The Uneasy Case for Janice Kapp: A (sort of) defense of Mormon Pop

I’ll preface this by noting that it is axiomatic that I am nowhere near as cool as Greg Call. I’m not as cool as William Morris, either, and I’m not really as cool as Kristine, even if she does like Abba. I like to think that I’m as cool as D. Fletcher, but I’m probably wrong there too. The fact is, I’m probably not cooler than anyone — Nate Oman and Steve Evans aside, of course. But enough is enough.

Mormon pop music is not the Antichrist. Repeat it after me: Mormon pop music is not the Antichrist.

In fact, it’s often not all that bad. Yes, it’s not exactly free jazz in its musical complexity. You can pretty much count on a nice, pop-py rhythm and a string of uncomplicated I-IV-V’s, with perhaps a minor chord here or there if the writer was really feeling daring.

The words also often leave a bit to be desired. You can all but rely on at least one ryhming of “end-friend” or perhaps “love-dove.” And the words are often heartfelt, but that’s not always a good thing. At worst, they can seem to be manufactured-heartfelt, which is possibly the worst thing a lyric could ever aspire to be.

And yes, Mormon Pop can be overused, over-sung, over-played, over-listened, and so forth.

That said, it’s a nice component for use where appropriate.

I play primary piano — I pretty much have done so for the past eight years. There are a lot of awful primary songs in the book, but I don’t complain about some of the simple, catchy Janice Kapp Perry tunes like I Love to See the Temple, or A Child’s Prayer, or I Pray in Faith. (Yes, Sister Perry may be a little bit too enthusiastic about the Child’s Prayer formula of two tunes that fit together. But in at least some instances, it works.)

I’ve also attended a number of baptisms, firesides, missionary farewells, etc., where Mormon Pop was performed. And yes, I’ve heard some painfully bad renditions of some songs. (“Have You Received His Image” just doesn’t work unless the singer can actually hit the notes, it turns out.) That said, I’ve heard some renditions of Mormon pop that were perfectly nice. Not a night at the opera, true. But appropriate, and uplifting, and well performed. And I liked them.

There’s another reason not to hate Mormon pop, and that is that it can actually help people in life. I watched a close friend go through a time when he went completely inactive — except that he still liked Michael McClean. He’s active again now. Reactiviation is a tricky thing, and there were lots of components on both sides of the equation — but I was very happy that this person never forgot his liking for McClean.

In my experience and observation, Mormon pop can be particularly useful for teens. The teenage years are a time of life when kids are figuring themselves out, and lots of Mormon pop is designed to help with that process. That means that it is often earnest and hopeful in a way that may make it look like overprocessed pap to thirtysomething adults, just as we might think that an adolescent’s journal entries are full of overthought angst. But we the thirtysomethings aren’t the ones who need the overearnest pop, and it’s awfully rude of us to pretend otherwise.

Yes, this isn’t a great defense. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of Mormon pop myself, and I get tired of its shortcomings sometimes. Perhaps others can give this maligned music the defense it deserves. But for the moment, I’ll just go on the record to repeat my own opinion: Mormon pop is not the Antichrist, and it can be pretty good.

210 comments for “The Uneasy Case for Janice Kapp: A (sort of) defense of Mormon Pop

  1. Kristine
    January 11, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    Oh, Kaimi–I don’t know if we can be friends anymore.

    /sob, sniffle

  2. January 11, 2005 at 3:14 pm

    I’d be willing to make a case for Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband. Beyond that, I need to listen to more KZION before I could make any sort of defense. So far, I’d say that about 15% doesn’t make me cringe and about 8% is stuff I really like.

  3. January 11, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    More specifically, Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband’s song “Even Superman” off the Hey Hey Hey album is very cool.

  4. danithew
    January 11, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    I like Ryan Shupe’s “Banjo Song.” At least I think that’s what its called. Haven’t heard much else.

  5. danithew
    January 11, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    The site offers the ability to download versions of most of the hymns and primary songs … for free. I’ve been getting re-acquainted with many of the primary songs that I hardly hear in church anymore and they are wonderful. Did I mention they are downloadable for free?

  6. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    Uggh, I completely disagree Kaimi. Our Mormon pop music comes from our secular music, which is rhythm/blues based, which is rightfully sourced from very base emotions, namely sex and its repercussions. This secular music, and a secularized vision of Jesus as our joint “boyfriend” is enathema to testimonies, though I don’t think people realize this.

    Janice Kapp Perry isn’t writing Mormon pop, per se. She’s just writing amateur songs, and as such, her melodies may be charming, and the words may be right for children. But I hate the Primary songs (even good ones) when sung by the Tab Choir — because they sound infantile.

    We need our own music, something that isn’t a Mass, and something that isn’t derived from Little Richard. This is something I’ve been trying to do for years, find a good synthesis of traditional Protestant hymnody and a folk music which might evoke our pioneer ancestors.

    But it’s always a struggle. My music is criticized as being too classical and composed, by people who like JKP, and also too “poppy” and tuneful for real composers like Murray Boren.

    P.S. I’m pleased, though, that anybody would mention the word “cool” and me in the same sentence.

  7. Greg
    January 11, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    You may have misjudged me. Just last Sunday on the drive to Church, Cirila and I were doing a loud (and off-key, for my part) duet of the Mormon pop song so that goes “I’ve got to find out who I am.” I really like the line, “It’s been around ten thousand years/Or maybe even more.” Can you imagine? More???

  8. January 11, 2005 at 3:45 pm

    Awesome, Greg. Just awesome.

  9. January 11, 2005 at 3:48 pm


    Yeah, but then you go and post about something that you read in Dwell. And your description of the duet sounds specifically like you two were engaging in an act of camp.

  10. January 11, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    I agree with Wm — Greg is into poseur chic. Just like when Sumer & I break out the Captain & Tenille costumes.

  11. January 11, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    ….and don’t get me started on camp. Can Mormons truly participate in camp?

    I don’t know that Susan Sontag ever addressed this critical question.

  12. January 11, 2005 at 3:52 pm

    D. Fletcher is right. While I can recognize your assertion that we must see it for the good it does, I disagree with your conclusion. You can recognize the good that many institutions do, while hoping for something different/more.

    It is definitely not a good thing to train people that saccharin is sweet.

  13. January 11, 2005 at 3:53 pm

    It is definitely not a good thing to train people that saccharin = sweet.

  14. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    D.: “My music is criticized as being too classical and composed, by people who like JKP, and also too “poppyâ€? and tuneful for real composers like Murray Boren.”

    IMO, you’ve found the right “groove”, D.. I think that’s right where you wanna be if you wanna do some good, and do it with quality.

  15. Dustin
    January 11, 2005 at 4:00 pm

    My daughter is only 2, but I think when the time comes, I would much have her listen to the Singles Ward soundtrack than any other modern day movie soundtrack.

    To me, that is mormon pop. Janice Kapp is inspirational. Jenny Phillips is awesome. No one here can tell me that Hailey Anderson’s CD “Fly Again” is not good!

  16. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 4:02 pm


    It’s not good.

  17. Kaimi
    January 11, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    I think that D’s comment drives home the point — no matter what one does, music isn’t going to please everyone.

    In addition, let me make a populist / elitist point: Assume for a second that the criticisms are true. Musically complicated is good; I-IV-V is bad. And yet, most people just can’t compose complex stuff — Joe Average can write a decent melody to a C-G-F, but not much more. Who are we to deny the lesser lights a chance to shine? Are we that much better than they are? Should only Shakespeare be permitted to put pen to paper? There’s a place in the world for earnest amateurs, isn’t there? In fact, we’re commanded to develop our talents. Some people may be five-talent and the rest of us two-talent, but we’re all supposed to develop what we have.

    And finally, consider the feelings of elitism and snobbery that accompany pop-bashing. I mean, people even proudly own up to being “music snobs” or “literature snobs” or whatever else. If there’s one thing that the church should be teaching us, it’s that there’s no place for snobs. We can celebrate the five-talent people without any need to then denigrate the two-talent people.

  18. Kaimi
    January 11, 2005 at 4:06 pm


    Well, the young women hit me up for money to participate in camp every year . . .

  19. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 4:07 pm

    Just kidding… I’ve never even heard it before. (though with LDS pop I kinda feel like the protagonist in “Arsenic and old Lace” who writes his reviews before he goes to the theater and actually sees the shows – they’re so predictably limpid and banal.

  20. January 11, 2005 at 4:09 pm

    Who are we to deny the lesser lights a chance to shine? Are we that much better than they are? Should only Shakespeare be permitted to put pen to paper?

    Would you apply similar principles to other endeavors? Say like Law? or Medicine?

    And it is not an issue of simplicity vs. complex. Simple can be extraordinarily moving and beautiful. We are talking saccharin not simplicity.

  21. Kaimi
    January 11, 2005 at 4:10 pm

    I received a phone call from someone (I won’t say who, but he’s in New York, and he’s less cool than I am, as noted above), who suggested that Mormon pop is problematic because there is a captive audience at the sacrament meeting / baptism / fireside / etc who should not be subjected to music they disapprove of.

    I can appreciate that captive audiences require more care. But is that reason to eschew Mormon pop? Why not, for instance, allow only trained, degreed orators to speak from the podium each week? The fact is, we’re happy to celebrate our limited talents in oratry. And we should be equally content to do so in music.

  22. Greg
    January 11, 2005 at 4:11 pm

    William, I only read Dwell so that I can report to the bloggernacle when it mentions Mormonism.

    //returns to humming “But this life…is a test”

    P.S. Steve: I had been meaning to tell you, Sumer’s Captain is much better than your Tenille.

  23. Kaimi
    January 11, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    Jonathan Stapley,

    Clearly, there are instances where lesser lights should be kept out. As you point out, medicine is probably one of them. Law may be another.

    Now answer me this — is music more like medicine and law, or more like sacrament-meeting talks? Is it something to be kept sacred and guarded, like the priesthood, or is it more like a talent to be developed, like public speaking or, well, music?

  24. January 11, 2005 at 4:14 pm

    Kaimi, what a weak argument — you don’t believe yourself, do you?? “Lesser lights to shine”? Come on, man — could you keep a straight face typing that?

    Essentially, you’re saying, “not all musicians are good — but we should be able to celebrate good musicians without denigrating the bad.” But you’re missing the point of progression in art and aspiring to levels of technical and artistic worth. Sure, we shouldn’t have ad hominem attacks on JKP (tempting though they may be); but that doesn’t mean we should celebrate mediocre pop fluff for something other than what it is. You’re conflating how the Gospel treats individuals with the overall mission of pursuing the best out of the arts — and that’s a mistake.

  25. January 11, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    p.s. dear T&S readers: I know Kaimi, and that excuses my grating response. He knows that he is full of crap on this thread, and I won’t let him get away with it.

  26. January 11, 2005 at 4:17 pm

    “Hey, Hey, Hey” is a great album to go running to. Ryan Shupe, however, has the advantage of being a really excellent banjo player.

  27. Bryce I
    January 11, 2005 at 4:17 pm

    I think “Mormon pop'” as it is being used here is not well-defined. Are we talking about pop-styled music by Mormon artists with Mormon themes? Or are we talking about Mormon music written for the masses, but which aspires to be Sunday meeting material? The difference is important, I think.

  28. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    Kaimi, the thing that I find most insufferable is when the whole neighborhood jumps on the pop culture bandwagon proclaiming to one and all that what we’ve got is great because it’s good. Why can’t we just be frank about our mediocrity?

    Also, I’m in favor of good pop/folk/R&B/rock or what have you. But we’ve got a long way to go before we come up with something as good as The Beatle’s “Yesterday”.

  29. January 11, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    BTW, I am way cooler than Kaimi. He does securities litigation for crying out loud. Also, Kaimi has a funny looking head, while I mearly suffer from the absence of a chin a neck the approximate diameter of a quarter…

  30. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    I’d be happy to share with you my Sunstone speech of about 10 years ago, when I suggested that any style of music is appropriate when delivered with a sincere and self-effacing approach, emphasizing the testimony over the “style.” But most contemporary music is all about style, about promoting the stylistic qualities of the performer over all other concerns.

    There’s nothing wrong with simple, nor anything wrong with I-IV-V, which I use almost exclusively in my sacred songs. But the use of them should be fresh, and thoughtful, not repetitive, mundane, and hackneyed. Why not encourage composers to look beyond themselves a little bit? Make something that’s new and original, not something you know you can sell at Deseret Book.

    Which leads to the next point: it’s a conundrum, but I don’t think people should think about writing or performing music for the Church as a career, because this promotes ambition and a need to show-off. Music in Sacrament Meeting should not be for show-off purposes. I don’t care if your 13-year-old has just learned the Revolutionary Etude by Chopin — it isn’t right to show this off in Church. (I think.)

    As to the actual quality of most Church musical numbers: I wish it were better. Start with a better song, and maybe work on it a little, and believe it a little, and we’ll go from there.

  31. January 11, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    “But we’ve got a long way to go before we come up with something as good as The Beatle’s “Yesterday”.”

    So have the Beattles…

  32. Kristine
    January 11, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    Nate–I have two chins; maybe we can work something out.

  33. January 11, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    Nate, I agree with you — each of us could easily take Kaimi in a cool-off. Just say when and where, cheese-boy, and we’ll take you down. Greg, Wm. and Bryce’s brother (sorry Bryce) can moderate.

  34. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 4:24 pm


    Sadly, 90% of LDS music, whether for worship or more secular activities, has it’s roots in pop music.

  35. January 11, 2005 at 4:25 pm

    One of the best albums I’ve heard by a Mormon band that touches on Mormon themes is one that I received from a fellow missionary — and to show such a square I am, I honestly didn’t listen to it until I got home. It was a tape of a tape — the name of the album (and band, I think) was Ali Ali Oxen Free. Anybody know what I’m talking about?

    Some good tunes on that album. It was sort of alternative pop — kind of Dave Matthews-ish.

  36. Kaimi
    January 11, 2005 at 4:25 pm

    As a definitional point, I’m referring to the stuff that you buy at Deseret Book, but are also likely to hear in a fireside / sacrament meeting / etc.

    The most well-known is probably “I Heard Him Come” which I’ve heard probably dozens of times. Other well-known pieces include “His Hands”; “If It So be that ye Should Labor” (aka the Missionary Farewell song); “In the Hollow of Thy Hand”; pretty much anything by McClean. You get the picture.

  37. January 11, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Interesting take on Mormon Pop music. At first I thought you were trying to convince your audience why it is the Anti-Christ? And I was in full agreement, but then you explained that it can help youth through the tough times of growing up and I thought… well that explains it… I listened to too much Doors growing up and not enough JKP!

  38. January 11, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    Kaimi: Now answer me this – is music more like medicine and law, or more like sacrament-meeting talks?

    Performing music is like a sacrament meeting talk. Much as D. explained: sacrament meeting music is about worship, not performance. Otherwise there would be very little music in our chapels. The vocation of writing or creating the music, however, is much more akin to medicine or law. They are activities were skill matters.

  39. January 11, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    To respond to Kaimi’s question in comment #23: Music is not like law and medicine in that we should require a license in order to practice it. It has some similarities to a sacrament meeting talk in that it is meant to inspire and can be improved in quality with training. However, few authors of sacrament meeting talks that I am aware of go so far as to call their product “art,” or–even more importantly–to sell it.

    When I’m paying money for a CD (or a movie or a book or a painting), I should be able to get a good quality product. When I have a choice between JKP fluff and Ryan Shupe banjo-pickin’ (BTW, why are we mentioning him on this thread? He may be Mormon, but his music has no Mormon themes and is as much influenced by bluegrass as pop), I’ll take the banjo every time.

  40. January 11, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    Perry and McLean are pop?

    Sick. Just sick.

  41. Greg
    January 11, 2005 at 4:36 pm

    William, I think I saw Ali Ali Oxen Free play some shows in Provo around 1992, maybe on the bill with Anyone For Squash. Another Mormon band I saw play a lot (this would be around 1995) was a jokey hip-hop/punk group called Chump. Hits included “B.Y.G. (Brigham Young Gangsta)” and “Mowin’ my Lawn.” Fun stuff. But I don’t think that is what Kaimi is talking about.

  42. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 4:37 pm

    Groan. I don’t know how many times I’ve played “I Heard Him Comeâ€? for this friend or that in sacrament meeting. It’s getting to the point where my hands are tarnished. I need to learn to say no. I’m tired of sheepishly walking up to the piano infront of that poor, poor congregation – little do they know what’s coming… Or maybe they do. It’s all quite predictable now, isn’t it?

  43. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    But no one has really answered the real question here: should we be going more for JKP and Michael Maclean, or for John Rutter and Ralph Vaughn-Williams? John Rutter writes a very melodic kind of church music that also promotes a very worshipful attitude. To me, there isn’t really a question: Rutter every time.

  44. Hans Hansen
    January 11, 2005 at 4:39 pm

    As a fifty-something I avoid “Mormon” or “Wasatch Pop” like the plague. I just stepped down last year after 15 years as Ward Choir Director and I can say proudly that I never programmed any of that crap on any Sacrament Meeting or special program during that entire time. Since then the new choir director has featured mainly arrangements of hymn tunes, but I found myself gagging during the Christmas Sacrament Meeting program as she had the choir perform a complete JKP “cantata” (and I really use the term lightly)! I found myself reaching for a crucifix to scare the “creature” out of the chapel until I realized that crucifixes probably don’t work against Mormon vampires. Give me a piece by Leroy Robertson, Crawford Gates, Robert Manookin, or Bob Cundick any day over some of the monstrosities I’ve been forced to listen to over the years in Sacrament Meetings!

  45. January 11, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    D. To even make the camparison borders on the unseemly, but you are correct…Rudder everytime.

  46. Bryce I
    January 11, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    D. Fletcher said:

    There’s nothing wrong with simple, nor anything wrong with I-IV-V, which I use almost exclusively in my sacred songs. But the use of them should be fresh, and thoughtful, not repetitive, mundane, and hackneyed. Why not encourage composers to look beyond themselves a little bit? Make something that’s new and original, not something you know you can sell at Deseret Book.

    One of the counselors in the bishopric in my last singles ward was Roger Hoffman, who wrote “Consider the Lilies of the Field”. He told the story of how he struggled to make ends meet with his music, but never felt good about changing his style to make it more of the kind “you know you can sell at Deseret Book,” and how he often encouraged other artists he knew to essentially stop selling out. The song “Consider the Lilies” came as an answer to one of his prayers — basically, write what helps you express what is in your heart, and don’t worry so much about the marketplace.

    It was a great story, no matter what you happen to think of his music. Happily, he seems to be doing ok.

  47. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2005 at 5:04 pm

    Funny, I can’t make my living selling my music. I guess no one wants it, or certainly, they don’t want to buy it. I’d like to promote my music (with the perfect interpreter/singer, Sarah Asplund) but I’ve never felt good about it. And so I’ve been taken advantage of, in a big way. My song “Weepin’ Mary” has been sung internationally in Church, so it might as well be in the public domain. I’m happy to be the giver, but I’m not happy many have “taken” without bothering to question whether it was right or not. The excuse is always, “they’re not paying me to sing in Church, so why should I pay the composer for a copy of the song?”

  48. January 11, 2005 at 5:06 pm

    I’ll second matt astle. Shupe & Rubberbands are _not_ “Mormon” musik. They are just fast & fun.

  49. danithew
    January 11, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    I have tried writing songs and it is hard. I even recorded one song (only guitar and voice) with a friend who had some equipment. My original idea was that the song would be small gift for my wife for Christmas. When I went home and heard my recorded voice I gradually became more and more horrified. I couldn’t listen to the recording again for six months. I’ve slowly recovered and am at peace with my musical efforts (my wife says she likes it though) but it was interesting to realize how different you really sound as opposed to the voice you hear in your head while playing.

    I have also tried my hand at putting some scripture (verses from Psalms 22) to music. Again, I’m impressed with how hard it is to do that well.

    How wonderful it would be to have written something as wonderful as “Consider the Lilies.” Maybe prayer is what it takes to accomplish something truly beautiful like that.

  50. MDS
    January 11, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    Matt Astle,

    The Shuper definitely has some Mormon themes in his music. What about “Sin Repellent,” or “Walk the Walk?” which mentions Alma.

  51. danithew
    January 11, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    How wonderful it would be to have written something as wonderful as “Consider the Lilies.�

    Geeze my sentence structuring needs some help. Yikes.

  52. Rosalynde Welch
    January 11, 2005 at 5:11 pm

    William and Greg– My friends and I would go see “ali ali oxen free” whenever we could in Provo, usually at the old “Pier 59” (?) pizza place. And “Chump” was a fun party band, too. There was an active local ska scene, which we were also into. Since we lived right across the stree from Mama’s cafe, we could usually catch quite a bit of good local music.

  53. January 11, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    You know, this is what comes of being spoiled by living in the (Bay Area) wards I’ve lived in, but I can’t remember the last time I heard a Mormon pop or pop-devotional song sung in Sacrament Meeting.

    It’s probably been 8-10 years.

  54. January 11, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    What is it with Mormons and ska? Well, of course, aside from the thing about geeky white boys playing brass instruments. [Maybe that’s all there is to it].

    Incidentally, I was told (i.e. this is total hearsay) that the Ali Ali Oxen Free song “Insight Out” [which is kind of a nice love song — I like it] was originally written by one of the band members to try and break into the Mormon inspirtational pop scene, but it was rejected by the record label he was pitching so he changed all the pronouns from he [Holy Ghost] to she [wife/lover]. I suppose that this supports what D. Fletcher, J. Stapley and Jack have been talking about.

  55. January 11, 2005 at 5:26 pm

    So is it the job of the (self-designated) “musically enlightened” amongst us to rip unworthy music from the shelves of Deseret Book, or from the CD towers in members’ homes? Or to jump up and start screaming in sacrament, in order to prevent the congregation from being scarred by the terrors of a choir performance that isn’t up to snuff?

    If so, aren’t there rather bigger problems — even just within our co-religionists’ other musical choices — than anything Janice Kapp Perry might have released in the past?

    And if not, what on earth is up with all this judgemental stuff? I mean, do I really have to like the same things as the ward’s designated Musically Enlightened member — maybe that ought to be a position in the Relief Society, or the Sunday School presidency — in order to be judged acceptable?

    I think I’ll just keep on enjoying the fun, clean music (much of which talks about things I like hearing about in my music, thanks) that I’ve been enjoying all along.

    Or to put it another way: why are some of you guys trying so hard to take the fun out of everyone’s day?

  56. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2005 at 5:29 pm


  57. January 11, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    “So is it the job of the (self-designated) “musically enlightenedâ€? amongst us to rip unworthy music from the shelves of Deseret Book, or from the CD towers in members’ homes?”

    No. I teach correct principles of coolness and expect people to govern themselves, Sarah. You must destroy these CDs in your collection yourself as proof of your goodwill.

    Look, nobody’s trying to make you stop listening to any of this stuff. Like you say, it is often “fun, clean music.” But let’s not start pretending that since it gets play in sacrament it should enjoy special treatment or somehow escape the scrutiny that we would give any other pop album.

    In terms of taking the fun out of everyone’s day, I am like Satan: I take pleasure in the misery of others. See: schadenfreude.

  58. January 11, 2005 at 5:36 pm

    A little perspective:

    Listen to this blast from the past(mp3).

    Lyrics are here.

  59. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 5:36 pm


    I was approached by the church (or those in responsible positions) with regard to doing one of my musicals at the conference center. We deliberated over it for 5 or 6 months. The agreement would have been no ownership or credit on my part (this was a major 3 hr work!) and reworking the whole piece as a collaborator with a committee of sorts (though they promised that it wouldn’t be a “writing committee”). I was willing to do it, but thankfully they decided against doing a piece on the BoM as “The Testaments” was still relatively new and they preferred a little more variety on Temple Square. They were wonderful people and I hope that maybe in the future I might collaborate with them on something new. But even so, I’ve always wondered a little at how the arts are viewed in the church. I believe that we should be willing to give all in order to sustain the Kingdom. However, I’m not convinced that there’s an equality with regard to “consecration” between the arts and the more “practical” pursuits. I think we forget sometimes that an artist has to work at two careers until he/she can make a living at the one e.g. the art.

  60. January 11, 2005 at 5:41 pm


    I can speak for anyone else, but different people have different tastes. That’s cool. The issue is where these tastes become part of our church services.

    I personally prefer the conservative very middlebrow approach. That is, I would prefer that musical numbers in sacrament meetings and firesides be either hymns or other classical religious works. I would prefer it if members would stay away from both the more showy classical musical pieces and the Mormon inspirational pop pieces.

    That’s only at church though. What you listen to at home is your own business. ;-)

  61. January 11, 2005 at 5:46 pm

    Don’t lie to Sarah, Wm. What she listens to at home IS our business. Remember the Elder Packer classic, “Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts”? Worthless music, worthless thoughts, I say.

    p.s. Sarah, I hope you’re not taking all this too seriously.

  62. John W
    January 11, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    I’m all for having frothy musical numbers in Sacrament Meeting — anything to give us a break from the talks. I was listening to “You’re not alone” (McLean) on one such occasion a few years ago. The lyrics have a nice message — well, at least the title does. The rest of it is pure nonsense, like this line: “’cause one who loves you more than me is sending blessings fast.” What is that supposed to mean? Who are they talking about?

    JKP is full of such gems as well.

  63. Colby
    January 11, 2005 at 5:58 pm

    Having spent years as a professional and educated musician performing and/or directing music in sacrament meetings, other church meetings, firesides, campsides, and so on and so on, I’ve gone through numerous stages concerning my attitude about music and the Mormon church. Although I will admit I have a special type of loathing that I can’t seem to shake for most “Mormon pop”, I finally came to a realization: In the end, regardless of performance quality, songwriting quality, or any sort of quality, the real point of all LDS music is striving to bring the spirit into the lives of it’s listeners. I’ve seen professional musicians perform very complex and impressive music in meetings that meant very little, and on the other hand, have seen amateurs sing very simple music that moved everyone.

    This brings the same quandary as the earlier “kitsch” problem, because what is Mormon pop but musical kitsch? By the nature of Mormon culture it isn’t complete to judge the quality of LDS art, including music, merely on an intellectual level, because it also has a spiritual level, which is harder to define, and consequently harder to judge.

  64. Mark B
    January 11, 2005 at 6:04 pm


    I’d have paid good money–really good money–to hear you and Cirila doing that on your way to church in Brooklyn. The old Italian guys at the social club on the corner would have got off their lawn chairs and given you a standing “o”.

  65. Ivan Wolfe
    January 11, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    Okay –

    For a few years I was a staple in the independent Utah county music scene. My band won a Battle of the Bands at Muse Music in Provo, Utah and we were on some compilation albums.

    let me clear up a few things here:

    Ryan Shupe does not play banjo. He plays fiddle, mandolin and a little Guitar. The fine Banjo pickin’ you hear on Shupe albums is usually done by Craig Miner (who I played with once, though I doubt he woudl remember me from Adam. It was through the BYU Folk Ensemble. The director of the BYU folk music program, Mark Geslison, knows who I am, though).

    Ryan Shupe’s best album is “Simplify” followed by “If I were a Bird.” The Christmas Album “The Gift” is a close third. I personally find “Hey, hey, hey” to be an over produced affair (not suprising, since they brought in a big name producer).

    They may not be a Mormon pop band, but they don’t shy away from LDS themes. “Sin Repellent” was a good example, as was “Walk the Walk” – a rowsing Bluegrass tune that mixes Biblical and Book of Mormon characters as examples of how to “Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk.”

    Also, there’s “If I were a Bird” – which, after several verses of rhapsodizing about how wonderful it would be to be a bird, he flies up to Heaven to meet the Father and the Son – and where he gets to “descend like a dove” with the Holy Ghost. Then the Father rebukes him and tells him to stop being a bird and go back home and be the man he was meant to be.

    They don’t shy away from spiritual themes.

    As for LDS pop – the best music is being made by those who aren’t signed by Desert Book. Desert Book, I’m sorry to say, while having a few outstanding artists (Cherie Call comes to mind), is overall devoted to producing “safe” music that takes no risks.

    Highway/Joysping/ records, on the other hand, has great Artists like Enoch Train, Shane Jackman and Fiddlesticks.

    In fact, Enoch Train is THE BEST LDS GROUP OUT THERE. Arrangements of hyms in Celtic fusion, Brazillian jazz, Arabic rai and African tribal chants (sometimes in the same song). There’s no more talented group on the LDS market.

  66. Mark B
    January 11, 2005 at 6:10 pm

    Kaimi’s No. 17 reminds me of the immortal words of the late, but not too lamented, Senator Roman Hruska, who, when defending Nixon’s appointment of the illustrious (yuk) G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court:

    “Even if he was mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that there.”

  67. Kaimi
    January 11, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    Mark B.,

    I direct your attention to #23. That critique has been asked and answered. Unless you’re making the argument that Mormon pop is somehow more like Supreme court judging than, say, sacrament meeting talks. In which case you’re free to make that argument, though you certainly have your work cut out for you.

  68. Mark B
    January 11, 2005 at 6:18 pm

    Come on D., you can’t be serious about getting rid of the banal and trite. We’d have to chuck We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.

  69. January 11, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    Amen, Ivan.

    There are a tonne of artists out there who put out music with LDS/spiritual themes, but are separate from the cookie-cutter, predictable crap that comes out of the likes of Mclean and Perry. If you haven’t listened to yet, I highly recommend it. Your ideas of LDS music will be changed forever.

  70. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 6:28 pm


    You are so right. I’d rather hear a child sing a primary song in sacrament meeting than a professional group perform something from Bach’s “The Passion of St Matthew”, that is, if the former is more conducive to inviting the Spirit than the latter. However, we have to admit that this argument could easily be reduced to something like “I’d rather have a spiritless professional chior perform than a bunch of well meaning chimpansees hooping and hollering”. At some point a little bit of quality can make a differnce even if only to minimize distraction.

  71. Kaimi
    January 11, 2005 at 6:34 pm


    Well, like I said, I’m the lightweight around here. Most of the bloggers are proper music snobs, but it somehow didn’t completely sink in when it came to me. But I’m sure that Kristine is even now writing her response, explaining in great detail why Mormon pop _is_ the Anti-Christ.

  72. Greg
    January 11, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    Mark: “I’d have paid good money–really good money–to hear you and Cirila doing that on your way to church in Brooklyn. The old Italian guys at the social club on the corner would have got off their lawn chairs and given you a standing ‘o’.”

    Either that, or some cement shoes and dirtnap in the East River.

    (In case anyone connected to the Italian-American anti-defamation league is reading this, I’m totally kidding. Those old guys on Court Street always had a smile for our little boy.)

  73. Bryce I
    January 11, 2005 at 8:15 pm

    Mark B. said:

    Come on D., you can’t be serious about getting rid of the banal and trite. We’d have to chuck We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.

    Mark, if we got rid of “We thank thee O God for a Prophet,” what would newly-called fifteen-year-old priesthood meeting pianists play every week at an agonizingly slow tempo?

  74. Maren
    January 11, 2005 at 8:29 pm

    I have loved music ever since I was very little. Mostly Broadway musicals. I listened to music all day long. While doing homework, while going to sleep, while doing just about anything. When I went on my mission, I thought I would die. Even though I had grown up in Utah, I had never really become a fan of the Mormon Pop industry. Everything I had ever heard in church was no comparison to what I heard on my CD’s. I often felt more spirit from Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” than I ever did from Micheal McClean. Spending a year and a half without what I termed “real music” started out as torture. I listened to the approved music, but it was never good enough. However, through careful scrutiny of all the other missionaries music and sheer desperation I found enough decent music to get by on. Usually it was one song on one album, another from another one. All types of music are prone to terrible installments (“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” in quite a shame in the musical industry) but one can search and find good songs. I was grateful for the Mormon Pop because it kept some music in my life. Truthfully I seldom listen to any of it now, but every once and awhile I may listen to something, or even sing a song in church if a sincere request comes along. I think the music has its place. I think a lot of it is bad, but I would not rule out every musical just because I was once forced to watch “Paint Your Wagon”. How many bad musicals were written before “West Side Story” came along and redeemed the musical world? How many more have been written after? I would not say that all musicals should be destroyed just because someone had the unfortunate experience of seeing “Bye Bye Birdie”. I would just give them a copy of “Ragtime” and tell them that there is hope out there.

  75. January 11, 2005 at 8:32 pm

    “How many bad musicals were written before “West Side Storyâ€? came along”

    They’re all bad—before and after.

  76. Katie
    January 11, 2005 at 8:35 pm

    Our Mormon pop music comes from our secular music, which is rhythm/blues based, which is rightfully sourced from very base emotions, namely sex and its repercussions. This secular music, and a secularized vision of Jesus as our joint “boyfriend� is enathema to testimonies, though I don’t think people realize this.

    While this comment from D. Fletcher was posted quite some time ago I wish to comment on it. I would venture to say that what is lacking in Mormon pop music is exactly the vision of Jesus Christ as joint “boyfriend.� The scriptures make many references to Christ being the bridegroom and the Church being the bride. Using a romantic metaphor for our relationship with Christ is not anathema to testimonies, rather it should be a foundational block. I often muse on why living the gospel in labeled several times in scripture as being “easy.� I have come to see that it is only easy when our relationship with Christ is like the relationship we maintain with a spouse. Acts of service are born spontaneously and naturally out of love. The cost is not counted nor is the act viewed as drudgery.

    Therefore what I find utterly lacking in Mormon pop songs is a sense of the poetic and passionate nature of our relationship with Christ. Growing up in the Bible Belt I developed a taste for Christian pop music. Many completely awful groups like DC Talk surely spring to mind when the genre is mentioned . But when the surface is scratched one can find a whole slew of artists who sing heartfelt and stirring music to God. Stripped of the saccharin that mars Mormon pop, they sing about what a faithful life really feels like. What I enjoy about Christina pop is a sense of the passion and all-consuming nature of the gospel. Mormon pop is too often replete with cheesy and distant metaphors; rocks and streams, windows, and light, ect. They never get to the heart of the matter. This is more evident on say EFY soundtracks than JKP. In the end my test for “religious� music is: if my personal faith was put to music, is this what it would sound like? And it just wouldn’t sound like Mclean’s “Celebrating the Light.�

    And a bit off the topic….I have never figured out why some instruments are more reverent than others. Why does God prefer the organ to the guitar? What is God’s bias to string instruments anyway? Why must hymns be slow to be reverent? Why does slow=sacred? Gladys Knight once said she wished the hymns could be a little jazzier, a little more gospel. She argued that such regional and cultural changes would amount the fulfillment of God’s promise that everyone would someday hear the gospel in their own language.

  77. Katie
    January 11, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    That first paragraph is lifted from D. Fletcher’s post and should be italicized to indicate such. Sorry!

  78. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 9:38 pm


    West Side Story’s score and choreography are miraculous. However, IMO it suffers in the script department. My Fair Lady, which came before West Side, is a nearly flawless work and IMO is the crown jewel of the golden age of broadway.


    I weep for you.

  79. danithew
    January 11, 2005 at 9:45 pm

    Katie wrote: “Gladys Knight once said she wished the hymns could be a little jazzier, a little more gospel. She argued that such regional and cultural changes would amount the fulfillment of God’s promise that everyone would someday hear the gospel in their own language.”

    I agree with this sentiment. As I like to say, I’d like to see Motab catch a little bit of Motown.

  80. January 11, 2005 at 9:52 pm


    “West Side Story’s score and choreography are miraculous. However, IMO it suffers in the script department.”

    Exactly right. It’s worth treasuring because it is, very possibly, the finest choreography, dancing, and dance music ever committed to film. When “America” or “Mambo” or “Cool” kicks in, you’re in the presence of a masterwork. Unfortunately, the music ends occasionally, and then you have a bunch of supposed teen-agers standing around calling each other “Daddy-O.” It’s painful.

    “My Fair Lady, which came before West Side, is a nearly flawless work and IMO is the crown jewel of the golden age of Broadway.”

    Again, exactly right. I don’t know if My Fair Lady is my absolute favorite musical of all time, but it is assuredly the wittiest, smartest, most gorgeously orchestrated of them all (speaking of the original Broadway recording here). As far as film versions go, it’s brilliant, though Singin’ in the Rain reigns supreme, in my opinion, as the all-time Hollywood musical masterpiece.

  81. Bryce I
    January 11, 2005 at 9:54 pm

    Jack —

    Unfortunately, most of us know My Fair Lady courtesy of Rex Harrison.

    Maren —

    What’s wrong with Seven Brides? My girls love that show. They’re always fighting over who gets to be Dorcas.

  82. Bryce I
    January 11, 2005 at 10:08 pm

    From Dan and Katie:

    Katie wrote: “Gladys Knight once said she wished the hymns could be a little jazzier, a little more gospel. She argued that such regional and cultural changes would amount the fulfillment of God’s promise that everyone would someday hear the gospel in their own language.�

    I agree with this sentiment. As I like to say, I’d like to see Motab catch a little bit of Motown.

    At our stake Christmas music fireside this year, one of the ward choirs presented Silent Night The soloist was a fairly recent convert, a sister who came from a different church music tradition than ours. She is a black woman with some size to her — not overweight, just big, with a voice to match. It was one of the best Silent Nights I’ve ever heard. Nothing silent or hushed about it. It was loud, powerful, emotional, and just a bit raw, yet just as reverent and worshipful as the Primary children’s chorus with their small, sweet angel voices or the MoTab with their lush, polished sound.

  83. Mark B
    January 11, 2005 at 10:10 pm


    All those middle-aged white people going Motown? hmmm.

    Perhaps we need a different cast of characters in the choir before we do that!

  84. Mark B
    January 11, 2005 at 10:12 pm

    By the way, Nate, Ed Levi and Harry Kalven Jr. ought to sue for copyright infringement.

  85. Jack
    January 11, 2005 at 10:12 pm


    I’m with you on ‘Singing in the Rain’ (though I’m sorely tempted by the ‘Wizard of OZ’; and, in fact, give into that temptation on occasion).


    There is no ‘My Fair Lady’ without Rex Harrison. And, I agree with you on ‘Seven Brides’ – my kind of cheese.

  86. January 11, 2005 at 10:18 pm

    I enjoyed that a great deal, especially when I needed it.

  87. Mark B
    January 11, 2005 at 10:31 pm

    Oops. My #84 should have been addressed to Kaimi.

  88. Kaimi
    January 11, 2005 at 10:46 pm


    I’m practicing for the end goal of creating acceptable law review article titles. My next post is going to be titled along the “Taking ___ Seriously” line of titles. I’m thinking I should title a post “One View of the Meetinghouse” as well. Now if only I can come up with content for a post titled “The New (Church) Property.”

    Okay, let’s try some research:

    JLR search:

    ti(taking w/3 seriously): 110 hits
    ti(“one view of” or (view w/3 cathedral)) only 7 hits? My goodness.
    ti(“uneasy case”) 27 hits, that’s a bit better
    ti(new w/4 property) – didn’t work, way too overinclusive. I wonder if there’s a good way to search this.

    Hmm, there are lots of other overused title templates that I can’t think of offhand. . .

  89. Rosalynde Welch
    January 12, 2005 at 8:53 am

    Of course I think I’ve come to the crux of the problem (this always happens to me long after the conversation is over, sadly): what is the purpose of using music in worship services? I see two possibilities: 1) as an act of worship, in which case we should strive to offer God our collective best; or 2) as a means to create the emotional climate in which the Spirit can testify, in which we shoudl use the music that best creates that environment for the greatest number of congregants.

    Let me set up an egregious double standard, and you can do you worst to it: quality in religious writing and literature matters, because that language is is capable of producing fine gradations of meaning and nuance, and high quality language better conveys distinction and nuance. But quality in religious music doesn’t matter so much, because music works to produce emotion, and emotion is not highly susceptible to nuance. “Awe” or “gratitude” or “reverence” are not highly defined categories–or perhaps they’re so highly personal that it’s impossible to draw general gradations within them. Thus it doesn’t matter so much whether the music is of high or low quality when it’s purpose is to create emotion conducive to spiritual experience. (And by the way, I think such distinctions between high and low quality are utterly valid and justified, even though I myself am only a moderately sophisticated–though highly trained–consumer of music)/

  90. danithew
    January 12, 2005 at 11:10 am

    Jack mentioned that certain songs are “his kind of cheese.” I thought I’d throw in that I’m still a sucker for Kermit the Frog’s rendition of “the Rainbow Connection.”

  91. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 11:26 am


    Right on!

  92. January 12, 2005 at 11:28 am


    I weep for you. ”

    Welcome to the club. I weep when I have to endure a musical.

  93. Kristine
    January 12, 2005 at 11:28 am

    Rosalynde, I think that would work if spiritual experiences and emotional ones were more similar; however, I think schlocky music is inclined to trick people into mistaking emotional or sentimental experiences for spiritual ones, and is thus at least as dangerous as sloppy religious discourse.

    I have, as you might expect, more to say on the topic, but I think I’ll do a separate post rather than test the uttermost limits of characters comments can contain.

  94. January 12, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    “By the way, Nate, Ed Levi and Harry Kalven Jr. ought to sue for copyright infringement.”

    Whatever. They can form a litigation class with Henry Hart, Herber Wechsler and the rest of the academic mucky-mucks of the 1950s and have at me. I am surprised that you bother informing yourself about anybody so young and shallow.

  95. David
    January 12, 2005 at 12:37 pm


    I, too, really like contemporary Christian music, particularly alternative Christian music. I even like some of DC Talk’s stuff, as well as Jars of Clay, Small Town Poets, Tree63, Tinman Jones, By the Tree, Third Day, Chris Rice, Andrew Peterson, Jennifer Knapp, Sarah Groves, Darrel Evans and Steven Curtis Chapman. The emphasis on the personal relationship with Jesus, and redemption, resonate with me in a way that most contemporary Mormon music hasn’t (for me, anyway).

    With respect to instrumentation, it is interesting to me that guitars are not banned in Sacrament meeting, at least by general Church guidance.

    “Organs and pianos are the standard instruments used in Church meetings. If other instruments are used, their use should be in keeping with the spirit of the meeting. Instruments with a prominent or less worshipful sound, such as most brass and percussion, are not appropriate for sacrament meeting.”

    Moreover, the portion of the Church’s music website on “accompanying others” includes a section for guitar accompaniment.,17631,4774-1,00.html

  96. Adam Greenwood
    January 12, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    I don’t think your attitude is baseless–I’ve learned to detect a different feel in spiritual/emotional experiences than in just emotional ones–but I don’t think trickery is all that’s going on. I think the difference between bad pop and inspiring music is more in the quality than in whether they’re making a spiritual or an emotional appeal.

    That song, ‘Window to his love’ or whatever, is pretty much schlock. I admit it. But when I first heard it on my mission (in Spanish, no less), I was caught up in a sense and given a taste of what devotion to Christ and self-abnegation is really like. It tasted very, very good to me.

  97. Rosalynde Welch
    January 12, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    It’s funny you say that, Adam. The much-maligned “His Hands”–which I also don’t care for in English–was very moving to me when I performed it in Portuguese on my mission. (Please, Elder Bell, no comments on the quality of the rendition!)

  98. January 12, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    William, Greg, Ivan,

    Re: Ali, Ali Oxen Free — they were a pretty good band. The ska band I fronted back at the time (Sam I Am… anyone remember? anyone?) played several gigs with them around town in those days — Kent, our base player was a former mission companion of Dave, their keyboard player. (BTW – it was 13 years ago this month that we beat them and other local favorites Stretch Armstrong in the BYU battle of the bands…)

    Regarding Mormons and ska: It is an easy marriage. Our young people have as much energy as anyone else and the happy and spastic nature of ska, along with the generally clean lyrics are a perfect fit for our dance-happy culture.

    BTW — I later resurrected the best of the Sam I Am songs with my San Diego band Noisepie. That band saw some Web-based success with more than 300,000 songs downloaded from While not explicitly Mormon, the lyrics were Mormon-friendly…

  99. January 12, 2005 at 1:12 pm

    Make that “bass”

  100. danithew
    January 12, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    Adam used the word “schlock.” As with the word kitsch that is appearing prominently on another thread, I felt a desire to look up the word.

    The definition from the American Heritage dictionary is:

    “Something, such as merchandise or literature, that is inferior or shoddy.”

    It’s the etymology of this word that is fun. It possibly comes from a Yiddish word shlak which means apoplexy, stroke, wretch, evil, nuisance …

    For some reason I get a kick out of these Yiddish/German words that have such gutteral sounds or hard consonants.

  101. Kristine
    January 12, 2005 at 1:38 pm

    Rosalynde, *everything* is moving when you’re as sleep-deprived as most missionaries are. That’s part of why we get stuck with this stuff!

  102. January 12, 2005 at 1:59 pm


    Sam I Am! Man, that’s a blast from the past. Melissa and I were moderately heavily fellow travelers in Provo’s early 90s ska scene: Stretch, Ali, Swim Herschel Swim, and all the rest. There weren’t that many people actively doing something “independent” in Provo, and so we always seemed to be running into each other, at the Student Review offices, Pier 54, Sonic Garden, at various parties and shows, etc. We may have even met, though I don’t remember you.

    Why ska? I once wrote a piece for the Daily Herald trying to answer that very question. Possibly as a way to atone for Utah Valley’s collective sin of otherwise embracing 80s New Wave and little else, arguably the whitest music known to man? If you skank, you can’t possibly be too much of a honky, can you? Seriously, it’s got to be the dancing, as you point out. There isn’t a whole lot of upbeat pop music out there any longer that doesn’t involve a fair amount of grinding and raving, and Mormon youths needed some kind of clean, physical outlet. (Witness BYU’s huge ballroom dance programs–or indeed, the weird continual popularity of “Footloose.”) I suppose country line dancing provides a fair amount of that, but I don’t remember having seen much of that when I was an undergrad. Then again, I went to The Palace exactly once in four years, so maybe I just missed it.

    It’s interesting to hear that ska died out in Provo, and now has apparently made something of a comeback. I’m glad I was there for the early 90s wave; now, ten years later, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the big name, classic “two-tone” ska bands who made sure to include Provo in their tours back then–the Skatalites, Special Beat, etc.–have hung up their drum machines for good.

  103. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 2:11 pm


    I’m with you on emotion doesn’t=spirit. I find more often than not when a “special” musical number is performed in sacrament meeting that I clam up in resistance to the emotional tentacles that are trying to pry their way into my heart. Anything that creates resistance is contrary to inviting the Spirit, I would say. I look forward to reading your post on the subject.


    I’m sobbing buckets of tears for you bro.

  104. January 12, 2005 at 2:11 pm

    Schlock is also the short-hand title for the hands down best Web comic created by a Mormon — and the best sci-fi Web comic — Schlock Mercenary.

  105. Kaimi
    January 12, 2005 at 2:17 pm


    You write: “Anything that creates resistance is contrary to inviting the Spirit, I would say.”

    But if something causes one person to feel the Spirit, but causes resistance in another, then where are we? If music that you feel invites the Spirit for you personally — say, D. Fletcher playing and Sarah Asplund singing — but that music “creates resistance” for someone else, is it also out? Are we simply going to apply the “how does it make Jack feel” test across the board?

  106. January 12, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    Can’t good music also appeal rather blatently to ones emotions? Indeed, it seems to me that this was precisely the goal of Beethoven and other romantic composers. Certainly it cannot be the case that “good” music is distinguished from schlock by the fact that schlock mearly appeals to the emotions. Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is not trying to sound sad? The Ode to Joy is not trying to sound…er…joyful.

    I agree that the spirit is not the same thing as emotionalism. On the other hand, I don’t think that this distinction has anything to do with any link between the spiritual value of music and its artistic quality.

  107. Rosalynde
    January 12, 2005 at 2:30 pm

    Actually, Jack, I completely agree with you and share your precise experience… just seeing a vocalist cross the podium to the microphone makes my face start to turn red with anticipated projected humiliation, and I really can’t feel the Spirit during those performances at all. (Because a good vocalist wouldn’t need the microphone, of course.) But I’m clearly in the minority in my response, at least in my wards. So like Kaimi says, why should my taste trump the majority’s? (Again, I’m not arguing for an aesthetic relativism–and if our goal is to gift God with our best music, then dear old JKP and MM really should be retired… I’m just not sure what our goal is.)

  108. Kaimi
    January 12, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    Rosalynde, Jack, Kris, etc —

    If 80% of the congregation can feel the Spirit when a modestly talented vocalist sings “His Hands” at the microphone . . .

    . . . but you can’t . . .

    . . . who needs to change?

    If you’ve refined your taste to the point that ordinary singing that makes ordinary people feel the Spirit now does nothing for you, haven’t you lost something important along the way?

  109. Rosalynde
    January 12, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    And adding that I myself have certainly used the microphone on a number of occasions! We’re all asked to contribute, and God accepts our best efforts, microphone or not; on an astonishing number of occasions our best efforts are precisely what’s needed.

  110. Rosalynde
    January 12, 2005 at 2:36 pm

    Er, Kaimi, I though I was agreeing with you… (confused)

  111. Kaimi
    January 12, 2005 at 2:41 pm

    My goodness, I’m argumentative. I’m even arguing with people who agree with me. :P

    Sorry, Ros. And thanks for the agreement. (I was originally only intending to disagree with your limited agreement with Jack — and then ended up making the extent of my disagreement with you unclear). I think my thoughts morphed a little bit as I was typing the comment. I agree with your agreement with me — and thanks for phrasing it in a helpful way.

  112. January 12, 2005 at 2:43 pm

    Rosalynde, remind me of the context of your rendition of His Hands. I’d love to remember it, so I could remember whether it was great, or as bad as you are suggesting. Either way, as a person who was guilty (now repented) of many traveling musical sins on my mission, I’m not going to be throwing any stones. (of course, I think the Portugues National Anthem was as pop-py as out group got– wait, except for the juiced up gospel rock version of How Great Thou Art. Oh, no now I’m really hurting myself).

  113. Kristine
    January 12, 2005 at 2:48 pm


    The trouble is I’m not convinced that 80% of the congregation is feeling the Spirit–I think they’re feeling sentimental and mistaking that for the Spirit. If that’s the case, then they’re losing a great deal more than I am. Of course, I could be completely wrong; spiritual experience is awfully subjective.

    Also, much of what people want from church is not spiritual, but emotional succor, and I think it’s great if they get that from the music in Sacrament Meeting, or the picture in the R.S. room. But we shouldn’t stop there.

  114. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 2:48 pm

    “Are we simply going to apply the “how does it make Jack feelâ€? test across the board?”

    Well, if you ask me, I think that would be the perfect solution. :)

    IMO, all too often we forget get that there’s more to our persona than one gigantic throbbing heart. Ought not the “spirit” appeal to our minds as well. I prefer music that appeals to the total person. As a matter of fact I feel rather violated when art tends to bypass the intellect for a direct appeal to the emotions only. I’m not saying that the art has to be “intellectual” per se, just “whole”. Yes, Samuel Barber’s Adagio fo Strings has a “sad” emotional quality about it, but believe me, it has all of it’s other ducks in a row.

  115. Christian
    January 12, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    I wonder if anyone else momentarily misread Jack’s #103 as I initially did. It took me a moment to get it right, as I was disoriented by the overpowering imagery conjured by “I clam up in resistance to the emotional testicles that are trying to pry their way into my heart.”

    Somehow “Mmmm, clams” doesn’t quite seem to work, does it?

  116. Kristine
    January 12, 2005 at 2:51 pm

    Christian–that’s beyond tacky. Please practice a little more self-censorship.

  117. Rosalynde Welch
    January 12, 2005 at 2:51 pm

    Ryan, you might not have heard it; possibly it was after your time. It would have been in spring/summer 1997. Sonia Jesus, Kim Checketts, Nicole West, a couple of elders (Elders Christensen and Anderson?) and I were asked to put together a musical fireside, and we traveled around the mission with it. It was mostly to benefit Sonia and Nicole, who were both struggling. We ended up even recording it in a studio, and the recording was circulated around the mission somewhat. There’s even a clip online, for the enterprising…

  118. Mark B
    January 12, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    So, how do you endure the schlock (or the pointy-headed intellectual) musical number? The same way that you endure the talks or lessons that fall somewhere along that spectrum. You pray silently, for the performer/speaker to do his best, and for yourself to be patient and to be filled with the Spirit.

    It also helps to attend meetings in a language you don’t understand well. I find that all those post 215 songs in the hymnbook (to be sure, there are some gems back there, amidst the rest) are better in Spanish, where my comprehension level is even lower than in English.

  119. Rosalynde Welch
    January 12, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    Oh, and Ryan, I thought your a capella mission pop was very cool. I’m pretty sure I even wrote something about it in my journal.

  120. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    Christian, I’m wiping away the tears of laughter… :)

  121. Christian
    January 12, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    Sorry, Kristine.

  122. Kaimi
    January 12, 2005 at 2:58 pm


    Donde? (err, onde?)

  123. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    “You pray silently, for the performer/speaker to do his best, and for yourself to be patient and to be filled with the Spirit.”


    I’m talking in extremes. Please don’t think that I bang my head on the pew in front of me to ward off undesirable emotions. I’m really pretty cool with it most of the time. But, heck if I can’t vent my frustrations here…

  124. Kaimi
    January 12, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Ros’s musical talents turn out to be rather easily located via Google.

    Don’t shortchange yourself, Ros — I think that you’ve got a pretty voice.

    Of course, this thread has probably already established my lack of qualifications to make judgments about musical quality, so take my opinion for what it’s worth. :)

  125. Kristine
    January 12, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    Christian, Jack–please remind everyone of what a prude I am the next time I’m being accused of being a radical out to overthrow all standards of decency :)

  126. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 3:13 pm


    One can be informed *and* tolerant. You’re no phillistine.

  127. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    Kristine, no prob.

    It’s a guy thing. (bad pun)

  128. January 12, 2005 at 3:16 pm

    Russell (#102)

    Niiice! I’m glad Sam I Am of early 90s Provo is not completely forgotten. (I have to qualify the band name because it didn’t take long to learn there are something like 8000 garage bands named Sam I Am in the world, as evidenced by my older brother telling me at the time “Oh yeah, I used to be in a band called Sam I Am” — Doh!)

    As you know, there were a lot of actually cool people at BYU at the time so it is not shocking to me that an actually cool underground ska/punk/rock scene thrived for a while there. My first date with my wife was a Swim concert in Fall ‘91. I was immensely impressed when she dove into the mosh pit…but I retrieved her from the fray when I saw the look of distress on her face. It turned out she was shoved in from behind… but I’m still immensely impressed with her.

    (Incidentally — Since I was friends with the bass player in Swim Hershel Swim (they stole him from our band) we went to a lot of Swim concerts and one time hung out after a show in SLC with some up and coming band called No Doubt.)

    The Mormon ska scene had a champion for a while in the mostly-Mormon Aquabats — you know the ultra-spazzy superhero rock act out of OC. Their “Super Rad” was a minor hit in the late nineties. Their problem was that they weren’t all that good musically, but their shtick was tremendous.

  129. gst
    January 12, 2005 at 3:24 pm

    Can I take advantage of this thread to confess my greatest sin against Mormon music?

    While a zone leader in the mission field, an assistant to the president called me in advance of a zone conference and warned me that in preparing the program for the conference, the musical number should not be a congregational hymn, but rather an appropriate selection performed for the benefit of those present. Our zone had no outstanding musicians of which I was aware. What it did have, by coincidence, was 5 elders who at one point or another had been district leaders but for whatever reason no longer were. So I organized them into the Former District Leader Choir and put them on the program as such. I then “arranged” a piece for them to do: the Spanish version (we were in South America) of “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go,” with a twist. After the penultimate verse, the choir was to hum the piece through, while one at a time each former district leader stepped forward and said, “My name is Elder Johnson, and I was district leader in La Asuncion from October 1993 to January 1994,” and then take his place in the line again, to be followed by the next fellow. After they’d all done that, they finished strong with the last verse. The assistants to the president were dumbfounded. It was my proudest moment.

  130. January 12, 2005 at 3:32 pm


    I don’t suppose you can remember where that Swim concert in Fall ’91 was, do you? Because I might have been there.

    The Aquabats–man, were they weird. I saw them a couple of times, once at a show in the UVSC Ballroom. They did a cool cover of the Vapors’ “I’m Turning Japanese,” if I recall correctly.

  131. January 12, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    “The trouble is I’m not convinced that 80% of the congregation is feeling the Spirit–I think they’re feeling sentimental and mistaking that for the Spirit.”

    Kristine: How can you possibly know this? Frankly, this sounds like little more than snobbery. Look, I am fine with arguing that John Rutter is objectively better music than Janice Kapp Perry. I am even fine arguing that all things being equal, objectively better music should be preferred to scholock in church services. However, once you start claiming that the responses to bad music are mere emotionalism rather than the spirit, I think that you are confusing aesthetics with theology. It seems to me equally likely that the chior director who enjoys a spiritual rapture over singing Rutter in church while dreaming of someday going to graduate school in choral performance is just as likely to be having an emotional rather than a spiritual response to the music. Which is just fine. My problem is not an emotional reaction to music, per se, but the facile assumption that one can quickly make the leap from from bad taste to spiritual inauthenticity.

  132. January 12, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    Russell — It was at that big place across from Smiths – probably September or October. There was the usual gnarly mosh pit that night… Good times as Rod sang classic lines like “Hi, ‘sgood to see ya!â€? Stretch opened the show.

    “Turning Japanese”? Yikes.

    Gst — Wow! The cheese-o-meter must have nearly exploded that day.

  133. January 12, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    Re: 80% of people feeling the spirit

    Since the Spirit tells us things as they really are He is probably whispering to listeners that the singers are sincere and faithful saints doing their best to praise God. He probably refrains from mentioning “by the way, this music is relatively banal”.

  134. Aaron
    January 12, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    In all seriousness, I wish they’d release a CD of the music from the temple. It has such a subtley evil clarinet bit…
    I guess if no one has it, it doesn’t qualify as “pop” though.

  135. Maren
    January 12, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    I agree about the comments concerning My Fair Lady and am sorry I overlooked it. I had the unfortunate experience of being in Seven Brides and the rehearsals of the annoying songs soured me for life!

  136. Bryce I
    January 12, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    Maren —

    You probably didn’t get to be Dorcas.

  137. Kristine
    January 12, 2005 at 5:10 pm

    Nate, I said in my comment that I couldn’t possibly know it. Also, I am such a snob that I wouldn’t make the argument with Rutter. And you’ve now raised a couple of good points that I can’t respond to until I get my kids in bed. But I will. Short version: I think aesthetics and theology *are* quite closely related.

  138. ed
    January 12, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    “Instruments with a prominent or less worshipful sound, such as most brass and percussion, are not appropriate for sacrament meeting.â€?

    This strikes me as strange. Why are these sounds “less worshipful?” I’ve heard them used ways I find very worshipful. Pipe organs themselves can obviously sound very brassy. And it’s easy to find verses like these:

    2 Sam 6:5 – And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.

    Psalms 98:6 – With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.

    Psalms150:3 – Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

    Rev 8:2 – And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

  139. Russ Johnston
    January 12, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    I have wondered about that myself, I have been reading a biography of Robert Burton and he was in the brass band that played at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple.

  140. Russ Johnston
    January 12, 2005 at 5:27 pm

    Although, being a trombone player in my youth I can say that it takes a lot of skill to make that thing sound humble.

  141. January 12, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    Kristine: My apologies for imputing anything so plebian to you as Rutter ;-> I look forward to your upcoming missive on theology and aesthetics.

  142. Russ Johnston
    January 12, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    sorry, I meant at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple site, not the completed temple.

  143. Ben Huff
    January 12, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    I cried when I heard “His Hands” at EFY about twenty years ago : ) At the time I didn’t know there was such a thing as Mormon pop. It did a lot for me in its time, though with the passing years now I’m more interested in, say, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (banjo jazz).

  144. Greg
    January 12, 2005 at 5:43 pm


    Aren’t several of your verses among those quoted by Kevin Bacon is his city council showdown with Revered John Lithgow?

    Let’s daaaaaaance.

    (sorry, couldn’t resist)

  145. January 12, 2005 at 5:54 pm

    If there’s a common theme here, it’s that as teenagers we adored this stuff, but now that we’re adults, we’ve outgrown it. It seems that this should give us a good basis for admitting that Mormon pop serves the (laudable) purpose of uplifting and inspiring Mormon youth, in a life stage that provides plenty of tempting alternatives. Thus, to wish for the abandonment of Mormon pop, even in church meetings, is to say that you think that music in church meetings must not appeal only to specific segments of the audience. However, to support this position, you would probably also have to abandon classical and hymnal music as well.

  146. January 12, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    Rosalynde, I never heard your group sing, but it stung a little when I spoke to President West after he got home, and he spoke about your project in glowing terms, and our little group as simply a difficult experience that taught him lessons about how to run future musical groups. Even that mission web page with the music samples backs up your superiority and our inferiority (as to the music samples– ouch). Weird that our mission president was really just a frustrated record producer. I comfort myself by believing that the favoritism was borne out of the fact that your group included his daughter.

  147. Kaimi
    January 12, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    Ryan (145),

    Well stated.

  148. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 6:01 pm

    I’ll never forget a Synthesis concert I went to at BYU; Ray Smith (the leader) start’s counting off the first tune – one, two, a-one two three four – “wait a minute!”, yells one of the players. “Where’s Johnny?” They go into a complete mock “homefront” about Johnny and how he’s been feeling lonely and depressed; how he’s lost the confidence to play the guitar. Poor Johnny comes straggling on to the stage with his head bowed holding his little guitar in one hand down by his side with the strap draging on the floor. It was a perfect vignette with all of the “heart-sell” you would expect in a homefront short – complete with an underscore of sweet chimey chords on the piano. All at once (through some schtick that I can’t remember) Johnny regains his confidence and can longer be restrained. One, two, a-one two three four – POW!!! That eighteen piece jazz band took off like a rocket! The homefront heart-sell was utterly destroyed. It was beautiful.

  149. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 6:10 pm


    Bela Fleck’s awesome! Though I’d be a little uncomfortable hearing them in sacrament meeting, I can say that it is quite “inspirational” to listen to such ingenuity and skill.

  150. D. Fletcher
    January 12, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    Truthfully, I don’t think anybody should be discouraged from creating and performing their spiritual works in church, regardless of the style. As I thought I said, if someone in the room is spiritually uplifted, then the work will have succeeded in its purpose. But also, don’t force those who DON’T feel it, because their taste in music is different, from pursuing and praising the kind of worship music they like best. Don’t call anyone a snob for liking what they like. I happen to like more rigorously composed music best, but I’m educated in music, and I recognize some things as beautiful and meaningful that others might not recognize, and it might be hard for me to dismiss my education to appreciate some more rudimentary work.

    Music enhances the spiritual message, but it doesn’t create the spirit from scratch. I don’t think people should think about making money from their music-as-testimony. Give the music freely, like a testimony, and believe it, and I will try to hear the message with an open heart.

  151. Katie
    January 12, 2005 at 7:06 pm

    David-I was ever so happy to find a fellow Christian music lover. I have never in all my days in the church met one in the flesh. Although I have had a couple of RS lessons that warned of the fallacies inherent in such music. I like almost all the artists you listed. Are you a Bebo fan? His early stuff is great. I must also recommend to you the first “Enter the Worship Circle” CD. The best Christian music CD hands down. And yes Jars of Clay and Jennifer Knapp are absolutely awesome.

    And thank you for the clarification on guitar use during sacrament. I had never seen one used, and had heard that they were not allowed. I actually had a dream once where someone got up and played “praise and worship” songs on his guitar during sacrament meeting. All the members stood up, swayed to the music, and were loving it. And in the dream I said “I knew it! I knew they would love it if they heard it!” Of course then I woke up and it was back to hymns as normal.

    The scriptures are full of references to clapping, raising your hands, and shouting praises. I have always wondered what the church had against such spontaneous acts of worship. I feel like we stick so doggedly to hymns and hymns only, as another one of the ways “we are not like those other Christians. We are different.”

  152. January 12, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    Ryan: If there’s a common theme here, it’s that as teenagers we adored this stuff

    This is libel

  153. Kristine
    January 12, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    um, just taking a break from composing a nerdy treatise on why we should favor classical music and hymns in Sacrament Meeting to note that I really like Bela Fleck and Jars of Clay.

  154. Ivan Wolfe
    January 12, 2005 at 7:40 pm

    I hear earlier versions of the Church handbook of General Instructions used to specifically forbid Guitar – but that in the 80s or 90s the wording forbiding the Guitar was dropped.

    I guess many leaders just haven’t looked at the handbook lately.

    (Of course, I can sympathize with those leaders who do want to keep guitars out of church, even though I play Guitar and would love to do a classical guitar solo in church sometimes. But I can sympathize, at least in single college wards where guys generally play the guitar to “get chicks” rather than to play uplifiting spiritual music).

  155. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 7:45 pm


    Don’t you think it’s only right that the collective sensibilties of the congregation should be considered? I think (contrary to the first part of your comment) it would be selfish for an individual to press their own preferences on the group without some feeling for what the group is predisposed to accepting as appropriate for worship in music.

    That said, your second paragraph is beautiful.

  156. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 7:53 pm


    One of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard in church (in adult sunday school class) was a guy singing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” and accompanying himself on the guitar. It had a wonderful folk feel. He sang all 7-8 (?) verses. Now this was an emotional (and spiritual!) experience I didn’t mind having.

  157. Bryce I
    January 12, 2005 at 7:56 pm

    J. Stapley–

    Ryan: If there’s a common theme here, it’s that as teenagers we adored this stuff

    This is libel


    Although to be honest, I was pretty much oblivious to its existence until I went to BYU.

  158. Jack
    January 12, 2005 at 7:58 pm

    Sheesh! My grammer’s terrible. Sorry folks…

  159. Bryce I
    January 12, 2005 at 7:58 pm

    I was asked to be the substitute for the substitute Primary chorister one week. As I was working the kids through “Away in a Manger”, Primary Songbook style, I thought to myself, “This would be great with a guitar!”

    Unfortunately, the regular substitute choister made it back the next week, so I never got to try it out.

  160. January 12, 2005 at 8:30 pm

    If you’ve refined your taste to the point that ordinary singing that makes ordinary people feel the Spirit now does nothing for you, haven’t you lost something important along the way?

    That is an interesting point, one that goes to many levels and contexts.

  161. Adam Greenwood
    January 12, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    It’s inevitable, though, Ethesis. You can’t go home again. Or, looking at it in our way, you need to leave the Garden eventually but once you do you can’t go back. And, yes, something is lost.

  162. Ivan Wolfe
    January 12, 2005 at 9:22 pm

    jack –

    I never said we shouldn’t do it. I think a guitar in church can be quite condusive to the sprit.

  163. Mark B
    January 12, 2005 at 10:28 pm

    I always have felt that the trumpets in the Hallelujah and the solo trumpet in The Trumpet Shall Sound made a perfectly worshipful sound. Now, played badly, I can imagine the effect being quite different. It reminds me of a nice kid who played the theme from High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me . . .) on the clarinet in sacrament meeting. Kind of an odd choice, come to think of it. But he missed all the sharps (or flats), and nobody recognized the tune.

    I wonder if the “worshipful” in the handbook means “soft.” It’s as if the Primary had been in charge of the Council in Heaven, and “all the sons of God [muttered] for joy.”

  164. Hans Hansen
    January 12, 2005 at 11:03 pm

    The trombone (and its ancestor, the sackbut) was once an instrument restricted solely for use in church. It didn’t become part of the symphony orchestra until Beethoven.

    During my mission in Norway in the 1960s the (then) two branches in Oslo were always competing with each other. One Sunday, the Oslo Second Branch had a classical guitarist play Bach in Sacrament Meeting. Two Sundays later the First Branch had a guitarist play and sing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the WInd” in their Sacrament Meeting. It made an interesting contrast!

    I have also gotten into arguments with the Stake Music DIrector over the use of French Horn in Sacrament Meeting; she says it’s a brass instrument, while I maintain that according to the rules of orchestration, it is a woodwind (the original horns were indeed made of wood.)

    I have no problem with guitars but the current SP is a real conservative who has banned guitars, brass instruments, and just about anything other than a hymn or hymn arrangement from Sacrament Meetings in our stake in southern California.

    Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Love their CDs and DVDs.

  165. Mark N.
    January 13, 2005 at 1:38 am

    Jack: little do they know what’s coming… Or maybe they do. It’s all quite predictable now, isn’t it?

    And that predictability, I believe, is the real problem with any style or genre of music (or pretty much just about any artistic endeavor). Good, I think, roughly equates with “unpredictable” (while still managing to remain within certain bounds; nobody wants to hear a piano solo composed of randomly selected tone clusters). If there isn’t something in the work you haven’t seen or heard before, it’s just an imitation of art.

  166. Jack
    January 13, 2005 at 12:56 pm

    Mark N,

    Good point. However, by and large, what we get in LDS “art” is an imitation of inferior works to begin with. Also, while we I Believe that we shouldn’t be afraid of the “new”, I’ve never cared much for the idea of pushing the envelope. IMO an artist can make a significant contribution simply by sharing what is dear to him/her. If artists are true to what they love, then enough of who they are will come through their work without them having to brand their signature on it. This, IMO will bring a “newness” to their work without necessarily breaking the mold of a particular genre.

  167. Jack
    January 13, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    Let me fix that sentence…

    Also, while I believe that we shouldn’t be afraid of the “new”,…

  168. Kaimi
    January 13, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    By the way, I just noticed a web site with access to some free LDS pop music, at . I haven’t had a chance to listen to anything from there, so I can’t vouch for how good it is or isn’t.

  169. danithew
    January 13, 2005 at 2:22 pm

    I wonder if a comment I wrote was lost, if I put it on the wrong thread or if the comment is staring me in the face and I’m blind.

    A few years ago our ward had a Christmas program (during sacrament meeting) and one of the members of the ward played a special arrangement of Greensleeves (the same music that backs the song “What Child Is This”). It was played reverently and added to the spirit of the meeting. Of course the use of the guitar was pre-approved by the bishop.

  170. Jack
    January 13, 2005 at 2:39 pm


    I think we feel that adding a touch of celebration to our worship is appropriate at christmas time. This, IMO, opens the door (a little) to more possibilties with music among other things.

  171. danithew
    January 13, 2005 at 2:45 pm


    I think you’ve touched on something important there. Reverence vs. celebration and when worship somehow incorporates both. We have specific moments in some sacred ceremonies (dedications of temples) for example, where members are encouraged to shout. Anyway, I’m grateful for your point. That will give me something to mull over for some time.

  172. danithew
    January 13, 2005 at 2:48 pm


    Just to continue that thought … I think our worship services attempt to emphasize solemnity and sacredness … the purpose of celebration is fell happy and joyful and to express that joyfulness. Celebration and joyfulness are often associated with loud sounds.

    Ok, I’ll be quiet now. I’m just having fun thinking about this.

  173. Matt Jacobsen
    January 13, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    One of my good friends sang a Bob Marley song (something about God or friends or love) with some of his friends during his mission farewell. He also accompanied the song with a harmonica. Now my friend was from an inactive, part-member family and rather inactive himself as a teenager. The fact that he was even serving a mission was quite remarkable. That probably influenced why no one really complained (publicly) about the musical number — everyone was too happy for him and didn’t feel a need to squash his heartfelt worship. This was in a pretty conservative SLC ward and I get the feeling that if, say, the bishop’s child (i.e. someone who ‘knew better’) had done the same thing, the reaction would have been more negative.

  174. D. Fletcher
    January 13, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    That website is vaguely… objectionable to me, in its marketing. Pay your money, and feel the uplifting spirit. (We’ll even let you feel the spirit for free, on a trial basis.)

    Remember “Star Child,” the sequel to “Saturday’s Warrior”? Right on the poster, at the bottom, it said, in bright letters, “an uplifting, testimony-boosting experience,” and right below that, “ticket prices: $10. $15. $20” etc. If you bought the $20 ticket, did your testimony get more of a boost?

    I’ve never liked this mix of commerce and spirituality, and the Mormon Pop music and Pearl awards really plays into this. As I’ve said, though, I don’t think Janice Kapp Perry is really writing pop, nor do I think she’s in it for the money (like some others I could mention).

  175. MDS
    January 13, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    I agree, D., especially given the fact that is absolutely free.

  176. Jack
    January 13, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    I don’t think Janice Kapp Perry is in it for the money either. Though, at an LDS art symposium (yes I did go to one of those – just one mind you!) I heard her explain how she steered away from writing musicals because they don’t pay. So, on the other hand, she is some what pragmatic about what she does.

    D., I wish you’d be a little more ambitious about you’re music. It could be that you’re concern with the market (which is a good concern!) may be keeping it from reaching those who could really benefit from it.

  177. Kaimi
    January 13, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    Agreed with Jack.

    Re: marketization, I’m no expert, but I do know that the going rate for an MP3 is $1, and if D’s rendition of “The Spirit of God” were available at that price, I would be encouraging everyone with a computer to go purchase it right away.

  178. Jack
    January 13, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    …and besides, weren’t you looking for a new source of income? Well now’s the time to step up to the plate. Let us have it!

  179. danithew
    January 13, 2005 at 4:00 pm

    These days its much more possible for artists and musicians to market their own music. You could cut out the middleman and offer downloads from your own website. I’m not sure exactly how it would all work but I’m not its not too hard to do. I’m guessing some web hosts could get it set up for you at almost the press of a button.

  180. Mark B
    January 13, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    D. I think you’ve just got an inherent bias against priestcraft!

    Danithew, it appears that your comment about our worship being “solemn and sacred” is descriptive, not prescriptive. I would hope so, because I wouldn’t want our worship services to be forever stuck in the funereal.

    Paul said, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. Sometimes a person wandering into one of our worship services might wonder if we are among those Paul described.

    If solemn precludes exuberant joyfulness (and, let’s be honest, it generally does in Mormon worship services), then I wish that we could toss the solemnity and be joyful, even exuberant.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that I want our speakers to punctuate every phrase with a “hallelujah!” (I live next to a building that used to house a baptist church, and one Sunday afternoon’s speaker did just that), nor do I want applause or “Praise Jesus” erupting from the congregation. But it seems that our music, especially, should show our joy (and getting rid of milquetoast organists and replacing them with clones of D. Fletcher might be a good start). A little brass accompanying the choir, maybe even some drums in an African ward. More hymns of praise and rejoicing, and less of “Have I Done Any Good” and “Do What is Right” (although the latter becomes more interesting if sung “Do what you want”).

  181. danithew
    January 13, 2005 at 4:24 pm

    Mark D,


  182. ed
    January 13, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    danithew: “I think our worship services attempt to emphasize solemnity and sacredness … the purpose of celebration is fell happy and joyful and to express that joyfulness”

    I’m sure you are familiar with good mormon hymns such as “Redeemer of Israel” or “The Spirit of God.” As far as I can tell, they sound best when sung with much gusto, backed up by a LOUD pipe organ. I’ve neve heard that such a thing is not “worshipful,” in fact I perceive it just the opposite.

    We’ll sing, and we’ll shout…hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb.!

  183. Ivan Wolfe
    January 13, 2005 at 5:28 pm

    I don’t get it – Music should be free?

    As a musician, I’m vaugely insulted.

    However, the LDS church seems to have a cultural bias against paying for art. I mean, if a brother who is a plumber fixes the pipes in the church, the bishop will pay him. But if asks a musician to play at a church activity, we have to do it for free.

    Artists gotta eat too. To expect us to give away our music because it’s somehow immoral to charge for the effort we put into the music is to insult to worth of art.

  184. danithew
    January 13, 2005 at 5:28 pm


    I definitely agree that the hymns chosen and the way they are played can make a significant difference. I’ve been in a few meetings where I felt the pulse needed to be quickened a bit.

    We have a talented pianist in priesthood right now and I love the way he plays the hymns. Previously I was the priesthood piano player and I’m afraid my gifts didn’t contribute all that well. I now have aspirations to improve in playing hymns so that the next time arond I can do a much better job.

  185. Hans Hansen
    January 13, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    Back in the good old days before the three hour block I helped support my family by conducting church choirs, singing in church choirs, and playing the organ in other churches. My weekends looked like this:

    Saturday: Sing in the Seventh Day Adventist Choir – PAID
    Sunday: 8:00AM – Play piano for LDS Priesthood Meeting – NOT PAID
    9:00AM – Play organ for Roman Catholic Mass – PAID
    11:00AM – Play organ/conduct choir – Lutherans – PAID
    1:00PM – Conduct Ward Choir rehearsal – NOT PAID
    2:00PM – Play Organ for LDS Sacrament Meeting – NOT PAID

    Just my luck to belong to one of the few churches that doesn’t pay its musicians.

    In regard to “Do What is Right”, the original words are a lot more fun (the words and tune are “The Old Oaken Bucket”).

    How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood
    When fond recollection presents them to view
    The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wildwood,
    And ev’ry loved spot which my infancy knew
    The wide spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it,
    The bridge and the rock where the cataract fell;
    The cot of my father, the dairy house nigh it,
    And e’en the rude bucket that hung in the well.
    The old oaken bucket, the iron bound bucket,
    The moss covered bucket that hung in the well.

    The moss covered bucket I hailed as a treasure,
    For often at noon, when returned from the field,
    I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,
    The purest and sweetest that nature can yield.
    How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing,
    And quick to the white pebbled bottom it fell
    Then soon, with the emblem of truth overflowing,
    And dripping with coolness, it rose from the well.
    The old oaken bucket, the iron bound bucket,
    The moss covered bucket that hung in the well.

    How soon from the green mossy rim to receive it,
    As poised on the curb it reclined to my lips,
    Not a full flowing goblet could tempt me to leave it,
    Tho’ filled with the nectar that Jupiter sips.
    And now far removed from the loved situation,
    The tear of regret will intrusively swell.
    As fancy reverts to my father’s plantation,
    And sighs for the bucket that hung in the well.
    The old oaken bucket, the ironbound bucket,
    The moss-covered bucket that hung in the well.

    Likewise “Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing” (tune: “Go tell Aunt Rhody the grey goose is dead”), “Who’s on the Lord’s Side, Who?” (tune: “A Life On the Ocean Wave”), “Praise to the Man” (an arrangement of “Scotland the Brave”), etc.

  186. Jack
    January 13, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    “Just my luck to belong to one of the few churches that doesn’t pay its musicians.”

    They just don’t want us breaking the sabbath…

  187. Jack
    January 13, 2005 at 11:17 pm

    Sorry, I had to say that.

    Hans, that’s amazing. Regardless of compensation you were doing a lot of good in your community. What a wonderful way to rub shoulders with those of other faiths.

    As far as getting paid or not; this can be a point of real frustration for artists. (take a look at my comment #59 if you haven’t already) However, I think when it comes to church service the majority of those with musical callings don’t consider themselves professionals and therefore don’t expext to be paid. I think trained artists ought to be willing to fall in with their brothers and sisters (as you have) and serve right along side of them as equals. (this goes for all professions!)

  188. Ivan Wolfe
    January 14, 2005 at 10:39 am

    I don’t mind not getting paid for having a musical calling – Calling’s are for service, not for other reasons.

    It just bugs me that when the Bishop is willing to, say, reimburse a brother who fixes the plumbing, or repairs the sound system in the chapel – yet expects a (professional or semi-professional) band to play for two hours at the Pioneer day social for free – that irks me a bit.

  189. Jack
    January 14, 2005 at 11:52 am


    I’m afraid I must agree with you in part. I say in part because I don’t know which solution is best. Is it to expect that all services rendered (outside of callings) should be donated? Or is to expect that all should be compensated. Or perhaps there’s a third; to compensate based on the need. If we were to go with the third alternative then we would, no doubt, see artists compensated more often than not.

  190. Mark B
    January 14, 2005 at 12:04 pm


    If you want some fun someday, you should provide legal services to the church, and then show up at 50 East North Temple with your tin cup.

    They just love to pay legal fees.

  191. Ivan Wolfe
    January 14, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Mark –

    Well, I’m more referring to local churches – for example, a friend of mine in Utah who was in a (family friendly) folk band was asked by the bishop to play at a ward social for free. However, a member of the ward who was a semi-professional caterer was richly compensated for catering the event.

  192. Bryce I
    January 14, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    Ivan —
    Perhaps some of the difference is that services like plumbing, sound system installation, and catering have some overhead — insurance and licensing for your plumber/electrician/sound system guy, and food for your caterer. Even if you wanted to get a “volunteer” to do the plumbing, it wouldn’t be a wise thing to do, probably. And someone has to pay for the food, even if the preparation is free.

    I’m not saying this is right, just that there are some differences between musicians and some of the examples you cite. If the music at the social is bad, that’s unfortunate, but if the plumbing job is poorly done, that’s a real problem.

  193. Kristine
    January 14, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    Bryce, have you checked the price of instruments and years of music lessons lately? I’ll accept that a bad band doesn’t have the same effect on the ward as bad plumbing, but musicians have PLENTY of overhead.

  194. Kaimi
    January 14, 2005 at 4:41 pm


    I’m trying to mentally put those words to the melody, but it’s not working — Do What Is Right has fewer lines, at least as arranged in the hymn book.

  195. Ivan Wolfe
    January 14, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    Let’s see:

    Years of music lessons, practice (individual and as a group), time spent arranging, recording, auditioning –

    plus we have to use our own sound system, expensive, professional quality instruments, the fact we could likely have another paying gig that night –

    Yeah, musicians have no overhead at all.

    Oh, well. ;-)

  196. Bryce I
    January 14, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    Kristine —

    I thought about that, but by and large, musicians’ expenses are mostly startup costs — once you’re set up, recurring expenses are fairly low compared to your plumber, your electrician, and your caterer.

  197. Bryce I
    January 14, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Ivan —

    Like I said, I’m not saying it’s fair, and I’m not suggesting that there are not other opportunity costs. I’m just trying to account for why it seems to be more acceptable to ask musicians to donate services than others.

    One other problem is that there are relatively many amateur musicians compared to plumbers, electricians, and caterers, so we have experience with people who produce music at no or low cost, as it were. The distincition between amateur and professional becomes blurred in our minds.

  198. January 14, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    Those may all be factors.

    Indded, related to the amateur/professional distinction…

    I also think that part of it may be the sort of weirdly narrow definition Mormons have for talents. Playing or singing music is a talent and as such (in the Mormon mind) it is something to be donated. Plumbing, however, is a job based on a set of technical skills. It requires renumeration.

    Nobody shares their job in sacrament meeting or at a fireside. They do share their talents.

  199. Ivan Wolfe
    January 14, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Bryce –

    you aren’t a pro or semi-pro musician are you?

    Upkeep is comparableto any other profession – new strings, new instruments, repair of instruments, upkeep and upgrade on sound systems. New reeds for reed instruments, wear and tear on instruments and soudn systems – up front fees for recording, etc. Lessons are also continuous – they are not “start up” only, but factor into the overhead. As well as all that practice time you aren’t getting paid for, but that is necessary (again, not a start up expense, but a continuous one) to keep sharp.

    What bothers me, Bryce, is that your attitude is common among leaders – that is why they don’t reimburse us – they assume we don’t really have that many expenses (often because they think we don’t have real jobs anyway) compared to other, more reputable jobs.

    Seriously, Bryce – try telling any serious, truly professional (rather than semi-pro) like me that his expenses are largely start up and not comparable to other jobs, and prepare for a long, angry rant. I’m restraining myself because I assume you’re good natured in your ignorance.

  200. Ivan Wolfe
    January 14, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    Uhm that should be – I’m a semi-pro musician. I am not a full time professional (I can dream, can’t I?), despite leaving that impression in the post above. Oops.

  201. Jack
    January 14, 2005 at 9:53 pm

    C’mon Ivan, fouling up that parenthetical was a Phreudian slip of the worst kind. The subconscious never lies. You’re world class and you know it!

  202. Mark B.
    January 14, 2005 at 10:19 pm

    The other side of the comparison has as many holes as swiss cheese, too. The cost of parts (pipes, fittings, etc.) for a plumber fade away, like an old soldier, in comparison to the plumber’s hourly fees. It’s not quite as wild a ratio as a lawyer’s, but it’s moving that direction. Especially as galvanized steel has given way to copper and now to plastic on the supply side, and cast iron has slunk away in shame in the face of PVC on the waste side. (If only I could figure out some way of conflating supply side with waste . . . .)

  203. Jack
    January 14, 2005 at 10:29 pm

    Whoops! That’s *Freudian* slip. But the same holds true regardless!

  204. Ivan Wolfe
    January 14, 2005 at 10:39 pm

    But I don’t even like Freud!


  205. Ivan Wolfe
    January 14, 2005 at 10:40 pm

    And how come the smile icons only appear half the time I do this: ;-) ????

    :-) ;-) ;-)

  206. Hans Hansen
    January 15, 2005 at 2:05 am


    Go to this link, select Download MIDI file, then follow the text of “The Old Oaken Bucket”. The original repeats the final phrases, then the words will fit the music. The download will play enough music for the first two verses.

  207. Jim Rasmussen
    January 27, 2005 at 9:14 am

    Re: D. Fletcher’s comment: “I’d be happy to share with you my Sunstone speech of about 10 years ago, when I suggested that any style of music is appropriate when delivered with a sincere and self-effacing approach, emphasizing the testimony over the “style.” ” Please send the speech to me at [email protected] or post it and let me know where to find it. I have to do something similar in a few months. Thanks.

  208. January 27, 2005 at 6:38 pm

    I am impressed that there is actually some talk about the ska/swing times of the early 90’s in Utah. Miss it. Out here in LA ska is no longer just a bunch of fun bands, outside of the mainstream bands like No Doubt, but then they get into hip-hop and Punk fusion as well. Aquabats were fun, but definitely DEVO-esque.

    I am seeking CD’s or MP3’s of Stretch Armstrong and Swim Herschel Swim. All help appreciated.

    As for those fo you having attended concerts of SHS, I attended the video shoot at Ventura (actually got to be lead bouncer by mere hapinstance — little guy telling a bunch of Tongans to escort the crazies out. I just knew the film crew). there was a second concert when they played with Special beat (who later toured with STING). Furthermore, I recall a concert at 7 peaks with the BOSS-tones (??). Correct me on that last one.


  209. January 27, 2005 at 6:40 pm

    Wow. Can’t even spell my own name right.


  210. Jack
    April 27, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    ok.. this is crazy stuff, can’t we just focus our affection and attention on God, and let the individual and God determine whether it is a meaninful worshipful moment? sheesh

Comments are closed.