Q&A: Questions and Answers

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“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, June 1997, 17

Questions and Answers

I know we shouldn’t read bad books or magazines, but what about bad words in songs? I really like the music, so how do I stop listening to it?

New Era

We are surrounded by music of many kinds. It’s playing in the background of stores we shop in, in restaurants where we eat, on radios in our cars or in our work places, and it’s something we choose to listen to as recordings or as it is performed. We also use music in our worship services and other church meetings.

Music is a powerful means of communicating a message, both for good and bad. Music can help you feel happy and uplifted, or it can cause you to feel angry and sad. It is because of this persuasive power that we need to pay close attention to the things we listen to.

You specifically asked about bad lyrics. Unfortunately, the lyrics of a song are hard to separate from the tune. When you hear the music played, the lyrics can come into your mind, even if you didn’t realize you knew the words. So you must be cautious about the songs you listen to because you’re picking up the words even if you think you aren’t. Avoiding bad language in our entertainment makes good sense, just as we try to avoid using bad language in our own speech.

Not everyone will agree about what music or which songs are good or bad. Personal taste does enter in. And knowledgeable musicians can point out both good and bad examples in every type of music. Your parents or leaders may like the golden oldies, but they can most likely remember when some of “their” music was considered shocking. But they also know how easy it is to be taken in by unsuitable lyrics. Listen to their advice about being careful what you listen to.

You have to be truly honest with yourself. Don’t listen to disgusting or vulgar lyrics just for the shock value or for some so-called social commentary. Society’s real problems do not need to be described in vulgar language. And crude language really has no place at all in song lyrics.

In For the Strength of Youth, it continues, “You should be willing to control your listening habits and shun music that is spiritually harmful. Don’t listen to music that contains ideas that contradict principles of the gospel. Don’t listen to music that promotes Satanism or other evil practices, encourages immorality, uses foul and offensive language, or drives away the Spirit. Use careful judgment and maturity to choose the music you listen to and the level of its volume.”

Music is a great thing when used to praise and uplift.


Big problems start small. Any kind of language that causes the Spirit to leave, or causes bad thoughts to form, should be avoided. Keep your thoughts clean, and your actions will take care of themselves.

Jason Zastrow, 17
Hayden Lake, Idaho

There is no such thing as ignoring the lyrics. Once you have that tune in your head, usually the bad lyrics are there also. Listening to bad music puts pictures in your head, and that is just as bad.

Leticia L. Gonzales, 18
Parsons, Tennessee

The First Presidency has said that “Music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity.” Use careful judgment in choosing the music you listen to. Ask yourself, what redeeming qualities does this song have?

Elder Colin Tuilevuka
New Zealand Auckland Mission

I felt that way until I heard a speaker say that even though we only pay attention to the music, our brain records the words. I was very surprised when I realized I had memorized many lyrics without realizing it.

Panhia Tho, 16
Stockton, California

I had the same question. But I’ve learned from my mistakes. I thought that ignoring the lyrics would be fine. Fortunately I recognized my problem and repented. Remember the Lord’s advice to Emma Smith, “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (D&C 25:12).

Ryan W. Holloway, 17
Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, Canada

My mom always says that if you can hear the music, you can hear the words. Even if you don’t think about the words at that moment, they are still in your mind. Think of how you would feel if the Savior were there listening with you? Try to choose music that has good lyrics.

Cambria Nash, 13
Kaysville, Utah

Even though you think you are just listening to the music, you may find yourself thinking of the lyrics at times when you don’t want them there. Try to listen to music that will allow the Spirit into your life.

Sarah Lunt, 15
Charleston, Illinois

When I turned in my missionary papers, my bishop challenged me to not listen to any music at all until my call came. After about a week, the music was gone, but the bad lyrics were still there. Needless to say, my taste in music has changed. I was also able to feel the Spirit more often without the music blaring all the time. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are immune to the traps of Satan.

Nicholas Uerkvitz, 19
Hereford, Arizona

Photography by John Luke; posed by model

“Music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity,” according to For the Strength of Youth. However, good music “can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father. It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite.” The choice of how to use this powerful means of communication is up to you.