Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

It seems like every time my dad and I talk about music, we get into a fight. Sure, there’s a lot of bad music around, but there’s good music too. How can I help my father understand that sometimes it’s not a question of good versus evil but rather a question of personal taste?

New Era Answer

You’re really dealing with two things here—one is how to make wise choices about the music you listen to; the other is how to share your personal preferences with someone who doesn’t have entirely the same tastes you do.

First, let’s talk about music. You’re absolutely right in saying that there’s both bad and good. And frankly, sometimes it is a question of good versus evil. But there is also a vast middle ground.

When music promotes Satanism, encourages immorality, uses foul and offensive language, or drives away the Spirit, there’s no question that it should be avoided. However, where it is, in the words of the 13th article of faith [A of F 1:13], “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy,” we should “seek after these things.”

Here’s what the First Presidency has said about it: “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 exalt and inspire or to carry messages of degradation and destruction. It is therefore important that as Latter-day Saints we at all times apply the principles of the gospel and seek the guidance of the Spirit in selecting the music with which we surround ourselves” (Priesthood Bulletin, Aug. 1973).

Elder Boyd K. Packer has said, “There is so much uplifting music available that we can experience to our advantage,” that we ought to “be surrounded by good music of all kinds” (Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 27).

There’s little doubt that your father wants to protect you from degradation and destruction. But he may at times confuse his desire to protect you with his reaction to something he finds repetitious or irritating. Hopefully, you want to protect yourself, too, and can learn to respect your father’s concern. Try to determine if something really is evil and ugly, or if it is just misunderstood. Realize that it can take a lot of effort to develop the ability to discern between good and bad music. Your father, who loves you and cares about you, can actually be an ally in this effort.

Think about something you and your dad can talk about easily. Maybe, for example, you both love basketball. You may think Magic Johnson is the greatest player of all time, while your father favors Bill Russell. And what about all the other players?

The point is, you feel free to express your opinions. Why? Because you have a shared experience that makes your communication meaningful. What you need to find is a way to develop the same kind of ability to talk about music. If you want your father to accept your music, you should be willing to accept his.

It is perfectly all right for one person to like opera, for example, while another prefers bluegrass. And most people would agree that there are varying degrees of quality in each. The same is true with all branches of music—each has examples of excellence and examples of mediocrity. A well-rounded person should be able to appreciate the best in them all.

Hopefully, you and your father can eventually reach a point where you can spend time together listening to various types of music, even though it may take a while for such a relationship to develop. In the meantime, think seriously about what you listen to and why. And use some discretion about when you play music and how loudly you play it. Remember that your father is your father and that it’s important to build a loving relationship with him. That may at times mean adjusting the volume or switching to a different tune.

Music was intended as a blessing from our Father in Heaven. In its highest forms, it is often associated with the Savior and his atonement, and it has a lingering power that can cause us to think deeply. Stirring refrains can fill us with visions of success or bolster our enthusiasm. A happy song can lift our spirits. Music is far too wonderful to argue over.

Youth Answers

I don’t think that it’s a question of helping your father to understand but of understanding your father by understanding his music. You make the first move away from the defensive.

Mark Braun Aurora, Colorado

I feel for you! Music is my life. I play violin in the orchestra. I’m in a cappella choir and chamber choir. I love classical music, and I love to sing. I also listen to lots of pop stuff.

I like progressive music, too—because of my interests and training I like to hear people explore what music can do. But when I talk about that kind of music, most of my friends don’t understand. So when I’m with them, we listen to what they like. And every once in a while I find someone who likes what I like, and that’s terrific!

How can you talk to your father about music? First of all, I’d back off and give your father some room. Look for the right time to talk to him. If he’s angry, that’s not the time.

Maybe you can compromise. Tell him, “I’ll listen to your music for half an hour, then I’ll listen to mine for half an hour.” Explain that you know some songs are bad, but some people are so eager to see wickedness that they find it even when it wasn’t intended. If there’s a song you know that has a good moral, ask your dad if he’s ever listened to the words. It may have a great message.

Jeri Rogerson, 17 Orem, Utah

I’d talk to my dad and set up sort of a negotiation. I’d tell him I’d like to learn about his music, but ask him to let me break into it slowly. He could take me to the opera to hear Carmen, for example, or to the symphony. He could point out the good points, and we could compare feelings. Then I’d get a CD of my own music and play it, and we could see what we think of that.

Then I’d explain my feelings about music. I feel music in general should make you want to do something or feel something. It should be energetic, and new groups have a lot of energy, because they’re breaking ground creatively. That’s why I enjoy listening to them.

But I’m not a heavy metal listener. Some types of music are heavy or depressing. You can say you don’t listen to the words, but even if you don’t understand the lyrics, there’s a bad feeling conveyed. I’d reassure my father that that’s not the kind of music I want to listen to.

Tom Chamberlain, 18 Provo, Utah

Since I couldn’t convince my father to like my music, I decided to turn the table and try to like his music. So at Christmas I bought a tape of a symphony playing Christmas music. This tape not only brought a special Christmas spirit, but gave me the knowledge of all kinds of instruments.

Becky J. Rily Puyallup, Washington

[photo] Photography by Craig J. Moyer