At the October 1994 general conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk titled "Worship through Music." Earnest responses to that talk, some of them poignant, some humorous, formed a basis for his speech at the 30th Anniversary Member Appreciation Banquet for the Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony March 13.
"This spring it will be 15 years since I was called to the Quorum of the Twelve, so I have given nearly 30 general conference addresses, but I have never had as many letters as I received in response to that talk," he said.One sister writing from Idaho pleaded with Elder Oaks to "say it again, louder. Say it again and again until the stakes and wards of Zion ring with voices united in the act of worshiping our Heavenly Father."
A brother in Hawaii wrote to praise the hymns he had heard since his conversion to the Church: "The Tabernacle Choir have always inspired me with their singing, as have the Mormon Youth Chorus and other groups chosen to sing at general and regional conferences."
A sister in Texas wrote that she had been hospitalized for depression after her husband was killed in an airplane crash, leaving her with five small children. Hearing Elder Oaks' talk, she resolved to listen to a recording of Church music at least once every day. After two months, she said, she realized that she had not felt depressed since she had started listening to the sacred music daily.
A member from California wrote that Elder Oaks' talk had caused his family to resolve to sing hymns at scripture study and family night. After six months it had become a common practice in their home and had "smoothed the rough edges in our scripture study and brought a greater spirit to our prayers."
"A sister in Canada wrote," he said, "to share this experience: 'Our son at age 4 caught his big toe in a bicycle chain and received extensive injury. While he lay on the operating table [with] the doctor repairing the wound, he was wailing loudly. "Sing to me, mommy, sing to me." "What shall I sing?" He came back with "Count Your Many Blessings." ' "
He said an early-morning seminary teacher in Virginia shared the experience she had with her class. They resisted singing the hymns until she explained the spiritual effect it would have on the class. They began to choose hymns to coincide with the scripture topics they were studying. Later, several admitted they had come to love singing the hymns, and one student said, "I bet Elder Oaks would really dig on this."
"I did!" he said parenthetically.
"In one way or another, all of these letters reminded me of the immense power of spiritual music," Elder Oaks concluded. "Music in any form has power to guide our thoughts and affect our emotions. It is a powerful instrument for the adversary or for the Lord. I am convinced that we are not making sufficient use of music to further the work of the Lord."