Sunday, August 13, 2017

President Harold B. Lee on worship through music

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"Someone [has] said, 'Music is the language of the soul.' I remembered what the Lord said in a revelation to Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet, '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).... There is truly no finer companion to true religion than great music.
"At the same time music can be prostituted to Satan’s purposes. Napoleon is quoted as having said, 'Music of all the liberal arts has the greatest influence over the passions and is that which the legislator ought to give the greatest encouragement.' May I paraphrase and say, 'Music in the Church of Jesus Christ is that to which every leader of youth should give his greatest concern to see that the wrong kinds of passions are not aroused by our introduction of sensuous music into our youth programs.'
"Your test of greatness, whether you be youth or whether you be adult, is not to be measured by the question about your wealth, how much you are worth financially speaking, or how much knowledge you have gained in the world, or what great talents you have, but your measure of greatness or just mediocrity, or less than that, may be measured by your answer to one simple question, 'What do you like?' Do you like pornographic pictures rather than pictures of great art? Do you like to go to vulgar shows rather than The Sound of Music? Do you love the sensuous music rather than to hear great symphonies or the work of the masters? You answer to yourselves and then see what your youth like and you will have the answer to their souls, for music indeed is the language of the soul, whether it be uplifting or otherwise. It is the index to where we are today."
- Harold B. Lee, MIA Conference, 25 June 1972; see The Teachings of Harold B Lee [Bookcraft 1996], p. 203

This is a profound statement: "There is truly no finer companion to true religion than great music." It's interesting to ponder the place of music in our public and personal worship. The public role is perhaps more obvious, as we see the use of music to edify and inspire in Sunday meetings and other similar settings. But how do we use music's ability in our personal worship?

President Lee warns that music can not only be used as a very positive influence, but also can be turned negative, and like so many other good things, "prostituted to Satan’s purposes." That is where we are encouraged to be observant and vigilant.

President Lee suggests a simple test of our progress towards refinement and "greatness" in one sense:

The people at the time of King Benjamin commented on a change that took place in their lives by observing that they had "no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2). Their hearts had progressed to the point of desiring only righteous things. I think that is what President Lee is suggesting here. Whether the measure be the kind of entertainment we prefer, the music we listen to, the things we read, what we do for leisure and entertainment—so much can be learned about our inner heart by considering what brings us joy! When the things that bring joy also bring us closer to God, we know we are progressing on the path of discipleship.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

No comments:

Post a Comment

// Customization to close archive widget on first view - DK 3/15