Music and the Spoken Word

What Can Be the Meaning of Life?- Sunday, February 28, 2016

Before Viktor Frankl became a renowned psychologist; before he survived a Nazi concentration camp; and before he wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, a bestselling book about his experiences; he was a high school student who thought deeply about life—more deeply than perhaps most teenagers do. One day his science teacher declared to the class, “Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation.” Young Viktor leaped from his chair and countered, “Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?”1

Science class is not typically the best place to find answers to that kind of question. Viktor instead learned about life and its meaning in the cruel classroom of the concentration camps. There he was taught by experience what he already felt in his heart: those who are most resilient, who are most likely to survive horrific conditions, are those who have a sense of meaning in their lives. In his words: “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.’”2

For some, the “why” of existence may be that our children or grandchildren need us. Perhaps we have an unfinished project that keeps us going. Or we may find meaning in giving back to a group or an individual who depends on us. It could be said that this ability to look outward, to feel a sense of purpose beyond just satisfying our own desires, is what makes us human, what distinguishes us from all other life on earth. It’s also what brings true happiness—have you noticed that you never find a truly selfless, service-minded person to be disgruntled?

The meaning of life is found in the face of another. It is found as we sacrifice and get outside ourselves in some way, large or small. It is found as we strive to make life better for those who follow us. It is found as we commit ourselves to something larger—more meaningful—than ourselves.

-Lloyd D. Newell

1. In Emily Esfahani Smith, “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy,” Atlantic, Jan. 9, 2013,
2. In Smith, “There’s More to Life.”

Feb. 28, 2016
Broadcast Number 4,511

Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square

Ryan Murphy

Richard Elliott

Lloyd Newell

Saints Bound for Heaven
American folk hymn; arr. Mack Wilberg

I Am a Child of God
Mildred T. Pettit; arr. Ryan Murphy

Their Sound Is Gone Out into All Lands, from Messiah
George Frideric Handel

The Rejoicing, from Music for the Royal Fireworks
George Frideric Handel

Somewhere, from West Side Story
Leonard Bernstein; arr. Arthur Harris

No Man Is an Island
Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer; arr. Michael Davis

How Firm a Foundation
Attributed to J. Ellis; arr. Mack Wilberg