History of LDS Hymnbooks, Part 2: The Manchester Hymnal

The history of Mormon hymnbooks is not always straightforward, with one authorized hymnbook following another. Following the publication of the 1835 hymnbook, a few unauthorized hymnals were published that influenced future hymnbooks. Recognizing a growing need for hymnals in Mormon congregations in the eastern United States, David Rogers published a new version of the hymnal in 1838. The style, preface, layout, and many of the hymns were copied from the official 1835 hymn book, but forty of the ninety hymns were swapped out. Around thirty of the new hymns were written by Mormons, including five by the influential and talented apostle Parley P. Pratt.[1] A year later, Benjamin C. Elsworth published another hymnal that also plagiarized Emma Smith’s preface and used sixty-six hymns from her collection, as well as almost all the ones Rogers had added.[2] By 1 July 1839, the prophet and Quorum of the Twelve met to compile a new hymnbook, and apparently even weighed the idea of reprinting or adapting Rogers’s work.[3] At a Church conference that fall, however, Rogers’s work was publicly criticized and it was requested that it be “utterly discarded by the church.”[4] Six months later, charges were brought against Rogers for “compiling an Hymn Book, and selling it as the one selected and published by sister Emma Smith,” among other things.[5] Still, despite the unauthorized nature of Rogers’s hymnal, it demonstrated a need for new hymnbooks and a trend towards using Mormon hymns.


The title page of the original edition of the Manchester Hymnal

Across the sea, the Quorum of the Twelve worked towards printing their own hymnal in Manchester, England. This hymnbook, in its own way, was unauthorized. In October of 1839, a high council “voted that Sister Emma Smith, select and publish a hymn Book for the use of the Church, and that Brigham Young be informed of the same, and he not publish the hymns taken by him from Commerce.”[6] Brigham Young may have never heard word of the high council’s decision or simply ignored it, and the Quorum of the Twelve proceeded to publish a hymnal compiled by Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, and John Taylor that was entitled A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Europe. Despite previously indicating that he was opposed to printing a new hymnbook outside of Nauvoo, Joseph Smith eventually gave his approval to the work.[7] The apostles’ hope, as recorded in the preface, was to create “a Hymn Book adapted” to the British Saints’ “faith and worship, that they might sing the truth . . . and express their praise, joy and gratitude, in songs adapted to the new and everlasting covenant.”[8] Seventy-eight hymns from the 1835 hymnbook were included, while one-hundred-and-ninety-three texts were added. Printed in 1840, this hymnbook beat Emma’s hymnbook to the press by a year. The Manchester hymnbook would go on to serve as the Church’s official hymnbook for eighty-seven years—longer than any other hymnal in our history.


Digital Format:

Manchester Hymnal


Examples of Hymns:



“The Morning Breaks” was one of the many hymns contributed to the Manchester hymnal by Elder Parley P. Pratt. Just as it is the first hymn in the 1985 hymnbook (shown in the image here), it was the first hymn in the Manchester hymnal.


Jordan's Stormy Banks

Hymns in the Manchester hymnbook continued to be printed text-only, similar to the 1835 hymnbook. “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” was one of many hymns included in the Manchester hymnbook that were adopted from Protestant hymnals.


An Angel From on High

“An Angel From On High” was another of Parley P. Pratt’s hymns included in the Manchester hymnal. This image is from the 1844 Bellows Falls hymnal, where it was paired with music for the first time. The tune familiar to Latter-day Saints today was written at a later time.




[1] See Michael Hicks, Mormonism and Music: A History (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 23-24.

[2] See Linda K. Newell and Valeen Tippets Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Prophet’s Wife, “Elect Lady,” Polygamy’s Foe (New York City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1984), 88.

[3] See Hicks, Mormonism and Music, 24.

[4] “Minutes, 5–7 October 1839,” p. 31, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 22, 2017, http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minutes-5-7-october-1839/2.

[5] “Minutes and Discourses, 6–8 April 1840,” p. 92, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 22, 2017, http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minutes-and-discourses-6-8-april-1840/2.

[6] “History, 1838–1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838–31 July 1842],” p. 972, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 22, 2017, http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-185-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842/154

[7] While Joseph Smith’s approval may have initially been given grudgingly, he did eventually state that he “highly approved of it” and that it was “a very valuable collection.” See “Letter to Quorum of the Twelve, 15 December 1840,” p. [3], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 22, 2017, http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-quorum-of-the-twelve-15-december-1840/3.

[8] Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, and John Taylor, A Collection of Sacred Hymns, For the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Europe (Manchester: W. R. Thomas, Spring Gardens, 1840), 2.

2 comments for “History of LDS Hymnbooks, Part 2: The Manchester Hymnal

  1. June 26, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Nice research. Thank you for your work.

  2. James Olsen
    June 29, 2018 at 6:29 am

    Really enjoying this series.

    I had no idea that “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” was once in our hymnal! I love the BYU Singers version, and the jauntier MoTab version also has a nice celtic interlude. I’d love to see it come back.

    Also, I’m going to go and play the tune now for the old An Angel from on High—great lyrics but terrible tune in our current hymnal.

    Thanks for sharing these.

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