“The Power of the Hymns,” Ensign, July 2005, 68–71
In May 1987 my wife and son were about to be baptized in our native county of Kent, England. Despite the best efforts of the missionaries and members over a number of years, I had resisted the gospel—indeed, I had fought it tooth and nail. Although I had been asked for and had given permission for my wife and son to be baptized, it had been on condition that nobody would try to involve me. It was even doubtful whether or not I would actually attend the baptismal service.
However, my wife had a way of ensuring that I would be there. She asked me to sing a solo at the service. She knew I loved singing too much to resist. We looked through the unfamiliar hymnbook to find a suitable song, and she chose “I Stand All Amazed” (Hymns, no. 193) because she had heard it the previous Sunday and had felt something while singing it. I took a cursory look at the notes and decided they presented no problem. I did not look at the words.
The day came, and we had reached the point in the service when I was to sing. The first verse went fine, but then something—which I now know to be the Spirit—hit me very hard. I became acutely aware, as I sang the words “I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine / To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,” that I was that rebellious soul and that the Savior had descended to rescue me. I somehow managed to finish the hymn, despite almost choking with tears, but the rest of the service was a blur. When it was over, the full-time missionaries asked about my reaction. I agreed to take the discussions and was baptized some five and a half months later by our son, who by that time had been ordained a priest.
Since that happy day, I have had the great privilege of serving the Lord in many callings, including bishop, and of working for the Church in Frankfurt, Germany, for five wonderful years before moving to Canada and preparing to serve a mission. My wife and I recently completed two years of service in the Canada Edmonton Mission. All of this and countless other blessings can be traced back to that one line in that one hymn on that one day. The Lord knew that was the way to reach through my stubborn resistance and touch my heart.
David L. Tyler, Cimarron Ward, Calgary Alberta Foothills Stake
On August 1, 1989, while bodysurfing at Laguna Beach, California, I hit my head on a submerged rock and was instantly paralyzed from the neck down. Lifeguards and paramedics kept me alive until I was transported to the regional trauma center. Extensive tests showed the prognosis was not good. I was to be paralyzed from the neck down and breathing on a ventilator for the rest of my life.
While I was in the intensive care unit, brethren from the ward and stake volunteered to sit with me through the night. Being unable to move or speak, I felt very vulnerable, and their presence was a great comfort to me. However, late one night I was having difficulty sleeping and was feeling fretful and uneasy. A young man in the stake, whom I as stake president had recently called to the high council, was sitting with me that night. He sensed that all was not well, and he said softly, “President, would you like me to sing to you?” I blinked my eyes once—my signal for yes. Taking out his little hymnbook, he commenced singing the hymns to me. He had a beautiful baritone voice, and with the familiar melodies and words came the unmistakable peace, comfort, and warmth of the Spirit.
On another occasion, at a rehabilitation center where I spent six months following the accident, I was suffering from anxiety again and didn’t know how I would make it through the night. As I lay there in the dark, unable to move and praying for relief, the thought came to me that I could sing the hymns in my mind. I began with “I Stand All Amazed” and then “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (Hymns, nos. 193, 136). Other hymns began flooding into my mind, the spirit of peace and comfort gradually descended upon me, and I soon fell into a deep sleep.
I have had an extremely rewarding life in the 16 years since my injury. Still, I have spent many hours lying in bed in the dark of night or early morning hours unable to sleep and have been blessed with a calm and peaceful feeling that eliminates anxiety and restlessness as I sing the hymns in my mind. The singing of hymns invites the Spirit into my life as nothing else can. What would I do without the hymns of this Church?
Jack L. Rushton, Tustin Fourth Ward, Orange California Stake
A few months before my 17th birthday, my family left our hometown in Alberta, Canada, and moved to Salt Lake City. It was a wrenching experience to leave my close circle of friends, my many Canadian relatives, and the prospect of a senior year filled with ball games, musical performances, and dances. I would be the new girl who had no friends, was not involved in any activities, and was simply a nobody.
My first day at West High School was overwhelming. The number of students enrolled was greater than the population of my entire hometown! Just walking through the crowded corridors, being pushed on every side by the mass of humanity, was intimidating.
In my homeroom class, the teacher instructed me to go directly to the office because there was a problem with my registration. There, I was told I needed to go to the seminary building to get a signature from my teacher, authorizing me to leave the building every day for released-time religious instruction.
I had to ask for directions to the seminary building, and two students who heard me ask said: “Follow us. We’re going over there right now. Everybody who has seminary first hour meets in the foyer for an opening devotional.”
There must have been a hundred students jammed into the foyer of the building. I received a jovial handshake and a big smile from a gentleman in a suit and tie who was greeting at the door. “Welcome,” his voice boomed, followed immediately by the exclamation, “You’re the one who plays the piano!”
Startled, I said, “Well, yes I am, but how did you know that?”
“We’ll sort all of that out later,” he replied. “Just sit down and play this hymn.”
“I can’t,” I protested. “I need a signature, and then I have to get back to my class.”
“Just play the hymn,” he insisted. “It’s ‘Sweet Is the Work.’” He propelled me toward the piano and pulled out the bench. “Then I’ll sign your card.”
Playing the piano didn’t frighten me. I had taken lessons for 12 years, and the piano bench was one place where I felt completely comfortable. So I sat down and played “Sweet Is the Work” (Hymns, no. 147), amazed to hear a hundred teenage voices singing together. The only time I’d had that experience previously was at regional conferences. I could hear all four parts as their voices blended on “My heart shall triumph in my Lord / And bless his works and bless his word.” At the end of the hymn I had tears in my eyes, realizing that the seminary building was one place where I would find friendship and acceptance.
Throughout that first day at school, I kept passing people in the halls who would call out, “Hey, you’re the one who played the piano in seminary!” The great majority of my friendships during my senior year came as a result of that one morning in the seminary building. Playing that simple hymn changed my life at a time when I was feeling lonely, vulnerable, and anonymous.
I have often thought back on that day and laughed about Brother Jackson’s response when I inquired later, “How did you know I played the piano?”
“I didn’t,” he replied. “I had asked that same question of every single person who came through the door. You were the first one who said yes!”
Helen Walker Jones, Ensign First Ward, Salt Lake Ensign Stake
In 2003 my husband learned that he would be deployed to Iraq for a year, leaving me alone to care for our four young children. In the weeks after he left, my frustration was sometimes overwhelming as I tried to assuage my own fears and comfort my children, who could not understand why their father was not there. Each night I looked forward to a short respite after the children were asleep.
My oldest son, Patrick, had just turned four and had a hard time adjusting to the changes in our home. He often stayed up late with me, following me around and clinging to me. I struggled to find a way to calm his fears and find that precious time I needed for myself.
One night I was especially frustrated that Patrick was still awake. I stomped through the house, getting him a drink of water, finding his favorite toy, trying everything I could think of to get him to sleep. I silently prayed, asking Heavenly Father what else I could do.
As I passed the bookshelf on my way to Patrick’s room, I saw the Children’s Songbook where it had lain untouched since I bought it several months earlier. A thought entered my mind: “You bought it for the children. Don’t you think it’s about time you used it?”
I took the book and returned to Patrick’s bedroom, wondering if I was about to waste my time on another fruitless effort. I told Patrick to lie down while I sang him a song. I started with the first song in the book, “I Am a Child of God” (pp. 2–3; see also Hymns, no. 301), and sang every verse. Patrick was quiet the whole time. I continued on to the next song I recognized. After only three or four songs, Patrick was asleep. I realized that I was also feeling calmer and comforted by the messages of the songs.
The next night, Patrick asked me to sing to him again. This became our nightly routine. Over the next few months I sang through the Children’s Songbook many times, singing every verse of every song I knew. I even learned a few that were unfamiliar to me.
I began to notice a change in our home. There was an atmosphere of love instead of frustration and anger. The children were more obedient and respectful, and they were kind and loving to one another. I felt I could handle the many challenges I faced during my husband’s deployment. My testimony of the gospel was strengthened, and I found renewed faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
Amy E. Marshall, Ansbach Ward, Nürnberg Germany Stake