Feb 12, 2013

Worthy Music- Inspiring Thoughts

I remember this wonderful life changing advice from Boyd K Packer delivered at General Conference October 1973.

(Let's put that into perspective- I'd just turned 21. I had 18 month old Tony and 1 month old Rebekah. we lived in the little house we rented from Norbergs across the street and up the hill from Cheney's Sawmill. Life was pretty good at that point!)

It wasn't long before some pretty heavy-duty trials appeared on the scene and I needed something, ANYTHING!, to help me try to stay afloat! I remembered Elder Packer's advice... it was such good commonsense advise; especially for me, who'd grown up singing around the piano with my sisters!

I have a vivid recollection of propping the hymnal up on the kitchen windowsill at our house in Baker Oregon singing "I Need the Every Hour" and washing dishes.

This wonderful inspired counsel has served me well for 40 years. I have a whole repertoire of hymns that "buoy me up and strengthen me". I am a hummer. And just as President Packer says, I find myself humming a hymn and then go into a rewind-mode and realize that a discouraging thought had tried to invade my peace and I cast it out with a song in my heart.

All of this has become relevant again to me: I have family members who struggle with difficult situations, and this week I am teaching my Sunday school class  How can I use Church music to learn about the plan of salvation?  

I have such a wonderful, abiding testimony that, indeed, Worthy Music can lift the suffering, sorrowing soul and replace it with the beautiful Light of Christ.

Text from Elder Packer's talk:

I had been told a hundred times or more as I grew up that thoughts must be controlled. But no one told me how.

I want to tell you young people about one way you can learn to control your thoughts, and it has to do with music.

The mind is like a stage. Except when we are asleep the curtain is always up. There is always some act being performed on that stage. It may be a comedy, a tragedy, interesting or dull, good or bad; but always there is some act playing on the stage of the mind.

Have you noticed that without any real intent on your part, in the middle of almost any performance, a shady little thought may creep in from the wings and attract your attention? These delinquent thoughts will try to upstage everybody.

If you permit them to go on, all thoughts of any virtue will leave the stage. You will be left, because you consented to it, to the influence of unrighteous thoughts.

If you yield to them, they will enact for you on the stage of your mind anything to the limits of your toleration. They may enact a theme of bitterness, jealousy, or hatred. It may be vulgar, immoral, even depraved.

When they have the stage, if you let them, they will devise the most clever persuasions to hold your attention. They can make it interesting all right, even convince you that it is innocent—for they are but thoughts.

What do you do at a time like that, when the stage of your mind is commandeered by the imps of unclean thinking?—whether they be the gray ones that seem almost clean or the filthy ones which leave no room for doubt.

If you can control your thoughts, you can overcome habits, even degrading personal habits. If you can learn to master them you will have a happy life.

This is what I would teach you. Choose from among the sacred music of the Church a favorite hymn, one with words that are uplifting and music that is reverent, one that makes you feel something akin to inspiration. Remember President Lee’s counsel; perhaps “I Am A Child of God” would do. Go over it in your mind carefully. Memorize it. Even though you have had no musical training, you can think through a hymn.

Now, use this hymn as the place for your thoughts to go. Make it your emergency channel. Whenever you find these shady actors have slipped from the sidelines of your thinking onto the stage of your mind, put on this record, as it were.

As the music begins and as the words form in your thoughts, the unworthy ones will slip shamefully away. It will change the whole mood on the stage of your mind. Because it is uplifting and clean, the baser thoughts will disappear. For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light.

In due time you will find yourself, on occasion, humming the music inwardly. As you retrace your thoughts, you discover some influence from the world about you encouraged an unworthy thought to move on stage in your mind, and the music almost automatically began.

“Music,” said Gladstone, “is one of the most forceful instruments for governing the mind and spirit of man.”

I am so grateful for music that is worthy and uplifting and inspiring.

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