Songs of the Righteous

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Members share how hymns have brought peace and courage to their hearts during difficult times.

[photos] Photography by John Luke

[illustrations] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson

A Foundation of Faith in the Wilderness

The years 1998 and 1999 were a period of somber events in the Congo. I fled my village because of war and spent more than seven months traveling in the wilderness with a group from my village. We had no way to return home.

Every evening our group prayed and sang together, and each person took a turn suggesting a hymn. When it was my turn, I suggested “How Firm a Foundation” (Hymns, no. 85). Even though no one else knew this hymn, I felt that it answered our concerns exactly.

I sang “How Firm a Foundation” many times in those seven months. It comforted me in my moments of isolation and suffering when life was so difficult with sickness and famine in the wilderness. I sang it alone, but the words and music penetrated the ears and hearts of the others: “In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health, / In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth, / At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—/ As thy days may demand, … so thy succor shall be.” Because of these words, others told me they wanted to learn more about the Church.

One of the men in our group was the leader of a church in our country. After we returned to our village, this brother told me he wanted to find out more about the gospel. I responded to him, following the example set by Alma in Mosiah 18 (see Mosiah 18:8–10). In the end he joined the Church.

The hymn “How Firm a Foundation” touched my soul and brought me great joy and comfort while I was in the wilderness, and it brings me joy today knowing that it helped a good brother to join the Church.

Thierry Alexis Toko, Republic of Congo

Hymns Soothe My Soul

Sacred hymns brought me peace even before I joined the Church. I was converted to the gospel long before I was actually baptized. My parents required me to wait until I was 18 years old and a legal adult. I appreciated their concern for me, but this was a difficult situation. I dreamed of having a Latter-day Saint family that studied the scriptures, held family home evening, and shared testimonies with each other. I wished my mother would ask me about my Young Women Personal Progress instead of ridiculing me for not drinking tea. I wished my father would understand that my desire to join God’s true Church was sincere, not fanatical. As I withstood the criticism, I realized that the tribulations were a test of my faith. Still, my heart was heavy.

Frustrated and exhausted, I attended stake conference just 43 days before I would turn 18. As I sat in the conference hall filled with friendly faces, I felt the Spirit instantly. Right then, I found my refuge. Between inspiring talks, the full-time missionaries sang “Love One Another” (Hymns, no. 308), first in English then in Chinese. I didn’t understand the English lyrics, and I hardly knew any of the missionaries, but I was deeply moved. The hymn seemed to describe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where members truly love and care about one another. When I was at church, I felt right at home; people loved and supported me.

Now I am a Church member and still face similar trials. However, when I feel down and lonely I sing hymns, and my heart is comforted. Hymns quench my thirsty heart and feed my hungry soul. They bring peace at times of weariness and give me courage to move forward. They make me realize that God knows who I am and that He loves me.

Wen Siuan Wei, Taiwan

The Hymns Brought Me to Baptism

On October 28, 2000, I moved into a home behind a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse. While putting my things away that night, I noticed activity in the building. Not accustomed to so much noise in the evening, I was upset at first. Then a woman from the Church came over and invited me to their activity that night. Since I was a member of another faith, I declined and said that I did not want to mix up my beliefs. During the activity I heard the Church members singing hymns, and I found the music very beautiful.

On Sunday I got up early and went to my church, but when I returned home, I saw that the meetinghouse was full of people, and I again heard the hymns. The music was so pretty, and I could feel something touch me deep in my heart. People were in the church again in the afternoon. This time I turned off the television and paid attention to their music.

As they sang I stood at the window. I felt something special, a great peace within my heart. I wanted to go out to the garden to feel closer to them. My emotions were so great that I started to cry.

My daughter and I walked outside. A gentleman came out of the church, looked at me, and invited us to attend a baptism. At first I refused, but then I felt I should go in. I called to my daughter, but she would not go. Even so, I did not resist. My daughter finally came too, and we attended the baptism. I was moved and felt the Spirit touch me. On December 10, 2000, my daughter and I were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The hymns changed my life. I was a profoundly sad person, and now I am happy. I am grateful for the hymns that praise and express love to the Lord. They helped bring me to baptism.

Carmelinda Pereira da Silva, Brazil

A Child of God

I was a missionary in Seoul, Korea, and had just been transferred to a new area. The bustling city of millions of people was still overwhelming, and my Korean was far from fluent, but I knew I was where the Lord wanted me to be.

One day my companion and I had the blessing of meeting a member who hadn’t attended church for years. Her father had recently passed away, and she was in great need of spiritual and emotional comfort. We visited her at home, but I was not able to understand much of the conversation.

One night at about 3:00 a.m. our telephone rang. When I answered the phone, I couldn’t understand what the woman was saying at first. She was upset, but I had no idea how to help or what to say.

I began to pray silently. As I prayed I recognized the woman’s voice and realized it was the less-active sister we had recently met. Though I couldn’t completely understand her, I felt she was lonely and needed to know she was loved. But how could I tell her? I couldn’t find the words in English, much less in Korean.

Suddenly I remembered that I had memorized the words to the hymn “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301) in Korean. After the sister stopped speaking, I slowly asked if we could sing the hymn together. She said yes. As we sang I felt a wonderful feeling of peace and comfort. It was as if Heavenly Father were holding both of us, reminding us that He loved us and would always be there when we needed Him.

After we finished singing, the sister told me that she would be all right, and we said good night. I walked back into the bedroom, amazed at the Spirit that still lingered in my heart. I was so grateful to know that when a child of God calls for help on a dark night, Father in Heaven will always be there to answer.

Diantha Smith, Utah, USA

A Spirit of Peace during Difficult Times

My family joined the Church in 1977, when I was 11 years old. At that time a violent civil war was beginning in our native land of El Salvador. The political situation was serious, and there were constant armed confrontations between the army and the rebels, forcing the government to order a curfew of 6:00 p.m. for all citizens. There was no freedom of assembly or freedom of speech, and we felt threatened by both the army and the rebels.

These events caused many people to look for ways to emigrate to wherever they could. My family was no exception. My father accepted an offer of employment in Venezuela, hoping he could get us out of danger. For a time my mother was left as the head of our household.

The war made it a difficult time for the Church. The same flight that took my father to Venezuela took the last 15 missionaries out of El Salvador. This meant the end of any chance to receive the messengers of the gospel of Jesus Christ for a long time.

At the end of 1979 we and other members of the Church, especially the youth, began doing missionary work of our own. We organized small choirs and sang in the streets to give people hope. By doing this we found many people wanting to learn about the gospel.

Meanwhile we learned to live in danger. Whenever the confrontations or shelling occurred, we threw ourselves on the floor and hoped it would all be over soon. Mama would cover us with our mattresses for protection. What brought peace to us in these difficult moments were the hymns. Lying on the floor, we would hold our hymnbooks, and Mama would encourage us to sing “Come, Come, Ye Saints” (Hymns, no. 30), “How Firm a Foundation” (no. 85), “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” (no. 26), “High on the Mountain Top” (no. 5), “O My Father” (no. 292), “I Stand All Amazed” (no. 193), and many other hymns that comforted us in our adversity. We often cried from the stress, but singing the hymns gave us the courage to face such a terrible situation.

Some time later Papa succeeded in bringing us to Venezuela, where we began a new life. We thanked our Heavenly Father for keeping us together and alive. Through this experience, I learned that the hymns invite a spirit of peace during difficult times.

Ana Gloria Hernández de Abzuela, Venezuela