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5 ways to use gospel music to strengthen your family

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Editor's note: This post by Lizzy Jensen originally appeared on her website, The Small Seed. It has been posted here with permission.

A few weeks ago I had had it. School had just let out for the summer, and seemingly overnight my three daughters’ behavior went from scheduled and predictable to totally out of control. With three toddlers in our home, there aren’t a lot of calm and quiet moments to begin with, but after a few days the fighting and screams of “mine!” and “stop it!” were putting me over the top.

As I thought and prayed about what I could do to change their behavior, I was led to this quote by Bruce R. McConkie, “Music is given of God to further his purposes. Sweet melodies mellow the souls of men.” At first it seemed silly that something as simple as music could be the answer, but then I thought about our bedtime routine and how calm my girls are as we sing them lullabies, and realized this might work.

I decided to study more and found promise after promise about the power of good music, including this line in my church hymnal, “Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel. … [It can] fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace.” These were the promises I wanted, no, the promises I needed, and I decided to put it to the test and figure out how I could better use spiritual music in our home.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had been overlooking so many opportunities to use good music. Although we were already listening to a lot of music, so much of it was more or less worthless, and didn’t do anything to calm, teach or inspire my kids (or me).

As we’ve worked to incorporate good music in our home, this last month has been dramatically different. Along the way we’ve learned a few tips and found some new music that we love, which I’m sharing below. I would love to hear your ideas, as well as any good spiritual songs or albums that you and your family love, let me know in the comments below.

Here are my five favorite tips for using music to strengthen your family, along with some of our favorite music.

1. Play uplifting music at mealtimes (especially at breakfast to start the day).

Meal times were some of the hardest times for our girls (hunger is real). However as I’ve made an effort to play good uplifting music during meal times my girls are calmer, happier and more patient.

This has been especially helpful during breakfast. For some reason when I play good music right at the beginning of the day, it starts us all off on the right foot and sets the tone for the rest of the day. Our favorite CD to listen to in the morning is this Children’s Songbook from my church, which range from sweet melodies that teach about God and the Savior, as well as fun songs that my girls love to dance and learn the actions to.

2. Use music to help children learn and memorize scriptures.

One use of music I totally underestimated is its power to help my kids learn and memorize scriptures. So far we are working on memorizing the Articles of Faith in my church (short statements of belief that have been set to music) but I can’t wait to jump into other scriptures as well. We have made it a part of our morning routine during breakfast (see No. 1 above) to start with a “memorizing song” that I let play a few times through and then repeat the words with them before we move on to other music.

3. Take time to talk about the lyrics and the meaning of the music.

I’ve found that as my girls listen to music, they’re really receptive to learning what the song is about (a little scary when you think of what bad music can do to expose them to destructive or degrading ideas and thoughts). It’s been amazing to me that even my young toddlers are quick to pick up the words and stories, and it’s opened my eyes to just how much they’re really absorbing. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “We are able to feel and learn very quickly through music, through art, through poetry some spiritual things that we would otherwise learn very slowly.” I believe this. My girls are so receptive to things that they’ve heard put to music.

One of my CDs for this is this Stories of Jesus album by Melanie and Roger Hoffman, which are songs written for kids about the stories of the Savior’s life. I’ve loved to hear my girls' questions as we sing songs about the Savior’s life, like “Why did Zacchaeus climb the tree?” and “How are we like sheep?” I love that these questions have led to simple discussions about how we can seek the Savior and better follow him.

4. Play uplifting music while driving, playing or any other time.

Using driving time to listen to music was a no-brainer. What surprised me was how often I was choosing music that had little value instead of putting on music that uplifted, calmed or taught my girls. (As a bonus, good music helped me from being angry when traffic hit as well.) We’ve also tried to incorporate good music when the girls are just out playing and any other time I think about it. It’s made us all happier, and we’ve even found ourselves dancing and singing throughout the day.

5. Use good music at bedtime.

As I was studying the impact of good music, I found another line in my church hymnal that emphasized using music to “build faith and testimony in your young ones.” While I had already recognized the power music had to calm my girls at night, I have also tried to focus more on choosing songs that teach principles my girls need, and even at times sharing my thoughts with them after the songs are over. One of my favorite CDs to play as the girls are winding down is Hidden in My Heart, which is full of peaceful lullabies especially geared towards kids (but I love them too).

Music has changed the attitude in our home, and I hope something in these tips are helpful for you. We have seen firsthand that as President J. Reuben Clark said, “We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.”

What about you? How do you incorporate good music in your home? And I would love to hear what albums and songs your families love.

Lizzy received her undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University, graduating valedictorian in Family Studies, after which she completed a mission in the Croatia, Zagreb mission. After her mission she attended Law School in Manhattan, and is now an attorney in the state of New York. However she has chosen to spend this season of her life with her husband Dave raising their three spunky daughters (and soon to be son!), as well as pursuing her entrepreneurial and creative passions, and most importantly sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ as founder of The Small Seed.

Email: mjones@deseretdigital.com