Personal Progress Activity: The Power of Music

I loved Sister Cheryl A. Esplin’s soda can analogy in her talk this Women’s Conference. When I saw that crushed soda can, I knew that I had to take it to the next level.

The goal of this personal progress activity was to show the young women how filling our lives with the right kind of music can make us stronger. But listening to inappropriate or harmful music not only leaves us weak, but can crush us. As part of the activity I do a science experiment to show how exposing the soda can to certain elements can crush it using just normal, everyday air pressure.

I had so much fun that I also did it for Family Home Evening tonight, but this time stuck with the original message of Sister Esplin’s talk about filling our lives with the Spirit and gospel truths. The lesson is really adaptable and the kids loved it.

At the end of the lesson, I gave out these soda cans with the printable that goes on the can. I have made two versions depending on whether you wanted to do the music theme or not.


This activity was centered around Knowledge Value Experience #6
Memorize two of your favorite hymns from the hymnbook. Learn the correct conducting pattern for the hymns (see Hymns, 383–85) and then conduct them at least two times at a family home evening, in a Young Women or other Church meeting, or at seminary. Read the scriptures listed at the bottom of each hymn.

1. Talk about Sister Cheryl A. Esplin’s talk for the April 2015 Women’s Conference.
“The concept of being filled with light and truth became particularly important to me because of an experience I had many years ago. I attended a meeting where members of the Young Women general board taught about creating spiritually strong families and homes. To visually demonstrate this, a Young Women leader held up two soda cans. In one hand she held a can that was empty and in the other hand a can that was unopened and full of soda. First, she squeezed the empty can; it began to bend and then collapsed under the pressure. Next, with her other hand, she squeezed the unopened can. It held firm. It didn’t bend or collapse like the empty can—because it was filled.

We likened this demonstration to our individual lives and to our homes and families. When filled with the Spirit and with gospel truth, we have the power to withstand the outside forces of the world that surround and push against us. However, if we are not filled spiritually, we don’t have the inner strength to resist the outside pressures and can collapse when forces push against us.

Satan knows that in order for us and our families to withstand the pressures of the world, we must be filled with light and gospel truth. So he does everything in his power to dilute, distort, and destroy the truth of the gospel and to keep us separated from that truth.”

2. Talk about ways this could be applied to filling our lives with uplifting music. When we fill our lives with uplifting music we don’t collapse as easily. Talk about how the hymns can be a way to celebrate our joys and to buoy us up when discouraged. Share an experience or ask the girls to share about a time when the hymns have helped them when they needed it. I shared about how I often turn on the songs from the Children’s Songbook when my kids are in a bad mood and have found that it changes how the whole house feels. It makes us stronger and we are less likely to collapse into discord.

3. However, there are some kinds of music that don’t fill us up, but leave us feeling crushed. Tell the young women that you are going to take Sis. Esplin’s object lesson a step further and show that while being empty leaves us vulnerable, that when we expose ourselves to negative influences it takes hardly anything to crush us.

4. Go to the kitchen and show the young women the crushed soda can experiment. It is really easy to do and I was able to do it using the stove top burners. I also used ice cubes in the water and only 1 oz. of water in the soda can because it was more dramatic. My kids now beg me all the time to do this at home. Their favorite part is the loud noise it makes when the can implodes. It is more fun if you don’t warn them about what is going to happen a head of time because the loud noise makes them all scream.

5. After the experiment, talk about how the can that was exposed to heat didn’t just collapse when a hand crushed it, but was crushed by normal air pressure. The heat causes the water to turn to vapor and it pushes the air out of the can, making the air pressure in the can less than the pressure on the outside. The air pressure that surrounds us was strong enough to crush a can when the vacuum was created.

Listening to inappropriate music does the same thing to us. It makes it hard for to even stand up to the normal pressures of everyday life. And I love the sound that the can makes when it implodes because I have felt that same feeling inside when I have heard some of the very worst types of songs. When the music hits you, it is like somebody has knocked the air out of you and you can just feel your soul being crushed.

6. Show the girls the three cans (full, empty, and crushed) and talk about the differences.
What is the difference in the three cans?
1) Full and strong
2) Empty and weak
3) Super empty and crushed by normal, everyday air

Let the young women come up with some parallels. I am often amazed at the insights they have.

7. Discuss how the following quote from Elder Gene R. Cook can help us.
“Use the hymns of the Church. This is a great way to stay above discouragement. I used to think when I was younger that I would sing when I got discouraged. To me, that is a good way to get free of discouragement, but it’s a little late. A better way is to sing all the time. And if you will do that, you won’t go down into one of those troughs. Get in the habit of singing hymns every day. Sing in the shower. You will sound better there.
Beware the music of the world, too. Make sure you have some good music to listen to, and it will carry you through some of those tougher days.”

8. Identify some of the types of music that are crushing you. Challenge the girls to weed out some of the music in their playlists that are making them spiritually weak.

9. Talk about ways to fill your life with good music.

10. To fulfill the value experience, you can teach the girls how to lead music (PDF) and then play some memorization games to learn to hymns.

Hymn Memorization Games

Ball Toss

  • Have everybody sit down in a circle.
  • Have the first person with the ball say the first word in the song then toss the ball to somebody else.
  • When the next person catches the ball they have to say the next work before tossing the ball to somebody else in the circle.
  • Continue tossing the ball back and forth until you finish the song. If you want to make it competitive, you can form two circles and have the two groups race.

Memorization Relay Race

  • Form two teams and line each team up about six feet from a blackboard. We did it in a classroom that was separated by a partition so that we could pull the partition closed a bit and the teams couldn’t cheat by looking at the other team’s board.
  • Have the first person in the line run forward and write the first word of the song on the board. She then runs back and hands the chalk to the next person who then runs forward and writes the next word. The game continues until one of the teams finishes writing the song on the board.

Sing Off
Divide the young women into two teams. Have them separate and rehearse the hymn in different classrooms. Then have them come back together for a sing off to see which group can sing the hymn the best.

Name That Tune
We also played “Name That Tune” and that was by far the favorite. I have the LDS hymn app on my phone and it made it really easy to play the hymns. I just hooked it to a speaker so that everybody could hear it. I had the young women line up along the wall and put an object on a chair. I meant to bring a stuffed animal, but I forgot, so I used my hairbrush. The hairbrush was the “buzzer” so whoever got to it first, got to answer. If you got it right, you got a point, but if you got it wrong you lost a point. I then played a hymn without any lyrics and the young women would lunge for the hairbrush once they figured out which hymn it was. If they needed help, I would turn on the lyrics. For Family Home Evening we did this with the Children’s Songbook and my kids loved it too.

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6 Responses

  1. Leslie Haus says:

    I LOVE this idea, but I am not able to print the printable without it being bigger than the paper….any suggestions would be awesome!

  2. Luz Smotzer says:

    This is so awesome, thank you so much for sharing this idea. I was just called to serve with the Young Woman and I love all the help I can get.
    Thanks again.

  3. elysa says:

    i cannot get access to the experiment. is there another way for me to find the details of that? Thank you!

  4. Josephine Patti says:

    What an awesome lesson for my girls. Thank you

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