Guest post by Matthew R. Lee
Music is an over looked and underused teaching method. It’s unfortunate that songs are not used more often to teach multiple age groups. With a few exceptions the only memorized text I recall from my teenage years are song lyrics. I have a catalog of lyrics by Paul Simon, Midnight Oil, R.E.M., U2, Guadalcanal Diary, and a horde of others lodged in my mind. For better or for worse, these songs helped shape my worldview. Not only the lyrics but also the sounds, the moods, and the intensity of the music.
What many readers of Wheats and Tares share in common are the primary songs we sang at church and at home. They too have helped shaped our worldview. Songs from the Children’s Songbook are an inescapable part of the English speaking Church and far more memorable that most in the Hymnal.
For many, these songs were their first portable statements of doctrine and belief with lyrics far more important to comprehend than, “the boy in the bubble and the baby with the baboon heart.” How do we view these songs as adults? Do we see in them signs of our current and past doctrinal understanding? Why have some of them remained near the surface in our memory while others have faded?
As a child of divorced parents singing “Daddy’s Homecoming” was difficult. My daddy wasn’t coming home yet I knew that a ‘daddy’ was coming home for most of the kids in Primary. I didn’t like to sing it but through it, and other songs about family that were just as uncomfortable, I learned something important. I learned that in the Church we teach the standard and not the exception. I was not part of the ideal family. I was the exception on the outside looking in. Singing “Daddy’s Homecoming” appeared to be silly bliss for others yet I had a hidden burden they didn’t see or feel. For them it wasn’t a song of longing like “I Need Thee Every Hour.” It was a song recognizing the joy of having. A song of object permanence that for me wasn’t permanent. Yet that was okay.
I don’t recall singing Love is Spoken Here in Primary but as an adult, I appreciate the line “mine is a home where every hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood power.” I read it as recognition of the blessings that can come into every home because of the restoration of the gospel rather than a statement on “priesthood power” personified solely in a father. Baptism, the Sacrament, and covenants made in the Temple can bless home and family “every hour” with or without a father who is a Melchizedek priesthood holder in the home. The family structure as outline in the Proclamation on the Family, including the sealing ordinances, is the ideal, yet the absence of a father who holds the priesthood does not cause the heavens to “withdraw themselves.”
I also appreciate the words “with father and mother leading the way.” The leading is equal. One is not the assistant of the other.
What are some of your experiences with Primary songs? How have they shaped your views of family life and other relationships?