Shortly after Marta, the first of our three children, was born, my wife, Mercedes, and I purchased a piano. We hoped Marta would have musical talent like her grandfather—a fine composer and pianist. I particularly liked to imagine her playing the piano at church, accompanying the congregation. This would please our Father in Heaven, I thought. And the gift of music would bless our family.
Several years passed, with the piano serving no purpose other than decorating our living room. One day my father-in-law offered to teach me to read music. At some point in the future, he said, I might even be able to play a few simple pieces. I considered the very idea a joke—and not a very good one. I had never even considered that I might have musical talent. Nevertheless, he began to work with me. Unfortunately, I found the study of music unpleasant and even painful, and I quit studying about six months later. In time, I forgot what little I had learned.
In 1983 Marta turned eight, and Mercedes and I felt she was old enough to begin music lessons. Unfortunately, Marta did not enjoy the lessons any more than I had. Since we had already paid for a month of lessons, I decided to take the remaining lessons myself. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the lessons, and after they ended, I continued to practice on my own. My progress was slow, but by the time the Christmas season came around, I could almost play six different hymns.
When the bishop visited us during the Christmas holidays, I played “Away in a Manger” (Hymns, number 206) and asked him to sing along. We had to start over several times because I made so many mistakes, but eventually we finished the carol. The bishop encouraged me to keep practicing and to learn a sacrament hymn. I began to practice very faithfully, and to my surprise, I found that practicing was no longer drudgery. I had a goal for myself—to be able to play at church.
On one occasion while I was practicing I distinctly heard a voice singing the melody of the hymn I was playing. A wave of emotion swept over me, and I felt that my Father in Heaven was pleased with my efforts.
Several months passed, and I continued to practice devotedly. One Sunday I went to church early to practice. The room was quite dark and I couldn’t see well, but I sensed that someone was watching me. Soon the bishop stepped forward. He told me he had been listening, and he felt I was ready to play for Church meetings. I played the piano for the Madrid Second Ward that very day. A few days later, I was officially set apart as the ward pianist.
By this time practicing was exciting, and I was surprised at how quickly I was able to learn the hymns. I worked hard, but I realized that my efforts were being magnified by the Holy Ghost. My Heavenly Father had prepared me little by little for this calling and was now helping me fulfill it.
Today, playing the piano continues to be a great joy. I play for priesthood meetings in the Madrid Third Branch, where I am the branch president. My daughter Marta also eventually resumed her music studies and has served as branch pianist. She is now married and lives in Madrid, Spain.
Often as I play I think of the Lord’s words: “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). I am grateful that my Heavenly Father prepared me with a desire and blessed me with the ability to play the hymns of the Church. They are truly a prayer unto him.