Tuned In


Her shrill singing voice eventually became music to my ears.

I sat in an unfamiliar chapel on Sunday while visiting another ward with my dad. What wasn’t unfamiliar, however, was my grumpy 9:00 A.M. attitude. Sacrament meeting began, and the organist played the introduction to the opening hymn. I leafed through the hymnbook pages and found the right hymn about halfway through the first verse.

Rather than using the little energy I had on singing, I began listening to others around me. Right in front of me was a woman that I noticed because her rusty, scratchy, off-tune voice could be heard over the clear voices of the congregation. Not only did she sound terrible, but she sang as loudly as she possibly could. Embarrassed for her, I looked around me to see if anyone else had noticed. No one else seemed to be bothered by her, and so I turned my attention back to my hymnbook and tried to ignore the unpleasant sound.

I found it was impossible to ignore her, however, and I became more and more irritated. “Somebody should just tell her to stop singing,” I thought to myself. “How is the Spirit supposed to be here with that kind of racket going on.” I again tried to focus on the words that were on the page in front of me and began singing, hoping I could drown her out.

“Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee, How great thou art! …” The power and depth of these words suddenly struck me, and I began to feel incredibly guilty as I realized that this woman had more right than I did to be singing this song. I’m sure she could tell that her voice didn’t blend with the congregation. Yet instead of letting that stop her, she was determined to sing her praises to Heavenly Father. The meaning of the words were more important to her than what she sounded like. Rather than keeping the Spirit away, she was actually bringing a spirit into the meeting for those who had the right attitude and could recognize it.

Hymns have a completely different meaning for me now. Whenever I hear unpleasant sounds from a singer somewhere in the congregation, I pay special attention to the words and realize that I shouldn’t be singing hymns just because it’s what I’m expected to do, but that I should be trying to show my Heavenly Father my respect and gratitude towards him.

[illustration] Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw