Emotions primed during visit to sacred sites

FAYETTE, N.Y. — With a replica of the small cabin where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830 just a few yards from the Fayette Ward meetinghouse, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir convened for sacrament meeting Sunday, June 29.

The singers, members of an ensemble from the Orchestra at Temple Square and guests knew they were on hallowed ground. Still, few could have anticipated fully how electrifying the first few moments of the meeting would be, especially the singing of the opening hymn, "Joseph Smith's First Prayer," when some 600 voices — most of them extremely well trained — joined in hymn.

Just a little while earlier in the day, the 10-bus entourage stopped in Palmyra to visit the Sacred Grove, where the young Joseph Smith uttered the prayer that changed the course of history.

Even with several hundred people strolling its well-groomed paths, the grove was silent. No loud conversations interrupted the sweet, simple melodies of bird song. A few members of the group sat quietly on benches a few moments, contemplating or reading scriptural accounts of the First Vision.

By the time they arrived at the Fayette Ward chapel, spiritual emotions were already primed.

Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Seventy and North America Northeast Area presidency addressed the gathering. He spoke of the "power to the music" of the choir. He said that one might be a terrific tenor and another a good soprano and yet another a talented member of the orchestra, and then they sing with one voice, each decreasing his or her own role in order to increase the strength of the choir.

He spoke of the nuances of authenticity possessed by the choir, their simple yet direct ways of bearing testimony through music.

He reminded choir members of the impact they have upon audiences as they sing Rimksy-Korsakoff's "Glory," and Moses Hogan's arrangement of "The Battle of Jericho." He quoted Alma 5:14, part of which asks, "Have you received his image in your countenances?"

"The image of Christ has been engraved in your countenances as we've listened," he told the choir and orchestra. "People have mentioned your countenance as much as your music."

The visit to Palmyra and Fayette complemented an earlier visit by the choir's group to the Kirtland Temple en route from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Buffalo, N.Y. The choir had little time in Kirtland, but that time was marked by magnificence. Divided into two groups, they took turns visiting restored or newly reconstructed sites and the Kirtland Temple.

Elder Condie addressed each group in the temple, speaking of the keys of restoration that occurred within the edifice.

Then something that will live forever in the memories of those present occurred: Members of the choir, orchestra and guests filled the temple with joyful sound as they sang "The Spirit of God," which was written for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836.

It was one of those moments people describe by saying, "There wasn't a dry eye in the room."

E-mail: [email protected]