Elton John in primary

So, who else was having Lion King flashbacks today during primary? The tune to the year’s new song seems awfully familiar. . .

111 comments for “Elton John in primary

  1. I think the Church is on to something. Heck, a little 311 and I might enjoy priesthood meeting.

    “Whoa, priesthood is the color of your energy
    Whoa, shades of mormonism displayed naturally
    You ought to know what brings me here
    Spirit glides through my head to blind my fear
    And I know why
    Whoa, priesthood is the color of your energy
    Whoa, shades of mormonism displayed naturally”

    (With apologies to Nick Hexum and 311)

  2. Are you talking about “Scripture Power”? I didn’t catch any similarity to anything from Lion King myself. But on our first run through, I have to say I think the lyrics leave much to be desired:

    Scripture power / keeps me safe from sin.
    Scripture power / is the power to win.
    Scripture power! / Ev’ry day I need
    The power that I get / each time I read.


  3. Yeah, I didn’t notice the Elton John similarity (though it has some merit now that you mention it). Nonetheless, I was cringing. Such a clunnky melody. And I spent a full twenty minutes trying to mentally parse the last line and a half.

    The thing that bugs me the most is that is sounds like something the evangelicals would come up with to make church seem cool (which, of course, is the most uncool thing you can do). I couldn’t help but think of this.

  4. If the “new” Primary song you’re talking about is “Scripture Power,” I’m sorry to break the news to you. It ain’t new. It was published in the October 1987 Friend (pp. 10-11) and it was a favorite in the Brooklyn First Ward primary for years.

  5. My wife also tells me she’s heard it before. Yet for some reason, the copyright on the music at the church website says “2004”…I wonder why.

    I also though the lyrics could easily be better, but I like the tune. I feel that way about quite a few primary songs. (I’m not familiar with “The Lion King.”)

  6. I first heard “Scripture Power” in the fall of 1999. It was the theme of the primary program. Perhaps the church bought the copyright in 2004.

    Why do you have to hate on Bibleman, yo?

  7. I don’t think Scripture Power is going to win any awards for high art, but most kids respond to it very well. I was in one ward where they sang it first thing every week and had the kids heft their scriptures aloft at appropriate intervals. I don’t know what other effect it had, but alot more kids had scriptures with them in that ward.

  8. ” but most kids respond to it very well”

    Always a great standard. They respond well to chocolate chip cookies, too, but that doesn’t seem to make adults so eager to abdicate their responsibilities to encourage the consumption of vegetables. I think it’s a bad idea to try to make Primary compete for entertainment value by worldly norms.

    Then again, if we’re going to ignore children’s developmental needs and try to contain them for three straight hours, entertainment becomes more necessary. Sigh.

  9. “Always a great standard. They respond well to chocolate chip cookies, too, but that doesn’t seem to make adults so eager to abdicate their responsibilities to encourage the consumption of vegetables.”

    Slam! The score for 2006 so far: Kristine, 1, Frank, 0.

  10. Russell, my scorecard reads 3 – 0. That was a three-pointer, from way downtown.

    When I was a teacher in primary about 10 years ago, that song was the favorite – the kids got all worked up, pumping their firsts in the air on the first syllable of SCRIP-ture. Frank is right, the young-uns do seem to like it.

  11. There’s nothing wrong with children reacting positively to a primary song. I was in the Bishopric several years ago when visiting another ward and heard the song. Since I was over primary I brought it back to our ward. Our kids loved it. I grew up with “Give said the little stream” and “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam”. I’d say both of those are “worse” than scripture power!….Oh, and I turned out alright….even with those primary songs!

  12. Dang! I’m behind already and its only the 2nd. Well Russell, would you be kind enough to put a post up about how globalization wrecks the world– I could use some easy points…

    More to the point, I agree that kids (and me) like chocolate chip cookies. My kids eat them regularly. Last night we made mud monsters with brownies, chocolate pudding, dark chocolate noses, M&M eyes, ice cream hair, and chocolate syrup (regular Hershey’s even, how capitalist!) all over for a good measure. I’m a horrible parent and will soon be taken to jail. You high-class folk are free to give your kids yummy bran cookies all day long!

    If I had a chocolate chip cookie that made them think positively about the scriptures, I would give them that. I also read to them from the Church’s Book of Mormon Illustrated stories, even though it isn’t the real text and the artwork is probably not exceptional, though I’m in no position to judge. If we had a better scripture power song, I’d be fine with using it, but until then I can live with this one if it reminds kids that every day they need the power that [they] get each time [they] read.

    And Don, you may _not_ have turned out all right. As Kristine points out, there’s the developmental need for good music! You’re probably impaired. You might want to look into the Americans with Disabilities act.

    (Do I get a point for that, Mark?)

  13. Bran *cookies*? Hardly–my kids enjoy sprouted wheat and bulgur patties while I read Kafka aloud to them. (When they’re very, very good they get a little honey and a Kleist short story or something).

    Actually, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with kids liking Primary songs either. I get grumpy about kids being trained to expect constant entertainment–at home, at school, at church. They need some practice at doing stuff just because it’s right, and they need to respect adults, even if the adults aren’t perpetually doing backflips to be fun! fun! fun! That’s all I meant.

    (Wow, I’m old.)

  14. Frank, brother, as a fellow sunflower stater and (I am assuming) fan of Jayhawk hoops, you are entitled to all the points you want, but I don’t think you will need them. I look forward to your posts on globalization.

    In a few years those primary children will be in the YM/YW. I’m responding from the perspective of a YM advisor who has to battle every month to keep every activity from becoming a rave. When I try to point out that the form of entertainment we choose should not be antithetical to the message we are trying to convey, I feel like a scold who is always nagging everybody to eat their lima beans and cauliflower. As Russell implies in his comment # 2, this primary song would not be out of place on HeeHaw.

    Oh well, at least it isn’t hip hop.

  15. Kristine, our sharing time could have definitely used some back flips! And some chocolate chips cookies too, now that you mention it. Jacob was so freakin’ bored his first day of Primary, I’m not sure he’ll ever go back. I know we can’t expect constant entertainment, but would a little action really hurt? Sharing time was spent entirely memorizing a poem (which turned out to be the first verse of “Scipture Power”–way to steal the chorister’s thunder, thanks!) that was written on the board, erasing one word, then saying the whole freakin’ thing again. Jacob can’t read, he doesn’t care about poetry, and he was definitely feeling the lack of cookies– chocolate, animal, branflakey or otherwise.

    Ok, maybe back flips would be too much, but between the gymnastics and the anesthetic prattling of a teacher who doesn’t relate to kids very well, isn’t there a middle ground?

    Seriously, my time spent in Primary yesterday as my son clung to me and wouldn’t let me go made me afraid— very, very afraid.

  16. There are plenty of primary songs that have appealing melodies and musical features, contain meaningful and memorably lyrics, and keep kids entertained without making the grownups want to gag. Scripture Power is definitely not one of those songs. Also, even as a middle-aged cynic and musical snob I still think of many songs fondly (including Give Said the Little Stream and Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam). If I had learned this song as a kid, though, I would only recall it with embarassment.

  17. With all due respect to my friend Kristine, whom I can out-age and out-snob with my eyes closed, I say: If the kids will sing it, with enthusiasm, then let them have at it.

    What I do object to is when the children’s songs bleed over into adult meetings, and we end up singing things that would sound as well accompanied by a calliope. In fact, there’s one relatively new warhorse that could be sung by a choir acting as a “living calliope” with alternate sections bobbing up and down at appropriate times.

  18. Mark, I know the one you mean! I always have trouble resisting the urge to stand up and yell “Play Ball!!” at the end :)

  19. Heather, don’t get me started; before you know it, I’ll be up on my “why Primary was better in 1905” soapbox and you’ll never hear the end of it…

  20. Mark, I’ve heard that song played on an organ in such a way that it sounded exactly as if it were being played on a calliope. It was even worse than the usual version.

  21. Whenever I’m the organist, and someone chooses a primary song for sacrament meeting, I go over and play it on the piano.

  22. I don’t know this Scripture Power song. Moreover, I no longer *have* to know–having just been released from my 3 year sojourn in primary!!! (Is it wrong of me to be sorta…ecstatic…about that?)

  23. Emily (or should I call you “The artist formerly known as Athena”?),

    I suppose the grass is always greener. I’ve been the primary pianist in several ward now, and I absolutely love it — it’s been the most fun of any calling I’ve ever had.

    Alas, I’m not the primary pianist in my ward now (grumble grumble) — I’m stuck as an EQ instructor and Sunday School presidency member (and no, I still don’t know what the Sunday School presidency does) and accompanying the choir. And the choir is great, of course. But playing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” for the choir is exponentially less fun than increasing the speed of “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” over several iterations, racing with the children until the whole thing is under three seconds. Or ending a close game of boys-against-girls name-that-tune with “Book of Mormon Stories” — easily identifiable on the first note, leading to utter pandemonium as a dozen hands shoot into the air simultaneously.

    Somehow, that never seems to happen in Elders Quorum.

  24. Heather, it should be a rule in the manual: “Jr. primary activites and singing ‘helps’ shalt not require the ability to read!” Also, all apologies to a dear friend who did this, “Thou shalt sing more than one song each week, and at least one shalt be a fun song.”

    I’m not sure why it is so hard to strike a balance between boredom and constant entertainment in singing time, but both are deadly. And neither seems to promote much reverence.

    Just a quick funny story though: in my parent’s ward they called a man to be the chorister, and he was teaching a Christmas song about Joseph preparing “bread and goat cheese in a little linen sack”, and the kids just couldn’t sing it. So he changed it to “bread and goat cheese for a little pizza snack”. I understand they sang it for the Christmas program.

  25. If you think “Scripture Power” is bad, look at some of the junk we are expected to sing out of our grown up green hymn book!

  26. Kaimi,

    Admittedly, primary pianist has to be one of the best callings. Much better than, say, Primary President (or in my little, struggling ward, Primary Jill-of-All-Trades). I must say, however, that though accompanying choir is not always very fun, I’ve found that as ward pianist (my only remaining calling, for the time being), I get a sort of diabolical glee from dragging an entire congregation through songs like “I Believe in Christ” at a pace less dirge-like than they are wont to sing it. And “Joy to the World”!??! fuhggeddaboudit.

    I am a little nervous about re-joining the ranks of the RS and Sunday School. I may be longing for the primary in a week or so…

  27. In my home ward primary, they had Mack Wilberg (currently directs the Mo-Tab) as the primary pianist for several years.

    You’ve never heard “I Will Go, I Will DO!” until you’ve heard it with the Laman and Lemuel parts played with a sinister piano roll (think the music accompaniment of old silent movies we’re the villain is tying young maiden to the railroad tracks).

  28. I have never thought about Scripture Power being like the Lion King, but now that you mention it……

    But it’s been around for a while, and my kids LOVE IT!! Our primary has the kids memorize the scripture every month, and whatever kids succeed, they get to stand up the next week, receive their (ok, so this part is bad) sucker, while the whole primary sings Scripture Power to them. It’s quite the staple in our ward.

    Also, I’ve never wanted to shout ‘Play Ball’ in Sacrament meeting, but I’d love to know which hymn you are referring….

  29. My 7 year old daughter sat at the piano, flipping pages in the Children’s Songbook, and then, since the page search was unsuccessful, consulted the index. “It’s got to be here…” she mutters.

    “What are you looking for?”

    “A song for family home evening. I’m song tonight. And I can’t find it.”

    Remembering the discussion here, I asked “Is it Scripture Power?”

    “Yes! Where is it?”

    “Just a minute…” computer… LDS.org… Library… CSMP… yup… print, print, print.

    “We’ve all got to have our scriptures to sing it, because you have to raise them,” she informed me. Ok, cool.

    To all the naysayers out there, let me tell you (as a composer and a multi-year experienced primary song leader) that when it comes to Primary songs there are only two important things: 1) does it teach truth? and 2) does it stick in kids’ heads, so that when they need truth, it’s there.

    Scripture Power satisfies both qualifications. Good song.

    (Oh, and it pre-dates Lion King, and the phrase which matches “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is only a couple of measures long. Get over it.)

  30. Sorry, that came off more strident than I intended. I guess the main message I wanted to get across is that it isn’t the entertainment value of the song that matters, it is the remember value of the song.

  31. Sometimes nothing soothes a scared kid like singing a song. I agree with Loz O–bonus points if the song reminds them of something important.

    Then again, mess up “B-I-N-G-O” and they’ll melt into giggles.

    Kaimi, you are right. Primary pianist is the best job in the church.

  32. Liz, I think it’s true that it’s valuable for songs to stick in the memory, but I believe that has more to do with repetition than with fun-ness.

  33. Sorry to have missed the discussion; we had our annual New Year’s party today. Commenting on Times and Seasons is fun, but Melissa’s spinach and artichoke dip wait for no man.

    1. I’ve been in Primary a lot, and I love a lot of Primary music. Many Primary tunes have fine melodies, smart lyrics, and are a real invitation to both energy and education. “Scripture Power” clearly misses the first two. I wasn’t aware that it’d been around for a while; if it really is as fun to sing as some have claimed here in this thread, then I guess it may qualify under the final criteria. But on the basis of what I saw and heard this Sunday, I’m doubtful.

    2. I have no objection to making Primary songs fun and occasions for enthusiasm. In fact, my longest-standing and strongest critique of most Primary music people is that they tend to think they’re “better” then the songs they’re playing/singing/conducting. Nothing annoys me more as a Primary teacher than to see the Primary presidency sitting in the back of the room, talking not too softly while a bored music leader goes through the motions. Aargh! Show some energy people! Get some props to help you with the songs! Jazz up the arrangements! Bring in puppets! Pantomine the lyrics! Get up and dance to “Follow the Prophet”! (Melissa and I worked out this Russian Cossack-thing once to go along with the song–“…don’t go astray–HEY!”)

    3. I’m not an anti-candy fanatic; chocolate chip cookies have their place in Primary. But for far too many teachers, who are convinced the Primary is a childish place to stick children and a few unlucky adults for a few hours, they become a crutch. I can see treats working on rare occasions during singing time and so forth; otherwise, they should be banned.

    4. I don’t know what you’re talking about Don–“Give Said the Little Stream” is a great little song.

    5. Primary probably was better–in terms of serving the spiritual needs of most of those involved–in 1905. I can see the argument for how much of centralization of the church over the past half-decade has in fact improved the quality of instruction and service in some of the church’s auxiliaries, but Primary? Forget about it.

    6. Globalization is wrecking the world.

  34. Writing good songs for Primary is very hard to do. Everyone wants them to be memorable, but just try writing one! “Give Said The Little Stream” is particularly amazing, since it’s memorable, but it’s also metaphorical. I’m not sure there’s another like it in the world (certainly not for Sunbeams).

    The hard part is making a memorable song that isn’t completely derivative of some other song. It may be memorable precisely because it reminds you (and everyone) of a song they know well.

    I don’t know “Scripture Power,” but whatever happened to “Geneology! I am doing it!” which the kids really sang with amazing gusto.

  35. It’s still there. Its name changed. You’ll find it on page 94 of the Children’s Songbook, opposite ‘I Love to See the Temple’. It’s now known as “Family History, I am Doing It.’

  36. FWIW, the opinion among the males (ages ‘almost 12’, 15, 17, and 45) in the family regarding “Scripture Power” (which we sang at family home evening, led by dear daughter), was in line with the majority here. They thought it was dumb.

  37. It’s just so obvious. The best songs use imagery, sometimes metaphorical (“Give said the little stream”) or just plain beautiful (“…I often go walking in meadows of clover…”) or even, magical (“…the golden plates lay hidden deep in a mountainside”).

  38. Hey D.,

    If everyone on this post promises to teach it to our kids, will you write us a good primary song?
    What if we also offer you a chocolate chip cookie? How about one cookie from each of us?

  39. Yeah, except I don’t know how to do it. If everyone would just buy my Articles of Faith, I might try my hand at writing something a little more, doable.


  40. S.: D. has already written some good primary songs: a great rendering of the Articles of Faith, available here.

    D: I agree. The best primary songs are the ones that create teaching moments, and the teaching moments that seem to engage kids most meaningfully involve showing them how to decipher symbols. When I was primary chorister, the most profound moments we had were when we picked apart metaphors with the kids. There’s the “Springtime” song that talks about the resurrection, the “Rainbow” song that talks about baptism, Give Said the Little Stream, etc. etc. There are also a number of songs that have clever metaphors built into the music itsself (the “Rainbow” song, for example, has a rainbow-shaped melody). It’s good to get kids charged up, but IMHO it’s better, though admittedly and inevitably rarer, to get them quiet, on the edges of their chairs, thinking. That’s when they go from memorizing principles to internalizing them.

    Lest you think I was the most boring primary chorister ever, I’ll say that we did lots of fun goofy things in terms of pedagogy–I’d much rather keep kids involved by doing fun things to teach them good (and, sometimes, fun) music than to make the music itself overly saccharine. I’m a music person, and I feel very strongly about the connection between song and spirituality. There is a place for songs designed mainly to help kids remember things (scripture stories, different prophets and their stories, the books of the New Testament, etc. etc.). There’s also definitely a place for songs meant entirely for wiggle control (Headshoulderskneesandtoes, etc.). I suppose if “Scripture Power” succeeds in getting kids to bring their scriptures, that’s a good thing. But as far as a teaching opportunity, the whole of its gospel message seems to be: “Church! BOOYAH!” I just don’t know how far that gets anybody, testimony-wise.

  41. Getting my 9 year olds to bring their scriptures was a huge boon to my in-class teaching. This is probably why I am very forgiving of scripture power’s low quality boosterism.

  42. D.,

    I actually already own your “Articles of Faith” cycle. Truly great stuff, but — for the sake of my enthusiastic but not particularly musically gifted child — maybe your “doable” primary song should have the following attributes:

    1. Repetitive
    2. About four lines long
    3. Very simple tune — just three or four chords (maybe five) and no dissonance
    4. A four year old can learn it in ten minutes
    5. A beginning pianist can sightread the piano part
    6. Images are colorful
    7. Written in major key of C, F, or G.
    8. Kids love it and never forget it

    Something like “Popcorn popping on the apricot tree” or “I am a child of God” or “Give said the little stream”…

    Or is this like asking Beethoven to write advertising jingles? Or asking Shakespeare to write haiku? :)

  43. Now that I see the music, it’s pretty mediocre, although not quite so embarrassing as the text. I don’t really see the Lion King connection, but it didn’t take long to notice that the last musical phrase is lifted from the last phrase of hymn 37.

  44. S.

    I could probably write the tune fine, but the words? What words? There just are no more good words for religious songs, hence, Scripture Power.

    I tried to get as much repetition as I could into the Articles. I tried for an entire year. I also simplified the harmony, and I simplified the accompaniment. The key relationships were important, so unfortunately, I had to keep those (so that the range of the melody isn’t impossible for kids). Some of the keys are harder for less experienced pianists, I admit.

    But the words, are simply not for kids, and they never were. And they’re prose, and they’re big words, too. Often serious doctrinal ideas were don’t even preach anymore. It’s just an impossible task to make these work for children. My version may be better than some others, but it still doesn’t really work for kids, sad to say. The only repeated words were “we believe…” and I made the most of that, you bet.

  45. I could probably write the tune fine, but the words? What words? There just are no more good words for religious songs . . .

    Orrin Hatch, D. You just gotta team up with Orrin Hatch.

  46. Oy.

    By the way, “scripture,” as a word, is completely ugly to set, musically. And replacing “geneology,” which is wonderful, rolling word, with “family history,” may be correct according to the church, but it’s still a big step down, lyrically.

  47. Hey, S, thanks for the comparison to Beethoven and Shakespeare. I know you weren’t really serious, but the thought was lovely.


  48. D.,

    Of course I’m serious. Something very incongruous about asking the composer of “Wondrous Love” and “Eternal Day” to stretch his wings and aspire to write the next “Give said the little stream.”

    But darn it, somebody’s got to do it. :)

    Incidentally, kids have a surprising tolerance for really bad lyrics. Several kids in my old ward had as their favorite song a number that included the phrase “down in the river Jordan three members of the Godhead were present there in love” (which sounds even worse with the music).

    Here, I’ll even give you some possible opening lines. Take your pick. Bonus points if you write the actions. :)

    1. He made alligators, bears, and cats and dogs and elephants, fish, and gorillas.
    2. I see missionaries riding on their bicycles. Sometimes I wonder where they go.
    3. Little bear likes to share. She doesn’t care if she doesn’t have it all.
    4. Wash that window up and down, side to side, all around. Shiny, clean and free. That’s how I want to be.

  49. My 2 primary aged kids love that song. My oldest walks around singing it. Now I am going to teach them the fist pump.

    My wife played it last night on the piano and I also immediatly thought Elton John.

  50. Scripture Power has been a Primary favorite in my ward for several years, they like to sing it LOUD. And for this adult, I’d rather sit through 100 choruses of Scripture Power than one apocalyptic, Volga boatmen rendition of Follow the Prophet.

  51. KLC,

    Yeah, I’m not a big fan of “Follow the Prophet,” either. The chorus says “Follow the Prophet,” but the minor mode and the inevitably descending lines say “OR ELSE.”

  52. Can you say… Fascism?


    P.S. But really, Book of Mormon stories is hardly better, faux-Native-American-by-way-of-Hollywood kind of music. But the kids like to sing these! You see the problem?

  53. Yes, at risk of bring the wrath of all mormondom upon me, I will state my opinion that it is time to retire Book of Mormon stories — or at least adapt it to get rid of the way un-p.c. pentatonic scale (it doesn’t mean “Indian,” it means “OTHER” — those are the notes westerners use for fake chinese music too). At the very least a memo needs to go around to discourage the two-finger Indian feather gesture and the cross-arms nod-head Big Chief Running Bull thing at the end. If not, let’s go whole-hog with the caricature, and add in some misused personal pronouns.

    Geez, I’m a crab today.

  54. Otto (#60), several years ago, when my wife and I were both in Primary in a ward in Mississippi, we came up with several alternative gestures for “Book of Mormon Stories,” and they worked well. I’ve tried to introduce them in every ward I’ve been in; sometimes they take, sometimes they don’t. The kids, of course, couldn’t care less.

    I thought “Follow the Prophet” was somewhat disturbingly authoritarian when I first heard it too, but eventually we realized that all you need to do is make it into a Russian drinking song, with big Cossack cheers (and perhaps leg kicks) to punctuate the verses.

  55. I thought that Native American’s did use the pentatonic scale? (So does Wikipedia.) But I, too, find the BOM stories motions vaguely offensive. I’m primary chorister in my ward (a great calling, BTW), and even though I refuse to do the motions myself, pretty much everybody else does them, adults and children both. I feel strange being the only one not doing them, so when we sing that song I’ve taken to calling a child up to the front to “lead” the song while I stand in the back. Maybe Russell can describe his preferred motions? I also find “follow the prophet” kind of creepy and avoid it when possible (although it showed up last week when I asked for requests).

    I confess that I’m not looking forward to teaching “Scripture Power” to the kids this month. It’s not that I expect lyrics to be works of high art, but I just think the words could be better. “Because I want to be like the Savior, and I can”, or “I’ll wear each vital part of the armor of the Lord” sound awkward to me. And I don’t think I can get into the idea of thrusting the scriptures into the air….

    Someimes I find the awkwardness of the lyrics makes them hard to sing and remember, too. When we sang “Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus” in Sacrement meeting for christmas, I thought about changing the lyrics, because with a little tweaking they would have been much easier and better, I think. I decided against it, though, since I see value in everyone in the English speaking world singing the same words.

    How about the theme for this year’s primary program: “I Will Trust in Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ—Their Promises Are Sure.” Oy, that’s quite a mouthful…I wonder how they came up with that one.

    On a more positive note, and example of a song I liked is “The Priesthood is Restored” from last year’s program. Great little anthem, and we did a fun fancy organ-accompanied arrangement for the program.

  56. Ed,

    True, many Native American melodies can be classified as pentatonic, but that doesn’t really mean all that much (there are multiple pentatonic scales, with varying intervals between the five notes, but Western ears like to bend them towards notes in our scale — i.e., “These are the notes they meant to sing…). There are some vague similarities between the “BoM Stories” melody and general aspects of some Amerindian music, but that’s not the reason it uses pentatonicism: it simply invokes an old musical cliche for “savage” cultures. In other words, just like many Native Americans wore feathered headbands, that doesn’t make the two fingers behind the head any less of a hokey caricature.

    Yes, I’d be interested in knowing what the “alternate gestures” are as well. I probably thought something similar to what you did about “Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus”; still, I think it’s a pretty decent song.

    I’m not _quite_ so fond of “The Priesthood is Restored.” I like the rather unusual rhythm (the kids in my primary loved counting the long rests during the “heralding” piano parts). But I’ve grown a little tired of this one particular musical device: just about _every_ song about the priesthood does that flat7 (mixolydian) thing. (Think of the superman music for “Though a boy, I may appear…”.)

  57. “The Priesthood is Restored” is an example of authentic music, secure in its craftsmanship and memorable, despite not adhering to every requirement of post 50. The composer, Hal Campbell, is also responsible for “The Sacred Grove,” another small masterpiece — unfortunately the accompaniment is bowdlerized in the newest children’s songbook. Many of the best songs from the old orange Sing with Me, have been simplified and much diminished in the new book, such as the hobbling of Crawford Gates’ “Baptism”: the simplification robs it of much of its sweep, and the transposition moves it from E major, where it sounds incandescent, to a more somber and pedestrian sounding E-flat.

    A great many of those old primary tunes are well-wrought little jewels. Compare for instance, the bombast of Scripture Power, where the prosody barely qualifies as English, to the subtle and careful treatment of the text in “The Still Small Voice.”

  58. Bill,

    I’m pleased that I’m not the only person who refers to the current children’s songbook, now 15 years old, as “the new book.”

  59. Bill,

    I’ll take the E to E-flat trade-off any day, as long as it’s in a primary song. After all, the primary pianist is usually the third- or fourth-most skilled pianist in the ward. That’s not an issue in Manhattan First, but rapidly becomes an issue in most wards. A playable E-flat is quite a bit better than an E that’s going to get chopped to pieces. (It won’t sound very incandescent if it can’t be played.)

    I’m with you on the broader point, though. It is truly incomprehensible that there is NOT A SINGLE HYMN in the entire green book in the key of E major. Simplification for primary songs, I can live with. Oversimplified hymns are a different story.

  60. *Nitpick preemption: That last comment is from memory and from a conversation with Kristine last year. However, I’m blogging from work; don’t have the green book sitting in front of me; I may have missed one. In any case, I can’t remember any E’s off the top of my head.

  61. Kaimi,

    I always play “There is a Green Hill Far Away” in E major. And I always transpose “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” to its original key of G major. Since the range of the melody is entirely within a tritone, this is not a strain for anyone.

  62. As a musically literate person but a lousy pianist, I’ll second the E to Eb transposition. In fact (and here I’m sure I’ll incur the wrath of the musicians, include my professional musician wife), I’m suspicious of the idea of “key character” in equal temperament. Since all the half steps are equally spaced, every scale sounds like every other in terms of intervals. I will admit that the sheer highness or lowness of a key’s frequency contributes to a key’s “character,” but I just don’t buy the idea that the difference between, say, Bb and A has anything to do with one being a “sharp” key and one being a “flat” key.

    [Prepares to dodge tomatoes from the gallery…]

  63. I just checked the book and you’re right. Despite having two hymns in that scary key of D-flat, there are no hymns in E. I looked at the 1948 book and the only E major hymns (besides Green Hill) are Onward, Christian Soldiers, and I Have Work Enough to Do. There are also four in E major for women’s voices, and four in the choir section of which three are in the 1985 book (O Thou Before the world began, now D major, He Died! the Great Redeemer Died, now C major, and Come, Thou Glorious Day of Promise, now D major)

  64. All keyboard players prefer to read and play flat keys, over sharps. It’s the nature of the keyboard.

    And truthfully, in terms of the “sound” of keys, E major transposed to E flat major will make very little difference to anyone. Pitches and keys are completely man-made constructs. It would only make a difference if sung with an organ tuned to meantone temperment, or something.

    I don’t think any of the hymns have been particularly diminished by the use of easier keys, though some do sound too low for women’s voices (women are the main singers in our church). I like to modulate hymns upward, anyway, so it’s useful to have it begin in the lower key. How many of you actually choose hymns for Sacrament Meeting with varying keys? I try to do this.

    But the primary songs definitely suffered by changing the accompaniment. “My Heavenly Father Lives,” can be found in its original form in the hymnbook. But the version in the Primary book is truly a bastardization.

  65. From the point of view of keyboard technique, C major is one of the more difficult keys to play in, but hymns are simple enough that it doesn’t really matter what the key is — none is really any harder than another. What we’re really talking about is what people who maybe never practiced their scales and chords in all keys have become more comfortable with.

  66. Yes, the primary version of “I Know My Father Lives” is a mess. The moving lines in the 4-part hymn book arr. are so nice.

  67. Speaking of strange melodies appearing in Church, has anyone seen the new Joseph Smith movie showing at the Legacy Theater in SLC? One of the most oft-repeated (and, perhaps, over-used) musical themes therein sounds eerily like the first few notes to “I Heard Him Come.” Not that there is anything wrong with that song, but the musical motif is played over and over again and it seemed a very strange choice considering the picture focuses on Joseph Smith. Of course, maybe it was an accident, but it was obvious enough that both my friend and I commented on it independently after the show.

  68. Looks like Reid Nibley made that arrangement himself. Too bad he didn’t just leave well enough alone.

  69. Bill, I’m sure having you as an organist would sweeten the pill somewhat, but I really hate it when accompanists silently transpose (although I’m bitterly envious of their ability to do so!). I don’t have perfect pitch, but it’s close enough that it makes me slightly crazy to read the alto line when I’m not sure into which key the accompanist is transposing.

  70. Ditto Rosalynde. I do have perfect pitch, and it always makes me a little dizzy.

    For Christmas two years ago, my sister gave me the old orange primary songbook, and I had such fun playing through it. Why on earth did they leave “In Perfect Faith” out? That was always a favorite…

  71. Maybe it had too many abrupt key changes, or was too long. Who knows? They left out other quirky selections too, such as Manookin’s “I love to sing” with its irregular time signature and nontraditional harmonies.

    Every so often I’m envious of the perfect pitchers, but then I remember how they suffer and I’m counting my blessings. Perfect pitch sometimes seems to function as a disincentive to learning harmonic relationships and transposing skills. Theoretically there is no reason this should be so, since perfect pitch is really just absolute pitch, and you can assign the pitch whatever name, spelling it enharmonically in a variety of ways, representing it differently in a variety of clefs, and assigning it different functions in different tonalities. And if you play a transposing instrument, you are hearing something different than what you are seeing. It’s just a matter of developing fluency in a variety of different sign systems, something all conductors have to master.

    I do like to wake up the perfect pitch people from time to time with unexpected transpositions. It livens up the meeting for them. Usually I leave them in peace, however.

  72. Just a reminder that you can take any of the Hymns or Children’s Songbook songs (well, those that aren’t under copyright restrictions, sorry Kolob hie-ers) at the Church Music site and transpose the sheet music into any key, suitable for printing. I use this with our choir when I want to transition from one song to another without writing a key-change modulation.


  73. Last night in our building’s seminary room, one of the quotations on the wall particularly arrested my attention due to having read this post earlier in the day.

    There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path.

    This is from Ezra Taft Benson’s talk opening the October 1986 General Conference. This is not especially relevant to the artistic evaluations expressed here, but it does source Clive Romney’s 1987 lyrics:

    Scripture power keeps me safe from sin.
    Scripture power is the power to win.
    Scripture power! Ev’ryday I need
    The power that I get each time I read.

  74. The kids in my Primary like the song, learned the first verse and chorus in under 10 minutes, enjoyed jumping up and down (none of you guys are giving enough credit to the few songs we’ve got that actually express anything like a Gospel message AND let them jump up and down — they’re kids, this isn’t sitting motionless in front of a TV set, and thus I can’t see why on earth you’d object to it on moral grounds…) And that’s despite the fact that we’re on our… hang on, let me count… it’s something between 6th and 8th Primary chorister since last January 1st. And we’re down to whichever pianist our Primary president can convince to come into the Primary room and play (most of the others have been called into teaching positions in Sunday School or youth.)

    Meanwhile, the majority of the kids also got either “scripture power is the power to win” or “scripture power keeps me safe from sin” stuck in their heads (they were muttering after the song was over.) I wasn’t a big fan of the song when I heard it in November, but it’s a winner in my book now. Especially since it’s the only wiggly song my CTR-8s like that’s not “the bumblebee song” (my one concession to pure fun in my class: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)

    (incidentally, LisaB’s #81 ought to put the song in the “win” category for the rest of you, even if you hate the music, don’t understand the lyrics, and find out later that the the motions involve pretending to do something disgusting)

    And for what it’s worth, the Junior Primary (and a lot of the Senior Primary) has a terrible time with “The Sacred Grove,” gets perpetually confused when “The Priesthood is Restored” ends… the point of Primary is to get them to associate the Gospel with happiness, as near as I can tell. And when the 9 and 10 year old girls are dressing in ways that I would have gotten yelled at for in my senior year of high school, anything that works is a good thing.

    (we had three Valiant 10s in 2-3″ heels last week… makes me want to move to a mountain when I get married, and never let my kids out of the house!)

  75. Funny, I just happened to be singing Scripture Power in my head around Christmastime. I was very excited to be called back into Primary after a 4 year tour with the YM.

    I was delighted when the little piece of paper that was pulled from the snowman at the front of the room read Scriptrue Power. Unfortunately the kids didn’t know the song so it was put off to learn for another week.

    I had no idea that this song or any song could be so devisive.

  76. I don’t think the song is divisive, I just think that music people like to talk music, and are prolonging the natural life of the thread ;>

  77. The song was introduced in our Ward in England some 6 years ago when we had a US sister as our Primary choiristor. It was an instantaneous hit with the children. So what if it’s not a masterpiece, it’s a simple song with a strong gospel message, the children love it – I’m glad it has been re-introduced. The children used to punch the air with the scriptures, and those who hadn’t brought their scriptures used a hymn-book and felt like second-class citizens, so they made sure they always had their scriptures after that. I know that’s not the right reason to bring them, but hey, I took what I could get when I was Primary Pres.

  78. Hello. I’ve never been to this website before that I can recall, but I was looking up Scripture Power on the web to see if I could find any good visual aids to help me teach the song. The search led me here, and I have to say that after only about 60 seconds of scanning various posts/comments, I’m disappointed. The first few posts about Scripture Power all sound rather negative. First of all, as much as I like the Lion King and Elton John myself, I don’t feel they’re appropriately compared to this song or any church song, really. And second, we should be cheerfully accepting the music that church headquarters lays out for us rather than deciding whether we like it or not. My ward loves this song and has for over a year–it’s a huge favorite among kids and adults alike! But children will sense if their teachers think a song is cheesy or whatever and it will rub off on them. Really, I’m not trying to be preachy or make any enemies, but I just wanted you to know that from a newcomer/outsider’s perspective, this does not seem to be the place to be a get a good spiritual boost, at least not about primary music!
    Amber B.

  79. I completely agree with Amber’s comments. What’s with all these negative comments? Are you really members of the same church that I belong to???

  80. Julie (92),

    No, we’re members of a different church, one that happens to also have started singing Scripture Power at the exact same time as yours. Is that really a rhetorical question???


    “we should be cheerfully accepting the music that church headquarters lays out for us rather than deciding whether we like it or not.”

    Alternatively, we could use the brains and talents that God gave us. It’s fine to like the song, and many people do. It’s also okay to point out some of its shortcomings. If we close our eyes to problems, well, we can’t really focus on improvement much, can we?

  81. Re: 92,

    I have been certain for a long time than many people who attend the same meetings I do belong to some different church. Mostly they are people whose view of the church cannot accomodate differences of opinion. Fortunately, the church is big enough for us all.

  82. we should be cheerfully accepting the music that church headquarters lays out for us rather than deciding whether we like it or not.

    Prudence? Is that you?

  83. My first day of being primary pianist, and I happily played Scripture Power one handed over and over again……softer when the “finder” was far away from a hidden object, and progressively louder as the “finder” was closer to the object. I didn’t notice an Elton John resemblence. (I only played the melody….maybe that made a difference?) What song does it sound similar to?
    A few years ago, the kids loved Follow the Prophet. They are putting it in the program again this year! Book of Mormon Stories, one of the songs we loved in my day.

  84. I should mention that my children attended bible camp (mornings) for a week last summer. Scripture Power isn’t anywhere close to the singing there. They had videos to the songs on a movie screen. It was pop rock Christian real music going on.
    Scripture Power me playing the piano as accompiament.

  85. I second JKS on that- “Scripture Power” is nothing like any Christian youth music I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a lot.

    About the song’s worth, though… I’m going to be brave and take the minority position. When I was a youth, the speaker (Ron Bartholomew?) at a Best of EFY meeting (open to ages 14-18) asked us all to stand and sing “Scripture Power.” I was the only one there who didn’t know the song, but I caught on quickly enough. The youth (not primary kids- teenagers!) got really into the song- singing loud, pumping our scriptures into the air, and meaning the words we sung. The lyrics stuck with me for years. They were actually a significant motivating force and a comfort on multiple occasions. I looked for the song, but didn’t ever find it. Eventually I gave up, but I was delighted a few weeks ago when my mom asked me to print the primary songs for 2006 and “Scripture Power” was among them. I have no delusions about the quality of the music or lyrics- certainly it’s not a rose in the garden of religious music. But don’t daisies also have their place?

  86. Sunday morning, as the congregation warmed up their chatting voices in the chapel before church, I noticed a rising hum. The hum soon overpowered the chatter.

    The organist was playing – with reverent registration & tempo – “Scripture Power,” and every kid in the room was humming along, focused on the prelude. It made the adults shut-up.

  87. Holy crap, I’m in love with you people! This is my first time on this site, and I am laughing myself off of my chair! Thanks for the great comments on Scripture Power.
    I’m a baby in primary at 26 year old, having only served in YW since I was 18. I love primary! As the primary chorister, it’s been so great to have a fan-club of 75 adorable kids! They are sponges that hang on every word I speak or sing. Where did these kids come from! Love them!
    It’s our last Sunday for Scripture Power this week. We’ve been learning the song off of these crazy posters that the children colored…but it’s worked! They love the song. Ya, the lyrics leave much to be desired, but the kids get it!
    I would love any creative ideas for teaching music from you experienced and wise ones. I could use all the help I can get! Thanks!

  88. It makes me sad to read members of the Church who whinge like some are on this site, so I probably won’t come here again.

  89. about scripture power, i’m teaching it to our primary right now & they love it, as do i. however, i TOTALLY heard the ‘circle of life’ similarities too! that is so funny that some other people actally noticed that- and yes, i do know that scripture power is from 1987:)

  90. I agree with Amber and Linda! (agreeance has nothing to do with the name). I feel strongly compelled to make a comment. Whinge -murmur murmur. I too am disappointed by many of the comments. I came to the site also looking for helpful information on “Scripture Power” and though some comments were positive in nature, much of what I’ve read is negative. Very disappointing. Negative comments are best kept to oneself or vented in a private or otherwise appropriate forum. Not good if non-members happen to visit here. Whatever happened to willing obedience?

  91. Lynda,

    You are absolutely right. I shudder to think of the poor non-member whose budding testimony is irrevocably shattered by these complaints about the aesthetic strengths of Scripture Power. Oh, the humanity!

    You are absolutely right about obedience, as well. It is clearly not for nothing that the scriptures state in numerous places that we are not to criticize the musicality of Primary songs. Never. It is unthinkable. That law is really, in my book, the third great commandment. Love God; love one’s neighbor; and never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, criticize the melody of a Primary song.

    I applaud your courage for calling these shiftless heathens to repentance. (They have clearly forgotten – or more likely, never read in the first place – the scriptural anecdotes of great and abominable wickedness that began with a bit of misguided musical criticism).

    It is in moments like this that I reflect on the well-known mantra: All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men not to comment on other people’s blogs when those other people make criticisms of Primary songs that the first people (not the other people) realize is not good, but that the other people don’t realize (or perhaps don’t care) is not good, or perhaps that they like the fact that it is not good, which is also not good, which is why it is a good thing that there are people like you to tell those other people that the stuff that is not good is not good, just in case those other people didn’t realize that it was not good, or perhaps they just needed a good swift kick in the pants, which is normally not a good thing to give someone, but if it’s a someone who is not good, then it may actually be a good thing indeed.

  92. It’s not so much that singing the Children’s Primary Music is bad or anything, it’s just that providing entertainment for 20 or more children can get expensive. I’m currently looking for Free Scripture Power Visual Printouts on the internet. Not because I already know that somethng like this is not provided on the internet but because I’m trying to avoid a $15.00 or possibly $20.00 expense from having to purchase that stuff, and 3 hours worth of my time looking for the stuff in/at a store(s), here in Salt Lake City. I think people put a lot of pressure on an individual holding a calling. Those individuals above them will see that other people are put in that person’s calling because they couldn’t adequately provide an hour’s worth of entertainment which includes a $15.00 or $20.00 purchase every single Sunday, and including a 3 or more hours worth of shopping in stores looking for adequate visuals and books. There’s a primary song with the lyrics, “I always have a happy feeling when I go to church.” Well, for me, sometimes my song is “I always have a scared and inadequate feeling when I go to church.” I put a lot of hours into my calling but cannot find any free printouts. This stuff should be free to use or at least some things provided to make shopping for visuals less of a hassle!

  93. WOW! I have just been called to the Primary Presidency and I came to this site and started reading some of the blogs and I thought for sure that I was either in grade school again or that some people are just afraid of change. If this song, “Scripture Power” was not approved by the First Presidency then it would not be a part of the Primary Program this year. I for one, think it is great! I love to see the excitement in the kids faces when we get ready to sing it. As a presidency, we sing right along with them. You can not teach a child on an adult level….(when I was in RS I wanted to fall asleep sometimes) This song helps the children want to sing and remember their scriptures.

  94. Providing entertainment is not what primary is about. Teaching the gospel through word and song and most importantly the spirit is what is needed. I am a primary president and live in SLC and have never felt pressure to spend tons of money on “props”. Use your scriptures, let your children see them in your hands. Relate scripture power song to everyday life, use examples from the scriptures and bear testimony. None of that costs anything. Read Teaching No Greater Call. Sharing time can be interesting and enjoyable without providing props or entertainment.

  95. I just heard this song for the first time last night — Kaimi is right on; the first several bars are a complete rip-off of “Can you Feel the Love Tonight.” Not exactly Elton’s best work. Maybe we could have some primary songs that sound more like “Rocket Man” or “Crocodile Rock”?

    (And, so sorry, Heather B — if this Primary program were truly inspired, it would surely plagiarize Elvis Costello rather than Elton John. I have to assume the First Presidency handed it off to some mid-level supernumerary who was out of tune. With the Spirit, I mean.)

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