The recital room at the Finnish high school was quiet, even though the hallway outside was not. Outside, students rushed from one class to another, their chatter and laughter filling the hall.
But here in the recital room, with its gilded trim and arching windows, the noise was distant and muffled. Here, where 15-year-old Säde (pronounced saw-day) Metsätähti was about to touch the keys of a black enamel piano, there was peace.
Säde could have played many things—Rachmaninoff or Beethoven, Phil Collins or Billy Joel. She’s learning to be a good pianist, and with practice can work her way through most pieces.
But right now, she only had time to play and sing one song. And so she played her favorite. The tune was simple, but memorable, the kind of melody I knew I would find myself—later in the day—unexpectedly humming.
Saria Karhunen, 16, joined Säde on the chorus. They’ve been friends since they were children, and somehow that showed as the harmony of their voices built power in the song. Säde’s brother Vesa, also 16, watched the two young women and listened. Even though he’d heard the song over and over again, he knew it was his sister’s favorite, and it still made him smile.
The girls finished. “Singing that,” Saria said, “is like singing a prayer.” Säde nodded her agreement.
In English the song is titled “Look Inside” (see page 10). But the Finnish version, translated by Säde’s mother Virpi, expresses the idea even more strongly. “Sydämees kun katsot,” it says, “When You Look to Your Heart.”
The second bell rang, and that meant the brief performance was over. Säde, Saria, and Vesa are on a strict schedule at the Puolalanmaen Koulu, a school for students with musical aptitude. They had been granted only a few minutes for a photo session with the New Era.
The magazine was also allowed a short time in Säde’s Swedish language lab, where, listening on her headphones, she diligently repeated phrases from her textbook. Even though the school caters to students with an aptitude for music, there are plenty of other courses required. For example, in addition to music and Swedish, Säde has classes in math, Finnish, gymnastics, English, biology, geography, and French.
She also studies seminary every day, and meets once a week with the other seminary students in her ward. That meeting would be tonight, and the New Era would take photos there, too. But for the next few hours, Säde had to return to school. As she said good-bye, she left a parting thought.
“That song I played for you,” she said. “I know other people wrote the words and the music. But every time I play it, I feel like it’s my song. I think everybody—everything—has a song of its own, if you just listen close enough to hear it.”
Because of what she said, for me the next few hours were filled with music, the kind of songs even rocks and trees sing if you’re listening. And Turku (toor-koo), the city where Säde lives, was a perfect place to hear them: The medieval songs of cold stone walls and wooden villages, of lives lived in search of fire and food. The Renaissance songs of castles and courtyards. The sea chanteys and songs of the river, for this is a town of both river and sea.
Walking through flower stalls of the open-air market, I heard the songs of spring. Wandering past the museum dedicated to composer Jean Sibelius, I could hear in my mind Finlandia, the anthem of a nation yearning to be free. The Olympic theme, beating like my heart, pounded inside me as I neared the statue of Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi, born in Turku, winner of nine gold and three silver medals. Near the cathedral, I imagined organs and choirs, their praises vaulting higher than the ceiling.
By then it was evening, time to walk back across town, past the windmill, through the park, over by the sports arena to the LDS chapel on the other side of the city.
“When you look to your heart,” I thought, and sure enough, I started humming the tune. Then I heard another song, faint but getting stronger. Was it a hymn like “Come, Come, Ye Saints”? Or the Primary song “I Am a Child of God”? Or was it my own personal song, the one my soul sings when I feel the joy and hope of being a Latter-day Saint?
It was activity night at the chapel, and seminary students, institute students, Scouts, family history workers, and other ward members had gathered for various purposes, but all as brothers and sisters. Did each one, I wondered, hear a song just like me? Did they all make a chorus together?
In seminary I listened.
“How can you get closer to Jesus Christ?” asked Auli Haikkola, the teacher.
“Study the scriptures,” said Aki Keskinen.
“Pray,” said Todd Katschke. “Go to church.”
“Talk about the Savior with your family,” said Jukka Merenluoto.
“Do good for someone else,” said Joni Mikkonen.
“Most people in Finland don’t talk about religion,” Maria Sokoli explained. “They go to church once or twice a year. They don’t understand how it can be such a big part of my life.”
“My friends respect me,” said Heidi Hankiala. “But it still gets tough when they all drink and do other things I won’t do.”
“Maria, Heidi, Saria, and I all grew up in the Church,” Säde explained. “Most of the people in this ward have grown up with the gospel. But now the Church is growing fast, and I see the day when it will grow faster and faster, when there will be lots of young people joining, not only in Finland, but in Russia, in Eastern Europe—all over the world. The Church is the hope of the future, and the youth are the hope of the Church.”
I could hear their song now, pulsing to a crescendo, the song of belief, of faith, of peace, of answers—the song of young Latter-day Saints all over the world.
I wanted to explain what I was feeling. As I interviewed the seminary students, I tried. But my words sounded like an echo compared to a symphony. We talked about how seminary helps prepare young people for missions, about getting up early to study the scriptures, about prayer and families and priesthood and the Spirit and a dozen other things youth all over the Church have in common. But still I wondered if I was the only one hearing the marvelous music.
Too soon, the conversations were over. The youth said good-bye and departed. The seminary room was deserted and the building was almost empty, too. Only a few people lingered.
That was when I heard the song again.
Waiting for her mother, Säde had found a piano. Not an elegant one like the black enamel grand in the recital room at school. This was a brown upright, with a key or two chipped and a scratch in the finish. But the melody she played on it was the same.
The song of faith continued.