The Power of Music


Ever listened to a song that filled your eyes with tears? Or found yourself moving your feet to a beat, without even thinking about it? Ever belted a song into an imaginary microphone while an invisible audience cheered you on? Our lives are full of music, and every note and lyric touches us—some for the good, and some for the bad.

“Through music, man’s ability to express himself extends beyond the limits of the spoken language in both subtlety and power. Music can be used to both exalt and inspire or to carry messages of degradation and destruction” (Priesthood Bulletin, August 1973, page 3).

Music can soothe your feelings when you’re angry or irritated. Or it can make you feel frustrated and stressed.

Music can invite the Spirit into your home—or drive it away.

Music can inspire imagination. Many artists listen to music while creating their art and feel it improves their work. And studies have shown that some classical music, played softly, can actually help people retain the information they study. (Try it before your next big test!)

On the other hand, music can also inspire the wrong thoughts. You might say, “But I don’t listen to the lyrics.” Research shows that the human brain automatically picks up every message within sight or sound. Lyrics set to music can be especially influencing because they sneak past the screening mechanism of the brain and are stored in the subconscious without your knowledge.

What Music?

It isn’t always easy to know which music to listen to. To find out how your music is affecting you emotionally and spiritually, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I felt a change in spirit while listening to this music? The Spirit often prompts through feelings. Pay attention to how the music makes you feel. Life is a series of emotional ups and downs, so it’s normal to feel a little blue now and then. But music that constantly makes you feel depressed, frustrated, or angry isn’t healthy. Music that edifies encourages you to see your surroundings as “light” and hopeful. Music that degrades feels “dark” and depressing.

  • Are the lyrics words that I would comfortably speak to my family and friends? Would you feel comfortable listening to this music with someone you respect—like your seminary teacher, your mom, or your bishop?

  • Does the performing group promote standards similar to my own? Think about the name, album covers, videos, stage reputation, and costumes of the group. Are you impressed with what they stand for? How do you act or imagine yourself acting when you listen to the group’s music? How does it affect those around you? Does the music cause you to think, act, or feel contrary to the teachings of Christ?

Changing Your Tune

If you’ve decided to set a new standard for your music, here are some tips to make the transition easier:

  • Hang onto high quality. “Why not go through your collection?” asked Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve. “Keep just the best. Be selective in what you consume and what you produce. It becomes a part of you” (Ensign, January 1974, page 27).

  • Hold on to your standards. Once you’ve set your standards, don’t tolerate even small doses of conflicting music. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “It is obvious that to remain clean and worthy, one must stay positively and conclusively away from the devil’s territory” (Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, page 232).

  • Talk about music with your parents. If your parents worry about the music you listen to, talk to them about your musical standards. Ask them how they evaluate the music they listen to and try to agree on some mutual standards. Listen to their music, and invite them to listen to yours.

  • Cultivate the Spirit. Now that you’ve eliminated the bad, fill your collection with the good. Cultivate the Spirit by reading the scriptures and praying. Then listen to music that adds to that spirit.

  • Widen your options. If you can’t find good music in the style you usually listen to, try something new. You can find good music in everything from jazz to reggae to classical, and a variety makes your musical taste more interesting.

  • Listen up. After a concert, do you hear a ringing in your ears and have trouble hearing quiet sounds? If so, you could be losing your hearing. Noise above 100 decibels flattens the tiny hairs in the inner ear that transmit sound to the nerves. These hairs usually return to normal, but repeated exposure to loud sounds can flatten them permanently. Rock concerts often emit 120 decibels, but stereo headphones are even worse. It’s like putting the nozzle of a fire hose down your ear canal and blasting away. Try turning the music down and using earplugs at concerts.

  • Remember that blessings come from choosing appropriate music. The Lord 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).

[illustration] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh