Religions have a mixed relationship with music; within both Christianity and Islam, you can find strains that eschew all human compositions as a distraction from the divine, as well as robust musical traditions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (to use the Mormons’ official name) has leaned firmly to the latter side since its foundation nearly two centuries ago. Among the revelations claimed by their founder Joseph Smith was God’s affirmation that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me”””in other words, the faithful could and positively should sing as well as speak to their Maker. The faith’s choral and orchestral talents were soon reinforced by an influx of converts from Victorian England, some of whom were Methodists and bearers of that faith’s strong musical heritage.
As Markus Rathey, a professor of music history at Yale University puts it, some faiths hold that “the use of music transports you into a state in which you’re open for the divine.” And the Latter-day Saints have always been of that persuasion.