I grew up the youngest of ten children in a wonderful Latter-day Saint home. When I was a little boy, we had “home night” every Monday night.
At each home night, we were taught lessons on honesty, tithing, prayer, and fasting, as well as such practical lessons as turning off the lights and hanging up the towels. And we all gathered around the piano to sing, with Alice, my oldest sister, playing the piano. We always sang a hymn. I think that there is something very special about a family singing a hymn together in the home. It doesn’t matter how well they sing.
I have a deep love of music. I took piano lessons as a child, and my mother made sure I practiced every day after school. I have a tongue-in-cheek saying: “Mean mothers have children who play the piano.”
I had a wise bishop who called me in when I was twelve. He said, “LeGrand, we need some organists in our ward. I’d like you to take an organ class at the McCune School of Music. It costs five dollars for ten lessons. The ward will pay half of it, and you pay half.” I’m sure my mother put him up to it and paid the ward’s half.
I took the class and started to play the organ. When I was fourteen, I became the ward organist. In my high school days, I played the piano in a dance orchestra. That was a lot of fun. I loved the rhythm, and I could usually make five or ten dollars a night. When I was in dental school in Kansas City, Missouri, I played the organ at a Presbyterian church. It was a great experience for me. I played a lot of LDS hymns for them. They especially enjoyed “O My Father” and “Come, Come Ye Saints.” After playing at their service, I would get on the bus and go play a pump organ at our service.
Music has always been important to my own eight children too. When one of my four daughters was about nine or ten, we were all sitting at the kitchen table, reading the book of Mark in the New Testament. She said, “Daddy, is that where the song comes from? Could we please sing it?” We got out the hymnbooks and sang “Master, the Tempest Is Raging.” We weren’t a challenge to the Tabernacle Choir, but that hymn will never be the same again to me, because we sang it around the kitchen table.”
My girls sing together too. They’re are all married now, but they still come to see me at least once a week. I play for them and they sing. When my grandchildren come over on Sunday evenings, the ones taking music lessons always play for me. It’s a tradition.
When my wife and I went on our mission to Tallahassee, Florida, we started our missionaries singing. Our very favorite song was “Love One Another.” It helped when missionaries weren’t getting along.
My favorite hymn is “O My Father”—partly because it was my father’s favorite. After I grew up, I used to go every Sunday night and play hymns for my parents. They had an organ, and my father would sing along with me. He lived to be ninety-five. He loved good music and wanted me to play the hymns.
Now a General Authority, I sometimes play at stake conferences. I usually play “O My Father,” “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” “I Am a Child of God,” “Love at Home,” “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” or “I Need Thee Every Hour.” Each time I’ve played, several mothers have come up to me and said, “Thank you. I wanted my children to see a grown man play. I have some sons who think that they want to quit, but when they see you, they want to keep going.”
My wife and I have a little tape recorder in the kitchen, and many times we turn it on and listen to good music. We love the Tabernacle Choir. Occasionally I sit down at the piano or organ and make my own arrangements of the hymns.
It’s important what children sing and listen to, because music can affect their thoughts. The Primary songs and the hymns are precious and are music that the Savior wants us to hear. There is too much music in the world, especially on radio and television, that just isn’t appropriate. I don’t think music is everything, but it is an important part of the Church—music and the scriptures and daily family prayer.