President's Pen 5-1-17 (Song of the Heart)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love you all with my whole soul! Continue being the righteous, obedient, and consecrated missionaries the Lord would have you be.  How blessed we are to teach repentance and baptize converts. 

One of the greatest blessings and personal joys for me in life is music.  I grew up in a home where music was always being played in some form or another.  My great grandfather was a professional organist from Poland.  He provided for his family by playing for a variety of congregations, he was a devout Catholic.  My grandfather was trained to be a classical pianist, but he always told me his fingers were too short and stubby and that he couldn’t have provided for the family, but he was very good.  My mom attended college on a music scholarship and sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, yes the big show.  My dad introduced us to the arts at a young age while he served as the president of Ballet West.  I heard all the classic composers and I gained an appreciation for what good music does for the soul.  Then there’s me, I can barely carry a tune, I will sing out loud in the car and in the shower, but my talent is enjoying the musical talent of others. ;)  

Some of the most sacred spiritual experiences in my life have come as I have listened to and felt the Spirit through hymns.  I vividly remember singing, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” as a young missionary in the MTC.  The Spirit washed over me on that day with such force that I knew “He was my kind, wise, heavenly friend”, and I will never forget it.  I had a similar experience in the MTC 25 years later as Sister Hall and I attended the MTC prior to coming to Texas.   A missionary choir sang “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer”, and I knew then, and I equally know now that Joseph Smith did see the Father and the Son on that early Spring day.  Music lifts my soul when I am down, it gives me energy, and it connects me to heaven.  The scripture for me rings true, “For 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).  Music is a great blessing to me. 

In the hymnal, the First Presidency has written a preface that you should study and become familiar with.  Why would this be important to you?  As missionaries, there are many ways to reach the hearts and minds of the people, and music can be one that lifts troubled souls.  I share a few of the blessings you’ll find that are promised to us by the First Presidency…

·         The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.

·         Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end.

·         Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel.

·         The hymns can bring families a spirit of beauty and peace and can inspire love and unity among family members.

·         Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action.

·         Hymns can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace.

·         Hymns can also help us withstand the temptations of the adversary.  If unworthy thoughts enter your mind, sing a hymn to yourself, crowding out the evil with the good.

This is a powerful list of blessings and as it states in the preface, “some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns.” When you are struggling, need a lift, want an answer to a prayer, or just need to connect to heaven, sing a hymn and see if you don’t find the blessings the Lord promises.

One of my favorite hymns is “Be Still, My Soul”, read the lyrics and ponder how the Savior stills your soul and what He does for you as a missionary…

1. Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side; With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; In ev'ry change he faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav'nly Friend Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake To guide the future as he has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul: The hour is hast'ning on When we shall be forever with the Lord, When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored. Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past, All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

As I read these lyrics my soul is lifted and a spirit of peace comes into my heart.  The doctrine it teaches is true and gives me great hope and faith in the Savior.  This is one of many hymns that I love and I have found that I can take a hymn and apply it to almost any situation.  When my diligence suffers, I can go to, “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” or “Have I Done Any Good”.  If I find I need a change of attitude I can go to, “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” or “Count Your Blessings”.  When I trained for my IronMan events I would sing, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “How Firm a Foundation”, and “High on the Mountain Top”, to get me through the hard work out days. ;)  I invite you to find hymns that speak to your soul that can give you the spiritual boost you need, uplift you, increase your faith, and your resolve to serve the Lord with all your heart.

Elders & Sisters, the music you choose to listen to on your mission will either uplift and strengthen you, or it can distract and take you back into the world.  So much of today’s music is filled with sexual innuendo, hate and violence, and all other forms of ungodliness.  You are asked to sacrifice music that can dull your spirit and take away your ability to teach with power and authority.  The guidelines in the Missionary Handbook are clear and simple to understand and I invite you to follow the counsel of living prophets and apostles and get rid of anything that distracts you from doing the Lord’s work.  Many of you have instruments, and I don’t discourage them, but I do invite you to make sure no worldly music is played on them. 

I love that music is a righteous prayer and one that delights the heart of the Lord.  Find ways to use music with your investigators, sing to them, take them to LDS sites, help them come to know how it can bless their souls.  I hope you can be found singing hymns as you ride your bikes, drive in the car, and walk down the street.  With the mighty prayers you’re already offering, add another that comes from the song of the heart, and it might surprise you what the Lord has done!  I know these principles are true and in the Savior’s name I testify and invite you to make sacred music a part of your service.  Love ya!

President Hall