In July of 1830, the prophet Joseph received a revelation for his wife, Emma, that is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 25. The Lord begins by referring to Emma an “elect lady”, whom he has called. She was told that the office of her calling was to be, as we read in verse 5, “for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.” Emma had a great love for her husband.
In addition to being a wife and mother, Emma was a scribe, a homemaker, a cook, gardener, Relief Society President, and more. In Section 25, she was given the responsibility to select hymns.
“And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church. 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 25:11-12
Emma obeyed and compiled a hymnal for the Saints. She grouped the hymns by subject matter—Sacred Hymns, Morning Hymns, Evening Hymns, Farewell Hymns, Hymns of Baptism, the Sacrament, Marriage, and Miscellaneous Hymns. Our hymnbook today is patterned after her first hymnal.
The First Presidency has written a preface to the hymns, which can be found in the front of each of our hymnbooks. They counsel us, “brothers and sisters, let us use the hymns to invite the Spirit of the Lord into our congregations, our homes, and our personal lives.
MUSIC IN OUR CHURCH MEETINGS
MUSIC IN OUR CHURCH MEETINGS
They write: “Inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. 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.”
As we file into the chapel each Sunday, there is beautiful prelude music setting the tone for our Sunday worship. We begin and end our sacrament meeting with song, and prepare ourselves for the sacred ordinance of the sacrament by singing words about our Savior’s sacrifice for us. The children sing happy birthday and welcome songs in Primary. They also sing songs that teach principles of the gospel such as, “Faith (Children’s Songbook no.96), and I Am a Child of God (Children’s Songbook no.2). The men can be heard as they proudly boom “Ye Elders of Israel” (Hymns, 1985, no.319). The youth sing in their Sunday classes and Mutual activities. Music is a part of presidency meetings, General Conference, girls’ camp, and more. It is a tool used to set the spiritual tone, wake us up, prepare our minds to make covenants, and teach gospel principles.
Elder Oaks tells this story in his October 1994 Conference address:
“This direction to praise the Lord with singing is not limited to large meetings. When the Lord’s Apostles meet in modern times, the singing of hymns is still part of their meetings. The weekly meetings of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Salt Lake Temple always begin with a hymn. Elder Russell M. Nelson plays the organ accompaniment. The First Presidency, who conduct these meetings, rotate the privilege of selecting the opening song. Most of us record the date each hymn is sung. According to my records, the opening song most frequently sung during the decade of my participation has been “I Need Thee Every Hour” (Hymns, 1985, no. 98). Picture the spiritual impact of a handful of the Lord’s servants singing that song before praying for his guidance in fulfilling their mighty responsibilities.”
The First Presidency preface remarks continue,
“We hope to see an increase of hymn singing in our congregations. We encourage all members, whether musically inclined or not, to join with us in singing the hymns. We hope leaders, teachers, and members who are called on to speak will turn often to the hymnbook to find sermons presented powerfully and beautifully in verse.”
MUSIC IN OUR HOMES
MUSIC IN OUR HOMES
They also remind us to incorporate music into our homes:
“Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel. Latter-day Saints should fill their homes. Latter-day Saints should fill their homes with the sound of worthy music”
We should teach our children to love the hymns. We should sing them on the Sabbath, in home evening, during scripture study, at prayer time. We can sing as we work, as we play, and we you travel together. We can sing hymns as lullabies to build faith and testimony in our young ones.
I grew up in a home where we sang the hymns. I remember traveling with my father. We would have a contest to see who could sing the most verses of the most hymns. We sang for hours. When we returned from a long trip, my father would have us travel as slowly as possible for the last few miles, so that we could keep singing.
With my children, we have also sung many hymns. We especially love to sing in Family Home Evening. We always start with a hymn. As part of FHE we have signing time. Everyone chooses a hymn. So, that is eight more hymns. At the conclusion we hold hands and sing, “Love at Home” (Hymns no.294). So, we sing at least ten hymns in every Family Home Evening. Sometimes we sing more than we talk!
We have five daughters and one son in our family. When our son, Stephen, was in Malaysia on his mission, Ryan was working out of state. That meant in FHE there were only female voices. It didn’t feel complete. We missed having our father and brother sing with us. Since that time, we have added three sons-in-law, and I am so happy to hear male voices singing our hymns with us.
MUSIC IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES
MUSIC IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES
In addition to blessing us as Church and family members, the hymns can greatly benefit us as individuals. Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action. They can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace.
My daughter Abigail shared this experience:
“I have a CD case full of all different kinds of music, sung by various artists. They are grouped by category, but I crossed out the label ‘Sunday’ and covered it with ‘Everyday’ because I discovered that I was doing myself a disservice by limiting that group of beautifully uplifting music to Sunday. I recall a few times my friends giving me a questionable look for playing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” on a Thursday afternoon, but I’ve discovered that between school and work and a busy lifestyle, escaping from the world between errands or classes becomes easier if you have inspiring music to help you clear your mind.“
Elder Oaks teaches us another important role of hymns: “Sacred music can help us even where there is no formal performance. For example, when temptation comes, we can neutralize its effect by humming or repeating the words of a favorite hymn.” The word neutralize is defined as “render something by applying an opposite force or effect.” By humming a hymn or thinking the words to a favorite primary song, we are applying a strong and positive opposite effect to a negative, tempting thought of the adversary.
I love music and I love the feelings of the spirit that it can welcome into our lives and our homes. I am grateful to be part of a church that appreciates it and uses it as a tool for good. Our souls can truly connect with God as we righteously worship Him with song.
 'First Presidency Preface,' Hymns 1985, p. ix-x
 “Worship through Music”, Dallin H. Oaks Ensign October 1995