Musical Testimony Meeting

So I plop down in my normal pew and open the program to see who was speaking in Sacrament Meeting today. I didn’t see any names of speakers, and at first I was disoriented, thinking it must be Fast Sunday. But it’s the middle of July, so it couldn’t be Fast Sunday. And as I looked at the program more closely, I realized we were holding a musical testimony meeting today.

I’ve heard of these before, always with a twinge of envy, but never personally experienced one. My testimony is mediated more through music than anything else, so I had always wanted to participate in one of these. I looked forward to the meeting with anticipation.

I plotted a couple of possibilities in case there was a lull, as I didn’t want to waste any time just sitting there. The two I came up with were Be Still My Soul (which we actually got to sing, as someone else picked it–I love the haunting Sibelius tune) and Press Forward Saints (I went to a fireside in Wilmette once and that was the opening song, and it was as if I had heard it for the first time, it was so powerful). But there was no need. It was a little bit slow getting started, but then there was a rush as people came up to announce their selections and why they were meaningful to them.

Some of the songs I can remember that we sang were Love at Home, I am a Child of God, Praise to the Man, Oh My Father, A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief, How Great Thou Art, and many others. There was no end of people coming up to the stand, and so the Bishop stood up and said that only those already seated on the stand could make selections, and then we would close the meeting (we went about 15 minutes over as it was). There were about four people left; one was a brother who had come up to give the selection of a disabled sister sitting on the back row, who was unable to come up and suggest it personally.

One of those last few people on the stand was a little Primary girl. She is half-black; her father is from Ghana and in our Stake Presidency. Their kids have that multiracial thing going on and are all stunningly gorgeous.

This little girl very shyly approaches the podium, pulls the microphone down so that we can hear her, and asks for us to sing If You Could Hie to Kolob.

So we did.

Sometimes this is an awesome church.


  1. Beautiful.

  2. So how dows a musical testimony meeting work? I’ve never heard of that…

  3. thanks for that.

  4. Julie M. Smith says:

    Thanks for this post.

    I’m interested in the spread of musical testimony meetings as a grass-roots kind of thing–something we don’t see a whole lot of in the church.

  5. This type of sacrament meeting program must be spreading virally among the units of the church this year. This is the third post I’ve seen in the ‘nacle on the subject in the last couple of months. See here and here for the other two.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for those links, Geoff, I hadn’t seen them. Steven, the first link explains how it works; it’s very simple. It’s just like a testimony meeting, but when people come to the podium they pick a song to sing and explain why they like that song and want to sing it. We would sing one verse; the default was the first verse, but people could pick a different one to sing if they wanted.

    Julie, you’re right that this seems to be a grass roots kind of thing that is spreading, and I think it’s great. What bishop wouldn’t sign on to this?

    Several people expressed concern about the difficulty of this for the organist, but I think it wasn’t necessary, she did just fine.

    I think part of the reason that I find these testimonies especially meaningful is not just the music, but people don’t feel limited by the normal rote formulae. They tell great, moving stories about the significance these hymns have had for them.

  7. Thanks, Kevin.

    I was in a ward today that presented a YW’s program – exactly like a Primary Program but done by the YW. It included the song “Daughter of a King” that literally had me crying in the congregation. I am moved regularly in Sacrament Meeting, but hearing and seeing YW’s voices and faces glow as they testify that they are royal by birth and worth something in a world that doesn’t tell them that nearly enough . . . I have four daughters, and I bless the fact that they attend a church where they can claim to be daughters of a King.

  8. I have never heard of a YW sac program – that sounds wonderful. Has anyone else had a similiar program?

  9. We should record reports of musical testimony meetings to track their spread. Who’s good with GoogleEarth mashups? :)

    Our ward in central Ohio had one a few months ago. It was great. I don’t know where the bishop got the idea.

  10. lamonte says:

    Kevin – Thanks for this uplifting post. I said to myself as I traveled to work today that I was intentionally going to try to be more positive this week. Last weekend was a little difficult. Your post got me started on the right track.

    Whenever we have stake conference, the Saturday evening session includes an extended “rest song” session where we all stand and the counselor conducting the meeting calls on people who have raised their hand to select a song. We usually sing just one verse but we get through 10 or 12 before we sit down. It’s very uplifting. My favorite is Redeemer of Israel but we never get to the 3rd verse which is my favorite. Thanks again for the post.

  11. Ugly Mahana says:

    Also from Central Ohio: I was in a student ward that would do this on the fifth Sunday of the month, when there was one. Not only was it powerful, but having it (semi-)regularly made us all familiar with the program. It was nice. And, as has been noted, powerful. This was 6-8 years ago.

  12. The first time I did this was on my mission in Cumberland Maryland. I then had my student ward at USU do it. It is my favorite sacrament meeting by far.

  13. I have commented on the other posts that our ward did this a few months ago. I am the organist, but the bishop had me play the piano for it. It went wonderfully well–I almost wish we could do it every month. But if we did, it would get overdone and would not have nearly the same impact.

  14. I find it a shame that a church so dedicated to beautiful music should be so restrictive about it. I’m a classical guitarist. I would love just the opporutnity to share my talents with the ward. Even several times where I spent quite a while working on complex and beautifyl arrangements of hymns for classical guitar. However, because it states somewhere in the written rules of the church that guitars are not allowed I am robbed of the opportunity and have been in the last 3 wards I’ve been in.

    I could understand not wanting electric or even folk guitars with all their strumming. But anyone that’s heard a classical guitar will tell you they’re not the same. And it’s not just guitar. Trumpets, horns, nearly everything except for the piano (which I find funny that percussive instrument is allowed when so many are not), voice bowed and woodwind instruments (and even then not all the woodwinds).

    Our hymnal is over twenty years old. We exclude more instruments than we include in our worship. I’ve been to many different services for different churches and have heard all kinds of uplifting music that I would not have otherwise heard in church, pieces for trumpet and organ, or classical guitar and voice or solo, brass quintet etc. etc. It’s a real shame, because we have such a great musical tradition, it’s too bad we have to exclude many of our members from sharing.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    ronito, I agree with you, but just to clarify one point, there is no formal prohibition of guitar in the handbook. For some discussion of this, see here. Unfortunately, that has turned into a sort of Mormon urban legend that most bishops adhere to.

    If you really want to play guitar in sacrament meeting sometime, I suggest a two-pronged approach to your bishop: (i) point out to him that there is no restriction on playing the guitar in sacrament meeting in the Handbook, and (ii) give him a preview performance of your piece so that he can see for himself how beautiful and spiritual and appropriate it would be in a worship service. Even then a lot of bishops wouldn’t have the self-confidence to allow it, but a lot would, so at that point it’s pretty much the luck of the draw of who your local bishop is.

  16. I hear ya Kevin. And I’ve taken said two-pronged approach. And have met with abysmal failure. Alas, I fear I gave up on it years ago really.

  17. I almost wish we could do it every month. But if we did, it would get overdone and would not have nearly the same impact.

    How about every month with a 5th Sunday? I plan on doing this in my ward in two weeks. Thanks for the great idea! I will talk to our organist tonight.

  18. and that is the real genius of the Restoration – that a local leader, in a very real and powerful way, can act as a Prophet for his own people. Would that all could find the proper balance between obedience to the wider word to the larger community and the needs of each ward and stake, even if it varies slightly from ward to ward and stake to stake.

  19. My husband is in a branch presidency at the Provo MTC. One of my assignments as his companion is to visit the sister missionaries once a week near their bedtime. I do it on Thursdays. Last Thursday, as I approached their dorm, the missionaries were just getting out of their classes. A large group of elders had gathered and were enthusiastically singing “Para siempre Dios este con vos” (“God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again”). I sang with them as I passed, and marveled at how beautiful it all was–these radiant missionaries singing acapella and with such joy, and in the language they were just learning. A few smiled at me when they realized I was singing too. There is nothing like music to unify us.

    I do have some questions for those in music callings. For years, I was our ward’s music chair. I had specific instructions to NEVER let anyone sing a “spiritual.” I even had to prohibit a woman from singing a version of “Silent Night” in sacrament meeting because it had a “gospel” feel to it–meaning it sounded like something you’d hear in a Black congregation.

    Now obviously, I adore spirituals. May I just mention the documentary again? We have two interviewees talking about music in the Mormon Church. One of them says, “The music is like a funeral march–and it can be enough to keep someone from going through the door.” My daughter is a member of Gladys Knight’s choir, and loves spirituals. What are the rules now? I hope they’ve changed since I was over music in my ward some 20 years ago. I don’t imagine the congregation will indulge in hand-clapping, but I do hope we could have a soloist sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” or a choir sing “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired.” But I’m probably hoping for too much. Am I?

  20. Ronito,

    We have had acoustic guitars a few times in sacrament meeting in our ward here in Pugetsoundland, most notably accompanying our ward choir for “Silent Night” (I was one of 3 players).

    I agree that classical guitar solos can be especially beautiful and reverent enough for Sacrament meeting. Don’t you live somewhere nearby? Maybe we could get you invited to our ward (Bellevue).

  21. We had this kind of sacrament meeting in the ward I lived in 7 or 8 years ago. It was really, really… well, COOL. I had never heard of it before nor since. I’m glad to see it’s not just my one ward being weird. EVERYBODY loved it!

  22. I hate to rain on everyone’s parade here, but…..our ward was told they are against policy and we’re not allowed to do them anymore.

    We did it in our ward several months ago and it went great…everyone loved it….well, almost everyone.

    Someone in the ward thought the idea of a musical testimony meeting was inapproprate and complained to the Stake Prez. The Stake President took the issue to the area authority 70, who took it on up the chain. When word came back, we were told in no uncertain terms by our Stake President that the brethren frown on these – and that the direction was that we were to cease and desist – no more musical testimony meetings. When we were told about this in ward counsel, we just all looked at each other, mouths gaping, crickets chirping….

  23. Margaret – will you pass on to your daughter how much joy she and her choir have brought to my heart. Although I am the first to point to our more quiet kind of service compared to some churches (and support that notion) I can’t help but smile from ear to ear when I listen to “He’s Worthy” and so many other songs on their album One Voice. I know the lyrics to that song suggest some actions that are more related to the activities in a Pentacostal religious service but I can’t help but celebrate every time I hear it. I’m so sorry I missed their performances when they performed in the Suitland Stake here in the Washington DC area. Isn’t music the most wonderful of all God’s creations?

  24. Sometimes I think that “against policy” are the two words most guaranteed to destroy the Spirit in our Church.

  25. Margaret, You aren’t hoping for too much. My comment in #18 cuts both ways.

    Without having it in front of me to summarize, the handbook says that the hymns should be the primary source of musical worship in our Sacrament Meetings. It does not forbid other songs, and it does not address the “type” or “classification” (other than the need to have each song invite the spirit into the worship service) but rather leaves those decisions in the hands of the Bishop, ultimately.

    The song I mentioned in #7 (“Daughter of a King”) is a “popular” Mormon song. If the Bishop clears a song (the words and the form of its presentation), its category doesn’t need to be considered. Some Bishops are more open to the “spirit” of the law; some adhere strictly to the (perceived) letter. (kind of like the WofW and caffeinated drinks) Some of those decisions are based on discernment of their own congregations; some of them are based on the personality of the individual Bishop. That’s my experience over the years.

    I really like Kevin’s advice in #15. I only would add in this case, that I wouldn’t mention a “category” when I approach a Bishop. I would ask him to listen to a song I was considering and provide a copy of the words – so that there would be no concern about “incorrect doctrine” being preached through song. That is a HUGE concern of many Bishops I have known over the years.

    A tangent, but relative nonetheless: One of the men in our ward returned to activity after many years away. In a temple recommend interview, he had expressed his concern over whether his political affiliation was forbidden by one of the questions in the interview. His Bishop asked him if that affiliation put him in conflict with the Church and its teachings. They didn’t, as he realized later, but he thought so at the time. The Bishop asked him to talk with others about his concerns and return when he felt they had been resolved – a perfect response, IMHO.

    I see this in the same basic light. If you are sure of your position, go in with that assurance – coupled with the humility to accept it if the Bishop says, “No.” From what I have learned of you, Margaret, that won’t be a problem, so my “advice” is for anyone else who is considering the same question.

    To make a long answer longer, “What Kevin said.”

  26. Kristine says:

    Margaret, there is no current rule against spirituals, and compared to some of the popsy crap we’re regularly treated to in Sacrament Meeting, spirituals and gospel would be a welcome relief! I’ve done “Give Me Jesus” and “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” and I’m about as staid and classically snobby a ward music chair as you’re ever likely to meet. It’s good to have the relevant passages from the handbook memorized, and I’ve also found it very effective to ask a reluctant bishop to sit through an “audition” of the piece. Of course, you have to be willing to have him say no, and abide by the decision, but most bishops are pretty great to work with once they know you’re willing to listen to them and they can trust you to work towards the common goal of bringing the Spirit into meetings.

    There is also no hard and fast rule about guitars or brass instruments; bishops and Stake Presidents have a great deal of latitude. The problem is mostly that we don’t have enough people who are knowledgeable enough about music to not feel intimidated by having to exercise musical judgment. And so a lot of stuff that is garbage, but fits the letter of the law gets in, and a lot of stuff that is really wonderful, but falls into the category the handbook labels “handle with care,” gets excluded. Still, patience and real skill often carry the day–if you play a beautiful arrangement of Silent Night at the ward Christmas party, you may be surprised to find yourself being asked to repeat the performance in Sacrament Meeting. I just directed an arrangement of “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” with three trumpets for Stake Conference, with a Stake President who said no to a (beautiful, professional, utterly reverent) trombone solo a few years ago. Like most things in the church, getting good music done is a process of education and learning to trust each other. It CAN happen!

  27. Sorry for two in a row, but:

    There is no published statement of which I am aware that forbids such a meeting. If there were, it could have been handled at the stake level simply by citing the handbook.

    I will NOT dispute the answer your ward received, adcama. I don’t know the situation or how it was presented “up the chain”. I have no idea how high “up the chain” it went – who made the ultimate decision. If our stake receives similar directions that we feel come from “on high”, I will support it. Having said that, I would LOVE to see such a meeting in our ward. At least until I hear otherwise from above me.

  28. Darrell says:


    When word came back, we were told in no uncertain terms by our Stake President that the brethren frown on these – and that the direction was that we were to cease and desist – no more musical testimony meetings. When we were told about this in ward counsel, we just all looked at each other, mouths gaping, crickets chirping….

    Well no one told me. The 5th Sunday of the month it is.

    I hope that statement does not sound too rebellious but until I see it in the handbook or told otherwise by my file leader (or his) I think this is a fantastic idea.

  29. Amen, Steve. (#24) Too often those words are invoked when, in fact, the request is NOT against policy.

  30. Just to clarify, since it hit me just now – when I asked my wife for her input :-)

    There is a BIG difference in many people’s minds between a “special” or “different” Sacrament Meeting and a “special” or “different” Fast and Testimony Meeting.

    Great point, I think, even if I have to say it or face the consequences.

  31. Marjorie Conder says:

    I’ve said it before, but I will say it again. Our ward has had musical sacrament meetings for years. Perhaps the thing that keeps them from being musical testimony mseetings is that people are asked in advance to select their famorite hymn and then talk briefly about it. (Their names and songs are even listed in the program.) These are some of our best meetings and many people are willing to participate who would otherwise never be found at the pulpit. We also have “favorite scripture” scarament meetings several times a year. Same idea. Members are asked to share their favorite scripture and tell why. Not quite as good as the musical meetings but great meetings none the less.

  32. So, adcama, I guess the question might be: Was the request that went “up the chain” for a special Sacrament Meeting on any given Sunday or a musical “Fast and Testimony Meeting” on the 1st Sunday – replacing a “regular” testimony meeting? Your description seems to indicate the latter, which would change my answer. I would support that restriction.

  33. Kevinf,
    I’d love to. I’m not too far from the Bellevue area. You’ll have to give me some time to get ready however, it’s been years since I’ve given up the fight for me to be able to share my talent in church.

  34. Darrell says:

    I agree with Ray. Perhaps it should be called something other than a musical “testimony” meeting. The two should be very different.

  35. Ronito, We had a guitar in sacrament meeting not long ago so, when you are ready for Kevinf, I’d love to have you play for my Seattle ward too.

  36. lol. Well I’ll be. After years of being turned down I get two offers in a matter of minutes.

  37. It was a “musical testimony meeting” (first sunday of the month) – and we were told the issue went to the “highest levels”.

    I subsequently reviewed the handbook and found nothing specifically banning the practice. I’m obviously not arguing in defense of the ban in our stake (policy or whatever you’d call it) – trust me when I say that I’d rather have a musical testimony meeting, listen to brass instruments, electric guitar, my one year old’s pots and pans or crickets chirping in place of some of the testimony meetings we’ve had. I obviously tried to bite my tongue about the whole thing….of course, that failed and I voiced my displeasure and got the “obedience” line from the bishop.

    I think the way to get around the alleged “policy” (I don’t know what else to call it) is to plan out the meeting so that all of the presenters have had time to prepare and the bishop knows what to expect. As I recall, the issue stemmed from a fear that the meeting may get out of control if it was completely spontaneous (never know who’s going to start rappin’ Book of Mormon Stories?) If it’s under the direction of the bishop in the form of a sacrament meeting program, seems like nobody can get upset.

    FWIW, our high school choir (public high school…ahem, issue for another day) would travel to various wards in the Salt Lake Valley and do an entire sacrament meeting program that I thought outstanding. Never heard no policy ’bout dat!

  38. Darrell says:

    Ronito, feel like coming to Portland? You might think about getting an agent.

  39. Kevin Barney says:

    I think we may have found the disconnect in the characterization of what went up the food chain. What I described wasn’t in lieu of a first Sunday of the month Fast and Testimony meeting; it was in lieu of a regular Sacrament Meeting with two or three prepared talks.

    I frankly would be stunned, flabbergasted, and all sorts of other words if the powers that be put their foot down on this practice, which is not only innocuous, but a spiritual feast. I suspect they just don’t want people to do it instead of a regular fast meeting, and I can understand that.

  40. I have been in several of these meetings over the years. My first was in the Wilmette building. Simply awesome.

    Bishops have wide latitude over musical elements of the sac mtg. My current bishop owns a musical instrument company and shows wide latitide in regards to instruments. Guitars are cool around here. As are flutes, violins, harps, clarinets etc.

    My own view of our hierarchy and items like music in Sac mtg is its better to ask for forgiveness then to ask for permission regarding activities like this post.

    AKA: Do what you please regarding music in sacrament mtg within reason.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    bbell, absolutely right. People who who feel the need to ask about every jot and tittle of church practice deserve the silly bureaucratic nonsense they’re likely to get in response. To paraphrase our beloved President Kimball, just do it.

  42. I too live in a stake in which our former stake president announced, based on consultation with higher ups, that “favorite hymn” sacrament meetings are against the unwritten order. He also has instructed the bishops that having a Melchizedek Priesthood brother offer the opening prayer in Sacrament meeting is part of the same “unwritten order.”

    I will be interested to see what happens to these, and other, unwritten rules under our new stake president (whose ward had started the musical testimony tradition in our stake). (I know our new president did not object when we invited a sister to say the opening prayer in our sacrament meeting.)

  43. Our ward recently received instructions on “musical testimonies”. It sounded like somewhere, someone got up to bear their testimony and opted to sing their testimony rather than say it – i.e. they broke out in song (probably ‘I believe in Christ’ or ‘His Hands’ or something like that). Bishops were told to make sure no member does that. I think the principle they were teaching is that Sac Mtg is not a place for performances. Any music should bring focus on the Savior and the Spirit, not on the person(s) performing.

    I wonder, adcama, if your ward interpreted that letter to mean no musical testimony meetings, even though musical testimony meetings is a different kettle of fish than an individual getting up and singing a song instead of bearing their testimony.

  44. Struwelpeter says:

    One of the elderly sisters in the ward I grew up in was fairly frail and regularly asked on Fast Sunday that the congregation sing a hymn in lieu of her testimony. More often than not, it was I Believe in Christ but there were other hymns that she chose on occasion.

    I remember with fondness a baptismal service in a ward I attended in the South. The new converts were an African-American Baptist preacher and his wife, and they provided the musical numbers for the service, with husband banging out the spirituals on the piano, and singing harmony to his wife’s Southern Gospel Soprano. It was all most of us could do not to shout out a few “Amens.”

  45. Kristine says:

    jab, were these “instructions” in the form of a letter from someone, or just the bishop stating the preferred mode of testimony-bearing?

  46. The instructions came in the form of an email from the bishop (to the ward council) who had received the email from the stake president who had received the instructions from an area authority or 70. The problem is, I can’t remember whether there was an official letter attached or if it was just relaying instructions. I emptied my trash folder yesterday or I’d go back and look. I’ll see if I can get someone to send it to me.

  47. We had a little variation on the “musical testimony meeting” that might pass in the stakes that have prohibited them. In our musical sacrament meeting we had about six prepared speakers with the common assignment to speak for a few minutes about a favorite hymn and why it moved them. The talks were brief and punctuated with renditions of the hymns by a solo, a husband-and-wife duet, a couple of quartets, the congregation and instrumental pieces. The bishop concluded by singing his own arrangement of “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” accompanied by himself on guitar. I wept as I listened to my ward members discuss and and sing and play the hymns. It was one of the most memorable sacrament meetings I’ve ever been to. I’m a new bishop. We are going to do this soon.

  48. There was no misreading of an unstated policy with our ward – there was an email that went up the chain and an email that came back down (I must say that I never saw the email…it was presented to us in ward counsel). We were instructed not to have any more musical testimony meetings, which were defined as having a testimony meeting where people get up as testimony meetings go, talk about a hymn they love and then everyone sings it.

    Now again, I think the way to make sure you don’t end up blackballed like us is to plan a sacrament meeting under the direction of the bishop where speakers are picked in advance….and call it a normal sacrament meeting.

    I guess I should’ve never brought this up….now everyone’s spiritual experiences will be marred and paranoia will spoil all of the fun. But if our ward has to be miserable because we can’t have ’em anymore, I didn’t want anyone else to go without at least feeling a little bit lucky or guilty – take your pick :)

  49. Kevin Barney says:

    As unwelcome as it is, I appreciate the information, adcama. I am truly surprised; stunned really. This has got to be one of the silliest policies ever. I’ll go beyond silly to just plain stupid.

    But since I’m not a believer in the “unwritten order of things,” as far as I’m concerned this doesn’t exist. The parallel with women not being allowed to give opening prayers is apt; I don’t accept that unwritten order of things phantasm either.

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    Original last line of the post:

    Sometimes this is an awesome church.

    Revised version:

    Sometimes this is an awesome church. But other times, it is just plain ridiculous.

  51. We moved to this Salt Lake east side ward 12 years ago and they have had “favorite hymns” Sacrament Meeting for years. My husband is the current bishop and just a couple months ago, I complained that we’d not had one in a while, so he scheduled one. It is, by far, my favorite meeting of the year. How can you go wrong singing the hymns for an hour? Who can you offend? Oh, pardon me, I guess you can offend someone who thinks we should have rules against such an unorthodox activity.
    Our meetings are planned by the bishopric and handled like any regular sacrament meeting. We even have people introduce opening, closing and sacrement hymns. Our stake president attended the last one and we didn’t hear any complaints. By the way, our stake president is related to someone in the highest of places. It seems to me that if the brethren frowned on this, we would have heard.

  52. Adcama,

    With all respect, a direction to your stake and your ward, whether by email or letter, is not a direction to other stakes or wards. Perhaps one day there will be such a directive directed to the entire Church. In fact, perhaps on of the Brethren (or your Area 70) readings this thread will take it upon himself to break the news of the new policy on this very blog.

    Kevin, your comment about this Church being awesome but sometimes ridiculous reminds me of the counsel my brother received, when he was called into a stake presidency, from a relative of ours. The relative, who had served as a mission president, regional representative, bishop, and then as stake president, told my brother something like, “In the position you now hold, your testimony will be strengthened that the gospel is true, and that the Church is also true–some of the time.” My brother confirmed that was his experience.

  53. DavidH and Marty –

    If you guys don’t start taking this more seriously, I’m telling.

  54. Our Stake President instructed us not to follow this practice after a request from the Area Authority Seventy. I don’t want to add to any loopholes but my recollection was in the context of replacing a regular testimony meeting on the first Sunday. That’s clearly not the way testimony meeting should go. I don’t think having spontaneous songs announced over the pulpit is the right either, regarldless of which Suday it is. That takes the authorization out of the Bishop’s hands, and as mentioned by others, you don’t want inappropriate songs. Just imagine someone requesting “Mormon Rap” or “Dang, Fetch, Oh My Heck”.

    I just accepted it because our branch can’t sing well anyway. :-)

  55. Kristine says:

    “Just imagine someone requesting “Mormon Rap” or “Dang, Fetch, Oh My Heck”.”

    Or a little kid, raised on Mendelssohn oratorios as Sunday music, asking for “Baal, We Cry to Thee.”

    Don’t ask me why I mention this :)

  56. D. Fletcher says:

    I’ve conducted, on 2 occasions, the Fauré Requiem, as the entire Sacrament Meeting (after the Sacrament itself). The Requiem is about 35 minutes long.

    P.S. The Hymns-as-Testimony meeting can often be quite a disappointment, in that usually, one only sings a single verse of the chosen hymn. Most hymns need all their verses to make an impact.

  57. Mark IV says:

    I’ve never heard Mormon Rap, but can it possibly be any worse than Hollow of Thy Hand or I’ll Find You, My Friend, sung in a style reminiscent of a Las Vegas lounge singer? The microphone held close to the mouth with the other hand outstretched, face contorted, and quavering tremelo – it’s all more than anybody should be required to sit through in a worship service. Once a trio of Mia Maids sang something about his image in your countenance a la The Lennon Sisters, and it was all I could do to keep from running for the exit with my hand over my mouth.

  58. Marjorie Conder says:

    We sing all the verses of every song chosen. We only have about 6 speakers and songs on the porgram so it works.

    FWIW we also have “ward orchestra” which preforms a couple of times a year (usually Christmas and Easter.) It is really a mismash of talent, from the one professional musician in our ward to a couple of 9 year olds. And the instrument assortment is a bit eclectic. But it sounds great. I think we all need to remember that Psalm 100 says we are to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

  59. Kristine says:

    D.!!!!! You’re alive! Hooray! (You do know that we had Kevin post this just to see if we could draw you out of lurkerdom) :)

  60. CS Eric says:

    I cannot understand why meetings like this would not be approved. The songs are all hymns! Last time I looked at the front of the book, the hymns were approved by the First Presidency. It boggles my mind that some functionary would disapprove of the singing of songs that have already been endorsed by the First Presidency. What songs are there in the book that are inappropriate for singing in Sacrament Meeting? Maybe this AA 70 could provide a list of songs that are forbidden, or if it would be easier, he could provide a list of songs that are permissible. Then he can run that by the First Presidency and they can revise the hymnal accordingly.

  61. This is the email we received. It was sent from Elder Schoof to the Stake Presidents who forwarded it to my bishop who forwarded it the ward council.

    During a conference call for Area Seventy and Mission
    Presidents, Elder Oaks provided instruction that came from the Twelve
    to the Seventy concerning deviations in Church practices. Would you
    please help the bishops and branch presidents understand that these
    practices are not in harmony with Church policy?

    “Deviations and Innovations”:

    The Church program as officially outlined is wonderful and adequate.
    Deviations and innovations are not approved and can become
    distractions to the program. Some current tendencies are:

    ” Postlude hymns by choir or congregation following sacrament meeting.

    ” A choir prelude to sacrament meeting.

    ” Instruments accompanying the choir. A flute or a violin may be
    acceptable. Orchestras and large ensembles are not.

    ” Hymnimonies: (Singing your testimony.) Try not to embarrass people,
    but discourage this practice.

    ” Money Dances: (Dancing with the bride or groom to give them money,
    and similar practices.) ”

    Thank you for your faithful service.

    Elder Schooff

  62. CS Eric-

    The AA 70 was the first person asked by our SP, but the issue was subsequently posed to the “highest levels” (as I said in #37). The instruction the AA 70 got back was from the top. While we (those in the ward who are familiar with it) think we know who the edict came from, it’s probably not appropriate to name names here. I obviously don’t think this is binding on anyone outside of our stake – I was just a little jealous of those who haven’t had the hammer come down on musical testimony meetings – yet :)

  63. #61.
    Wow, it’s not enough they have to “counsel” on what can’t be done in testimonies, but at wedding receptions too?

  64. Steve Evans says:

    #61, how utterly soul-less seems the phrase, “The Church program as officially outlined is wonderful and adequate.
    Deviations and innovations are not approved and can become
    distractions to the program.”

    While I respect Elder Schoof and would of course obey his counsel, it just seems soul-less.

  65. Mark IV says:

    Huh. That’s interesting, the part about no prelude choir music before the meeting.

    Don’t we always have that, every session of general conference? Maybe president Hinckley didn’t get the memo. Somebody needs to tell him that his actions are “not approved” and “distracting”.

  66. Randy B. says:

    #61, holy smoke! I think I’ll exercise my better judgment and not say anything further.

  67. Mark IV says:

    Also, we need to dump the annual Primary program, at least in its current format.

    As it now stands, the children take turns speaking into the microphone and sharing with the ward their feelings about their daddies and mommies, the prophet, the scriptures, etc. After a child speaks (bears testimony), the rest of the children sing a song related to what was just said.

    Who knew that the Primary, including the general presidency which sends out the instructions for the annual program, was so far gone in apostacy?

  68. #61, yep….that’s “the top” I was referring to.

    Children’s testimonies? You guys haven’t seen the email on that yet? :)

  69. RE “Money Dances”

    Since I have now banished the image of a bride and groom dancing in the chapel during sacrament meeting, I am trying to understand the concept of how what happens at a wedding reception is part of a church program. Although “Money Dances” still sounds odd, I’m not sure that I have to ask the bishop what is or isn’t acceptable at a wedding reception.

    ps- we used sparklers to wave goodbye to my son and his wife as they rowed across a small lake at the end of the reception last Friday. I didn’t check with the FM group about the open flames of the sparklers, but then we were at a public park. I definitely would ban the use of sparklers at sacrament meeting.

  70. Funny you should bring it up I remember an SP from a while back reading an email about children’s testimonies.

  71. kevinf (69),
    So you’re saying no more money dances in Sacrament meeting? That sucks.

  72. Ronito….that’s the one.

  73. Our ward is blessed with a bevy of cello players with really good chops. Two or three times a year, we’ll have from one to three cello players, or two cellos and two violins accompany our choir, or do other musical numbers. It’s always very uplifting, which I attribute partly to their skills.

    Unfortunately, there are times when the skills of singers or instrumentalists are not up to par, and sometimes that can be distracting in a sacrament meeting. Our ward is fortunate to have many musically talented individuals, both singers and instrumentalists. That does seem to create a haves/have not dichotomy. Is a really bad, small choir appropriate when they sing an approved hymn?

  74. Thomas Parkin says:

    Moroni 6:9

    “And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.”


  75. Well, Adcama, and jab, now that the email has been posted on BCC it is binding on all wards and branches in the Church.

    However, I do not see in the email a reference to allowing members to select favorite hymns to be sung during the meeting and speaking about their favorite hymn. Did I miss something?

    With respect to “money dances”, which is a part of some non-Anglo cultures–I presume we will also discourage the practice of bringing gifts of goods or money as part of coming to a wedding reception in a Church owned facility.

  76. See my number 40.

    You should never ask for permission for stuff like this. Doing so opens up a can of worms. You simply get some courage, conduct your meetings as you see fit within reason, and apologize if somebody does not like it.

    Then you wait for the inevitable release of the higher up or for the furor to die down and continue on doing as you please.

    Thats our model in my ward as outlined by our Bishop

  77. Ok, I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything in those instructions banning the sacrament program we’re talking about. We’re talking about members talking about a favorite hymn and then thewardsinging it. That is not the same thing as singing your testimony, which I agree would not be appropriate.

    Also, I don’t know if you’d call what the choir does at general conference “prelude.” They open the conference, but they don’t sing before it (other than their regularly scheduled Music and the Spoken Word program). They definitely don’t do postlude.

    Lastly, sometimes a Bishop may turn down a request for something like classical guitar, even when he feels it would be appropriate, because of the problems it may cause him in the future. The Bishop may understand the fine line between appropriate and not appropriate. But others may not, and then are offended because he authorized one guitarist after he shot down another. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just that this is sometimes a consideration.

  78. I agree with #77, there’s a difference between singing your testimony and having a “singing” Sac Mtg. My assumption is that somewhere there was a person who’d been really moved by a song one week and decided to sing it as part of their testimony. Then someone else thought that was cool and did the same thing the next month. Pretty soon, you had half the ward doing it b/c it’s cool and different (esp. maybe the YW or YM trying to impress each other) and then those with no musical talent or those who are inclined to speak rather than sing don’t bear their testimony b/c “that’s not the way it’s done” and testimony mtg and it’s meaning is entirely changed. Not to mention that half of those getting up to sing are no longer doing it to bear testimony, but rather to show off their fantastic singing voice.

    I did think it was a rather eclectic mix of instructions. My guess on money dances is that they want the focus of the day to be the temple wedding rather than on how much money they’ll get?? If you choose to have your reception in the cultural hall, I think the church has the right to set rules for its use.

  79. Their guidelines on children’s testimonies I think was also appropriate. They don’t ban children from bearing their testimony, they just have to be able to do it self-sufficiently. Haven’t you ever been to a testimony mtg where a good half of it was spent listening to children repeat what their parents whispered in their ear? It’s cute for awhile and a learning experience for the kids, but Sac Mtg is not the place to indulge every 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-year olds’ desire to talk (or breathe heavily) into the microphone. The Primary Sac mtg program is the place for that.

  80. Kevin Barney says:

    jab #61, thanks so much for posting that fascinating e-mail.

    I think it’s clear from the e-mail that the musical testimony format discussed in this post is not on the list of unwanted “deviations.”

  81. Kristine, your comment #55 made me laugh out loud here in my office. Thanks!

  82. This was what my SP had to say when he forwarded the email. I think it gives context to some of the instructions – especially the prelude stuff and orchestras, etc.

    “The Sacrament Meeting is to be simple, reverent and focused on the Savior and our covenants with, and testimonies of, him. The appearance of “show” or anything else that detracts from this is to be avoided.”

    I think bishops have a hard line to walk when deciding what constitutes “show” and what will bring the Spirit.

  83. I know that this is not exactly sacrament meeting related but I was once asked to prepare the devotional for seminary class. One of the class members asked if he could sing a solo. Knowing he had a passable voice, and grateful that I didn’t have to ask someone to perform, I said yes. He asked if he could choose his own song, I also said yes without asking him what it was. The day of the devotional he got up and sang a very scratchy, tuneless, a cappella version of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” I was never asked to put together a devotional again.

  84. Re: 78- There was an elder on my mission (who was homeschooled)who burst into “I know that my redeemer lives” everytime it was his turn to bear his testimony in a meeting. It was ok the first time, but the third time it was a problem…

  85. Julie M. Smith says:

    “an elder on my mission (who was homeschooled)”


  86. lamonte says:

    jab – “I think bishops have a hard line to walk…” Several years ago I was serving as bishop and our YM President died of cardiac arrest after playing basketball with the boys at youth conference. I was there and watched him die in his wife’s arms. He was a good friend of mine and he was only 45 at the time of his death. It was a great tragedy. That was Friday night and I was pretty devastated for the rest of the weekend. On Sunday morning we had planned to have a special 5th Sunday presentation during the 3rd hour but what we had planned just didn’t seem appropriate. For some reason I felt it WAS appropriate to play the video tape of President Hinkley’s birthday celebration for his 90th birthday. And so we did.

    After the meeting, one of the sisters told me she thought my decision was just plain crazy when the meeting started but afterwords she felt the music and speeches at the party were very uplifting and just what the congregation needed under the circumstances. Indeed it is a hard line to walk but as someone suggested above, it is often times easier to obtain forgiveness than to obtain permission.

  87. Hopefully for us all, there was a misunderstanding in my stake…that the “powers that be” understood the question to be singing your testimony versus a musical testimony meeting. This is not what was axed in our ward (nobody sang their testimony) – So to me, the miscommunication alibi doesn’t make sense. Why would our ward be told to not allow anymore people to sing their testimonies, when that wasn’t the question?

    I’m wondering if it’s possible that the person taking notes/writing the email concerning the call misunderstood musical testimony meetings to be “singing your testimony”. I’m not holding my breath that the email cited above won’t be clarified – then you’ll all be miserable like me!

  88. Adcama, I’d speculate that it’s very possible that this got confused somewhere along the chain, either up or down. I mean, the topic of this thread is “A Musical Testimony Meeting.” It seems natural to call it this because of the way people in the congregation come to the pulpit similar to a testimony meeting.

    You gotta figure that somewhere along the line, the word testimony may have been used in describing what was going on in your stake, and then someone above caught that word, referenced Elder Oaks’ directive and concluded “No, you can’t do that.”

  89. Gone too long. Catching up. #55 is awesome. Still laughing.

  90. Joe…hopefully you’re right.

  91. Kristine says:

    “wonderful and adequate”


  92. I finally plowed through all of the comments I missed. Wow; what a fun discussion!

    I just want to echo those who spoke about the administrative difficulties of a Bishop when it comes to Sacrament Meeting. Every choice that a Bishop makes, unfortunately, is open to criticism by one side or the other – the “traditionalists” who want every meeting to be the same and the “progressives” who want variety and flavor. All the Bishop can do is follow the Spirit as he feels it, then deal with the inevitable backlash. As those who have commented about this can attest, it’s not fun.

    I have had disagreements in the past with decisions that were made by my PH leaders, but I also have made decisions as a PH leader with which other members whom I admire and respect greatly have disagreed. Despite such disagreement, I simply FELT – sometimes with no rational idea why – that my decision was the will of the Lord. Due to that realization, I am VERY slow to challenge decisions with which I disagree – and then I keep the challenge private. I don’t want to model a position I don’t want others to turn around and use against me.

  93. Ok, I haven’t read all the comments. But can I say with hymnomonies, I have a horrendously bad singer get on the stand month after month at fast and testimony meeting to sing a song that he wrote about his love of Jesus. It may have been from the heart, but I’d have to leave the room every time to prevent a migraine. That does not add to the spirit.

    People singing and sharing their favorite hymns as a congregation sounds like a wonderful chance to share the spirit. And I don’t think this was what was meant by hymn-omonies.

  94. Mariano MARINI says:

    I’m an italian member. In our little branch we take such a meeting in may (mounth of the music for us). I never heard about this in other unities, so I’m happy to see that this happen every where.
    We, speaking of me of course, are not always inspired but a self-coming program for sacramental meeting spread out through the world seem very like an inspiration.

    Sorry for my bad english.

  95. Renato Marini says:

    In our small branch in Italy we also have “My best loved Scripture” testimony meetings; “The best person I met”, “How I met the Gospel”, etc.
    A 10-20 minutes talk on a specified subject is not the only way to “edify each other”; feelings, inspired thoughts and personal discoveries are also a touching instrument to foster spiritual experiences during our meetings.

  96. viva la missione di padova. and here here for engaging the masses at sacrament meeting.

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