Hymnal Watch: February 2024

A YouTube channel called “For All the Saints” recently interviewed Ray Robinson—a member of the team that is creating the new hymnbook. There were several notable observations made by Robinson that I want to highlight:

  • Robinson offered an explanation as to how the new hymnbook came to be:
    • “We had been working on what we called ‘selected hymns,’ a collection of about 60 hymns and children’s songs for languages that are emerging in the Church. But it was during that [discussion] that it was the first time I had heard, ‘Well, maybe this is the time to consider a new hymn book replacement.’ So we were asked to conduct a study of what problems exist in our current structure of hymn books and come back with a report on what are the problems to be solved, if any, and how we would solve them. 
    • “We returned with a number of things that you’re familiar with in units with multiple languages. If I’ve got more than one language spoken and sung in a meeting, hymn 100 does not correspond across languages. In fact, it corresponds across none of the languages. So that was a problem that we thought we could solve. 
    • “It had been decades since the most recent hymn book had been considered and updated. In that interim, there had been a number of new hymns created, some of them were quite popular, some new arrangements that were also quite popular, and the Church had grown considerably. The opportunity to reflect a global church was another opportunity that we saw.”
  • The hymnbook’s contents aren’t completely locked in, and it will still be a few months before we see any digital releases.
    • Ray Robinson stated that “a few at a time will be published digitally starting in a few months and and they’ll come at either regular or semi-regular intervals. And then, while we receive feedback and learn from how people use those, we are completing the evaluation and approvals. … I anticipate that when the Twelve and The First Presidency have approved the collection, it will be too big to fit in a book and so then, I think there will be a short period of figuring out how to shrink that down to a publishable size in order to get the first four languages ready for 2026.”
  • The hymnbook will be physically larger all-around:
    • “We anticipate that these books will be a little larger in page size to make it a little easier for playing as well as reading, especially because a number of languages have text gain as they’re translated. And so a little bigger format will make that more comfortable.”
  • They are planning on including “Amazing Grace” and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
    • Again, things aren’t settled, but both hymns were highly-requested and Robinson stated that he anticipates them being universal favorites.
  • Different regions of the Church have different preferences that they are working to keep in mind:
    • “There are a number of songs that Saints living on the Wasatch Front just don’t like to sing, but in Central and South America it’s one of the top 10 to 20 hymns.” He specifically pointed out “In Our Lovely Deseret” as an example of this phenomenon.
  • Church leaders are open to a wide variety of styles being included
    • Robinson stated: “One of my favorite experiences was considering what the stylistic range might be for new hymns and songs that could be included. So, we created a presentation intended for the senior leaders of the church. Where we took a small group of singers … and the presentation was intended to help us understand where we cross the line on stylistic freedom. … We sang this really eclectic sampling of hymns. Some of them were quite contemporary hymns, some were African-American spirituals, some were just a whole range. … And at the end of the meeting, the response was, ‘well you haven’t crossed the line yet.’ And what we took out of that meeting was a real sense that the senior leaders of the church are quite in tune with the membership … and that they love them and want them to be able to sing with joy.”
  • Relatively few of the newly submitted hymns will become part of the collection:
    • “Of course, we can’t make a hymn collection with 177,000, so that’s being reduced as we’ve gone, and in the end, there will be very few of those that will be published in this book, but there’ll be a few that represent the generosity and inspired gifts of thousands. … There are a lot of hymns that we’re going to keep and it’s a limited collection. So, it’s difficult for me to imagine that half the book is going to be new things, because that would mean removing so many that we already have and love. But there will be some and it’ll be a meaningful refreshment of songs and hymns and opportunities for worship.” 
  • Most of the new hymns match traditional hymn styles:
    • “Even though there were submissions from 60 countries, most of those submissions seemed familiar in terms of hymn writing style. We asked people from a few countries why this was the case, and in the conversations that we’ve had, the explanation goes something like this: ‘we love our cultural music or cultural hymns. They’re a different purpose, and we love that. We also love the hymns. We want to sing hymns in church.'”

So there you have it. I recommend watching the full video of the “For All the Saints” episode to get all the details.

Here are previous updates: 

There is also an X account that I follow that is specifically aimed at keeping abreast of news and potential songs: https://x.com/HymnalWatch?t=9xT174qsZza64oP4mLzRCQ&s=09

10 comments for “Hymnal Watch: February 2024

  1. For some reason, when I was on my mission in Italy in the 90’s, Scatter Sunshine and Thanks for the Sabbath School were favorites of the branches I served in. I had never even heard them until I got to Italy.

  2. That’s really interesting Gilgamesh. I think the funniest one to me on my mission was that I heard “For the Strength of the Hills” more often in Iowa and Illinois than I have in Utah.

    Thanks REC911

  3. Chileans in the mid 70s loved “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd.” Every ward and branch sang it multiple times a year. I had never heard it growing up in Southern CA.

  4. Church members in Japan love “O What Songs of the Heart.” I’ve never heard that hymn sung in Utah.

  5. Apparently, “In Our Lovely Deseret” is super popular in the Philippines, according to my brother.
    Thanks for pointing me toward that fascinating interview!

  6. I really hope they use the Catholic words to “Amazing Grace” (“…saved and set me free”) instead of the Protestant (“…saved a wretch like me”).

    People calling themselves “wretches” isn’t in harmony with our theology.

  7. I don’t really love the sentiment either, or the hymn as a whole. But the phrase that sprang immediately to mind was “O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.”

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