“Let’s not sit by the Wilsons today,” Paul said to his mom as they drove to church.
“Why not?” Mom seemed surprised.
“Because their little boy embarrasses me.”
“You mean cute little Joseph? How does he embarrass you?”
“Haven’t you heard him? He’s so loud, especially during the hymns. He thinks he’s singing, but he’s just making noise.”
Mom smiled. “Ah, yes, I have heard him. I’ll tell you what, you listen very carefully to him today and think about what you hear. And next week, if his singing still bothers you, we’ll sit somewhere else.”
Paul frowned. “That means we’ll have to sit by the Wilsons today.”
“That’s right. But after today the problem should be solved. OK?”
“OK,” Paul sighed.
When they entered the chapel, Paul looked around until he spotted the Wilsons. They were just settling onto a bench. Joseph already had his nose in a hymnbook.
“There’s a seat just in front of them,” Mom pointed out. “Let’s go.”
As Paul sat down, Joseph put down his book and grinned at him. Paul couldn’t help smiling back. Joseph did have a special sparkle in his eyes. If only he weren’t so noisy.
After the bishop’s greeting, it was time for the opening hymn. Paul was still looking for the correct page in the hymnbook when the music began. Joseph began to wail so loudly that Paul could hardly hear the organ playing.
Paul looked at Mom and silently mouthed, “See?”
Mom smiled and mouthed back, “Listen.”
Paul listened. Joseph sang very loudly, but he wasn’t singing what everyone else was singing. When the rest of the congregation paused between verses, Joseph’s voice could still be heard. It just sounded like noise to Paul. Why couldn’t Joseph sing the right words or at least sing at the right times? Paul glanced back at the Wilsons. Joseph held open the hymnbook for his parents. They didn’t seem to notice the awful racket he was making.
After the opening prayer, Mom opened her scriptures and pointed out a verse to Paul. It was in Psalms 66:1–2 and it read, “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.”
“‘Joyful noise’? Was that what Joseph was doing?” Paul wondered.
When it came time to sing the sacrament hymn, Paul was halfway through the song when he realized he couldn’t hear Joseph. Had he fallen asleep? Paul glanced back and saw Joseph sitting between his parents with his arms folded. Joseph’s father held the book for them. Paul tilted his head and listened carefully. Was Joseph making any noise at all? Yes, now he could hear him. He was humming. He wasn’t humming the same song everyone else was singing, but it was a reverent tune. Joseph somehow knew that this was the time for a quiet song. Paul tried to sing with more reverence.
Paul was glad there was another hymn during the meeting. This would give him another opportunity to hear Joseph sing. And sing he did! This was more like a “wake-up” hymn to Joseph. He held the hymnbook high again and sang with gusto. Paul suddenly realized that Joseph probably didn’t sing the words because he wasn’t old enough to read, but he didn’t let that stop him. Paul wondered if he would be so brave if he couldn’t read the words in the hymnbook. Would he be able to sing with as much enthusiasm as Joseph?
After that hymn, Paul’s mother showed him another scripture: “For 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). Paul nodded. Joseph’s singing certainly was from his heart.
Paul made one more discovery during the closing hymn. Joseph wasn’t just making noise or making up words, he was actually singing the words to a song. Paul listened carefully and heard “I Am a Child of God.” Of course, everyone else was singing something else. When the congregation began singing the last verse, Joseph launched into “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.” Paul smiled to himself. This was Joseph’s time to sing, too. And he was singing every song he could think of, with all his might.
When the last notes on the organ faded away, Joseph’s voice could be clearly heard as he ended his song with “I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.” Many people chuckled. Paul heard Joseph’s mom whisper to Joseph, “Prayer time.” There was a rustle as Joseph shifted in his seat and folded his arms.
When the prayer was over, Paul’s mom looked at Paul and raised her eyebrows. “Well?” she asked. “Is there still a problem?”
Paul shook his head. He turned to the Wilsons. “Hey, Joseph,” Paul said, “can I walk you to Primary? I bet they love you in singing time.”
Joseph grinned and nodded as he took Paul’s hand. As they walked down the aisle, Paul started quietly humming a Primary song that had just come to his mind, “A song is a wonderful kind of thing, so lift up your voice and sing. …”
“The singing of hymns is one of the best ways to put ourselves in tune with the Spirit of the Lord.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Worship through Music,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 10.