What Music is Okay?

One of my biggest concerns before leaving for my mission was what (if any) of my music I would be able to bring with me into the mission field. After playing and writing music in a few different bands while growing up, music had become a very influential part of my life. Quite simply, I could not imagine surviving two years without music. Of course, the mission brings about several changes in our daily routines, and music was one area where things were rather different from my pre-mission life. And while each mission may have slightly different rules about what music is or is not acceptable, the basic principles remain the same.

The Missionary Handbook should be your first resource for determining what music is okay to bring. It says, “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. If you have any questions about music, discuss them with your mission president”

The guidelines laid out in the handbook help in making those initial choices about music. Macklemore and Skrillex are clearly not going to make the cut. The music that you listen to should help keep you focused on your mission work and the Savior (which cuts out most, if not all, “popular” music). However, there is still lots of music that you could be unsure of. Are movie soundtracks okay? What about EFY CDs?

Each mission president may offer different guidelines for what music they consider to be acceptable for their missionaries to listen to. When I served in Rio de Janeiro, I learned that these rules are also subject to change at the mission president’s discretion. When I first arrived, the rule for music broadly stated that as long as it was a hymn, it did not matter who the artist/musician singing the song was. While this seemed like a safe rule, there were a few missionaries who used the fact that there are Christmas songs in the hymnbook as a way to rationalize blasting Mariah Carey’s Christmas CD in their apartments. For some reason, “All I Want For Christmas is You” just doesn’t strike me as fitting into the guidelines from the Missionary Handbook. Needless to say, the rules changed a few months later so that we could only listen to music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, EFY CDs, or other music produced by the Church.

Of course, each mission is different. I’ve had friends that served in missions where it was okay for them to listen to orchestral movie soundtracks and classical music. What I learned is that the most important thing to do regarding music is to follow the guidelines established by the Missionary Handbook and your mission president. Those rules are there to help you maintain the Spirit at all times during the day, and it should be clear to you what music would be deemed acceptable by your mission president and what music would not.

You will survive without your favorite bands. I wasn’t sure how I would last without my favorite music for two years, but as you dedicate yourself to serving the Lord, you will find that it is actually an easy thing to give up, and that you will be blessed by listening to music that helps you remember the Savior.

For more ideas, see:
The Beat of a Missionary
Make Use of Every Minute