Music's great power can uplift and inspire - or promote evil

What a magnificent age in which to live. All the knowledge and understanding of millennia have come together to give us enlightenment and power. We can span the globe in minutes, venture into space, cure diseases previously feared, communicate instantly throughout the world, and share the art and culture of all civilizations in our homes and communities.

The notion that the valiant and great ones have been saved to the last days is a noble and happy thought. It is good news to think that we might have been "held back" to this dispensation for an admirable purpose. Yet, there is with that an awesome responsibility, for we have been placed here for one of the greatest battles in history. It is not "yet to come, " but we actually are in it now. It is an unfair fight, for we are on enemy territory, and our enemy's tools are highly developed.The battle of which I speak is the battle between good and evil, light and dark, love and hate. It is the same battle that began in the pre-existence, but is now growing with a great crescendo. The commander in chief of this enemy force is well known to us; we call him by many names, the prince of darkness, the deceiver, Satan or the devil. His power is great, his tools are mighty. One of the greatest tools being used in this battle on both sides is music. It has great power to further both sides of the conflict. How do we know from which source of power the music we surround ourselves is coming?

The prophet Brigham Young believed great music was a special means of communicating with God. J. Reuben Clark agreed when he said, "A man can get nearer to God by music than any other method except prayer."

Our Father in Heaven has used music in very special times in history such as the birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:13-14), his death (Matt 26:30), the prophet Joseph's martyrdom (history of the Church, June 27, 1844), Emma's injunction regarding the hymns (D & C 25:11-12), our final days in preparation for His second coming (D & C 88:99-102), and Christ's return which will be heralded by music. (Zeph 3:17).

From whence came power? J.S. Bach believed, "the final aim of music is for the glorification of God." Beethoven and Handel credited God, the Almighty Father, with revealing Himself to them through their musical compositions. Brahms testified that "the powers from which all truly composers like Mozart, Schubert, Bach and Beethoven drew their inspiration is the same power that enabled Jesus to work His miracles. It is the power that created our earth and the whole universe." Mozart considered his life and music to be directed by God in that "nothing can go ill so long as it is the will of God." His testimony was borne when he said "I thank my God for the bliss of knowing Him as the key to true happiness." Do you know the music of Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Brahms, Mozart? There lies in their music the chance to tap into great power: God's power.

Many of the masterpieces of music seem to come from the past. In trying to figure out the reason, I compiled a list of the works considered by the world as great classics, such as Beethoven's "9th Symphony," Brahms' "Requiem," Bach's "St. Matthew Passion," and Mozart's "Magic Flute," it was not surprising to me to see that the large body of such music was either written or discovered within 50 years of the target date of 1830.

That was an age of enlightenment. The Lord was flooding the earth with light and knowledge, not only at the Hill Cumorah, but in science, literature, and music. He was, as Isaiah and Nephi prophesied: "making bare His holy arm" to all the world. His voice can be heard in great music in the same way in which we hear His voice in Isaiah, Moroni, Matthew and Moses.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie referred to music as the "language of the Gods." I am a witness to that principle. I have been blessed on many occasions to know of His existence and power through the performance of, or listening to, divinely inspired music. God's voice is heard in music through a form of personal revelation, or the whispering of the Spirit. Therein lies the power!

That is glorious news. It is also bad news, because the same principle works on the dark side. In the book of Samuel (16:23) he testifies that through David's singing and playing upon his harp "the evil spirits departed from Saul." Divinely inspired music can rid us of forces that vex us and bring us pain. If that is a true principle, can the reverse also be true? Can certain forms of music invite evil spirits to vex and instruct us?

Music, well-conceived and skillfully performed, can open our spirits to messages from the master of deceit and destruction. President Heber J. Grant warned that "the more beautiful the music by which false doctrine is taught, the more dangerous it becomes."

I am also a witness of this principle. My understanding of this did not come from reading others' opinions or listening to testimonies of others. What I know I have seen with my own eyes as I have spent my life in the entertainment industry. The great artists of the world have been my colleagues. I know them. I know the source of their power as it has been witnessed to me by personal inspiration. Many have boasted satanic contracts and pacts. Looking to their fruits and the manner with which people are moved by their music is testimony of that.

We are now in another era of enlightenment. The forces of good and evil are taking sides. The First Presidency has stated that "with music, man's ability to express himself extends beyond the limits of spoken language in both subtlety and power." Because music is so powerful it also carries messages of degradation and destruction that can take us to the very lowest valley. It is therefore vital and important that Latter-day Saints be careful to which music they listen, and use the Spirit of the Lord in determining the music with which they surround themselves."

During the War in the Persian Gulf we learned about a new artillery - the Patriot missile, which has the power to disarm and destroy a destructive Scud missile before it has a chance to annihilate. This is the same sort of weaponry we must adopt in the conflict in which we are now engaged. We must disarm the power of darkness by not allowing its power to infect us through the music inspired by the dark side.

There is no longer time to be passive about the power we allow around us. We must surround ourselves with a shield of light that comes from the Spirit of God. That divine spark dwells in the tapestry of divinely inspired music. We are promised "perfect knowledge" in judging the source of inspiraton of all music. It is clearly related by Moroni in chapter 7 (verses 15-17), "for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ." Music that does not accomplish that injunction does not have divine inspiration. Music that causes us to change our ethics, morals, injure, or even cause death is inspired by darkness.

Of the great testimonies of the Savior borne in my lifetime, the witness of Elder McConkie, is extraordinary. He said of music that great music is eternal, given of God to further His purpose, and that we may learn more quickly through music. He also attested that many prayers have been answered through great music.

I have received personal witness of His divinity through great music as well as the scriptures. We must seek to hear His voice wherever it might come.

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About the author

Michael Ballam, a member of the Logan 43rd Ward, Logan Utah Central Stake, is a tenor whose professional operatic and recital career has spanned nearly two decades and three continents. He has performed in major concert halls in America, Europe, Asia and the Soviet Union, with command performances at the Vatican and the White House.

His operatic repertoire includes more than 600 performances of more than 70 major roles, having performed regularly with the Chicago Lyric, San Francisco Opera, Washington Opera, and the Dallas, Santa Fe, San Diego and Philadelphia opera companies.

Brother Ballam's greatest work, however, can perhaps be found in an elementary school classroom as he teaches little children to love Mozart or Beethoven. His lifetime devotion to music has taught him to understand and communicate the great power of this art.

A native of Logan, Utah, Brother Ballam received his bachelor's degree from Utah State University and his graduate degree from Indiana University. At 24, he became the youngest recipient of a doctor of music degree with distinction in history at Indiana University.

Brother Ballam is a former high councilor and has served as a special music missionary in Logan. In addition to singing, he is also an accomplished pianist and oboist. He has been recognized for his lectures throughout America and Europe and is currently an associate professor at Utah State University.

He and his wife, the former Laurie Israelsen, are the parents of five children.

Points to remember

  • Use good music to help you draw closer to Heavenly Father.
  • Do not listen to music that encourages immorality, uses offensive language, or drives the Spirit away.

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