The History of LDS Hymnbooks, Part 4: Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody

Original music for LDS hymns initially developed in 19th century Utah. For the faction of the Mormonism that followed the Quorum of the Twelve west to the Great Basin region, the Manchester hymnal continued to serve as the official hymnal for decades. The hymnbook was printed until 1912, with new editions occasionally adding a few hymns here and there. Although President Brigham Young and other leaders rarely dictated hymn use, their philosophies and teachings were translated into principles for hymnbooks by hymnodists in the Church. In particular, Brigham Young emphasized home industry, stating that the Saints were to “manufacture that which we consume, to cease our bartering, trading, [and] mingling . . . with all the filth of Bablyon.”[1] On the other hand, however, Young had served a mission in England during the 1840s and was deeply impressed with the sophistication of old Europe. He encouraged Saints to improve themselves through education, stating that “human beings are expected by their Creator to be actively employed in . . .  improving their own mental and physical condition” and that “all that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom.”[2] In Brigham Young’s thought, Mormons could both reject the world while seeking out the best aspects of cultures in the world.

BX 8685.2 .A1 1889 front-cover

The Latter-day Saints Psalmody

Encouraged by Brigham Young’s philosophy, musicians in Utah began to produce home-spun hymn tunes to reflect their pride in the gospel and Mormon culture. Asides from a small, unofficial hymnal compiled by Carter Little and George Bryant Gardner in 1844, early Mormon hymnbooks contained only text, with the tune being chosen at the time of singing from a separate tune book or songs familiar to the congregation. This began to change with the publication of John Tullidge’s Latter Day Saints’ Psalmody in 1857, which contained original tunes for many Mormon hymns. Around the same time, other notable Mormons musicians (many of which were British converts) also began writing hymn tunes. Their music was published in outlets like the Utah Magazine, the Utah Musical Times, the Utah Musical Bouquet, and the Juvenile Instructor.

In the 1880s, a committee of five notable musicians—George Careless, Ebenezer Beesley, Joseph J. Daynes, Evan Stephens, and Thomas C. Griggs—received approval to compile an official tune book to accompany the Manchester hymnal. Published in 1889, The Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody contained both hymn tunes that were “original music,” which were mostly “the production of ‘our mountain home’ composers,” and “a number of old and familiar tunes.”[3] The committee contributed the lion’s share of hymn tunes used, providing 180 of the 330 hymn tunes presented. The music selected reflected an inclination towards elaborate choir hymns rather than congregational singing, partly with the idea that they would be performed by the Tabernacle Choir in mind. Both those hymns produced for the Psalmody and those selected for the hymnbook from non-Mormon sources were well-rooted in the cultured European tradition of music. Many of the adopted tunes were by classical composers like Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Rossini. The music produced for use with the official hymnbook reflected Brigham Young’s philosophies of home-produced goods and cultural refinement.

The latter half of the 19th century was a fruitful time for the development of the LDS hymn music tradition. The 1889 Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody proved the culmination of decades of work by Mormon musicians. For example, even today, the five committee members (George Careless, Ebenezer Beesley, Joseph J. Daynes, Thomas C. Griggs and Evan Stephens) hold a prominent place in the music of LDS hymnals. According to my rough estimate, they provide approximately 14% of the hymns in the 1985 English hymnbook, with notable ones including “The Morning Breaks,” “High On the Mountain Top,” “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” “Gently Raise the Sacred Strain,” and “In Remembrance of Thy Suffering.”


Digital Format:

Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody


Hymn Examples:

Come, Come Ye Saints

“Come, Come, Ye Saints” was added to the Manchester hymnal in later editions, and printed with music in the Psalmody. Since the Psalmody was meant to function as a tune book to accompany the official text-only hymnbook of the Church, generally only a few verses were printed with the music in each hymn rather than all verses. Music was printed in three lines, with tenor line on top, women’s voices in the middle, and bass line on bottom.



“If You Could Hie to Kolob” is one of many hymns included in the current hymnbook that had a different tune in the past. The tune shown here is much more cheery (to the point that it has been called trite) and difficult to perform than the beautiful Kingsfold tune that accompanies the hymn in the 1985 hymnbook. A performance of the Psalmody tune in general conference is available here.


Give Me Back My Prophet Dear

“Give Me Back My Prophet Dear” is a George Careless setting of John Taylor’s hymn about the Martyrdom. The hymn was dropped from the LDS hymnbooks for the 1985 hymnal. The text is also used in Rob Gardner’s Joseph Smith the Prophet, though with a different tune than the one shown here.



[1] JD 12:284-89.

[2] DBY, 88, 3.

[3] The Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Company, 1889).

2 comments for “The History of LDS Hymnbooks, Part 4: Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody

  1. fbisti
    July 1, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    What about a hymnal produced by David White Rogers prior to the one by Emma Smith? In my recollection of reading something about that I recall that it was pulled from distribution because he hadn’t gotten the right (political) approval.

  2. July 1, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Check the post about the Manchester hymnbook (part 2) for a bit about the Rogers hymnal.

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