Perhaps one of the most powerful expressions of the gospel of Jesus Christ is found in Handel’s Messiah. Written in the 18th century, this musical masterpiece continues to touch hearts each year during the Christmas season. Much of its lyrics are taken from the book of Isaiah; probably the least understood book in the scriptures. Music is POWERFUL.
In 1945, David O. McKay said, “Music is truly the universal language, and when it is excellently expressed how deeply it moves our souls.” Music has always been a part of my life. I remember listening to music at home with my family and by myself in my bedroom. Good music made me happy and it still does. Growing up, I associated with friends who appreciated good music. We formed a garage band and wrote dozens of original songs. We carefully wrote the lyrics to each of these songs because it was important to us to share our feelings and beliefs. I wish I still had the email my childhood friend and I received from one of the bands we listened to regularly in high school. Their music was motivational and clean and they didn’t use explicit lyrics like some other groups did. It was always incredibly frustrating to discover an up and coming artist, only to find that some of their songs included strong language. Back in the days before digital music, we would have to either skip the explicit songs or just not listen to the album altogether. We sent an email asking why this band didn’t use language in any of their music. They replied and simply told us that swearing doesn’t make the music better. It’s unnecessary and this confirmed our belief that clean lyrics can be powerful. Sometimes I feel like artists use strong language only to boost album sales. Just because it’s popular, doesn’t always make it right.
Boyd K. Packer said in 1976: “We are able to feel and learn very quickly through music, through art, through poetry some spiritual things that we would otherwise learn very slowly.” A few months prior to beginning a proselyting mission in Oakland, CA, I remember listening to a lot of uplifting music. Most of my friends had already left on their two year, volunteer missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and good music became my constant companion. Just like it’s impossible to be fully prepared for marriage or raising children, the same is true for a mission. I felt like I had done everything in my power to prepare, but there is always room for improvement. We can always be better prepared – there is always something more we could have done, but as imperfect beings, we can never be perfectly prepared. All we can do is our very best, having faith in God that He will make up the deficit. The music I listened to had such a powerful effect on me. I had listened to music all of my life up to that point, but never had it affected me so deeply. I specifically remember singing along in the car by myself and just crying. It felt so good! I knew that what I was doing was right and I looked forward to what was in store. I knew there wasn’t anything I couldn’t accomplish without God’s help. These experiences blessed my life and helped build the foundation for not only my mission, but for the rest of my life.
Unfortunately, there is in today’s world, an endless amount of profane and pornographic music available at our fingertips. Modern lyrics preach an “eat, drink and be merry” lifestyle but never mention the consequences. Instead of talking about becoming something or doing hard things to reach our potential, they tell us to succumb to the natural man. This is obviously counterfeit. The one thing we all have in common is that we are searching for happiness. For almost every good thing in this life, there is also a counterfeit offered. For me, the most obvious example of this is the internet. There are so many good things we can do online and at the same time, there is an infinite amount of evil offered there. The same is true with music. It can be used for good or for evil. Consider for a moment the music you listen to. How does it make you feel? Is it helping you become something better?
I recently attended a funeral service where there was plenty of music shared. The songs performed were of course requested previously by the deceased because it defined who they were. The lyrics told the story of their life, although the songs were written by various artists. They loved this music because they could relate to it and helped them to become a better person. I was touched as the performers could hardly sing at times because they were so emotional. Of course they were mourning the loss of a loved one, but the music and lyrics were so powerful. I felt God’s love and noticed those around me felt the same way. There was an undeniable presence that filled the room with peace and comfort.
Young minds are easily influenced. I hope that my words might reach a young person. When I was in grade school, it wasn’t too difficult to find good music. These options are becoming less and less compared to the amount of counterfeit that is available to us today. To make matters worse, it’s more easily accessible and mostly free. The choice to follow God requires more effort than ever before. Uplifting music is still available and should be discovered. Do not be causal in your choice of entertainment. What you listen to will shape the foundation for the rest of your life. It will either fulfill you or deceive you. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t listen to it. Pay attention to your feelings and ask yourself if what you are experiencing is helping you become better. Don’t underestimate the power of music in your life.