I am so lucky. I live in a funky college town that works hard to keep its small downtown alive. The city has free musicians playing on the pedestrian mall and every summer weekend is packed with music, literature and art festivals. This 4th of July weekend we enjoyed a Jazz festival. As I was hanging out in the shade, listening to funky music and watching my Grandbaby Eleanor boogie down to the tunes, my mind wandered to our church’s history of music and performing arts. I thought about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the BYU singers, dancers and actors that are camping out at Nauvoo, IL this summer doing all kinds of shows. I remembered Brigham Young making sure the saints had the diversion of music and song while trekking across the plains and the theaters he directed built in early Salt Lake City.

Then I thought about when I read the history of President Ezra Taft Benson. In his college years he played in a dance band that traveled extensively. He played trombone and was excellent at it. At some point in his 20’s, he decided his life was at a crossroads. He either had to commit to being a professional musician or to being a family man, devoted to the church. We all know he chose the church. He said that when he picked the church, he packed away his trombone for good and never played it again. When I read that, it made me so sad. I didn’t understand how someone who was that good playing an instrument could just stop forever. And it didn’t seem healthy to me. Where was the life balance? Where was the work hard, sleep hard, play hard that Brigham Young recommended? When I told Rob what I thought of President Benson’s choice, he told me I had it all wrong. Maybe President Benson loved playing so much that he knew if he kept doing it, even for entertainment, it would be painful for him since he couldn’t do it and serve Heavenly Father to the extent he wanted. Stopping playing for good was his way of focusing on what was most important to him.

That made me wonder how many other people have made the same choice, giving up the Performing Arts to serve God. Do you know anyone who has done the same? Since I have no talents in those areas, I admire people who do. I think even if you are a full-time servant of the Lord, or parent or have a stressful all- consuming job, being able to pull out a cool musical instrument at a ward picnic or family get together would be fabulous. And wouldn’t it be a hoot to have a prophet of the church reach down and pull up a fiddle to play for us? I would love that and it would make me love them even more.