You will recall with me from the Book of Mormon the story of Lehonti. Amalakiah, the wicked Nephite dissenter, came to the camp of Lehonti leading an army of the Lamanites. Lehonti was stationed with his own army at the top of a mountain. Amalakiah desired that Lehonti should leave the army and come down from the mountain. Though Amalakiah’s messenger claimed to be offering a council of peace, Lehonti refused to come down, fearing for his safety. Amalakiah sent again and again with no success, finally walking to the very borders of Lehonti’s camp to persuade him to come out. And finally, Lehonti did.
Amalakiah offered terms that could not be refused. Lehonti’s army could surround Amalakiah’s and force them to surrender. All Amalakiah asked was to be placed second in command. It was too good to be true. Literally.
On their journey back to the capital, Amalakiah caused that a servant of Lehonti should administer poison to him by degrees. Had he been dosed all at once, Lehonti and those who stood with him surely would have recognized the source of the danger. However, Lehonti’s gradual weakening was attributed, apparently even by himself, to natural or unknown causes, even until he died.
Have you been listening to the music that many young folks are hearing today? Some of it is nerve-jamming in nature and much of it has been deliberately designed to promote revolution, dope, immorality, and a gap between parent and child.
– Ezra Taft Benson (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 325)
Perhaps this statement triggers some questions for you like it did me, including:
How has the music of today been corrupted?
Who is deliberately designing it?
Are we forfeiting the Spirit?
Is degenerate music a leading cause for apathy among the members of the church, especially the youth?
And lastly, the focus of this article:
How can we know if music is good or bad?
Some might scoff at such a question while throwing out age-old excuses and claims like “music can’t hurt you”, “good music is a matter of opinion”, “there’s good music in all genres”, or “nothing official has been said about good or bad music”. These conciliatory phrases would convince us that truth, goodness, and consequences are relative, nonexistent, and unreachable. But for faithful Latter-Day Saints, truth is anything but relative or unreachable.
There’s one source of truth that is complete, correct, and incorruptible. That source is our infinitely wise and all-knowing Heavenly Father.
– Dieter F. Uchtdorf, What is Truth, CES Devotional, Jan 13, 2013)
The first essential principle to recognize is: God is the source of truth. Once established, it follows that truth is not relative, but eternal. Comprehending this perfect truth can be difficult or even impossible for our finite, mortal minds because of our imperfect and fallen nature. Because of our inability, God provided several ways for us, as imperfect beings, to obtain and know truth. The first is through the Holy Spirit, which testifies to our hearts and our minds the truths of God. As the For the Strength of Youth says:
Pay attention to how you feel when you are listening [to music]. Some music can carry evil and destructive messages. Do not listen to music that encourages immorality or glorifies violence through its lyrics, beat, or intensity. Such music can dull your spiritual sensitivity.
(Music and Dancing, For the Strength of Youth, 2011)
So, our feelings from the spirit are one of our key tools in identifying good or bad music. But what if the music we have chosen to listen to dulls our spiritual sensitivity? To be dulled entails a loss of sensitivity, quality, or cleanliness. If our sensitivity is dulled, we cease to feel and it becomes more and more difficult to discern how things affect us. These effects are still there, but we are so accustomed to their presence that we ignore or fail to notice them. Put simply, as soon as we accept anything unclean as acceptable and implement it into our lives, we condemn ourselves to a lack of discernment.
Surely, this appears to be a large hole, a gap in the perfect plan of God. For as soon as Satan has deceived us in one way, he has hardened us to the consequences of sin and the correcting influence of the Spirit. How then are we to stand strong? How can we discern truth? Are we lost?
But God has given us another source of truth. His plan is indeed perfect, and he has blessed us with access to truth that cannot be questioned when one has faith. This second source is the words of inspired prophets.
Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. – Amos 3:7
Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. – D&C 1:38
And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. – D&C 68:4
This doctrine is solid and is supported clearly by the hand of the Lord and the witness of his Spirit. But doctrine makes no difference unless it is understood and applied, so how can we apply this doctrine to principles of music?
The prophets have condemned specific types of music.
That music is played on almost every radio station, created by almost every popular artist, and has become the norm even for members of the church.
The prophets have warned us, and we haven’t listened.
David O. McKay said:
Most electronic bands have a very loud beat which is inconsistent with the standards we desire to have observed.
(Living Prophets for a Living Church )
Harold B. Lee warned us:
There’s damnable rock music that appeals to the lower senses of man, where the offbeat [rock beat] is just as vile and abrasive to human thought as it can be.
(The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 104)
Next Article in this series – Principles of Music #2: Poison by Degrees