The Missionary Handbook states: "Listen only to music that is consistent with the sacred spirit of your calling. Music should invite the Spirit, help you focus on the work, and direct your thoughts and feelings to the Savior. Do not listen to music that pulls your thoughts away from your work, merely entertains, has romantic lyrics or overtones, or dulls your spiritual sensitivity by its tempo, beat, loudness, lyrics or intensity. Listening to music must never interfere with your personal preparation or proselyting."

We seem to have some confusion about this in our mission. Some missionaries, no matter the music or the lyrics, will say it helps them feel the Spirit. Others will say that listening to the music of the world is what calms them and helps them focus. The handbook is fairly clear on what the music should be, but we discussed it as a Missionary Leadership Council this past week. It was obvious very quickly that there is misunderstanding. I love to watch this Council as we work through issues and come to a consensus on something that will benefit every missionary.

We collectively decided to set a standard against which all music could be measured. We first talked about listening to only hymns, then only Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Someone brought up Especially for Youth Music. Others wanted to know what they could play on their ukuleles. After much discussion, we decided that as a mission we will listen to and play only songs that are appropriate for Sacrament Meeting. It seems a reasonable and measurable standard.

Sometimes the things God requires of us seem too specific. Can we not govern ourselves in all things? Of course we can; we have moral agency and can decide if what He is asking of us is important or necessary. Music may not seem like a big deal, but leaving the things of the world behind is a big deal. It made me reflect on a talk given several years ago in General Conference by Elder David A. Stone entitled "Zion in the Midst of Babylon."  He explained, "Babylon was, in the time of ancient Israel, a city which had become sensual, decadent, and corrupt." While the city of Babylon no longer exists, it provides a good metaphor for some of our choices and behaviors. He continues, "Too many people of the world have come to resemble the Babylon of old by walking in their own ways, and following a god "whose image is in the likeness of the world."

He suggested that we could develop a Zion in the midst of Babylon. Just as Babylon, the city of Zion no longer exists. It, too, stands as a metaphor for all that is good and right. A place filled with His light and His guidance. A place drenched in His love. A place where the pure in heart dwell. How do we achieve Zion in the midst of Babylon?

Elder Stone explains, "We can live as a Zion people, if we wish to. Will it be hard? Of course it will, for the waves of Babylonian culture crash incessantly against our shores. Will it take courage? Of course it will.

We have always been entranced by tales of courage of those who faced fearsome odds and overcame. Courage is the basis and foundation for all of our other virtues; the lack of courage diminishes every other virtue that we have. If we are to have Zion in the midst of Babylon, we will need courage.

The opportunities to stand for that which is right--when the pressures are subtle and when even our friends are encouraging us to give in to the idolatry of the times--those come along frequently. No photographer is there to record of heroism, no journalist will splash it across the newspaper's front page. Just in the quiet contemplation of our conscience, we will know that we faced the test of courage: Zion or Babylon?"

Missionaries have the opportunity to experience some of what Zion offers by living the standards of the Missionary Handbook. This mission experience is a refining process; each choice brings us closer to God or further from Him. Choosing to listen to music that invites the spirit and turns our thoughts to the Savior is one of those choices. For many who choose Zion, it will be required that they stand alone. "We will need courage" and strength beyond our own!

Elder Stone reminds us of the blessings that await, "Wherever we are, whatever city we may live in, we can build our own Zion by the principles of the celestial kingdom and ever seek to become the pure in heart. Zion is the beautiful, and the Lord holds it in His own hands. Our homes can be places which are a refuge and protection, as Zion is."

Mission Leadership Council 


Serendipity: The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. God enjoys serendipitous events; in fact, He makes them happen! I traveled home a few weeks ago for shoulder surgery and therapy. I did not want to leave the mission and make the long journey home, but it was necessary and needful. While many things occurred that could be defined as serendipitous, one of those sweet moments was being able to attend the homecoming report of one of our missionaries!

Elder Wengert is from Gilbert, Arizona, a neighboring city to our home town. He returned home about the same time as I returned to Arizona. I loved hearing him speak about his experiences in Samoa. What was most impressive to me was when he talked about his struggles. He shared that there was a time on his mission when he wondered what he was doing and why he was serving. He wondered why he was wasting his time and his family's time. He struggled with this burden for quite some time, and when he finally decided to completely and totally turn his will over to God's, his entire perspective and mission changed. As he allowed God to lead him, he found ways to serve and bless that were previously not available to him. In this process, he changed; he became who God wanted him to be. He became a fully converted disciple of the Savior; he learned how to represent Jesus Christ and offer His sweet Atonement to those he taught.

As I listened to him talk, I reflected back on what I had observed as we served together. I saw a good young man become a powerful, respected missionary and advocate of Jesus Christ. Elder Wenger left a legacy of growth and dedication in the mission field. It was an "event by chance in a happy way" that I was able to attend his home ward and celebrate his growth among those who know him and love him.

Elder Wengert and his parents

Listening to Elder Wenger and being home gave me a lot of time to think about what God expects of us and how He crafts experiences, which allow us to benefit if we choose to fully and completely embrace His will. I thought of the song "I Will Go Where You Want Me to Go."
"It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle's front
My Lord will have need of me.
But if, by a still, small voice He calls
To paths that I do not know,
I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I'll go where you want me to go."

The interesting thing is He may need us at the "mountain height, over the stormy sea, or the battle's front." It will always be to paths we do not know because it is only through these kinds of experiences that we come to know God and understand His love and His desire for us to return to His rest. The places we are needed can be scary and hard; they can be lonely and overwhelming; they can be places where we struggle to thrive.

Sometimes, we believe when we are serving in the mission field that the Lord will take care of our problems, things will go smoothly at home because we are serving, or we will be protected from difficulty because we are missionaries. While our service always brings blessings, they usually are not the ones we think we deserve or want. This trip home taught me, once again, God knows exactly what is most important for us to learn and do, and if we will go with our hand in His, He will always lead us to places of growth and greater light. Going where He wants us to go takes courage and faith, but it mostly takes giving our entire will to Him. When we finally surrender is when we find Him, and in finding Him we discover that turning our will over wasn't hard after all.