Issue #4 - April 1993
"One day when fell the spirits whisper
And touched with zeal the waiting throng
Inspiring hope it courage gave them
To cultivate the gift of song."
From the time of the ancients to the dispensation of the fullness of times, inaugurated by Joseph the Palmyra Seer, hymns have cheered sorrow, shouted praise and sustained the people of God. Early on in the Restoration the Lord directed Emma Smith to "make a selection of sacred hymns" (D&C 243b), adapted to our faith and belief in this latter-day gospel and as far as can be, holding forth those promises made to the fathers. From that time forth, the attitude of the church has been to cultivate the gift of music and song where ever it could be found (D&C119:6).
Worship music can and often does move us to a sacred plane. It has the power to restore, stimulate, encourage, and lift the saints to a higher spiritual earnestness. This is clearly illustrated for us when Elisha the Prophet is requested by the Kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom to inquire of the Lord regarding the Moabites. It is recorded that in so complying, he did not offer prayer, nor did he ask any other to pray or confess. He simply said: "Bring a minstrel, and it came to pass that when the minstrel had played, the hand (power) of the Lord came upon him" (2Kings 3:15).
Our appreciation of things divine is often influenced by the hymns we know and use. As we play and sing these again and again, and make them our own, these phrases come to us to quicken our understanding, enlighten our minds, and convince our hearts of the authenticity of the angel message and the promises attached thereto; "Onward to Zion, faithful and strong, Zion the beautiful beckons us on" "Come, 0 thou King of Kings! We've waited long for thee, With healing in thy wings, To set thy people free" "Changed from glory into glory till in heav'n (zion) we take our place, Till we cast our crowns before thee, Lost in wonder, love, and praise".
The God we worship is "the God we adore, our faithful unchangeable friend", "Our Shield and Defender, the Author of Days", "our help in ages past, our hope for years to come", "the eternal Father who dwells amid the sky", to whom it is "a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer".
There have been a copious number of hymns spring forth in recent years both in and out of the church. Some of these are very edifying and outstanding in their love for things beautiful and true, but not all. Like a spring garden there has been growth in profusion but a serious question can be raised as to whether there may be more weeds than flowers. We need to ever be vigilant against the low standards of some types of "worship" music, as well as those performances which often exploit individuals by presenting spectacular productions in the church which lack sincerity, reverence, dignity, beauty, simplicity, and truth.
The hymns of the Restoration, as well as those which breathe its spirit, illustrate the personal conviction, great spiritual truths, and lofty ideals of latter-day Israel. These need to be inextricably woven into the warp and woof of our worship experience. Such should be played and sung with a heavenly fervor which will help bring about a spiritual rebirth and vitality to the Lord's church.
Patrick S. McKay Sr.
Now harp and voice and sweet-toned organ
The best loved songs in worship raise,
That ours be counted joyful triumph,
The Spirit's gift, blest gift of praise.