… and it’s up to us to both play it and heed it’s call. I’m not talking about a United States president or anything related to government politics. I’m talking about church musicianship. I came across a few scriptures in Corinthians today that caught my attention and resonates with musicianship in the church:
Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
This had a very real meaning to Paul and the people of Corinth that he was teaching. In his day trumpets were used as armies were going to battle. Trumpet calls in war were battle cries, increasing vigor and courage in the individual soldiers and fear in the opposing army. As a fun example, you can get some perspective from these snippets from the video series of Tolkien's "Lord of The Rings" and "The Hobbit".
Consider also the story of Gideon in Judges 7 of the Old Testament when he managed to scare off an entire host of Midianites with a small army of 300 just by giving each a trumpet and having them play as the Midianite army advanced on them. The Midianites retreated in fear and not one life was taken that day.
In the same way, we have a spiritual battle that we are calling to arms in our church meetings with a foe even uglier than the trolls and orcs of Tolkien's books. Every day we are faced with increasing pressures from the adversary in a multitude of forms be it peer pressure, self-doubt, rationalization, or the increasing social norms that the church actively speaks against. We have a spiritual battle that requires us to put on the armor of God to fight against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Just as the trumpets called the men of old to don their physical armor, we need a trumpet that calls us to don our spiritual armor of God. That trumpet, in our day, comes through our church musicianship, and I mean that quite literally. Remember the trumpet calls of ancient times, and the theatrical examples from from the Lord of The Rings series. Now consider this video, pay attention to the trumpet call at the beginning, you can't miss it:
IInvigorating isn’t it? It’s even more invigorating when you experience it in person. There’s a very real difference between experiencing music live than when you hear a recording. There’re just some things that our current technology can’t convey through electronic speakers.
Now reconsider the scripture from Corinthians, “if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” Is this striking home yet? Consider the effect of an "uncertain sound" on an entire army headed into battle. Hardly encouraging. We can't let ourselves get away with "uncertain calls" in our church music either. I’ve spoken before about performance anxiety at church, and fear of showing off. These issues have become so prevalent that it’s stopping us from giving us the rousing call to arms that church music has to offer, to don the spiritual armor and fend off the adversary on a weekly (and daily) basis. Singers? We need your voices. Conductors? We need your visible expression and passion. Pianists and organists? We need those invigorating tempos. Organists? We need those Mixture III’s and IV’s, you have a REAL trumpet available at your fingertips. Don’t back off. Don’t let self-doubt or judgmental criticism from your peers bring you down, or let your musicianship and musical cravings waver. We need you. Your church family needs you. Your church leaders need you. In the words of Elder Holland, (I’ve taken liberties with the text),
I am looking tonight for [musicians] who will not voluntarily bind their tongues but will, with the Spirit of the Lord and the power of their priesthood, open their mouths (and hands) and speak miracles. Such [music], the early brethren taught, would be the means by which faith’s ‘mightiest works have been, and will be performed.’”
Even with the liberties I take in the text I consider this to be every bit as applicable. Speaking as a music therapist with a pending certification there are very real and evidence based physiological and psychological effects of music on the person. I believe that music can heal our hearts, minds and bodies just as literally as Christ did in his mortal ministry. Remember that for Joseph Smith, when he reached out to find the truth, that Satan bound his tongue to prevent him from the prayer that lead to the first vision. It is the same Satan that is causing church musicians to waver in their courage and shy away from the quality of music that they are capable of. As Joseph Smith did, I invite us all to pray and then to work our hardest to bring the music that we need into your local branch, ward or church congregation. It will be more and more critical to our spiritual well being as we steadily continue through the latter-day turmoil that approaches with the second coming.
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).