Q&A: Questions and Answers


“Has the Latter-day Saint culture produced a truly great composer whose works are definitely Mormon?”

Answer/ Lowell M. Durham

Latter-day Saints know and are justly proud of George Romney, David Kennedy, Billy Casper, Johnny Miller, Harmon Killebrew, and Vernon Law. Most know of the Osmond Brothers, the Lettermen, Welk’s Sandy and Sally, Bob Peterson, Rouvann, and the King Family. Some have heard of Henry Eyring, Philo Farnsworth, and Harvey Fletcher. Still fewer know of Grant Johannesen, Glade Peterson, and Keene Curtis. It is conceivable that one hundred years from now another name—Leroy Robertson—will loom above these others.

Robertson emerged from Utah’s Sanpete County and attracted national attention by the thirties. He skyrocketed to fame in 1947 by winning a Western Hemisphere competition. Every major composer of this hemisphere competed, but the Fountain Green “fiddle-playing, sheep-herding” composer’s photo appeared in the nation’s press and weekly news magazines. “The largest prize in musical history” ($25,000) was presented in a nationwide broadcast from Detroit, where his symphony, Trilogy, was performed.

The previous year Robertson had been commissioned by the Church through the late President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., to finish his Book of Mormon Oratorio then in process. Robertson was granted a sabbatical from Brigham Young University, and the oratorio was completed in Los Angeles in 1946–47.

The history of civilization shows that religion, art, and philosophy endure to enrich future generations while nearly all else crumbles. Robertson combined all these elements in his Book of Mormon Oratorio: Mormon philosophy, excerpts from the Book of Mormon, and his own music.

Handel’s oratorio, the Messiah, is known by everyone and ranks among music’s all-time top ten. Oratorio is the Protestant counterpart of the Catholic mass, most widely used musical form in history. Surprisingly, few are aware of the existence of Robertson’s oratorio or of its composer’s distinction.

After Robertson completed the Book of Mormon Oratorio, six years passed before it was first performed. Under the direction of Utah Symphony conductor Maurice Abravanel, the University of Utah Chorus joined the Utah Symphony to premier the work in April 1953 in the Tabernacle. Other performances followed in other parts of the state. Since that time, this and other Robertson works have been performed throughout the country and abroad.

The Oratorio is available on recordings. Three of its choruses are widely sung by choirs of all denominations, colleges, and high schools. Best known is “The Lord’s Prayer.” The Pastorale, for orchestra alone, was featured by the Utah Symphony as an encore on its 1966 European and 1971 South American tours.

“Mormonism’s composer-laureate” died last summer. He will be remembered essentially as a Mormon composer. An informal survey showed his Book of Mormon Oratorio to be “the most significant Mormon composition” among leading Church musicians. Others mentioned were Crawford Gates’ Hill Cumorah music and Promised Valley. Gates is a distinguished Robertson student. Both his works enjoy long runs in Palmyra and Salt Lake City.

Latter-day Saints interested in Mormon music should get to know the works of Leroy Robertson.

Professor of Music, University of Utah

“How can I help prepare a very talented and well-to-do family to accept the gospel?”

Answer/ Herschel Pederson

Every individual has basic needs and desires he must satisfy to maintain a happy balance in life. Whether rich or poor, everyone has unresolved problems, pressures, and an affinity to God. These areas need to be satisfied just as our temporal needs for food and clothing. Though an individual appears happy, well-to-do, and talented, he still is not complete without the gospel. The voids in his life must be filled if he is to be happy.

Because most people naturally keep their innermost thoughts to themselves, you may not easily know their needs and desires. These needs do, however, come closer to the surface when a person goes through a new growth experience. After marriage, the birth of a child, a move to a new community, sickness, or the loss of a loved one, people seem more willing to want to learn about our Heavenly Father.

God has said, “In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.” (D&C 101:8.)

Prepare by studying the scriptures and praying because when the moment is ripe to talk about the gospel, you must offer correct answers. You can begin by being a genuine friend and neighbor. Water your neighbors’ lawns or care for their pets when they go on vacations. When you bake, take a sample to your neighbor. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” (D&C 64:33.) The main thing to remember is that whatever you do it must be done in humility and sincerity. Vincent de Paul said, “You must love the poor an awful lot or they will hate you for giving them bread.”

It is really the Holy Ghost who converts people to the gospel. We are merely the tools that God uses to help bring about the immortality and eternal life of man. We should so live that we will be inspired to say what God wants said when he wants it said. Anyone brought into the Church without the witness of the Spirit falls into the category of the man who built his house upon the sand. God has given all Church members spiritual gifts that must be cultivated and will aid them in being living examples of the gospel and enable them to speak with the power of the Spirit unto the convincing of men. As individuals we should remember our friends and neighbors in our prayers. We should adhere to the gospel principles as closely as possible so we can be examples and inspired to say the right things.

“And whoso receiveth you, there will I be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88; also, D&C 49:27.) God has already gone before and is preparing opportunities for us to exercise the gifts of the spirit. “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (D&C 59:21.) God cares for your neighbors and friends and is anxious to witness unto them the divinity of the restored gospel. God also knows the innermost thoughts and desires of every individual, and when you have prepared yourself and have developed a friendship, the opportunity will come to speak to your friends and neighbors. If you are inspired, you will touch the sacred, longing, unsatisfied hungers of the soul that only the gospel through the Spirit can satisfy.

Many would-be missionaries fail in the face of such an opportunity because of logic or reason. They fear to offend or say something that will destroy friendship. The Lord has cautioned us on this point. “But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.” (D&C 60:2.) We seldom influence a man for much good with the light conversation of the day. We must learn to speak when inspired and say those things that are impressed upon our minds by the Holy Spirit. Even though they may seem hard or out of place at times, they are the things that will touch the hearts of those who are pure in heart.

There are many pamphlets and books available that can help you reach your friends. It would be well to have a few available in your home so you can give them out if the opportunity arises. If properly prepared, each of us could have several rich spiritual experiences yearly as we witness the transformation and joy that come into the hearts of those who know and accept the gospel.

Mission Representative

“Is it all right to study religion homework on Sunday?”

Answer/ Ben E. Lewis

During the years I served as a stake president, this question was frequently put to me by young people who were concerned about what they should or should not do on the Sabbath day. Many were former BYU students; others were seminary students.

My thoughts turn to the experience Jesus had when he was confronted with this kind of question from those who sought to discredit him and his disciples by charging a violation of the Sabbath day law. Jesus raised this question, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” (Mark 3:4.) In response to his own question, he healed the man who had a withered hand.

Sometimes we tend to emphasize the things that should not be done on the Sabbath day, failing to recognize the positive approach taken by Jesus who, as Lord of the Sabbath, stressed that this was a holy day, a day for rejoicing and giving special consideration to the things of the Lord.

It was he who declared through revelation that the way to keep oneself unspotted from the world was to go to the house of prayer on his holy day, the Sabbath. This kind of promise places top priority on attendance at our Church meetings on Sunday. The revelation continues: “For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High.” (D&C 59:10.)

What are some of the ways to pay devotion to our Father in heaven? We have all been grateful for the increased emphasis that our Church leaders have put on strengthening the home. They have encouraged us to make the home a house of prayer along with our chapels. Home is where we live together, where we pray together, and where we study together.

One of the great blessings in our home is the privilege we have of reading the scriptures together; we often do this on Sunday afternoons after we have eaten and before we return to Church for sacrament meeting. If there is time, I often use these moments to prepare a Sunday School lesson or a talk for Church.

This brings us to the question, should I do religion homework on Sunday? My answer would be yes, but only after we have filled our responsibility to attend our Church services and taken care of our Church assignments for that day. There are undoubtedly some persons who may not agree with this and who have a rule against any kind of homework on Sunday. If this is the rule of your home, it should be accepted and obeyed.

In a conference address in October 1949, President J. Reuben Clark spoke on this subject. He said, “The Lord has told us what we may do in the house of prayer, and what we may do in the house of prayer we may do, I take it, in our homes. We may seek learning. We may read good books. We may acquaint ourselves with languages, tongues and people. … I think we may listen to good music in the home. …”

A number of years ago I had occasion to attend a convention in Chicago where the speaker welcomed us to the great city of Chicago. After praising its many qualities, he went on to say, “Many of you may have heard bad things about Chicago, that it’s full of gangsters, killings, slums, ghettos, crimes of every sort. Don’t you believe it. Why, I’ve lived in Chicago now for nearly fifty years. I’ve walked alone down the streets late at night, and, let me tell you, no one has shot me yet. Let me give you a tip: whenever you are in Chicago, if you’re where you’re supposed to be, at the time you are supposed to be there, and doing the things you are supposed to, you’ll never get in trouble in Chicago.”

We can apply this same kind of formula when it comes to making decisions as to what we may or may not do on the Sabbath. If on this day we are where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, at the time we are supposed to, then we’re not likely to have trouble making the right decisions as to what we may or may not do on Sunday. And this should enhance our appreciation and understanding of what Jesus had in mind when he said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27.)

Executive Vice-President, Brigham Young University