Stakes in the Canada Edmonton Mission had the immense pleasure this February to experience an incredible spiritual journey through music, praising our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The missionaries’ purpose in this performance was to testify of Christ through music. When asked why they chose the title “His Hands,” Sister McSweeney (serving from England) responded, “because that is what we are.”
Opening with a beautiful rendition of “Nearer, My God to Thee”, one member stated that, “As soon as the first song started, I knew it was going to be incredible. My expectations became higher for each piece and they did not disappoint.” Each song was just as powerful as the previous and the spirit in the chapel was palpable.
The Saviour himself said, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (Doctrine & Covenants 25:12)
It was evident that a tremendous amount of time and practicing went into the creation of this magnificent event. Surprisingly, however, the entire production was put together in just three weeks. Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints created this powerful musical performance. Elder Saumweber from Oregon told of how it all came together by stating,
“It started with us singing at a Christmas conference for the missionaries. There were seven of us who sang, and following that performance we were approached by the mission president’s wife who told us that this “needs to go somewhere; it needs to go farther.”
“We decided that we would put something together, but we were under a time constraint as some of the missionaries participating were to be released in March. She then told us that we better start working quick! So, that’s exactly what we did. For three weeks, we practiced twice a week, and then hit the road by February and started performing.”
Conducted by the hosting stake, the performances rotated around various chapels in the mission throughout the month of February. Missionaries participating in this production come from all over the world, England, Taiwan and the United States, bringing together their musical talents on the flute, cello, piano, violin and voice. With two technicians, two accompanists’, and a choir of ten, the evening was an intense spiritual experience from the beginning to the end.
Using videos portraying the Saviour’s life as a backdrop, the spotlight focused on the choir, and while there was spoken word and powerful messages within the program, the spirit did the teaching. Each song felt specifically selected to allow the spirit to uplift and testify of Christ to all who were in attendance.
Church leaders have often expressed their feelings about music and singing. The following quotations, taken from Music Quotes, on LDS.org, emphasize the importance and power of appropriate music:
“We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.” - President J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 111
Music is truly the universal language, and when it is excellently expressed how deeply it moves our souls.” - President David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1945, 119
“The most effective preaching of the gospel is when it is accompanied by beautiful, appropriate music.” - President Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 181
“Inspiring music may fill the soul with heavenly thoughts, move one to righteous action, or speak peace to the soul.” - President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1974, 67
“Music can act upon our senses to produce or induce feelings of reverence, humility, fervor, assurance, or other feelings attuned to the spirit of worship.” - President Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (1982), 519
“Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action. They can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace.” - “First Presidency Preface,” Hymns, 1985
Members of the audience had profuse positive reviews of the entire evening:
“It was captivating. My eyes could not stay dry. It was so beautiful.”
“It was hard not to applaud after every number, but because it was in the chapel, not applauding seemed so much more powerful as there was a moment of tangible silence and reflection following each piece.”
“It was incredible, just incredible.”
“It is also incredible to see how it is changing us. To see how different parts of the music stands out to us each time we perform, the Spirit touches our hearts too”, said Sister McSweeney who adapted the arrangement of “His Hands” to make it an acapella piece for eight voices.
When asked, what was the biggest challenge of executing the production, Sister McSweeney and Elder Saumweber agreed that it was putting together eight songs in two weeks.
Sister McSweeney noted, “This was more engaging for us than anything else during these weeks. We knew how important it was for us to bring the spirit and do it well, that this took up our thoughts and efforts for the entire month.”
“For me, the greatest moment in any of these firesides is when you look down at the people watching and you see something change in their eyes. They aren’t listening with their ears or watching with their eyes, but they are feeling it with their hearts, and they’re getting it. The Saviour is coming into their world. And that has been one of the greatest blessings to see when we are up singing,” stated Elder Saumweber.