Our hymnals show changing themes through time, and the themes in older hymnals are a window into the concerns of the age. One striking theme from older LDS hymnals is the large number of funeral hymns, including several hymns for bereaved parents.
The 1928 hymnal contains several hymns that speak explicitly to bereaved parents, and Eliza R. Snow in particular composed such hymns. She penned the text to No. 86: Cease, Ye Fond Parents, Cease to Weep.
Cease, ye fond parent, cease to weep,
Let grief no more your bosoms swell;
For what is death? Tis nature’s sleep;
the trump of God will break it’s spell,
For He whose arm is strong to save,
Arose in triumph o’er the grave.
Why should you sorrow? Death is sweet,
To those that die in Jesus’ love;
Tho’ called to part, you soon will meet
In holier, happier climes above;
For all the faithful Christ will save,
And crown with vict’ry o’er the grave.
There’s consolation in the blow,
Although it crush a tender tie;
For while it lays its victims low,
Death opens to the worlds on high
Celestial glories proudly wave
Above the confines of the grave. . . .
She also wrote the beautiful words to #71, Your Sweet Little Rosebud has Left You, to the music for “Let us oft speak kind words”:
Your sweet little rosebud has left you
To bloom in a holier sphere
He that gave it, in wisdom bereft you
Then why should you sorrow and fear?
Your child in the grave is not sleeping
She joined her dear sisters above
The bright beings now have them in keeping,
In mansions of beauty and love.
Theyâ€™ve gone where lifeâ€™s ills cannot find them
Theyâ€™re safe from each danger and snare
They are happy and free, would you bind them
To years of affliction and care?
Look up and youâ€™ll find consolation
Which God by His Spirit will give
And through faith, sure manifestation
Those gems, your sweet children, yet live.
Theyâ€™re treasure youâ€™ve laid up in heaven,
Removed for a time from your sight,
To your bosom again theyâ€™ll be given
With fullness of joy and delight.
Other examples of hymns for grieving parents by other authors include Weep for the Early Dead (119); Weep Not for Him that’s Dead and Gone (178); They Have Passed Hence, but They’re Not Lost Forever (404); and, I think, Arrayed in Light (403).
The hymnal also contains a number of general bereavement hymns — Sing Ye of a Home Immortal (68); Mourn Not for Those who Peaceful Lay (103); We Lay Thee Softly Down to Sleep (100); Unveil Thy Bosom, Faithful Tomb (140); It is not Death, Though We Fade and Die (147); Resting Now from Care and Sorrow (201); Hark! From Afar a Funeral Knell (220); What Voice Salutes the Startled Ear? (226); To the Regions of Rest Where the Blissful Abide (232); The Bodies of our Dead are Laid (233); As Babe on Mother Breast (292); Sweet Friend of the Needy, Kind Helper of Youth (337); Tenderly Wipe the Bitter Tear (340); Sister, Thou wast Mild and Lovely (396).
Plus, there are a number of hymns commemorating the death of Joseph Smith. (E.g., Death Gathers Up Thick Clouds of Gloom, 245; O, Give me Back my Prophet Dear, 193; Joseph the Prophet, Martyred Saint and Seer, 323; Now He’s Gone, We’d Not Recall Him , 397; and I think, Thou Dost Not Weep Alone, 84).
The sheer number of funeral hymns is astounding. No less astounding is the degree of personalization — there are hymns for wife, husband, brother, sister, friend, and child. Death was too much with them, the Saints of that era, and they carried with them memories of burying loved ones — wife, husband, brother, friend, and child. That memory, and their faith in the face of those trials, is etched into their songs.
Every one of the old funeral songs has fallen out of use. The modern hymnal contain one explicitly funeral song (293, Each Life that Touches Ours for Good), and recommends a number of general-usage hymns, such as I Need Thee Every Hour and The Lord is my Shepherd, for funeral use.