p5090155Markag continues his series on differences and similarities of LDS and RLDS worship services.

The worship service of the LDS and RLDS both utilize congregation hymn singing and special music; by which I mean any musical pieces outside the official hymnbook and/or prepared by members in advance. The RLDS in recent years refer to them as “ministry of music”.

The LDS Church has a set of guidelines for planning/choosing music for church worship services; found at https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/music?lang=eng#144

Briefly summarized, the guidelines are:

All music must be approved by the Bishopric. Any one of them will do; usually whoever is conducting that particular service.

Texts should be doctrinally correct. This is why you probably won’t hear “Amazing Grace” in an LDS worship service. As a choir director, I needed to know for myself the doctrines as I would ponder ideas for music. I have used several Restoration hymns from RLDS authors that were perfectly acceptable.

Secular music should not replace sacred music in Sunday meetings. I remember attending RLDS worship services when once the ministry of music was “Annie’s Song” by John Denver; another time it was a Michael Jackson recording.

Some religious music presented in a popular style is not appropriate for sacrament meetings. This could include music from LDS composers. Again, a Bishop must pre-approve.

Sacred music that is suitable for concerts and recitals is not appropriate. Uh-Oh. I love singing Handel’s Messiah but I guess it won’t be in a sacrament service.

Recorded songs/accompaniments must follow the same guidelines. A few years ago for the sacrament service before Memorial Day, I played a recording of “Mansions of the Lord” which the Bishop had approved.

Brass and percussion instruments are not appropriate for sacrament meeting. Don’t expect a brass quintet or a handbell choir playing “O Come all ye Faithful” but woodwinds or strings would be okay.

These guidelines are viewed as unifying by some, restrictive by others. But all of these “inappropriate” selections, with the possible exception of the text guidelines, could be used in an informal gathering.

In the RLDS there are no official guidelines in the Church Administrative Handbook, but there is a series of advice columns on church music at http://www.cofchrist.org/musicmatters/past-columns.asp#service

Before the 1970’s, RLDS worship services followed the pattern of hymns and specials with organ or piano accompaniment. Woodwind, string, and brass instruments were not prohibited but not often used. The only restrictions are from a revelation in 1887 which states ….let the organ and the stringed instrument, and the instrument of brass be silent when the Saints assemble for prayer and testimony, that the feelings of the tender and sad may not be intruded upon.(RLDS Doctrine and Covenants, Section 119:6e).  Since then, those designated services have singing with no instrumental accompaniment.

Eventually, youth-oriented spiritual songs with acoustic guitar accompaniment began to be used in worship services. Several songs were arranged to be included in the Hymnbook  and a large selection of hymns now have correspondent guitar chords.

In the 1980’s the RLDS began sponsoring separate congregations called Contemporary Christian Centers with worship service music of a more popular style usually played by musicians with various instrumentation. I even got to participate occasionally on drums. As these members came back into the “traditional church”, so did the music.

So it’s quite possible that several Community of Christ congregations will have worship service music styles totally different from each other.

Whatever music is used in the worship service, it should be carefully and prayerfully planned in order to enhance the spirit of worship.  What are your thoughts concerning music in worship services?