June Conference, a svithe


When my father was a youth, he was invited to participate in the choir for June Conference. Sort of.

Well, he was invited, but then the choir director figured out he was the one a little off tune and he was instructed to move his mouth but leave his vocal chords uninvolved henceforth and forever. Just like that. One empty mouth filling the Tabernacle seats.

When I was younger and singing competitively and music-wise, I would listen to him at church--he still sang, but he was horribly self-conscious and would denigrate himself at any opportunity--and you know what? He wasn't that bad. He was almost always on. Sure, he couldn't sing parts and wasn't apt to be picked up by Beelzebubs, but he can sing and he is sincere and, in my opinion, someone's worshipfulness is more important than their absolute precision. To say nothing of how that experience cut my father off from feeling part of the capitalized World of Music for the rest of his life. He is forevermore an outsider. Thanks a lot, lady.

The Scriptures are pretty clear here: the Lord delights in the song of the righteous. There's a definite scriptural dearth on verses proclaiming the Lord's love of perfect pitch.

I know, I know. Those of us with any training cringe at halfbaked musical numbers, but that's our problem, not the Lord's. I'm not sure he minds, what with him busy looking on the heart and everything.

Music, most people seem to agree, gives the Spirit a big leg-up into our hearts, but if the music is all about me, then why isn't it reflecting my precise tastes? Why don't I get to make all the musical selections? But that's not the point, as we all recognize. And besides, every part of a worship service is supposed to bring us closer to God. We wouldn't consider asking someone with a funny accent never to give a talk just because their speech is imperfect. Why the double standard?

Anyway. Let's stop talking about singing in front of the congregation--I'll do that next week. This week let's discuss congregational singing only.

My dad still loves to sing the hymns, even if he's convinced he's terrible. He sings with love and enthusiasm and it's certainly an accepted prayer.

As opposed to my brother Reb.

In high school, my brother Reb refused to sing at church because he was convinced that numerous members of our congregation were singing the hymns without knowing what words they were signing. This rendered them horrible hypocrites and Pharisees, delivering hollow prayers just to seem righteous to their peers. Not wanting to be perceived as faux righteous, he did not sing the hymns. Instead, he read them to himself while everyone else sang.

An outside observer would likely interpret my father's off-key gusto as enjoying church. My brother Reb still seems to be there against his will sometimes.

I won't comment any more on that, but I will say this: I'm certain heaven wants us to sing and enjoys it when we do. I'm certain heaven appreciates the off-key as well as the classically trained.

And this is my point: All God's creature's got a place in the choir and we'll all be happier when we sing along. And now we'll be privileged to enjoy a special musical number from Brother Makem and Brother Clancy:

God invites us all to the choir. Whose example shall we emulate?

Next week! Why we shouldn't thank the musical number!

last week's svithe


  1. Hahaha; I SO needed that right now.

    RIGHT now, lemme tell ya!

    I just got out of choir not so long ago, and there was this one soprano who was driving me batty; seems like most every ward choir has that one soprano who just drowns everyone else out, and we tenors sit back a row and are trying hard to hear each other as we squeak out our part, but that one soprano--


    I suppose she, too, has a place in the choir. Who am I to judge her as any more or less sincere than the rest of us?

    Suppose I oughta go repent now or some such....

  2. I loved this post! Especially since I'm one of the more musically trained who tend to cringe. I try not to, but sometimes . . .

    Anyway, this post reminded me of an impression I got back in my senior year of high school when we were singing the opening song for YW. One of the young women had Down's Syndrome and couldn't sing anything on pitch, but one Sunday it forcefully struck me (one of those moments where you feel like the Spirit just punched you in the face--I get them periodically) that she was the only person in that room who was singing her heart out.

    And really, Heavenly Father does care about that far more than he cares about how well somebody is singing.

  3. .

    I think being trained may even be a disadvantage: we overthink everything and can't sing our heart out.