Many of you may be thinking “It’s hard enough to get the family together to read scriptures, now you want us to sing?” To this my answer is a resounding YES. I have implemented it into my own family’s scripture time and it has had many, many benefits. But besides my own word, you can take the first presidency’s too. Here’s a statement directly from them on the topic in the preface to the hymnbook. "Ours is a hymnbook for the home as well as for the meetinghouse. We hope the hymnbook will make a prominent place among the scriptures and other religious books in our homes. The hymns can bring families a spirit of beauty and peace and can inspire love and unity among family members.”
- LDS hymnal, Preface
Having said this, I understand that many do not consider themselves to be very musical and would use that as a reason to not include singing in a daily family scripture study. I would invite you to reconsider. Here are seven reasons why:
1. You’re already doing it
You do not need to be musical to sing in front of your family. These are people that hear you sing in the shower, with the radio in the car, and are sitting right beside you when you sing congregational hymns at church. They know what you sound like, and they love you anyway.
2. There’s technological help
You don’t need a pianist in your home. Even if you don’t want to sing a cappella, the LDS Library app has recorded hymns you can play right from your phone to accompany you and your family’s singing. There’s also an LDS music app provided by the church that provides all the hymns, children’s songs, and more. To be honest, this was the only way I was able to get my own family in on this idea. Now that it’s been done though, my family has insisted on singing each day even when I’ve been reluctant to do so.
3. Hymns establish a routine
If there’s anything I’ve learned as I study child development, it’s how critical routine is. Positive routines create a sense of consistency and security that children become accustomed to. This is one reason that family scripture study is so important in and of itself, let alone their exposure to the scriptures. Music has always been a very important part of culture and religious rituals as a means of unifying the participants. It’s actually been backed by research as well. The family that sings together, stays together.
4. They offer fast spiritual impact.
I will admit that in my own family, there are many days that we are so exhausted by the end of the day that we have to push really hard to get some scripture reading in as a family. Hymns offer a great way to offer a big spiritual impact in a very short amount of time. Most hymns are only about 2 minutes long when you sing all the verses. Singing a single verse (heaven forbid) can take less than 15 seconds (go ahead, time it). Even when you’re exhausted it doesn’t take much to whisper through a quick hymn and offer a short family prayer before hitting the sack.
5. The hymns will stay in your thoughts
We all hate those songs that stay in our minds and play over and over incessantly. If those songs are hymns though, think of the positive impact that would have on your day. The fact that music helps us memorize and learn concepts has been backed by research too. When a list of words are spoken to an individual, and another list of words were sung, the words that were sung are more consistently remembered. It helps us learn the ABC’s, so too it can help us learn and remember important principles of the gospel.
6. You’ll learn more hymns
There are more than three hundred hymns in our hymn book alone, let alone the children’s songbook. Of these three hundred, we probably only sing fifty of them on a regular basis, and that’s a high estimate with sacrament hymns included. It’s beginning to be termed the “sealed portion” of the hymnbook. If you’re up to a good challenge, you can take on the venture of learning and singing through all of them. Having the LDS library app is a great help to this, as you can have it played for you to help you and your family learn the melody. Again, you don’t need to be a seasoned musician to learn the hymns. Also, there are many that are very applicable to a family routine, such as “Come, Let us Sing an Evening Hymn” and even the classic “God Be With You till we Meet Again.” The first was used as Sacrament meeting used to be done in the evenings before the three-hour block. Now that evening Sacrament meetings aren’t a thing anymore, it can still be a thing in our families.
7. It will increase your music skills
It’s true, and you don’t even need to put any extra practice time in. As part of my degree in music I was tasked with four semesters of testing on my sight singing skills, my ability to look at a melodic line on paper and sing the correct pitches without any assistance from an accompaniment of any sort. I can undoubtedly say that I barely scraped through them, and my past teachers will attest. Since implementing hymns in our daily scripture study though, my sight-reading skills have soared, as attested by myself and some of my current professors in graduate school. It has been an invaluable asset in pursuing my music therapy degree. As for you, who knows? You may find yourself joining the ward choir someday. They could certainly use you!
All in all, modern prophets have promised an added sense of love and unity in the home when the hymns are sung, and I can testify to that effect myself. Singing hymns has been a great experience for me and my family and I would encourage you to make it a part of your own family scripture study. In our time, Satan is constantly bombarding us with things that invite and entice us to do evil (Moroni 7), in contrast, the hymns of the church are available to invite and even entice us to do good. As you implement this in your own home, you will find for yourself that, “a hymn a day keeps contention away.”
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I'm a sacred music enthusiast. I'm one of those people that attends church for the music just as much as the sermon, one of those people that give an evil glare at the people who leave for the congregational hymns, (Ok no, not really).