I like music. My dad was the ward choir director when I was a child, and I enjoyed going to choir practice with him. He even owned his own music shop for a while, and I loved going to work with him, playing with the organs and pianos, and looking around at all of the goods. I loved my music class in elementary school, and I enjoyed playing the french horn in high school. It was lots of fun.
I love church music. I remember one time when I was a teenager at choir practice (my dad was no longer the choir director), we were singing a hymn, and for some reason (I think because I was bragging), the director asked me what the first word of the next verse of the song was. I was embarrassed because I knew the next verse, but I was having a brain fart and could not think of what the first word was on the spot like that. But that embarrassment became motivation for me to memorize dozens of the hymns in the LDS hymnal. I would stay awake late at night with the hymnbook in front of me, memorizing the words. Some of the popular songs have 5-7 verses, and I would memorize them all.
I sang them in the shower, while I was washing dishes or cleaning the house, while I was driving in the car, and many other times. I love singing, and I love those beautiful melodies. I use the present tense because it is not a thing of the past. I still like those songs, and I still sing them regularly. I don't sing as often as I would like because I know that Conrad doesn't like to hear them, so I usually just do it when he's not around.
There is a feeling that I get when I listen to good music. When I was Mormon, I was taught that this feeling was the Holy Spirit, and I believed that too. My Mormon friends will tell me that it is still the Spirit, telling me that the church is true and that I should repent and rejoin the church. However, I do not believe that is the case. I feel that same feeling when I listen to many other songs, which have nothing to do with religion at all, but are simply beautiful pieces of music. I also have that feeling when I do activities which are in direct contradiction to LDS doctrine, so it simply cannot be the Holy Spirit witnessing to me, unless it is telling me that gay sex is good and that there are no gods in the universe.
Many ex-Mormons feel anger, hatred, or distaste toward anything related to Mormonism. I think this is unfortunate, and I also feel that it may very well be dishonest and inauthentic. I feel no need to deny that there are things about religion in general and more specifically about Mormonism that I still enjoy and are still dear to my heart. The hymns are one of those things.
In the car on my way down to Atlanta the other day, I sang the song "Praise to the Man". It is a song praising the founder of the Mormon religion, Joseph Smith. I do not believe that he was a true prophet. I do not even believe that his actions were good, or that he was worthy of any praise or even respect at all. But I love that song, I love the music and even the lyrics. I still remember all four verses of the text. I love hearing the original melody ("Scotland the Brave") played, especially on the bagpipes. It is very pretty music.
Listening to and singing these songs is cathartic. It releases emotions which are strong and pleasant. When I sing the 7 verses of the song "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief", I feel a renewed need to help out those who are less fortunate. I want to give more money to the poor, donate more of my time and money to food banks and other charities. I feel guilty about all of the luxuries that I take in my life, including owning 2 computers, having a high-speed internet connection, a television, gaming consoles, dozens of video games, and many many other things which I really don't need. I feel guilty that the money spent on those things is not spent on helping people who have no food to eat, no clean water to drink, and no place to sanitarily dispose of their body's byproducts.
When I sing the song "I Am a Child of God", I feel a sense of self-worth. I feel ennobled and enabled. I feel powerful, and able to do things which will help the world be a better place. I do not believe that I am a child of God, nor do I believe that there is a god. I do not believe that there are rich blessings in store for me if I do good things in this life. I do not believe in celestial blessings which can be mine if I endure. But I do feel emotions which are powerful and meaningful to me.