Sacred Music

Writing sacred music has been an important part of my musical activity ever since I began composing. I create this music as a manifestation of my personal belief in Jesus Christ and the restored fulness of his gospel as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). This music is, however, in no way endorsed by or affiliated officially with the church. Texts are by various poets (either public domain or used with permission), from the scriptures, or my own. While some might find the musical settings unusual, they represent my personal sincere expression of faith. Each was written in contemplation and prayer. Although mostly written in an SATB four-part hymn texture typical of LDS hymns, these settings are not necessarily liturgical (that is, they are not written with the specific intent that they be performed in an LDS worship service). I leave that determination to the discernment and discretion of the performer and the approval of their local ecclesiastical authorities.

I share them here that those interested may find some value in pursuing, playing and performing them. Please enjoy them free of charge in your homes and other appropriate settings. I only ask that you contact me to notify me of any public performances so that I can keep a record.

I am always working on more sacred projects. If you are interested in contributing or suggesting text, discussing sacred music, commissioning an arrangement or composition, or commenting on these hymns please contact me! I am also more than happy to take your questions about my religion, but I will also direct you to seek out your local LDS missionaries and research online at lds.org and mormon.org.

May these ‘songs of the heart’ (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12) in some way be of service to you.
R Michael Wahlquist
rmw.compose@gmail.com


Listed in chronological order, newest at the top:


Pause the Day (2013 - text by R. Michael Wahlquist)

I wanted to compose a sort of earworm as a reminder to follow Christ’s commandment to ‘pray always’ (3 Nephi 18:15-21). Although the melody begins and ends on the same tone, the harmony ends in a different key, inviting a constant rotation from beginning to end. I’m very grateful to say that this has already become a family favorite.

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Come to the Tree! (2013 - text by R. Michael Wahlquist)

For a long time I had wanted to compose a hymn on the theme of the Tree of Life. The Tree is a powerful recurring motif in the scriptures - in the garden of Eden, in the vision of Lehi & Nephi, in Alma’s sermon on faith, in Revelation’s New Jerusalem. In each of these occurrences, the tree and its fruit are symbolic of the love of God as shown through the sacrifice of his Son, himself ‘hanged on a tree’ (Acts 5: 30). The fruit of the tree is vividly described as pure, white, sweet, precious, and filling. In a sense we are all Eden’s exiles, desert pilgrims and humble paupers when it comes to our need for God’s love. This hymn is my personal witness that the invitation is to all people everywhere to come and taste that love.

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Waked From My Bed of Slumber Sweet (2012 - text by Parley P. Pratt, 1807-1857)

No sooner had I written and composed Morning Prayer than BYU professor Neil Thornock invited the student composers to submit a setting of this text by an early LDS apostle, also on the theme of begin the day with prayer. I suppose that during my busy last year at BYU I especially needed it! The setting is essentially in a meter of 7/4, although for clarity of reading I have alternated 3/4 and 4/4 as necessary. The melody is essentially in the key of E minor, the underlying harmonies are freely composed.

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Morning Prayer (2012 - text by R. Michael Wahlquist)

The simple tune of this melody came to me one morning while I pondered on the beauty of the Rocky Mountains during my morning commute to school. I’m not normally a ‘morning person’ but I have been taught by my father from my youth the value of starting the day with a prayer. This practice is an essential part of my personal spirituality. The text is heavily based on several scriptures, as comparison with the given verses will show. 

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I Am the Light (2010 - text from John 8:12, KJV)

My first composition as a Masters student at BYU was a piece for string quartet called The Light of Everlasting Life. It consisted of a number of very short movements, each with a scripture on the theme of light appended to the top. One movement was written as a four-voice hymn setting of these inspiring words of Christ as recorded in the New Testament. Excerpted from the original string quartet setting, this brief hymn is one of my personal favorites.

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A Stranger Star (2009 - text by Orson F. Whitney, 1855-1931, altered)

This Christmas carol uses unique modal shifts and a slightly altered version of Whitney’s text to sing the wonder of the Son of God coming into the world. The hymn has a built-in arrangement with instrumental introduction and conclusion; although it may be used simply as is, SATB.

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A Sacred Pause (2008 - text by Jim Richards, BYU-Idaho)

Written for the BYU-Idaho Hymn Festival, this hymn portrays in the text and music the ‘sacred pause’ that faithful Latter-day Saints make each Sunday while partaking of the emblems of the sacrament in remembrance of the atonement of Christ. An instrumental interlude between the second and third verses is intended to give a moment of contemplation.

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It is Finished (2007 - text by R. Michael Wahlquist)

I was inspired to write this hymn after viewing a performance (on DVD) of Bach’s St. John Passion by the Bach Collegium Japan. Specifically, the descending minor line used in the narration and an aria for the line “Es its volbracht!” - “It is Finished” spoken by the dying Christ on the cross (John 19:30). The entire musical content of the hymn derives from transpositions of this melody built on each tone of the original line. The text is a contemplation of the Savior’s sufferings and death as a sacrifice on behalf of all God’s children.

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