“How can we improve the kind of music and art we have in our home?” Ensign, July 1981, 32
Janice R. Welker, homemaker and mother. A couple of summers ago, I found myself humming a popular song with a light, happy melody, no great work of art to be sure, but pleasant and catchy. Unfortunately, the lyrics were questionable in their message. At first, I was convinced that if I just didn’t pay any attention to the words it would be all right. It did not take long for me to realize, however, that I could not separate the music and the lyrics. When I found myself singing these words I despised, I began to see how important it is to be selective in my music.
Since then my husband and I have decided that we want only the best art in our home and in our lives. At first, this decision required some effort. Our family did not know a lot about the arts, but we began to learn about them and appreciate them, especially music. We began to notice very quickly how much easier it was to have the Spirit of the Lord with us when we were not being bombarded constantly by worldly things.
As Latter-day Saints, we know we need to cultivate a sense of taste and propriety. Not all good art, even if it is technically perfect, is appropriate for a Latter-day Saint home. On the other hand, not every work of art that aspires to enshrine noble principles or significant events is a true work of art, even though the artist’s motives may have been very worthy.
A second factor to consider is appropriateness. For example, not all good music, not even splendid classical music, is appropriate for sacrament meeting. Listening to the Spirit will help us know what is truly appropriate for each occasion.
Sometimes people feel that their likes and dislikes are fixed and unchangeable. Not so. The keys to appreciating the arts are exposure and education. A person need not have a Ph.D. in art to enjoy an inspiring symphony, a fine painting, good drama, or whatever. We merely need to take advantage of our opportunities. I suppose that there are many ways to learn about the arts (or any other subject), but the three things that I feel helped our family the most in our quest to improve our musical tastes were a good friend who knows a lot about music, a classical music radio station, and our local library.
Our friend was happy to spend an hour with us periodically playing records of good music for us, often explaining points about the piece and answering our questions. He was careful to select pieces that we could appreciate, increasing their complexity as our capacity increased.
When we first started listening to our local classical music station, the only thing we recognized was the “Lone Ranger” theme of the “William Tell Overture,” but we continued to listen and became familiar with more and more music. This is an activity even young children enjoy.
From our public library, we checked out records, often works that we had heard about but were not very familiar with. We also read about the great composers and their works and shared what we learned with one another.
We are now trying to expand our tastes and knowledge even more. Of course we are still learning about music, but we are also trying to learn about the other forms of art. One home evening each month is devoted to appreciating and understanding the arts. We may spend some time at the library or attend a cultural event in the area. Because we try to sample a variety of things, we are never bored.
I have a strong testimony that as we “seek after [the best] things” (A of F 1:13), we invite the Spirit of the Lord into our homes, helping us to establish an atmosphere of reverence, love, and joy.