How the Hymn “How Firm a Foundation” Calmed a Screaming Child Time After Time
In 2003, Carmen Rasmusen Herbert took sixth place on the second season of American Idol. Today, Herbert, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, writes an entertainment column for the Deseret News.
In a column she wrote in 2011, Herbert discusses the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s performance of the song “How Firm a Foundation.” She was surprised to find out one day that the song was the perfect remedy to calm her young child. An excerpt from the column is below:
When my oldest son was just 5 months old, every time we'd buckle him into his car seat, he'd take that as a cue to begin wailing at the top of his lungs. It didn't matter if the ride was five minutes or 50; that poor kid absolutely detested car rides and, as a result, so did I.
One day, as his shrill cries became increasingly louder and more incessant, I grabbed my choir CD, found the song "How Firm A Foundation" and turned up the volume full blast. My intent was to clear my head, calm my flustered nerves and invite a peaceful spirit into my chaotic car. And then I noticed something: not only had my blood stopped boiling, but my boy had stopped screaming. I don't know if it was the loud volume, the bold, repetitive melody and beat or the earnest voices, but something about that particular song made my son quiet down and listen—really listen.
In fact, he made it through the entire song without another peep. I was stunned. Immediately after the song ended, the spell was broken and he resumed his high-pitched squeal. Frantically, I pushed the "repeat" button and, amazingly, his cries stopped a second time.
Needless to say, "How Firm a Foundation" became my boy's "theme" song. Whenever he was tired, worked up or buckled into that dreaded car seat, I would either sing or play it over and over until he calmed down.
While “How Firm a Foundation” is in the hymnbook of the Church, it is loved by many, regardless of religious affiliation. It was sung at the funerals of U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and American troops sang it on Christmas morning in 1898 while engaged in the Spanish-American War.