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Music and the Spoken Word

Robert Hoch
December 05, 2023 11:15 AM

"I pray that the Spirit provided light for each of us during my remarks. To paraphrase the stunning revelation in D&C 76, I hope “our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened.” I am deeply grateful for Him whose birth was announced with the light of a new star and a day and a night and a day of light. I pray that each of us will seek for greater and greater spiritual light as we connect ourselves with the Light of the World. "
What an impressive choir and handsome choir director. I feel very important today sitting next to President and sister Kusch. I appreciate their example. One quick story. I recently was getting on the elevator and President Kusch was there and some students as well. I made sure to button my top button and cinch up my tie. I kind of faded as far away from him as I could. He said, “Good morning Rob.” I had no idea he knew he I was. It reminded me a little bit of high school and a cute girl called me by name. It was just awesome. I know that the Savior knows our names and I am always impressed with people who try to be disciples with the same example as Jesus who calls people by names. I had a special moment with President Kusch.

It is good to be here today with colleagues, students, friends and family including as was mentioned my wife Melissa and my daughter Emily who participated in BYU Pathway while she lived in South Africa with her husband and later earned her degree on line with BYU Idaho with a bachelors degree. Her twin sister Ashley is also here who is a proud graduate of Ensign College. My son, Chase, who is a current student here at the college is also in attendance. I love all of them and I am super happy that they are here. One of my grandsons, Jude, is also in attendance. He is four months old. It is extra special to have a baby boy here to remind us all of the baby Jesus. Finally, it is a tender mercy of the Lord knowing that the closing prayer will be offered by a student from Santiago. My son, Max, will be leaving the Mexico MTC this Friday and will be heading to Santiago for the remainder of his full time mission.

In 2001, I was a young husband and father who was struggling financially. In addition to my full-time seminary teaching job, I had a side hustle as a piano teacher and professional pianist. In December of that year, I was hired to provide background music for a company dinner at a restaurant close to Temple Square. My wife and I drove to the venue together in our dilapidated, wood-paneled Dodge minivan, parked, and separated—I to the gig and she to some Christmas shopping at the mall. We arranged to meet afterward at the North Visitor’s Center. A couple of hours later, I finished, was paid, and began the chilly walk of the long block from the South entrance to the North. I had a lot on my mind—parenting, graduate school, Church calling, family finances—and in fact, I was getting a little overwhelmed. My head was down, and I began walking slower and slower. I was almost to the meeting place when I lifted up my eyes and realized there were lights all around me.

I was so focused on my supposedly-depressing life that I failed to notice the brilliance around me. Thousands and thousands of visitors make the pilgrimage just to see the incredible lights on Temple Square, but I was too wrapped up in my pity party to let the light illuminate my life.

There’s some obvious spiritual implications here.

Jesus is the source of the light which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:12). His is “the true light that lighteth every [person] that cometh into the world” (D&C 93:2; see also D&C 84:46). But how often do we fail to allow this ubiquitous Light to brighten our lives? And how often do we forget about a unique commandment from the Savior, given during His visit in the Americas. To these people (and to us today) He said, “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed” (3 Nephi 18:24).

When Carlos Perez finished high school, he began a year of service in the Ecuadorian army. As he packed his belongings, he include a copy of the Book of Mormon and the hymn book. Continuing the story in his words:

“I was assigned to a company of young men, and after watching their behavior, I guessed I was the only Latter-day Saint. I wanted to be a good example, so I tried to give my best effort to any task I was assigned. It was almost impossible to find time to read the scriptures. We had only 15 minutes to get ready for lunch and half an hour at night for free time. I spent that time reading my Book of Mormon.

I didn’t realize people were watching me, but they soon found out I was a member of the Church. At first they made fun of me, but I knew their words couldn’t hurt me.

“One day as I was reading, I was impressed by 3 Nephi 12:16: “Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” I asked Heavenly Father to help me be an example to others. In time, I gained the respect of the men in my company and the officers.

“My service in the army went fine until one day my friend discovered the feed to his automatic rifle was missing. In my country, stealing such an item is a serious crime against the government and is punishable with jail time. Our entire company looked for the missing part.

“The captain of the company, a member of an evangelical church, authorized a search of all footlockers. All members of the company were present when my footlocker was inspected. I was astonished when the searchers found the missing rifle feed in it. I had no idea how it had gotten there.

“It was a painful moment for me; I knew the captain could send me to jail. Members of my company stood around watching, concerned with what was going to happen to me. The room was quiet as we waited to hear what the captain would say.

“He called me over to him, and in a low voice asked for my explanation. All I could say was, “I don’t know.” He looked at me, and then he said these words: “I know what your conduct has been all this time, and I know you didn’t do it.” Then another officer said to the captain, “I, too, believe that this soldier did not do it.” One by one, all the other officers came up to me and offered their support.

“Tears began to run down my cheeks. I recognized the protecting power of my Savior. I knew He was at my side. Because of this experience, the verse in 3 Nephi that had impressed me earlier will always be engraved on my mind.

“A few days later, one of my friends in the company came to me and told me he had met two missionaries and was going to be baptized the following week in the city of Guayaquil. My happiness was full as I saw him join the true Church.

“I later served full time as a soldier for the Lord—sharing the gospel as a missionary in the Ecuador Quito Mission.” [i]

Carlos Perez was a light to the world.

My wife and I have traveled to the Holy Land often—she has been there 15 times; I have been there 7. We love that place and appreciate the light that has come into our lives as we have visited.

One example of such illumination occurred when we learned about the basalt stone in the northern area of Israel. BYU Professor Kelly Ogden said: “Just prior to Isaiah’s great announcement that a child would be born, a son would be given, and the government would be upon his shoulder, he made the following literal and symbolic utterance (using the prophetic future-perfect tense, as if the event were already accomplished):

“’The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined’ (Isa. 9:2).

“Isaiah foreshadowed the coming of the Savior, the light of the world, to dispel the darkness of ignorance and apostasy of the people who lived in the land of Zebulun (the Nazareth area) and the land of Naphtali (the Sea of Galilee area); but besides the spiritual side of that message, there is some down-to-earth reality in the vocabulary used.

“Ages ago a covering of volcanic basalt was spewed all over the Galilee area by now-extinct volcanic cones on the Golan Mountains. This rock is heavy, hard, and black, thus giving even physical import to Isaiah’s description of people who ‘walk in darkness’ and dwell in the ‘land of the shadow of death.’” [ii]

This should have a very personal meaning to each of us who have experienced moments of darkness in our lives. The old testament prophet Micah said, “When I sit in darkness the Lord shall be a light unto me.” [iii]

Another story about light connected to the Holy Land was was shared twice in General Conference:

In the 1980s, leaders of the Church met with officials in Jerusalem to work out a lease agreement for land on which the Church’s Jerusalem Center would be built. In order to obtain the permissions needed, the Church had to agree that no proselyting would be undertaken by our members who would occupy the center. After that agreement had been made, one of the Israeli officials, who was well acquainted with the Church and its members, remarked that he knew the Church would honor the no-proselyting agreement.

“But,” he said, referring to the students who would attend there, “what are we going to do about the light that is in their eyes?” [iv]

I pray that the Spirit provided light for each of us during my remarks. To paraphrase the stunning revelation in D&C 76, I hope “our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened.” I am deeply grateful for Him whose birth was announced with the light of a new star and a day and a night and a day of light. I pray that each of us will seek for greater and greater spiritual light as we connect ourselves with the Light of the World. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[i] Carlos Perez, The Power of Example, February 2001, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
[ii] The Testing Ground for the Covenant People, D. Kelly Odgen, September, Ensign, 1980.
[iii] Micah 7:8
[iv] The Light in Their Eyes, James E. Faust, October, 2005 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

About the Speaker

Robert Hoch

Robert Bruce Hoch lived in California and Idaho before serving a mission to Virginia. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from BYU, a Master’s degree from Idaho State University, and a Doctoral degree from the University of Utah.

Brother Hoch is currently a full-time Institute instructor (and adjunct English professor) at Ensign College. 

He has enjoyed serving in a variety of church callings: counselor in the stake presidency, fifteen years in bishoprics (including five as bishop), and primary chorister.

Brother Hoch and his wife, Melissa, are professional tour guides and have traveled internationally (multiple times to Israel) and throughout the United States. They have six children (including two sets of twins) and three grandchildren. Being with his family is what brings him the most joy in life.

In his spare time, Brother Hoch teaches a few piano students and reads biographies. He also likes to write parodies and has over 1.2 million views on TikTok.
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