I’ve been waiting to write this for a while now, but I laughed out loud when reading a comment on this post , so I thought it was time to share my thoughts on the issue with music in the Mormon church.
When discussing the issue of Mormon church meetings lasting so long, one of the comments was:
…my friend has a full-fledged band in her Methodist church. Where the (heck)’s (he used a different expression) our band! I wanna band!
After reading this, my thoughts went back to when I was 21 years old and just home from my LDS mission to Germany. I had been asked to sing in church so I sang my own arrangement of the hymn “Beautiful Savior” on the acoustic guitar (playing guitar isn’t normally done in LDS churches, so I thought it would be a good thing to add variety to the worship).
I felt very moved when preparing for the song and also singing the song. When playing the song, I didn’t go crazy on a blues scale or put a pop flare into it. I simply did a simple picking and strumming pattern and played it softly and worshipful. I truly felt the Holy Spirit when singing and playing the song during church. After the meeting many people came up and mentioned how it had moved them too. However, when the bishop approached me, he had other things to say. He whipped out the bishop’s handbook (this is a handbook issued by the LDS church President that has guidelines and policies about how to conduct meetings in church and other issues leaders need to deal with) and was polite about telling me that I sounded good, but that sacrament meeting wasn’t a place for guitars (even though the book doesn’t explicitly state that).
I disagreed with him and I still do.
I have family members who attend various other Christian denominations including: Anglican, Foursquare, Presbyterian, and non-denominational. I have been to their services when their band is playing songs and the congregation joins in. The argument I have always heard against a full band in church from Mormon leadership is that guitars and drums drive away the Spirit. However, when I have attended their church I have felt the Spirit during songs with a full band just as much as I have with the traditional organ-accompanied hymnals we hear in Mormon or traditional Christian churches. Plus our kids pay more attention and enjoy it more as well!
The official policy from the latest Mormon Church Handbook states the following about music selection for sacrament:
Organs and pianos, or their electronic equivalents, are the standard instruments used in Church meetings. If other instruments are used, their use should be in keeping with the spirit of the meeting. Instruments with a prominent or less worshipful sound, such as most brass and percussion, are not appropriate for sacrament meeting.
I can understand not wanting percussion, although do not completely agree with them that drums are less worshipful. I’ve been to meetings where drums are played and there is definitely a more worshipful experience with the drummer and congregation compared with what you usually see in Mormon meetings where people are half asleep as they play a slow hymn and fight kids during the song.
Where I do agree with the Mormon leaders’ philosophy on music in church is that before the Sacrament (Communion) it is appropriate to play reflective music. This should be a very reflective time. However, once the Sacrament has been conducted the other songs that are sung during the meeting can be upbeat with various instruments, I think.
Finally, I am a member of a band in our local Stake. We play songs that relate to pioneers, Jesus, scriptures, missionaries, and the gospel in general. The songs we play the range from very slow to very upbeat. I feel a closeness to God as I express my praise through music and many other people have expressed how close they feel to God when listening to us as well. We use a full band and I think there wouldn’t be a problem playing our stuff in sacrament meeting with most of the songs we perform. Although they are more upbeat than hymns, they are worshipful.
I do not believe that God only listens to organ music. Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven if that’s all we heard up there!
So in conclusion, I share the same sentiment to a certain extent with the comment on the other blog:
Where the Heck is our band? I want a band in church!!!