For many, music is a special conduit to the spirit of God and can express a depth of testimony that is inadequate with words. This is no more evident than in the powerful hymns performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
During the Saturday Morning Session of the 186th Annual General Conference of the Church, members were treated to a stunning rendition of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
However, something unusual occurred during the song and members around the world took notice. The usually peaceful and composed smiles of the Choir quickly changed as the camera focused on a single member, C. David Belt. Belt was shown crying and singing emotionally through his tears. Conference-goers quickly related.
— Mayci D (@maydobs) April 2, 2016
— Allie Arnell (@_AllieArnell) April 2, 2016
— LDS.net (@LDSnet) April 2, 2016
— Todd Kunz (@ToddKunzKIDK) April 2, 2016
I just rewound and watched Come Thou Font a second time. The man crying made me lose it.?? #LDSconf
— Cambria (@CambriaAnn) April 2, 2016
— Ben Wiles (@benwilesuk) April 2, 2016
We had the opportunity to talk with Belt about what touched him and how he’s dealing with all the attention. Belt has been in the Choir for almost nine years; this is his nineteenth time singing in General Conference.
“Every time I sing with the Choir, I am so very profoundly grateful,” he said. “I am amazed that, out of all the very talented people out there who would love to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I get to stand before my Maker and sing His praises with this marvelous group of people.”
One of Belt’s favorite things about being in the Choir is singing the arrangements done by Choir music director (and conductor/composer), Mack Wilberg. They are “so beautiful, so elegant, so thrilling,” Belt said. “It is as if he has bottled my Savior’s love, condensed it into the sweetest nectar, and I get to drink it.”
The special arrangement of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is no different. As Belt was singing, he felt the power of the Atonement wash over him.
“Elder Renlund had just told that story about the Aaronic priesthood administering the sacrament for one person, and that the Savior performed the Atonement for each of us individually. I began to weep as soon as the song began. I love songs about the grace of Jesus Christ, how He paid for my sins. It’s very personal to me. We had just sung, He to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood. He paid for MY sins, for ME. Then we sang, Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love! Here’s my heart. Oh, take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.
I love my Savior and I am so very grateful for what He did for me. Songs like that one really touch me.”
Belt is humbled and grateful his testimony through music has touched so many.
“I pray that I will be able to help someone in some small way. I’m just one of 360 voices, and we all love the Lord and love to sing His praises.”
That was one thing Belt wanted to make sure everyone knew: We all have the power to change the lives of those around us by sharing our talents. He opened up about another powerful experience he had with the Choir.
An elderly gentleman, tall and so thin he was almost gaunt, approached Belt and asked to speak with him. He was wearing a dark suit and dark brown fedora. It was March 14, 2014 and the Choir had just finished their Sunday morning rehearsal for their weekly broadcast.
The old man extended a bony hand and introduced himself.
“I need to tell you,” he said with a slight tremor in his voice. “I’ve been going through a really rough time in my life lately. My wife has dementia. I’ve been her sole caretaker for two years now. I came down here today, hoping to meet you. Every Sunday, when I watch ‘Music and the Spoken Word,’ I watch you. You sing with such joy and enthusiasm. You have literally saved my life several times.”
Belt was stunned and could only mutter a ‘thank you’ as he gripped the man’s shoulder. It was a very emotional broadcast for Belt, who looked for the man in the audience, but couldn’t pick him out. The experience has stayed with him.
“I know we do good as members of the Choir. We touch lives and hearts. But this sacred experience brought that home to me in a very personal way,” Belt related. “We each affect those around us, people we love, our neighbors, co-workers, or even total strangers. It might be a deliberate act of kindness or just a smile and a friendly word. Or it could be just singing your heart out. And in most cases, you will never know whom you have touched and how.”