Conversation with Mick Jaggerby Gene R. Cook
Excerpts from address given at Ricks College, 1988
(This text is not verbatim and there are substantial differences in the wording of the text version and the actual talk.)
Sometimes young people have a feeling that the music they listen to doesn't have anything to do with chastity. And yet, as I've had the opportunity to interview many youth in varying countries throughout the world, I've found that it is just not so. I believe, without any doubt, that there is music of the Lord. I also believe there is good music that men have created-- some romantic music, maybe some good cowboy music, and just plain fun songs, etc. Those can be okay. They can cheer you up and they're fun to be involved with. It ought not to surprise us that the devil has his own music as well. That kind of music is found throughout the world and has a great impact on young people especially.
Let me try to bring this principle alive by relating a true story that happened with an individual of whom you have probably heard. How many of you have heard of Mick Jagger? I think almost everyone has as he is one of the most famous rock stars in the world. Well, you might be surprised to know that I had about 2 1/2 hours with him on an airplane and it was quite an experience. I'm going to relate part of that to you to try to illustrate this important point about selecting wholesome music.
Mr. Jagger and I were on a flight that originated in Mexico and were headed, I believe, to either Houston or Dallas. As I sat down in the plane, the seat next to me was empty. Later a man came and sat down by me. I noticed immediately that he was reading a rock magazine. I offered a silent prayer as I often do when I try to talk to people about the Church. I prayed that the Lord would inspire me in what to say as I talked to this man. After the prayer, I said something like, "My name is Gene Cook. I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What's your name?" And he said, "My name is Mick Jagger." Not realizing who he was I said, "Well, I'm glad to meet you, Mick." And then he said, "I said my name is Mick Jagger." I said, "I heard you, Mick." And then he opened up the magazine and pointed to his picture and said, "This is me." Of course, then I finally realized who he was. I just hadn't ever thought about sitting next to him, but it was so.
What I'm going to say is in no way speaking evil of Mick Jagger himself. Please understand that. I'm not speaking evil of the man, but I am of what he represents because it is wrong. It is of the devil himself, in my opinion.
Even before I knew who Mick was, I noticed that his pant leg was pulled up a little on his calf. As I looked at his leg I thought for some reason, "This fellow looks a little sick." I'm not sure why, but that caught my attention before I even knew who he was.
After we visited back and forth a minute or two about what we were doing and all, I finally said something like, "You know, Mick, I have a question for you that I'd like you to answer for me." He said, "Well, I'll be glad to try." Then I said to him, "I have opportunity to be with young people in many different places around the world, and some of them have told me that the kind of music you and others like you sing has no effect on them, that it's okay, and that it doesn't affect them adversely in any way. Then other young people have told me very honestly that your kind of music has a real effect on them for evil and that it affects them in a very bad way. You've been in this business a long time, Mick. I'd like to know your opinion. What do you think is the impact of your music on the young people?"
This is a direct quote, brothers and sisters. He said, "Our music is calculated to drive the kids to sex." I'm sure I had a real look of shock on my face in receiving such a bold response. He quickly added, "Well, it's not my fault what they do. That's up to them. I'm just making a lot of money."
Then he told me he'd been in Mexico making a video because he could make it for about one third of what it would cost in the United States. He told me this was a great day for them because now instead of just having audio where they could portray some of what they wanted to about sex and all, they now had videos and could have the people both hear it and see it portrayed. He said this would have much more impact on the youth, that his music was selling much more, and thus he was making much more money.
As I said, we talked for a couple of hours. Let me just share a few things that happened because it teaches the importance of what we are discussing with respect to music. As we chatted, I told him I was married and had eight children. He told me that he was not married but that he had three children and was proud of it. He told me that he had one woman pregnant in Virginia, one in New York, and one in England, as I recall. He told me that it didn't matter what you did in life, that you could take whatever you wanted, and you could do whatever you wanted. He said there were no commandments, there was no God, and nothing really mattered. He indicated there was no judgment day and you could just do whatever you felt like doing. Whatever I told him in our discussion was white he said was black. And whatever he said was white I told him was black.
He indicated that he had had the missionary lessons. In the beginning I didn't believe that, but as we talked further I think he probably had. He told me he had two or three lessons, and I think that was probably true because of some of his responses to me. According to him, he had been taught by missionaries in England.
He said, "As I listen to you Mormons, your problem is that you think you have things all figured out. Life isn't that simple." Then he would go on and explain some complex things, some theory of man. I would answer him in a very simple way from the scriptures, and he would say, "See what I mean?" He was always trying to make things much more complicated than they really were.
Our conversation continued. He told me that he believed in evolution and that he also believed he had descended from a monkey. I told him, with a smile, "That might be the only thing you are right about." We pursued the idea of evolution and the fact that if one is going to subscribe to the philosophy that he did, then he'd have to believe there was no God and that he just evolved. And if there is no God, then there are no commandments. There are no rules, and thus you can do whatever you want. He told me the importance, in his view, of freeing up the youth. He felt that they ought to be able to do whatever they wanted in spite of their parents. He said that parents were inhibiting them too much and controlling things and they ought not to be doing that. It was truly astounding to me. He told me that he was thankful the family, as an entity, was being destroyed. And I gathered from what he was saying that he was doing his best to help that along.
I've only been mad at two investigators in my life where I kind of got upset, and he was one of them. As we proceeded in the discussion, he probably had four or five alcoholic drinks. As you know, when one does that one tends to be a little looser in the way he talks and thinks. Finally, in a rather loud voice towards the end of our discussion, he said something like, "Furthermore, about your Book of Mormon-- your Book of Mormon is a lie, and any man that believes it is a liar." He said it in such a way that most people nearby could hear it. That really did upset me. I thought to myself, here's a man who is representing evil and trying to announce it now to the whole cabin to try to make them feel that the Book of Mormon is not true.
I then felt impressed to say something like, "Well, Mick, you're mighty fortunate today, mighty fortunate." He said, "What are you talking about?" And I said, "Because you're sitting next to a servant of the Lord who plans on correcting what you just said." He then said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, you're really lucky. I just happen to have a Book of Mormon right here in my briefcase," and I pulled out a Book of Mormon and put it in his lap. I told him something to this effect, "Mick, this book has changed my life. I love the Book of Mormon. And I have read it many, many times. It is the greatest book, in my mind, on the face of the earth. In my view it has changed me, it has made me a better man. You say it's a lie. I must have missed that part. Show me."
My young friends, there was just total, dead silence. He didn't say a word. I finally said, "Well, maybe you were offended by the part where Lehi told his sons to be honest men or where he taught them to rely upon the Lord and have faith in God. Maybe you were offended when Alma told his boy, Coriantumr, that he had broken the law of chastity and then he told him what he had to do to correct it. Maybe that offended you. Or maybe it was the part when Christ came to America. Or maybe it really bothered you when he said that one is to love his wife with all his heart and not commit adultery. Maybe that offended you." I carried on a little bit with him that way, and of course again he said nothing. I finally said, "Well, if you can't show me a chapter, then at least show me a page, or maybe a paragraph will do. That would be all right. Just show me one paragraph." And again, brothers and sisters, dead silence. I finally said, "Well, then how about a line, or one word."
I finally bore my testimony to him and said something like, "My friend, the lie is not in the Book of Mormon. The lie is in you. And I bear witness to you in the name of the Lord that if you don't turn your life around, you'll be going to hell. The devil himself will come and get hold of you." I bore my testimony to him as strongly as I could about what he was doing, that it was not right, and that it was not according to the Lord's plan.
I felt very emotionally involved when I bore my testimony because I thought to myself, "Here I am going about the earth trying to strengthen young people, trying to make them better and turn them to the Lord. And men like this are coming around right behind me trying to tear it all down, destroying the family, and destroying their reliance on God. I bore a very fervent testimony to him and told him that I would be a witness that I had at least given him "the word." Well, he calmed down quite a bit in that encounter and didn't say any more. That at least quieted him down so he didn't continue in the vein he was in.
Just before our couple of hours together concluded he said, "Oh, now I remember something about your Book of Mormon" (referring to my challenge to him to show me something that was out of order.) He said, "Well, here it is. It's the part about Brigham Young." Then I informed him that Brigham Young was not mentioned in the Book of Mormon one time. My response kind of took him aback. We talked the last five or ten minutes in a more general way, and then finally bid each other farewell and split up.
As I arrived home from that trip and shared the experience with my family, I was very moved, as you would have been. I was mostly moved by the spirit of the Lord that bore witness to me of the evil nature of that kind of music and the impact it has on people. In our Family Home Evening that night, we made a commitment, as a family, that we would never, ever allow any of that kind of music in our home. Not ever! We had a great spiritual experience together where we felt the Spirit and committed to that decision.
Now, as those years have gone by since I visited with him on the plane, I'm pleased to say that that kind of music has never been in our home and I think never will be as a result of that experience. I share it with you to impress upon your minds that there is music of the Lord and there is music of the devil. I would be mighty, mighty, careful with the music you listen to. The Church isn't ever going to publish a list of approved songs and say, "Here are 146 that you can listen to and 246 that you can't." You'll have to choose, won't you? Use your conscience. Use the Spirit of the Lord and have enough sense to make those judgments correctly and don't listen to that kind of music.
Just one other comment. A few days after I arrived home, my wife and I were up late on a Friday evening. I turned the television on, or maybe we looked in the paper, and saw that there was going to be a Mick Jagger special on that night. Well, I'd never even watched anything like that before and I thought, well, let's see what it's like. So we sat up for an hour or so and watched this show. I was really taken aback. Not so much by what I saw, as I expected that, but by all the innuendoes sown in the lyrics of which a young person might not be very aware. Lyrics like, "Do what you want. No one can tell you what to do. You're your own man. Take what you want. Pick what you want." It was the same stuff I'd heard on the airplane for two hours-- there were no rules in it, no God in it, no "what's right" in it. It was, do whatever you want to do. You're free, you can take what you want, do what you want.
I was very much taken aback by how those thoughts had been sown very subtly in all that music. Many young people would not realize how those thoughts are sown in. However after listening to that music time after time, one can begin to parrot that kind of philosophy and those inward feelings to their parents and not be as obedient as they ought to be. I bear testimony to you again, that good music can have a great impact on you and evil music surely is of the devil.
Think of the great contrast in the lyrics, "I am a child of God, and He has sent me here, has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday." What a dramatic difference. That hymn would lead you to think of the Lord, wouldn't it? It would humble you in your heart. It would lead you to be obedient to your parents. Look at the different impact that would have.
What if you sang a song like, "Oh my Father, thou that dwellest in the high and glorious place, when shall I regain thy presence, and again behold thy face?" What if you had that in your repertoire, as it were, of what you sang, of what you thought, of what you listened to. What a difference! Little Primary songs like, "Jesus said love everyone, treat them kindly too, when your heart is filled with love, others will love you." Very simple, isn't it? One of my favorite ones is an easy one, a simple one. "Oh Father, look on us today and bless us with thy love. In Jesus name we humbly pray, O Father up above." So simple, isn't it? I have sung that song to myself many times as I have wandered around alone in airports or other places to keep my mind focused on good, worthy things.
Think of the impact on you or your children singing over and over, "I love to see the temple; I'm going there someday, to feel the Holy Spirit, to listen and to pray. For the temple is a house of God, a place of love and beauty. I'll prepare myself while I am young. This is my sacred duty." Wouldn't that have a great impact? It would, and one day your children would end up in the temple. If the music is of this other kind, they may end up somewhere else.