I’ll give you one of these.” I held up a bag of his favorite crackers.
“NO!” he yelled.
I sighed, not knowing what to try next. After a few moments I found myself singing to him softly, “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301). A calm came over this young Latter-day Saint boy, and he listened intently. I finished the first verse and waited for his reaction.
He reached over and hit me lightly on the arm. “More!”
I sang some more. Smiling, he reached over and hit me on the arm again. “Thank you!” he said. He settled down and did his work, carried my books down the stairwell at the end of the session, and behaved himself for the rest of the afternoon—even as he worked with other aides and students.
The next morning David began causing problems again, as usual. At the end of his first session, the aide working with him dropped into a chair, exhausted. Yet when it came time for David to work with me, he sat down and went to work. He did so well that I gave him a cracker. He ate it and continued with his assignment.
After a time he poked me with a puzzle piece to get my attention. “More, please.” I offered him another cracker.
“No,” he said, shaking his head and pointing to my mouth. “More. Sing more!”
I began singing “I Am a Child of God.” He was delighted. I sang another Primary song. “More, please,” he said. I repeated “I Am a Child of God,” and that seemed to gratify him the most. When I finished, he happily finished his puzzle and we completed our session.
I have long known the soothing effects of sacred music in my own life, but I never would have thought it could be so effective in this situation. The experience reaffirmed to me that Heavenly Father loves His special children and that sacred music can bring peace of mind to all of us.—, Nampa 16th Ward, Nampa Idaho Stake
Name has been changed.