I wish I could sing like Sister Schneider. I wish I could play the piano like Brother Menendez. How many times have we heard or thought such things? Sometimes we think of musical talent as a special gift that belongs only to others, a beautiful talent we value but think we do not have.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, music and singing are for everyone. Through the hymns, we can express gratitude and praise, learn the Savior’s restored gospel, remember His Atonement, and commit to follow Him.
When ancient Israel was delivered from Egypt, “then sang Moses and the children of Israel [a] song unto the Lord” (Exodus 15:1). As the Jaredites crossed the ocean, “they did sing praises unto the Lord” (Ether 6:9). And when the early Latter-day Saints dedicated the Kirtland Temple, they sang William W. Phelps’s new hymn “The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning.”1 In every dispensation of the gospel, the children of God have lifted their voices to praise Him with music.
Many of our hymns today share in this spirit of rejoicing and praise. For example, another beloved hymn by William W. Phelps proclaims:
Redeemer of Israel,
Our only delight,
On whom for a blessing we call,
Our shadow by day
And our pillar by night,
Our King, our Deliv’rer, our all!2
Hymns can also give voice to our gratitude for specific blessings, as expressed in this familiar verse:
We thank thee, O God, for a prophet
To guide us in these latter days.
We thank thee for sending the gospel
To lighten our minds with its rays.
We thank thee for every blessing
Bestowed by thy bounteous hand.
We feel it a pleasure to serve thee,
And love to obey thy command.3
As we sing these hymns, we follow the command “If thou art merry”—meaning if you are joyful or happy—“praise the Lord with singing, with music, … and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving” (D&C 136:28).
In addition to expressing gratitude and praise, the hymns also give us opportunities to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, this familiar children’s hymn explains very simply and beautifully our relationship with our Father in Heaven:
I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.4
Other hymns show us how to live gospel principles, such as this favorite hymn, written in the pioneer era:
Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
’Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell—
All is well! All is well!5
Some of our most beloved hymns teach us to follow Christ’s servants, His chosen prophets in our day. “Praise to the Man,” for instance, helps us remember the important role of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Restoration of the gospel:
Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.6
Pondering these and other hymns and studying the scripture references listed in the hymnbook can help us learn the gospel and remember the Savior in our daily lives.
One of the most important ways we remember the Savior is to partake of the sacrament each week. In preparation for this sacred event, we sing a hymn. Sacrament hymns remind us of Christ’s sacrifice and its meaning for us:
Behold the great Redeemer die,
A broken law to satisfy.
He dies a sacrifice for sin, …
That man may live and glory win.7
His precious blood he freely spilt;
His life he freely gave,
A sinless sacrifice for guilt,
A dying world to save.8
I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt.
Such mercy, such love, and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.9
If sung thoughtfully and prayerfully, the words of sacrament hymns help us focus on the Savior. They prepare us to take the sacrament meaningfully and to recommit to take Christ’s name upon us, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments.
Commitment to follow the Savior is expressed in many of our hymns. As we sing these hymns, we testify to our Father in Heaven that we desire to follow His Son. For example, consider these lines:
Father in Heaven, we thank thee this day
For loving guidance to show us the way.
Grateful, we praise thee with songs of delight!
Gladly, gladly we’ll walk in the light.10
The hymn “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” makes a similar declaration:
So trusting my all to thy tender care,
And knowing thou lovest me,
I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere:
I’ll be what you want me to be.11
Our songs—whether of praise, gratitude, knowledge, remembrance, or commitment—are pleasing to the Lord. He has 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).
Fortunately, the Lord did not say, “Only beautiful songs are a prayer unto me,” or, “I will listen only to those with musical talent.” In our music as in our lives, He is more concerned with the state of our hearts than our ability.
Whatever our level of skill, we can all participate in music by singing the hymns. And as we sing with all our hearts, we come unto Christ through the hymns.