Dr. Sonja Poulter, director of BYU Women’s Chorus and previous member of the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square, shared her passion for music and, more specifically, singing, on this week’s episode of the Latter-day Saint Women podcast. Poulter is also a part of the new hymnbook committee, which she calls a great honor and huge blessing in her life. She shared a few insights into the process of compiling the Church’s new selection of sacred hymns.
“It’s certainly a lot of work … [but] we all do our homework. … There were hymns where we all said, ‘No this needs to go’ or if it’s a new hymn, [we’ll say,] ‘No, this isn’t special enough, this won’t do anything.’ And we take a minute and talk about it, but then one member [of the committee] will say ‘But let’s consider this group. How would they feel if they get to sing this hymn in church or at home?’ And then we’ll sing it, and the light turns on, and all of a sudden, this hymn that we thought was mediocre at best becomes one of our favorites and becomes really really powerful. And other times we get guidance from the Brethren. [But] we really have no idea what [the Lord] wants unless we trust that He is revealing it, and He is. And we [as a committee always] put forth the effort, but He is in charge, and He is making it very clear what is pleasing unto Him.”
When the trio discussed some of the recent changes that have been made in the Church like moving from 3-hour to 2-hour Sunday meetings, and the elimination of singing in youth or Sunday School meetings, Poulter remarked that Church leaders still understand how important music is in our gospel learning. “Things have changed a little bit,” she said, “But you know where we do still sing a lot? It’s in Primary and Sharing Time. Half of what happens in Primary is singing, because we know that through music we learn, and we feel the spirit, and we learn gospel doctrine.”
The interview also touched on the spiritual need many members have—particularly right now when distance is the norm—for unity and a sense of community. Sonja considers music to be an answer to that need.
“We [really] don’t have an opportunity to ever do anything together in church,” she said, “Other than when we say ‘Amen’ . . . and when we sing. We do that in unison. Because, we sit in classes, we listen to talks, and, you know, there can be dialogue, and that's good, that's inspiring, that feeds our soul, but when we sing, we say the same words and the same melody (ideally), and how much more powerful can [that form of] worship be, if we sing the songs of Zion . . . that [praise] God.”
Listen to the full interview below.