1 February 2016 (Lost letter found again!–written shortly after leaving the Samoan ward)
Unless you’re serving in the primary, I don’t know how well the islander style can be emulated. Much of it is simply a confidence, instilled in them from the moment they’re born. Almost like a second language. They’re not just taught to sing, but to sing loud. And straight from their hearts. That is exactly how it sounds, too, you know. Somehow they have grown to see the problem not to be how you sound, but rather whether or not you’re making sound. Don’t mistake it, none are disallusioned into thinking they have a beautiful voice if in reality they do not. More than a handful of my Samoans have told me they can’t sing. But while it may be an excuse not to solo, it is never an excuse to dismiss oneself from the choir (or congregational singing).
Just as going into the Samoan ward was a shock, leaving it and returning to an un-Samoan ward was a shock. There are only very few instances where quantity legitimately trumps quality. Good, plain ole church singing is one of them. It’s not necessary to have beautiful arrangements, beautiful voices, beautiful harmonies (in time they will come), or beautiful instruments in order for it to be beautiful. The only requirement is, Love. Love implies many things though, obviously: desire, commitment, selfless, and of course partly foolish. Bold, unashamed, heart-in-it-always kine singing is NEVER without power, and regardless of the tone quality or pitch quality, without spirit or without beauty.
See most people aren’t tone deaf, and when we sing with loud confidence rather than quiet embarrassment, whether for ourselves or others, any and all weaknesses become not only unrecognizable, but also irrelevant. Sunday at stake conference (with Elder Jeffrey R Holland) the chapel and cultural hall were extra packed. Awkward as it was to be sitting at the sacrament table (long story), it was more than worth it to witness 1000+ people coming together, singing the same hymns saints all over the world sing, knowing that each individual is present for the same purpose. The sheer volume of that congregation was plenty enough to give anyone no matter their background, chicken skin.
Unity and conviction are more powerful than any partially devoted choir (or congregation). Talent without dedication is infinitely less influential than is a lack thereof with a genuine desire to try.
Moral of all these attempt to make this sound good: be simple, real, and loud. Just loud enough for God to send down his spirit to help out some. 😉
All my love,
Aubrey Carlsen, Sister