The New LDS Hymnbook: Changes and Possibilities

Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that they were going to prepare a new hymnbook and children’s songbook for use in the worldwide Church. Specifically, the goal is to create unity in hymn numbers and selections that reflect the needs of a global organization. This is the first time in over thirty years that the official hymnbook for the Church has changed, and it is a matter of no small excitement for Mormon musicians and general membership. The current hymnbook is wonderful, but change can always bring new opportunities and improvements. Part of the excitement is that there is an unprecedented amount of involvement of general membership being made possible through online surveys and song submission opportunities.

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Salt Lake Tabernacle Organ, image courtesy Wikemedia commons

Based on trends within the Church, the history of hymnbooks in Mormonism, and the statements that have been made about the forthcoming books, what might the new hymn and song books look like? There are a number of faucets to examine in considering this question, including continuity with past hymnals, new LDS music available for use, what might be removed and changed, and the hymnbook and songbook’s relationships to the general Christian tradition of music, and the tunes being used. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Continuity

During the latter half of the twentieth century, hymnbooks in the LDS tradition have been kept around the same physical size. The major consideration has been the size of hymnbook holders in the pews of Mormon chapels. Thus, the current hymnbook is quite a bit smaller than most comparable Christian hymnbooks (often about half the size), but this is not likely to change. Rather, it is likely that the forthcoming hymnbook will be similar in size or smaller, with a core portion of hymns remaining while others are switched out for new inclusions.

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Title page of the 1840 Manchester hymnal. Image courtesy SingPraises.net

Having a core selection of hymns that are passed on from hymnbook to hymnbook has always been the way of things. For example, 26 of the original 90 hymns included in the original 1835 hymnbook are still included in the current hymnbook, such as “The Spirit of God”, “O Say What Is Truth,” “Redeemer of Israel,” and so forth. The relatively large 1840 Manchester hymnbook compiled by the Quorum in the Twelve in England under Brigham Young’s direction served as the primary hymnbook of the Latter-day Saint tradition in Utah during the 19th century and is the direct ancestor of the current hymnbook. There were 78 hymns retained from the 1835 hymnbook, with 193 hymns added. This served as the official hymnbook of the Church until 1912. Music of the music used in the 1985 hymnal we currently use was written for use with the Manchester hymnbook and compiled in the late 1800s. Thus, it is likely that the core hymns Mormons sang and wrote in the 1800s will continue to be the core of the future hymnbook, with newer hymns that have gained a foothold in Mormon congregations becoming a part of this core.

Currently, LDS hymnbooks for non-English speaking regions of the world are compiled by beginning with a core group of approximately 100 hymns mandated for all LDS hymnbooks, then a regional committee is given the opportunity to select 50 hymns from a list of suggestions and 50 more hymns dear to their culture for the remainder of the hymnbook. The list has never been officially released, but may be guessed by seeing what all LDS hymnbooks have in common. I’ll list the full selection as an appendix to this post, but many of the favorite and significant hymns in the English hymnbook are included, such as “All Creatures of Our God and King,” “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” and “Love at Home.” It is a distinct possibility that this core group of approximately 100 hymns will serve as the backbone for the forthcoming hymnal, with other favorites from the current hymnbook and new additions being added around the core group. They may even take the same approach as the non-English hymnals and aim for a smaller collection of around 200 to 250 hymns for the official hymnbook of the Church.

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Hymnbooks in different languages. Image courtesy LDS.org

Another form of continuity will be the addition of hymns from the current Primary Songbook and LDS hymnbooks in other languages to the forthcoming hymnbook. We already have a few pieces from the Primary book in the hymnal, most significantly “I Am a Child of God.” Other pieces in the Primary Songbook, such as “Beautiful Savior,” “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “Stars Were Gleaming” are included in other Christian hymnbooks and may find their way into the LDS hymnbook in the future. Often, when LDS hymnbooks have been compiled in other languages, the committees working on them select a few hymns not included in the English hymnal. A few Christmas carols that serve as recognizable examples include “What Child Is This” (Russian), “Christmas Comes Anew,” (French) and “Lo How a Rose E’re Blooming,” (French and German). Spanish hymns like “Placentero nos es trabajar” will probably also be a priority to include due to the growth of the Church in Latin America. A similar process took place with the hymn, “Hark All Ye Nations,” which was originally written in German and was included in the 1985 hymnal due to its popularity. It is very possible that some of these hymns that are already included in the international LDS tradition will be included in the general international LDS hymnbook.

Subtractions

Based on the assumption that the current and future LDS hymnbooks will be similar or smaller in size, it is likely that any new additions will be in place of hymns that have been dropped from the current hymnal. The Church has already indicated that patriotic songs will not be included in the forthcoming hymnal due to its international nature (though they will still be made available through digital resources). More hymns will have to be trimmed to make room for new hymns, however, and there are some candidates that are likely to not make the cut.

First, there are a lot of hymns that are rarely, if ever, sung in Mormon meetings. I have been known to joke about the sealed portion of the hymnbook with the 40’s, 50’s and mid-200’s in mind. A survey by SingPraises.net revealed that there are around 50 hymns that were rarely reported in sacrament meeting, with “O Home Beloved,” “Rise Up, O Men of God” and “See the Mighty Angel Flying” appearing most rarely.[1] I would imagine that the committee working on the current hymnbook is aware of this survey or will conduct a similar one themselves and that many of these rarely-sung hymns will end up on the chopping block when push comes to shove.

There are also a few hymns that no longer align with the Church’s image or carry some historical baggage that isn’t necessary to perpetuate. Hymns of praise to Utah don’t have a place in a global church. While most of these were removed for the current hymnbook (i.e., “Utah, We Love Thee”), there are a few remnants, like “Our Mountain Home So Dear,” “O Ye Mountains High,” and “The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close.” The hymns “Up Awake, Ye Defenders of Zion” and “Sons of Michael, He Approaches” both stand out as hymns with historical baggage, with the former being connected to militant anti-American feelings during the Utah War in the 1850s and the latter being connected to the Adam-God doctrine that the Church has disavowed since the late 1800s. In addition, since the Church switched to a 3-hour block, singing hymns in Sunday School has become rare. Hymns specifically for use in Sunday School like “Come Away to the Sunday School,” “Thanks for the Sabbath School” and “We Meet Again in Sabbath School” have fallen out of common use as a result. Thus, there are several hymns that will likely be dropped for being obsolete in the current Church.

Finally, there are issues of copyright and licensing. Hymns like “How Great Thou Art,” “Because I Have Been Given Much,” “Be Still, My Soul,” and music arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams (i.e. the tunes used with “If You Could Hie to Kolob” or “All Creatures of Our God and King”) have proven difficult for the Church to manage in an increasingly digital age. Many Latter-day Saints have probably noticed this when trying to use phones or tablets for hymns in sacrament meeting and found that they could not access them. Rumor has it that some of the copyright deals that the Church has negotiated in the past for hymns are expiring and that they may not be willing to renegotiate them. Whatever the case, the Church has mentioned that one reason for the new hymn book is to resolve copyright issues from foreign translation restrictions and to provide more consistent digital access. That process may include simply removing some of the more troublesome hymns.

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Hymns written to praise Utah as Zion or rendered obsolete through changes in Church practices will likely be omitted. Salt Lake City image courtesy Wikimedia commons

New LDS Music

In the past 30 years, there have been some significant additions to LDS Church music that are likely to be incorporated in the new hymnbook. The Church has sponsored an annual hymn writing and music arranging competition for decades now that has resulted in a large pool of options that can be drawn from. In addition, music recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, performed in general conference or other significant LDS settings, and published in the Church’s official magazines have gained a foothold that makes them likely to be included in the new hymnal.

There are several important examples of the last phenomenon. “Faith in Every Footstep” has been recorded on Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs, performed in general conference, published in the Ensign, and has even been sung from time to time in LDS sacrament meetings within the last few years. President James E. Faust’s hymn “This is the Christ” enjoys similar status in Mormon culture, though it has not been noted as being sung in sacrament meetings.[2] Other, less visible examples of new Mormon hymns include President Gordon B. Hinckley’s “What is This Thing that Man Calls Death,” sung at his funeral and published in the Ensign, John S. Tanner’s “I Love the Lord,” and David Zabriskie’s Advent hymn “Come, Lord Jesus, Come,” from the Savior of the World musical performed on Temple Square and made available through LDS.org. There are also a number of songs written for use in Primary that are popular and will likely be included in the new children’s songbook (i.e., “Scripture Power”). I would expect that most of these newer hymns and songs will be included.

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New LDS hymns, particularly those already being performed in general conference and sacrament meetings, are likely to be added to the newhymnbook. Image courtesy Wikimedia commons

Hymns of Christian Heritage

When Emma Smith compiled the first LDS hymnbook in 1835, she relied heavily on both hymns recently written by Mormons and hymns from the broader Christian tradition that she was familiar with. Every LDS hymnbook since then has been a mix of hymns drawn from other Christian groups and Mormon hymns. I would expect that Christian hymns that are well known to Mormons and a few other new ones that the committee is aware of will become part of the LDS hymnbook. The prime example is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” which has become incredibly popular since Mack Wilberg’s arrangement was released in the 1990s. Based on its current popularity among Mormons, inclusion in past hymnbooks and the fact that it is being sung in general conference and LDS congregations, I believe it will make a return (though it may go through some minor edits). A couple other significant hymns that have been in previous Mormon hymnals that are very popular in Christian circles include “Amazing Grace,” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” both included in the 1841 Nauvoo hymnal. I have heard many individuals express a desire to include “Amazing Grace” in the LDS hymnbook over the years, and would imagine that it will be considered as a possible addition in the future, though the focus on salvation by grace does cast some doubt on its return.

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The 1835 hymnbook. LDS hymnbooks have always been a blend of general Christian and uniquely Mormon hymns. Image courtesy history.lds.org

There are of course, other Christian hymns that are candidates for inclusion. “Take Time to Be Holy” has been sung in general conference and arrangements are available through LDS.org for use in church services. In fact, my wife was surprised to find that it wasn’t in the current hymnbook when we pulled it out recently for our ward’s choir. Popular Christmas and Advent songs like “O Holy Night,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and the Sussex carol may be considered for inclusion. There are also many newer Christian hymns that worthy of use. A personal favorite of mine is “God Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens,” which incorporates modern understandings of astronomy and society into praising God’s creations. The primary issue will be one of licensing. There are thousands of hymns available for use that reflect a commitment to Christ that can be used in Mormon worship services.

A big part of the new hymnbook is a push for more hymns in local and international styles. We are behind the curve in producing uniquely Mormon hymns in diverse styles. I have no doubt that there will be some submitted for consideration (there were 6,000 hymns submitted last time there was a general call, and the Church is much larger today, with opportunities for submission around the world), but there has not been enough time after the Church has indicated an interest in this field of hymns to develop the tradition fully. Thus, it is likely that for now, we will have to partially rely on efforts by other Christian churches who have produced hymnbooks for use in global church communities in recent years for hymns based outside of European and United States traditions.

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The LDS Church is growing into and ever-more international Church. Image courtesy LDS.org.

One of the most significant exclusions in previous LDS hymnbooks is African-American spirituals. Such hymns, however, are known and often well-enjoyed in Mormon circles, such as “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” “Rise Up Shepherds and Follow,” “Were You There,” “This Little Light of Mine” and “Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit.” I have even had friends suggest that they should add “Battle of Jericho” or other more upbeat spirituals to the new hymnbook. President Dallin H. Oaks indicated that the past 40 years have been a time of fading prejudice against individuals of black African descent in the Church, and it is possible that the new hymnbook will reflect this lessening of prejudice.

Music

Prior to the 1985 hymnbook, the hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob” was rarely sung due to a difficult, bright melody designed more for a trained choir than a congregation. For the current hymnbook, however, the beautiful minor-key tune Kingsfold was paired with the text. The result has been increased popularity for a previously undervalued hymn. Similar changes may be made for hymns currently in the hymnbook by changing hymn tunes. In the broader Christian tradition, the hymn “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” is often sung to Parry’s tune Aberystwyth, which is a personal favorite of mine. If the change was made in future LDS hymnbooks, the hymn may follow the path of “If You Could Hie to Kolob” in becoming more popular. Other hymns that I would consider worth keeping, but with a different tune, include “’Twas Witnessed in the Morning Sky” and “Savior Redeemer of My Soul” (which could be used with an simplified adaptation of the Robert Gardner setting from Joseph Smith the Prophet and 17 Miracles).

Historically, minor-keyed hymn tunes were generally excluded from LDS hymnals and tune books to emphasize the joyous nature of the gospel. A few minor key hymns were included in the current hymnbook, however, such as “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” “That Easter Morn,” and “Ring Out, Wild Bells.” These hymns are, to me, some of the most beautiful hymns that we have. More tunes from traditional Christian hymns could be used, such as Aberystwyth, Wondrous Love, I Am a Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger, and many others. Original compositions will also provide other minor-keyed hymn tunes for consideration. There is opportunity to include more minor keyed hymns for their contemplative and beautiful nature in the new hymnbook.

Conclusion

The forthcoming hymnbook and its companion children’s songbook will likely be a fine-tuned blend of old and new. It is likely that a core of hymns currently included in the hymnbook will carry over, with obsolete and rarely-sung hymns being omitted and new hymns from both the LDS and mainstream Christian faiths being added. Current hymns included may face some changes in tune to improve their chances of being sung. Each one of us has the opportunity to give input by visiting the Church site for the new hymnbook and filling out the survey or submitting hymn texts and music. The 1985 hymnbook was a triumph for the Church in many ways as a usable and beloved hymnbook. I would expect the new hymnal to excel even more as a hymnbook worthy of the gospel in the global Church.

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Image courtesy lds.org

 

Appendix: The core hymns

Count Hymn Name Number of Hymnbooks
1 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God 38
2 A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief 38
3 Abide with Me; ’Tis Eventide 38
4 Abide with Me! 38
5 All Creatures of Our God and King 38
6 An Angel from on High 38
7 Angels We Have Heard on High 38
8 As I Search the Holy Scriptures 38
9 As Sisters in Zion 38
10 Away in a Manger 38
11 Be Thou Humble 38
12 Because I Have Been Given Much 38
13 Behold the Great Redeemer Die 38
14 Called to Serve 38
15 Choose the Right 38
16 Christ the Lord Is Risen Today 38
17 Come unto Jesus 38
18 Come, Come, Ye Saints 38
19 Come, Follow Me 38
20 Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice 38
21 Come, O Thou King of Kings 38
22 Come, Ye Children of the Lord 38
23 Come, Ye Thankful People 38
24 Count Your Blessings 38
25 Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd 38
26 Did You Think to Pray? 38
27 Do What Is Right 38
28 For the Beauty of the Earth 38
29 Gently Raise the Sacred Strain 38
30 Go Forth with Faith 38
31 God Be with You Till We Meet Again 38
32 God Bless Our Prophet Dear 38
33 God, Our Father, Hear Us Pray 38
34 Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah 38
35 Hark, All Ye Nations! 38
36 He Is Risen! 38
37 High on the Mountain Top 38
38 Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth 38
39 Hope of Israel 38
40 How Firm a Foundation 38
41 How Gentle God’s Commands 38
42 How Great Thou Art 38
43 I Am a Child of God 38
44 I Believe in Christ 38
45 I Know My Father Lives 38
46 I Know That My Redeemer Lives 38
47 I Need Thee Every Hour 38
48 I Stand All Amazed 38
49 I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go 38
50 Improve the Shining Moments 38
51 In Humility, Our Savior 38
52 In Memory of the Crucified 38
53 Israel, Israel, God Is Calling 38
54 Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King 38
55 Jesus, Once of Humble Birth 38
56 Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee 38
57 Joseph Smith’s First Prayer 38
58 Joy to the World 38
59 Keep the Commandments 38
60 Lead, Kindly Light 38
61 Let Us All Press On 38
62 Love at Home 38
63 Love One Another 38
64 Master, the Tempest Is Raging 38
65 More Holiness Give Me 38
66 My Redeemer Lives 38
67 Now Let Us Rejoice 38
68 Now the Day Is Over 38
69 O Little Town of Bethlehem 38
70 O My Father 38
71 Oh Say, What Is Truth? 38
72 Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful 38
73 Onward, Christian Soldiers 38
74 Praise to the Man 38
75 Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire 38
76 Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel 38
77 Redeemer of Israel 38
78 Secret Prayer 38
79 Silent Night 38
80 Sweet Hour of Prayer 38
81 Sweet Is the Work 38
82 Teach Me to Walk in the Light 38
83 Testimony 38
84 The Lord Is My Shepherd 38
85 The Morning Breaks 38
86 The Spirit of God 38
87 There Is a Green Hill Far Away 38
88 There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today 38
89 Though Deepening Trials 38
90 True to the Faith 38
91 Upon the Cross of Calvary 38
92 We Are All Enlisted 38
93 We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet 38
94 We’ll Sing All Hail to Jesus’ Name 38
95 While of These Emblems We Partake 38
96 Ye Elders of Israel 38
97 As the Dew from Heaven Distilling 37
98 Families Can Be Together Forever 37
99 Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains 37
100 Glory to God on High 37
101 God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand 37
102 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 37
103 Help Me Teach with Inspiration 37
104 How Great the Wisdom and the Love 37
105 Nearer, My God, to Thee 37
106 O God, the Eternal Father 37
107 Rejoice, the Lord Is King! 37
108 Sing We Now at Parting 37
109 You Can Make the Pathway Bright 37

Information for appendix provided by SingPraises.net

References

[1] http://singpraises.net/statistics/sacrament-meeting

[2] http://singpraises.net/statistics/sacrament-meeting

See also https://www.lds.org/church/news/church-announces-plans-for-new-hymnbook-and-childrens-songbook?lang=eng for more information about the new hymnbook and children’s songbook

39 comments for “The New LDS Hymnbook: Changes and Possibilities

  1. queuno
    June 20, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    I have heard “Come Thou Fount” at least 3000 times as an intermediate musical number. Is it OK to suggest that it *not* make the hymn book?

  2. Clark Goble
    June 20, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Is it too much to hope they expand the allowed instruments for sabbath worship too? I’m not saying anything radical like a drum set, as fun as that would be. But more than violins and flutes?

    I love the Kingsfold tune for Hie to Kolob, but one thing I hope they do is offer variant music for hymns so we can have in the hymnal multiple arrangements. I’d love to have both Kingsfold and the original music for instance. (I doubt they’d do that for the reasons you outlines – but other pieces have less difficult music)

    The hymn I wonder most about now that national anthems are out is the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It was put in the green hymnal I suspect in part because the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were famous for their arrangement of it. However it’s a great song even if it does hearken to the Civil War and violence. I know that precisely that martial aspect makes some truly despise it. I love it though and truly hope it remains.

    I’d love to hear you do a followup post on the Chrildren’s hymnal. That’s the one in most need of a serious rethink. Many (most?) of the songs added over the old orange hymnal were difficult for kids to sing and frankly not exactly catchy. The one exception is the up beat Jewish folk tune inspired Follow the Prophet. (Although some dislike that because it basically is a variant on Hava Nagila – although heaven knows others have used the tune for other songs) What I really hope is that they make most of the primary songs easy to sing, easy to remember, and the types of songs kids want to sing.

  3. James Olsen
    June 20, 2018 at 10:07 pm

    Queuno, Come Thou Fount used to be in our hymn book. I’ve always thought that Mack Wilberg was taking vengeance for its exclusion. I suspect he’ll have been successful.

    Chad, wonderful and thought provoking post. A few thoughts: first, my largest hope in all of this is that we resist including evangelical hymns. My second, related, is that we proliferate uniquely Mormon hymns—even if you’re right that the international community hasn’t yet had time to develop enough (though I suspect it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to gather in a lot of local Mormon hymns if they really want to). I’m particular hopeful that Heavenly Mother will make a bigger appearance (right now I count O My Father as her only explicit inclusion, with three other hymns noting our Heavenly Parents; anyone have a definitive count?). Third, I would love some good ‘ol spirituals. MorTabChoir’s American Heritage of Spirituals become my favorite cd while on my mission (where I was only allowed to listen to MorTabChoir or hymns). Fourth, reworking melodies is a great idea, and I’ll second Rob Gardner’s tune (which is how I sing it myself now). And I’ll confess my own heretical tendency in appreciating Sons of Michael, although it’s tune is an abominable march. Perhaps we could import some more Vaughan Williams to rescue it ;) Finally, although it sounds like they’re NOT going this route, I would love it if they would pick a core of hymns from around the world to include in all books, with expanded sections of local hymns.

  4. James Olsen
    June 20, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Clark, I loathe the idea of using pop music in our services, but I loved hearing the drums played in the churches in Kinshasa. It was genuinely worshipful.

  5. Chad Nielsen
    June 20, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Thank you all for your comments. There are a lot of good thoughts there.
    Clark, I also wonder on Battle Hymn of the Republic. It is positioned as a Second Coming/apocalyptic hymn in our current hymnbook rather than as a patriotic hymn (which is similar to how I’ve seen it treated at Presbyterian churches as well). If it survives, it will be because of that. The LDS tradition has proven to be less willing to let go of military imagery in our hymns than many other Christian churches so far, but it could go either way. To be honest, I haven’t given as much thought to the children’s songbook yet. It would be interesting to conduct a survey of music used in primary to see what is actually being sung from the current songbook.
    James, it actually does sound like the Church will provide the hymnbook as the core, but will make some additional local hymns available via digital resources. I’m uncertain on whether this will only be patriotic songs, or be a broader expansion of.hymns. I would love using more Vaughan Williams, if the Church is willing to work through the copyright issues with them. He’s probably my all-time favorite composer. Spirituals are also a favorite of mine. Who knows–Gladys Knight might end up on the committee and finally be able to add some more zip to the hymnbook. Out of curiosity, though, why is it that you want to resist including Evangelical hymns?

  6. Bro. Jones
    June 20, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Clark—if they are able to make fun, instructive songs that kids want to sing, I’ll eat my hat. The primary curriculum feels like it’s decades old, and I struggle weekly to come up with reasons my daughter shouldn’t be bored out of her skull. A skillful primary leadership can make things work, but the songs just don’t seem to reach kids of this generation. It would be great if Primary could start a new chapter with some fresh music, but I’m skeptical.

  7. Left Field
    June 20, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    I’ve often wondered why no one ever thinks to use the Sunday School songs as the closing hymn in Sacrament Meeting. That currently seems to be the only potential occasion for their use.

    I think they just said that national anthems would be excluded, but it does seem likely that other patriotic songs such as America the Beautiful will be out as well.

  8. Anonymous
    June 21, 2018 at 12:59 am

    Unfortunately, none of the music I heard on my mission will be included in the new hymnal, like “Free Will” from the Canadian rock band Rush; nor will anything be included from the bands Whitesnake or Depeche Mode.

    Whatdayawant, I was a 20-year old away from home for the first time.

  9. Clark
    June 21, 2018 at 2:10 am

    Rumor is that while national anthems won’t be in the hymn books they’ll be an optional download in the Hymns apps.

    Br. Jones, there were lots of good songs in the old orange children’s hymnal. Some they changed the words to somewhat like Book of Mormon Stories. But many of the good ones were there. It’s just that they don’t get sung as regularly in most primaries. I’m not sure how they pick songs – whether part of that is assigned. I should ask my wife who had been a Primary President a few years ago. I just know most of the songs in the current hymnal are boring or hard (or both). I’ve noticed in my current ward the times I’ve been a primary teacher that only about half the songs sung are actually from the hymnal.

  10. June 21, 2018 at 7:44 am

    Clark, African congregations need drums.

  11. June 21, 2018 at 10:13 am

    For the Strength of the Hills is adapted from a hymn of the Waldensians, early dissenters from the Catholic church who found refuge in the Italian alps. Lorenzo Snow and other Mormon missionaries won converts there. It is precisely the kind of international hymn that ought to be included in the new hymnal.

  12. adano
    June 21, 2018 at 10:57 am

    ^ came here to say this about Waldensians. That’s my people. And it should definitely stay. It’s beautiful and energetic.

  13. Bro. Jones
    June 21, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Clark – the orange Children’s Songbook predates my time in Primary, so I can’t comment. I know that peers in my age group who attended Primary don’t speak of it with the loathing/boredom that I hear expressed by most kids these days. (I was a convert and never attended Primary, but was called to teach many times since the early 2000s.) If there was better stuff in it, I’m eager for us to reclaim it.

    I’ve always found it ironic that the creator of Yo Gabba Gabba said that his primary drive was to make a kids’ show with catchy, contemporary music, and he’s LDS.

  14. Clark Goble
    June 21, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Yeah, he did the Aquabats kids show as well that was quite good. Back in the day he was the lead singer of a post-punk ska band the Aquabats. (The music of the band and the band itself becomes the basis for the kids show) He’s very talented and has a pretty great feel for what’s catchy and works with kids. I’d love him to be involved with the new hymnal.

    As a helpful aside as people offer suggestions to the Church, there’s a web page with a lot of historic LDS hymnals available. It goes back to the 1880’s. It has the old primary hymnal, “Sing with Me” along with the later (1978) appendium “More Songs for Children.” There are plenty of stinkers in there but a surprising number of great hymns. To be fair many of those were brought over to the current hymnal. It’s just that often these more fun and memorable songs aren’t focused on as much. Although in the 70’s primary was on Tuesdays and not Sunday which may have something to do with that. However given that a problem many have is how boring services are, more upbeat fun songs along with the somber ones would be nice.

  15. Chad Nielsen
    June 21, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    coltakashi and adano: like I said, the hymn is popular. I don’t think that it will be one that will face the chopping block. It is in the top 150 hymns for inclusion in the current set of LDS hymnbooks around the world. I do have personal misgivings that are more based on the message of the song. A bitter, persecution-driven “us against them” worldview is something that the Church has been trying to get away from, but is the entire focus of the second verse. The third verse focuses on a Utah Zion in the Rocky Mountains–again, something outdated in an international Church. Both of these verses were not actually in the original text written for the Alps, but were added when the hymn was imported to Utah during the conflict with the United States army. It might be a possibility that they will keep the hymn, but drop the two middle verses. It would be possible to bring back some more of the original verses or write new ones if they wanted to keep a four verse format. If you’re interested, the original text is available at http://harjit.moe/strengthofthehillsoriginal.html.

  16. jimbob
    June 21, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    I’ve got three words for “Ring Out Wild Bells”: Let it die.

  17. Kevin Barney
    June 21, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    Very interesting take, thanks.

  18. Anon
    June 21, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    How does the third verse of a hymn written by an English poet—the woman who wrote “The boy stood on the burning deck” and who has no obvious ties to Mormonism—refer to the mountains of Utah? You could make a case that it does so by adoption; but it’s difficult to claim a connection by origin. And mountains are certainly a biblical theme, not unique to the Mormon tradition. Do we have to take every reference to mountains out because there are mountains in Utah? Do we have to remove every reference to flowers because there are flowers in Utah and once upon a time Brigham Young said, “We will make the desert blossom like a rose”?

    On a related note, the Mennonites have “Come, Come Ye Saints” in their hymnbook. “We’ll find the place, which God for us prepared, far away in the West” works as well for their own history as it does for ours.

    And now that I’m no longer entirely sure what point I’m trying to make, thanks for the link to the website that lists the frequency of hymns. Wonderful collection of data. Thanks also for the list of the hymns that are common to the different language hymnbooks. And, more music posts, please!

  19. Chad Nielsen
    June 21, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    Thank you for your insights. I think the results of the frequency of hymns survey is pretty interesting as well. As far as your concerns about my thoughts on the third verse of “For the Strength of the Hills,” I do acknowledge that not every reference to mountains refers to Utah. There are many hymns and songs with mountains (“High on the Mountain Top,” “Behold the Mountain of the Lord,” “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare,” “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” etc.) that are not referring to Utah specifically or gathering to Utah (though “High on the Mountain Top” does mention Deseret). My reasoning for stating that the third verse of “For the Strength of the Hills” has to do with Utah is that it is not included in the original hymn written by Felicia D. Hemans. Edward L. Sloan (a British convert) adapted the text for Mormons. The third verse was one of his additions, which he wrote as a Mormon during a time when converts were encouraged to move to Utah. So, that’s my basis for claiming a connection by origin.

  20. Anon
    June 21, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks! Good to know.

  21. June 22, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Anonymous, Whitesnake? really?

  22. June 22, 2018 at 11:33 am

    For some reason it makes me happy to hear the Mennonites use Come Come Ye Saints.

  23. Clark Goble
    June 22, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    I’ve found Come Come Ye Saints in several Protestant hymnals. Like many songs in our hymnals, it doesn’t mean they’re actually sung a lot. It tends to be more traditional hymnals whereas the Evangelical movement has definitely shifted the worship style and especially music style. There are fewer and fewer congregations where these traditional worship services (more akin to ours) are still done.

    As an aside I suspect Oaks and Nelson recognize this and are trying to shift things a little. I suspect we’ll end up with a lot more upbeat rather than somber/reverent types of music. That’s not to say it’ll turn into a more Evangelical like music style. That’s too radical for a church that is often extremely small c conservative about changes.

    This raises an interesting question about the place of reverence. In the church we of course put a high priority on reverence. The typical meeting isn’t that reverent but that’s primarily due to the large number of children. Go to a singles ward though and it’s more akin to the temple chapel. But is that intrinsically a good thing? I get reverence for the sacrament but even within the Protestant tradition out of which our tradition arose there are variants. Go to a tent revival meeting and it’s more akin to a rock concert. Many cities, like New York, are actually seeing a revival in religious interest but it’s coming by making services more interesting and exciting for the young.

    Given that there’s a certain historic accident to the form of our sacrament meetings largely coming out of the low church tradition in Protestantism (contrasted with high church in say Anglican or Catholic services) I’m not sure we should intrinsically see it as the ideal form of worship. In ancient Judaism very different music and even dance was practiced. (See Ps 149:2-3; 150:4 where it’s clear dance is part of their worship) Tambourines were used in worship whereas we can’t even fathom them in our contemporary services. While change might come slow, I think if we want to keep the young interested in Church, changing our meetings via music is an important solution.

  24. davidwayner
    June 22, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    I bet a talented LDS poet or two could create more verses for A Mighty Fortress Is Our God and Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow. You just get going on those two hymns and they’re over!

  25. Anon
    June 22, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Yes, I’ve heard “Come, Come Ye Saints” used in a Mennonite setting. It was a surprise. I don’t imagine it’s one of their top twenty or even hundred hymns, and the different Anabaptist denominations have diverging musical traditions, but I can personally report one use, and it had nothing to do with a Mormon being present.

    David, Martin Luther wrote four verses to A Mighty Fortress. The German hymnbook has three.

  26. Rigel Hawthorne
    June 22, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    I have heard from returned missionaries that congregations in Argentina absolutely love singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Japanese congregations in my mission loved “Oh What Songs of the Heart”–and the Japanese translation, thankfully, did not include the ‘greet with a kiss’ line. I agree with ‘Ring Out Wild Bells’. I used to enjoy it, but after grieving a particularly hard loss, I walk out when it gets played. BUT–if I had one golden ticket to throw out a hymn, it would have to be that 4 verse (which is really 8 verse) jumble of rhyming words–“I Believe in Christ”.

  27. John Taber
    June 22, 2018 at 10:26 pm

    Not only was there _More Songs for Children (subtitled “a supplement to Sing With Me”) but also _Supplement to More Songs for Children_.

    I’d like the new language versions get away from exact translations of the English texts, especially where there was a version that predates the English. (“Hark All Ye Nations” in Italian is now butchered.) That said, I would like to see the Italian version of “I Believe In Christ” go back to putting Christ in the third person – I have seen and heard translations that do that, but the current Italian hymnal puts Him in the second person.

  28. KLC
    June 22, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    40 years ago the saints in Chile loved to sing “Caros le son al Maestro” ie “Dear to the heart of the Shephard.” I heard it all the time there, I don’t think I’ve sung it more than a couple of times since in the US. But I looked it up and in the 90s a new translation of the hymn was introduced, “Ama el Pastor las ovejas.” The chorus is the same but everything else appears to be different. I wonder if they sing the new version as much as they sung the old one.

  29. June 24, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Rigel Hawthorne: Yes, the Japanese saints loved singing “Oh What Songs of the Heart”, as well as “Israel, Israel God is Calling” and “In Our Lovely Deseret”, a song that I had never sung growing up in Utah. Japanese culture encourages group singing in schools and all sorts of community events. There was (in 1970) a recreational songbook that included traditional Japanese group songs like “Sakura” and “Chi Chi Pa Pa” and “Gonbe ga Tane Maku” alongside translations of American songs like “Home on the Range”. It may be related to the Japanese love of adopting stuff from other cultures, but they seemed to be fine with “Utah centric” songs and pioneer themes and imagining themselves pulling handcarts through the mountains serking refuge.

    We sang those three hymns I mentioned so often that they are the ones whose Japanese lyrics I tend to sing when they come up in a sacrament meeting. In Japanese, the opening line of “Songs” is “When we meet again in heaven, what songs shall we sing?” It is an image reflecting the congregation that is there, continuing into heaven, a very Japanese image of community continuing into eternity.

    The selection of international songs should not be based solely on the preferences of English speakers. But we should also recognize that Mormon culture all over the world is very much tied into the founding stories of persistent struggle to stay faithful and unite with the saints, an experience that has many points of contact with the experience of LDS in the nations where we are tiny minorities.

  30. June 24, 2018 at 11:33 am

    If you really speed up the tempo to “The Time is Far Spent” (I think even doubling it) it becomes much more exciting to sing. If we ever sign it, and the pianist is going by the recommended tempo, I feel like it’s plodding along.

  31. Chet
    June 24, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Since I play the organ 2x a month in my Utah ward, I just learned of the planned hymns for July 1 and 8:
    America the Beautiful
    The Star Spangled Banner

    Battle Hymn of the Republic
    My Country Tis of Thee

  32. Rigel Hawthorne
    June 25, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    “When we meet again in heaven, what songs shall we sing?” It is an image reflecting the congregation that is there, continuing into heaven, a very Japanese image of community continuing into eternity.

    I agree that the Japanese lyrics are much better than the English! I miss singing it and the vigor with which it was sung! When it is rarely sung in our congregations, it is just weird and the people look at each other strangely. It had the fervor of song that compares to the way we sing “Let us all press on!” I wish the new hymnal would use the Japanese lyrics and re-translate them back as closely as they are in Japanese to English!

  33. The Other Clark
    June 25, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    I loved many of the “uniquely Spanish” hymns we sang on my mission in Mexico. They were among the most popular and frequently sung. I later learned that most of them were originally written in English, and dropped from the LDS Hymnal but kept in Spanish, including:
    * Placentero Nos Es Trabajar (In the Sweet By and By)
    * Sin Contestar (Unanswered Yet, the Prayer- 1948 Hymnal)
    * Si La Via Es Penosa en la Lid (If the Way be Full of Trial, Weary Not,-1909)
    * Mirad Al Salvador (?)
    Also, “Called to Serve” has 4 verses in Spanish rather than the 2 in English.

    They could free up a bunch of space by eliminating the Women’s, Men’s, and Choir arrangements at the back of the book.

    On the Children’s Songbook, it seems the only songs my kids have learned are those associated with the annual Primary Program, which is on a five-year rotating schedule. The challenge is that most of those favor doctrinal richness over every other consideration (Thanks, Elder Maxwell!). Given the limited music time, nobody knows my old favorites.

  34. A Vietnam Veteran
    July 1, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Let’s keep patriotic songs for every country by providing different hymnals in different languages. Some of us risked our lives for our country.

  35. ji
    July 1, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    I like how “I Stand All Amazed” was arranged in the old hymnal, with the men singing “O, It is wonderful … wonderful … wonderful…” while the women sing “O, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me…”

  36. Celebro carminibus antiquis
    July 2, 2018 at 11:43 am

    Vietnam Veteran, the only problem with that idea is that we don’t have one country for every language and one language for every country. So the English hymnal would need patriotic hymns for over 20 different countries (Ireland, Jamaica, etc) and “The Star-Spangled Banner” would need to be in at least English and Spanish, but probably also a dozen or so others, and that’s without accommodating recent immigrant populations.

    I’d rather see each local unit make a special patriotic hymnal, maybe spiral-bound, with lots of patriotic hymns, including hymns specific to the state/county/town where the unit lives. Copies could be slipped into the pewback holders for meetings when they’ll be used and then stored after.

  37. Anonymous
    July 2, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    That’s a brilliant idea. I like it.

  38. Grandpa
    July 4, 2018 at 10:51 am

    I am just now reading this article; will defiantly read the ones following it. I appreciate the inclusion of the list of core hymns — just as I appreciate that all the hymns I “couldn’t live without” are on the that list! :-) I am one of many who would like to see “Battle Hymn of the Republic” carry over to the new hymnal as it is a theme that carries over into many cultures — when I was a missionary the Yokohama Japan Stake would sing this at every stake conference (that was when there were four stake conferences a year, and I spend 18 months of my mission in the Yokohama Stake); it was widely sung among the Japanese Saints. I would love to see “Amazing Grace” and “When I Survey the Wond’rous Cross” both make a return. The Japanese hymnal has a baptism hymn that used to be in the English-language hymnals — “Behold the Lamb of God”; the last English-language hymnal it was in was the 1927 book. I think it would also be a good addition to a world-wide hymnal.

  39. Dr Cocoa
    September 2, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Interesting article, though this sentence made my heart sick:

    “though the focus on salvation by grace does cast some doubt on its return.”

    After all, it is only by grace that we are saved.

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