On the night of the Last Supper, the Savior and His disciples gathered together for the last time before Jesus would fulfill His Father’s will. To conclude this sacred event, Matthew tells us, they sang a hymn before leaving for the Mount of Olives (see Matthew 26:30).
Imagine, if you will, the Savior of the world singing with His beloved disciples before they dispersed. The Savior undoubtedly knew deep in His heart what was to come later that evening and the next day. Perhaps worshiping and singing with those He loved offered comfort and peace.
During these months of unprecedented challenges and uncertainty we, too, need comfort and strength for coming events. We can learn much from the Savior’s example of what will bring us spiritual strength, nourishment and peace during times of crisis. Sacred music and scripture study are a perfect combination.
The First Presidency has reminded us, “Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel. 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” (see The First Presidency Preface of the Hymnbook 1985).
New this year to “Come, Follow Me — for Individuals and Families” is “Suggested Music for Families,” found in Appendix D. Families may choose to use these suggested hymns and Primary songs during family scripture study and family home evening. This addition is a great help for parents and individuals and families to enhance their gospel study.
“Remember, music has the power to provide spiritual nourishment. It has healing power. It has the power to facilitate worship. It allows us to contemplate the Atonement, the restoration of the gospel with its saving principles and exalting ordinances. Music provides power for us to express prayerful thoughts and bear testimony of sacred truths,” (see President Russel M. Nelson, “The Power and Protection Provided by Worthy Music,” BYU Devotional, May 4, 2008).
There is no coincidence that the “home-centered, Church-supported” curriculum like “Come, Follow Me” was written “for such a time as this” (see Esther 4:14). It was created before the restrictions of the COVID–19 pandemic required that worship in our homes be implemented. This blessing has made it possible for families throughout the world to continue receiving spiritual nourishment through studying and singing, thus “transforming our homes into a sanctuary of faith” (see President Russell M. Nelson, “Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints,” October 2018).
For example, Bill and Jenny Fagergren have three children. They enjoy having family scripture study every week. George, their youngest child, is a Sunbeam and is not yet able to read. But he desperately wants to participate.
George’s mother, Jenny, helps him stay engaged in the lesson by having him prepare a song and lead the family in singing during their discussions. Bill and Jenny are realizing the influence music has on their children and its ability to plant seeds of doctrine in their hearts.
Why is it so beneficial to combine singing and family scripture study?
President Joy D. Jones and her counselors tell us, “Primary songs and hymns are a powerful tool to help children learn about Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness and the foundational truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As children sing about gospel principles, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness. The words and music will stay in the children’s minds and hearts throughout their lives” (see “Instructions for Singing Time and Children’s Sacrament Meeting Presentations”).
Recently, a young college student wrote, “There are many important and big decisions I am making in my life. During this process, there have been multiple occasions where I have been filled with doubt or become discouraged. On one specific instance, I found myself asking Heavenly Father in prayer, ‘Are you there?’ ‘Do you know how much I am struggling?’
“These thoughts of doubt were automatically dismissed when the words of the Primary song, ‘A Child’s Prayer’ came to mind. ‘Pray, He is there. Speak. He is listening.’ Though simple, these words have struck my heart time and time again. The basic principles I learned as a child in Primary have had lasting impacts on my life. These songs are like small testimonies … that relay pure truths rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ” (see Church News, “Music Will Continue to Have an Important Role in Primary,” Nov. 29, 2018).
Sacred music can also act as a tender mercy by opening our hearts for the Spirit to speak to us. Elder David A. Bednar remembers his first general conference as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was the next speaker after the congregation sang the hymn, “Redeemer of Israel.” If he had been asked to choose a hymn that was both edifying and spiritually soothing for him, he would have chosen his favorite hymn, “Redeemer of Israel.”
“Tears filled my eyes as I stood to sing that stirring hymn of the Restoration,” Elder Bednar said. “A loving Savior was sending me a most personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance through a hymn selected weeks previously. Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence” (see Elder David A. Bednar, “Tender Mercies of The Lord,” April 2005).
Elder Bednar also recently stated that hymns “teach powerful doctrinal lessons. And in those messages, in both music and the lyrics, you can ‘hear Him.’ For me, sacred music often is a channel for the voice of the Lord” (see David A. Bednar, “Hear Him” blog 2020).
We might not have been in Jerusalem singing with the Savior on that sacred night over 2,000 years ago, but we are His disciples singing His praises today. When we sing of Him, we feel His Spirit. As we sing about Him, we honor His example and atoning sacrifice. When we want to feel closer to the Savior, singing can help.