How do I know what music is “appropriate” for worship meetings?
“All music in Church meetings should be presented in the spirit of worship of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, not as a performance to showcase musical talent.
“Musical selections should be consistent with the worshipful spirit of the hymns. They should teach the gospel with power and clarity” (General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 19.3.1, ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
“And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done” (Moroni 6:9).
Rather than thinking of music as inherently “appropriate” or not, bishoprics and ward music coordinators should consider the principles outlined in the General Handbook. They should also seek the Spirit’s direction, with their specific congregations and meetings in mind.
Who selects music for Church meetings?
“The bishop is responsible for ward music. He may assign this responsibility to one of his counselors. Bishoprics have the following responsibilities: …
- Work with the ward music coordinator to plan music for sacrament meetings (see 19.3.1)” (General Handbook, 19.4.1).
“The ward music coordinator serves under the direction of the bishopric. He or she has the following responsibilities:
- Be a resource to the bishopric and other ward leaders on music matters. Attend ward council meeting as invited by the bishop to help coordinate music in the ward.
- Work with the bishopric to plan music for sacrament meetings (see 19.3.1 and 19.3.2)” (General Handbook, 19.4.2).
Are hymns the only music that can be used in sacrament meeting?
“Hymns are used for all congregational singing in worship services. Hymns or other sacred musical selections may be used for prelude and postlude music, choir music, and solo or small group presentations. All music in Church meetings should be presented in the spirit of worship of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, not as a performance to showcase musical talent.
“Musical selections should be consistent with the worshipful spirit of the hymns. They should teach the gospel with power and clarity” (General Handbook, 19.3.1). (See also “Hymns for Congregations,” Hymns, 380–81.)
What culturally inclusive music may be used in sacrament meeting?
Music that may be culturally inclusive and unifying for one congregation may not be as suitable for another. Bishoprics and ward music coordinators should consider the demographics and cultures represented in their congregations. They should also seek the direction of the Spirit when planning music for worship meetings. The general principles in General Handbook, 19.3, provide guidance for selecting music for worship in all congregations.
Should we sing only those hymns that are familiar to our congregation?
“Music coordinators and bishoprics try to find a balance between familiar and less-familiar hymns. Musical selections presented by the ward choir or others can help members become more familiar with hymns that are not as well known” (General Handbook, 19.3.2). (See also Hymns, 381.)
“A library of sheet music and music recordings for use at home and at church is available on the Sacred Music app and online at music.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Listening to recordings can help members become more familiar with the hymns.
“The interactive music player on ChurchofJesusChrist.org can help those seeking to learn new music or develop music skills” (General Handbook, 19.6).
Is there an official list of “banned” or “approved” music or composers for sacrament meeting?
No. Music coordinators and priesthood leaders should review the general principle-based guidelines (see General Handbook, 19.3.1 and 19.3.2) and then, with the guidance of the Spirit, apply the guidelines to a particular circumstance.
Should we choose sacrament hymns only from the “Sacrament” section in the hymnbook’s table of contents?
Hymns throughout the hymnbook may be used as sacrament hymns if they follow this guideline: “The sacrament hymn should refer to the sacrament itself or to the sacrifice of the Savior” (General Handbook, 19.3.2). For more information, see “Hymns for Congregations,” Hymns, 380–81.
Which verse(s) of a hymn should we sing in worship meetings?
As music coordinators and bishoprics plan music for meetings, they consider which verses will best meet the purposes of the meeting and the needs of the congregation. Intentionally planning the use of music in meetings will help create rich opportunities for the Spirit to testify to members according to their needs.
“You need not feel compelled to sing all the verses of a hymn unless the message is otherwise incomplete. However, do not routinely shorten a hymn by singing just the first one or two verses. Singing the verses printed below the music is encouraged” (Hymns, 381).
May instruments other than the piano or organ be used in sacrament meeting?
“Live instruments are normally used for prelude and postlude music and for hymn accompaniment in Church meetings. Where they are available and where members can play them, organs and pianos are the standard instruments. Bishoprics may approve the use of other instruments to accompany congregational singing, for prelude and postlude music, and in other musical selections.
“Musical instruments should convey a feeling of worship and be played in keeping with the spirit of the meeting.
“If a piano, organ, or accompanist is not available, recordings may be used” (General Handbook, 19.3.6).
“The piano, organ, or another instrument approved by the bishopric may be used to accompany hymn singing in sacrament meeting” (General Handbook, 19.3.2).
Can recorded accompaniment be used for music in sacrament meetings?
“If a piano, organ, or accompanist is not available, recordings may be used” (General Handbook, 19.3.6).
“All music in Church meetings should be presented in the spirit of worship of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, not as a performance to showcase musical talent” (General Handbook, 19.3.1).
Can songs not published by the Church be used in Primary?
“The music leader and pianist teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ through music during singing time. Music reinforces weekly Come, Follow Me study. The following resources may be used:
- Come, Follow Me—For Primary
- Instructions for Singing Time and the Children’s Sacrament Meeting Program
- Children’s Songbook
- Primary Music Collections on ChurchofJesusChrist.org
- “Primary Singing Time—Music Can Teach Doctrine” (MediaLibrary.ChurchofJesusChrist.org)
“The bishopric must approve the use of any other music in Primary” (General Handbook, 12.3.4).
Are musical programs allowed in sacrament meeting for Easter, Christmas, and so on?
As bishoprics and ward music coordinators plan music for worship, they may work with other ward leaders, such as choir directors and Primary presidencies, to plan occasional meetings that feature more music than a normal worship service. Although “musical programs” are no longer addressed in the General Handbook, these sections should still provide guidance for such occasions:
When will the Church publish a new hymnbook (or children’s songbook)?
The hymnbook and children’s songbook are currently under revision. Development is expected to take several years as the committees coordinate together, considering both new and existing hymns and songs for inclusion. Translation of the books will begin after that work is complete. Learn more here.
May meetinghouse organs and pianos be used for paid private instruction? What about recitals?
“When there is not a reasonable alternative, priesthood leaders may authorize the use of meetinghouse pianos and organs for practice, paid private instruction, and recitals involving members of the units that use the meetinghouse. … No admittance fee should be charged for recitals” (General Handbook, 19.7.2).
Who is responsible for keeping the musical instruments tuned and in repair? What is the procedure?
“Pianos are tuned and organs are maintained regularly. The bishop or the stake building representative can contact the facilities manager with questions. As needed, he can also submit a request in Facility Issue Reporting (FIR) to maintain and repair pianos and organs” (General Handbook, 184.108.40.206).
What are the guidelines for music in classes and quorum meetings?
“Singing hymns can be an effective way to introduce or reinforce gospel principles. Leaders encourage teachers to use the hymns and other sacred music to enhance their teaching.
“Sunday quorum meetings and classes do not routinely begin with an opening hymn” (General Handbook, 19.3.3).
What are the guidelines regarding multistake choirs?
“With the approval of stake or area leaders, stake and multistake choirs may be organized for stake conferences and other occasions, such as community events. After the meeting or event, the choir is disbanded until other occasions arise” (General Handbook, 220.127.116.11).
How are choir members selected?
“Ward members may volunteer to sing in the choir. Members and others may also be invited to participate. Auditions are not held” (General Handbook, 18.104.22.168).
Can we have someone come to our area to do a workshop or seminar?
“Where there are enough members, music coordinators may consult with priesthood leaders and recommend organizing stake or multistake training workshops. No fee is charged for Church-sponsored training” (General Handbook, 19.6).
Can nonmembers have music callings?
“In wards that are large enough, the bishopric may call members to serve in [some music] callings. Youth and those of other faiths may be called to serve. Bishoprics may adapt these callings as necessary to meet the needs of their ward” (General Handbook, 19.4.3).
Are ward choirs no longer necessary in each ward?
Ward choirs are a source of rich spiritual blessings for choir members and congregations. The Lord has said, “The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12). Bishops and branch presidents are encouraged to seek the guidance of the Spirit as they consider whether there are enough members and resources to create and maintain choirs in their units.
“Where there are enough members, wards may organize choirs that sing in sacrament meeting regularly” (General Handbook, 22.214.171.124).