Updates on the New Hymnbook

It’s been nearly a year since the new core hymnbook was announced. While there have been a few rumors about the book (like a smaller size and getting rid of hymns with problematic copyrights), very little actual news has come up. Recently, however, the Church published an updated set of guidelines for the hymns and children’s songs that are being submitted. The timing is opportune, with less than two months to the submissions deadline left. Accompanying this publication are a few articles on the Church’s newsroom and on lds.org. What do these reveal about the forthcoming hymnbook?

First is the announcement of the committees that are going to guide the creation of the hymnbook and children’s songbook. Two committees (one for each book) have been organized. Each has members with expertise in areas relating to the hymnbook and songbook (music, various cultures, doctrine, etc.). Members of the hymnbook committee include Steve Schank (a music manager for the Church), Ryan Murphy (the associate music director of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square), Cherilyn Worthen (Utah Valley University professor of Choral Music Education and the director of the Tabernacle Choir’s training school), Stephen Jones (BYU professor of music composition), Sonja Poulter (a German alto in the Tabernacle Choir), Carolyn Klopfer (author of the words to “Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth”), Herbert Kopfer (a long-standing member of the Church Music Department and composer of the hymn tune for “Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth”), Anfissa Silva (background in accounting and marketing), and Audrey Livingston (a product manager for the Church). Something interesting about these committees is that they do not have authority to make final decision about the hymnbook and songbook. They are only functioning as a group that will make suggestions to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve so they can make the final decisions on what goes in the books.[1] This is likely a result of previous conflicts between hymnbook committees and top Church leaders, most notably in the 1970s.[2]

The hymnbook committee has been hard at work. All 550 hymns included in the hymnals the Church currently publishes (341 hymns in the English hymnal and 209 that have been added to the various translations) as well as music found in other publications of the Church have been evaluated. According to the articles, there are five core principles guiding these evaluations, based around the idea that sacred music is most effective when it:

  1. Increases faith in and worship of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
  2. Teaches core doctrine with power and clarity.
  3. Invites joyful singing at home and at church.
  4. Comforts the weary and inspires members to endure in faith.
  5. Unifies members throughout the Church (or unifies Latter-day Saints and others throughout the world).[3]

These principles are guiding the process of selecting hymns from all the sources available to the Church as well as any edits to hymns (in both text and music).[1]

The committees have also been evaluating the ongoing results of the survey that all Church members can take to offer their suggestions for the hymnbook. As I indicated was likely the case in a previous post, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” has been the most-suggested hymn for inclusion in the new book, with other hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “If the Savior Stood Beside Me” also receiving considerable attention. (As a side note, the reporter for the Church’s press releases seemed ignorant of the 1841 Nauvoo hymnal and reported that “Amazing Grace” has never been published by the Church, even though it was.) I am always curious what all has been suggested through the survey, so I was glad to see at least a little bit mentioned there. I will also put in a plug here to take the time to visit the Church’s site and fill the survey out if you haven’t already.

Based on their ongoing evaluations of hymns, the committees have released a list of topics they would like to see more submissions cover. Broad topics they want to focus on include “Praise and Worship”, “The Atonement of Jesus Christ”, “The Plan of Happiness”, “Gospel Learning and Revelation”, “The Family of God”, “Our Families”, “Priesthood Power and Authority”, “The Restoration of the Gospel”, “The Gathering of Israel”, “The Sabbath Day”, and “The Second Coming”.[4] So, if you have an interest in writing hymns or composing hymn tunes (or children’s songs for that matter), these are some areas to focus on in the next month and a half. It is also my understanding that hymns written in languages other than English are being encouraged in particular to reflect the multicultural and international nature of the Church more fully.

So, what have we learned about the forthcoming hymnbook? First, that the committee charged with guiding the creating of the book is largely made up of musicians associated with Temple Square and Church headquarters, with some of them having international backgrounds and expertise in areas other than music. The committee doesn’t have decision-making authority, though—the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve will be the ones to make decisions, drawing on the suggestions of the committee. We have learned what the five core principles are that are guiding the evaluation of all hymns being considered. Finally, we have learned a little about the results of the committee’s efforts so far and their suggestions for submissions during the final few weeks before the deadline to submit passes. What exactly all of this means for the hymnbook remains to be seen and is likely to continue to evolve in the coming months and years ahead.



[1] Elanor Cain Adams, “Committees and Strategic Goals Announced for Hymnbook and Children’s Songbook Revision,” lds.org 9 May 2019, https://www.lds.org/church/news/committees-and-strategic-goals-announced-for-hymnbook-and-childrens-songbook-revisions?lang=eng. Accessed 10 May 2019.

[2] See Michael Hicks, “How to Make (and Unmake) a Mormon Hymnbook,” in A Firm Foundation: Church Organization and Administration, ed. David J. Whittaker and Arnold K. Garr (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 503-19. https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/firm-foundation/22-how-make-and-unmake-mormon-hymnbook

[3] “Music Submission Content Guidelines”, https://www.lds.org/bc/content/ldsorg/music/PD60008660_000%20MusicSubmission.pdf?lang=eng See also “Fine-Tuning: Church Updates Guidelines for New Hymnbook and Children’s Songbook Submissions”, MormonNewsroom.org, 9 May 2019, https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/updated-guidelines-new-hymnbook-children-songbook-submissions and Elanor Cain Adams, “Committees and Strategic Goals Announced.”

[4] “Music Submission Content Guidelines”, https://www.lds.org/bc/content/ldsorg/music/PD60008660_000%20MusicSubmission.pdf?lang=eng

45 comments for “Updates on the New Hymnbook

  1. Chad, It would be interesting to some to have an idea of what the scope of responsibility and authority of the “church’s music manager” may be. Similarly, the question has come up whether the church really still has a General Music Committee and what it does, if it exists.

    One of the curiosities in the idea that sacred music is most effective when it: … invites joyful singing at home and at church. …
    Comforts the weary and inspires …” is that even limited to the intermountain west USA there is such a wide variety of musical backgrounds and tastes that music some finding inspiring or joyful is not at all inspiring or joyful to others. E.g. the “sunshine songs” for some and the German chorales for others. I thought the 1985 hymnal did quite a good job of balancing the selection with that fact in mind. I suspect that the list of goals for “sacred music” is really aimed at the hymntexts and not at the music. I wonder idly whether the committee and the Brethren even recognize the problem. I know at least some of them do; maybe they just don’t want to acknowledge it in print. What do you think?

  2. Those are some excellent questions. I would be interested in knowing what a Church music manager does too. Currently, he’s assigned to both committees (hymnbook and children’s songbook committees), but beyond that I don’t know. I’ll have to ask around and see what I can learn. The Church Music committee seems to change its name from time to time (and depends on who is referring to it), but as of 2012, I found an Ensign article that referred to it as the “Church Music Department”, and have updated the post to reflect that. My best guess is that they oversee the annual music competitions, manage the Temple Square music groups, and oversee any hymnbook and songbook related projects the Church has going on at any given point.

    The core principles being so subjective is a valid concern. I worry a little about it with the rumor that the hymnbook is going to be 200-250 hymns in size. Most Protestant hymnbooks are 2-3 times that size to accommodate a wide variety of hymns so that different congregations can use what works best for their individual cultures. There’s not a lot of wiggle room to handle variety in a small hymnbook. It’s likely that the hymn texts will be the main target for evaluations, but the music does have a role too. When a lot of gospel songs were cut out of the 1948 hymnbook, one general authority complained that there weren’t enough hymn tunes he could whistle while milking the cows. Likely singability and tunefulness will be a part of evaluating whether sacred music “invites joyful singing”.

  3. I suspect there weren’t enough tunes that GA could whistle while milking cows meant that some of those he knew had been cut and he didn’t yet know the new ones. I milked cows and could have whistled any of the tunes in the 1948 hymnal had I cared to. By 1985 I was no longer milking cows.

  4. Brother Schank was one of the directors of the choir I sang in at conference a few years ago during the priesthood session; I’ve seen him direct some of the other multi-stake choirs at conference since then, including the one we just had last month, so that’s one of the things a music manager gets to do.

  5. I really wish they would curb some of the hyperbole W. W. Phelps used in Praise To The Man. It feeds LDS critics claim that we worship Joseph Smith when we say “great is his (JS) glory” or use the word “atone” in relationship to anyone but the Savior.

    Also, I wish they would change the sour note towards the end of “I Know My Father Lives”.

  6. I worry about this one. “Teaches core doctrine with power and clarity.” When I once examined a JW hymnbook, it was extremely doctrinaire, like they had set the words of the JW Gospel Doctrine manual to music or something. It made a very negative impression, and I hope we don’t do the same thing in the name of “teaching core doctrine with power and clarity.”

  7. Yes, Ben, it will be interesting to see what the new hymnal may tell us is “core doctrine.” It’s not likely to be limited to the doctrine of Christ declared in the Book of Mormon. ?

    Also, “Increases faith in and worship of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ” signals a clear rejection of Bruce R. McConkie’s March 2, 1982 teaching, claimed by him to be the view of the Brethren and of “all those who understand the scriptures and are in tune with the Holy Spirit, [i.e.] … We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not worship the Son…” Fine with me – and apparently with the current Brethren in charge.

  8. I think “worship” is one of those words no one is quite sure what it means and that gets equivocated over quite regularly. i.e. how one person uses the word in one situation is rarely a guide for what the word means in other situations.

  9. Clark, exactly, as e.g. in the term “temple worship.” On the other hand BRM did seem to be quite sure what it means “in the view of the Brethren, of the prophets and apostles of old, and of all those who understand the scriptures and are in tune with the Holy Spirit.” So, not “no one.”

  10. I’m reminded of what a BYU professor once wrote: “To dismantle a greatly loved hymnbook and construct a new one in its place requires the wrenching of a whole culture of worship. And to attempt that is to confront fundamental questions of human experience: what to salvage and what to throw away. Those questions can cut especially deep where the demands of religion and the pleasures of music are concerned.” There’s a lot to be concerned about with the new hymnbook, but I think there’s a lot to be hopeful about too. Likely, no one will be completely happy with the results, but I’m hopeful that it will be an improvement overall.

    My impression from looking at the guiding principles above is that the hymnbook will continue to develop in the same vein as the current one did. Balancing hymns of worship with joyful singing strikes me as indicating a balancing of the high church worship embodied in the German chorales with the popularity of the American gospel songs. That makes me hopeful that some of the old hymns like “Sing Praise to Him” will stick around, even though they’re not as popular.

    Building on larryco_’s comment, it will be interesting to see how they handle “Praise to the Man”. It certainly invites joyful singing and can inspire members to endure in faith, but focuses on praising Joseph Smith more than worshiping God and Christ, somewhat distorts our doctrine with hyperbole, and can cause controversy rather than unity because of it.

    What I interpreted the teaches core doctrines to mean is that the texts pass correlation as accurately representing what the Church organization accepts as doctrine and focus on the topics mentioned in the Doctrinal Mastery Core (https://www.lds.org/manual/doctrinal-mastery-core-document/doctrinal-topics?lang=eng). It might mean that some new hymns read like textbook passages on doctrine, but I think that most hymns will be similar (or the same) as the ones we currently have.

  11. “Teaches core doctrine with power and clarity” will be literally carried out and “if you could hie to kolob” is already gone. That makes me terribly sad, singing about kolob gave us a little taste of the meat of the gospel, not just the milk. I’m nauseated having drunk far too much milk.

  12. Mortimer, What do you mean “already gone?” It is still in the 1985 hymnal and still sung on occasion.

  13. My thoughts on “Praise to the Man” are that it should be kept, but sung to its original, doleful tune, not the triumphant one we have in the hymnal today. It’s more in line with the spirit of mourning in which the hymn was originally written.

  14. I’m betting it will be removed from the new hymbook. After that happens, yes, some will remember it, but within a generation, it will mostly be forgotten. What will become of the 250ish green hymnals in each chapel? Well, a choir director might squirrel about 30 copies away in a music closet, but the rest will be recycled. Maybe in 50 years someone will rediscover the “star of the county down” reset as a folk hymn to odd lyrics about kolob and like “Come thou fount of every blessing” it will be repopularized. But chances are that it will fall into silence just like so many gems from the blue hymnal and previous hymnal editions. We’ll be too busy singing “faith in every footstep” with it’s awkward transition from the verses to the chorus, or Amazing Grace (that people love despite its abysmal alignment of text to tune.)

  15. The committee was ordered to adhere to the following:

    1. Increases faith in and worship of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
    2. Teaches core doctrine with power and clarity


    – “Oh my father” should be removed as it doesn’t focus on Heavely Father and Jesus Christ, but expands the Godhead to include a Heavenly Mother, which is not counted by SLC as core, but fringe doctrine. (The correlation committee doesn’t list it as one of the 79-ish main gospel topics).

    -All the songs about the Holy Ghost would not qualify, as the instructions specifically said to focus God and Jesus Christ. So, “let the Holy Spirit guide” and even “the spirit of god” should be on the chopping block as well as many others listed under the topical heading “Holy Ghost”.

  16. Does “unifies Latter-day Saints and others throughout the world” (as opposed to “unifies members throughout the Church”) mean include more standard well-known, not-specifically-LDS Christian hymns? Well-known to whom? Maybe even a smattering of African and oriental Christian hymns? Seems doubtful. But what does it mean?

  17. Mortimer, I find it surprising you see the doctrine of Mother in Heaven as fringe. It seems to me a rather key core doctrine of the restoration. It’s certainly the case that certain practices or beliefs about Mother in Heaven are fringe – things like thinking a personal presence is important or believing one can and should pray to her. But that seems a very different issue. I’d also note that a doctrine can increase faith in the Father and the Son while not being about them.

    Regarding Hie to Kolob, I’d be completely shocked if it’s removed from the hymnal given its place since the revised music as one of the most popular hymns. I do hope that the hymnal, particularly in its electronic form, offers variant tunes for the songs though. I rather liked the older tune for Hie to Kolob for instance. Someone else mentioned Praise to the Man and the older tune there as well.

    Long Ago, I’d love there to be far more diversity in style of song than our current 19th century Protestant style with recent uniquely Mormon hymns largely aping that style. I’d also be interested in seeing the potential inclusion of more instruments. Drums are an obvious one but also brass – both of which have been largely banned from Sacrament Meetings. While this is particularly important in Africa I’d love to sing an African style hymn here in Utah.

    Regarding worship, I honestly don’t think McConkie ever clarified it too much, even when attempting to distinguish worship of the Father from the Son. Move to other figures and the term is even more nebulous. Sometimes even McConkie just uses it as a kind of reverence to the figures. At other times he sees it wrapped up in prayer and the like. I don’t think the term really is a non-equivocal term even in scripture. As such it’s almost an unhelpful term since it can mean almost anything.

  18. “… the hymns of the Restoration are, in fact, a course in doctrine!”
    — President Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1991

    While it’s never been clear what is meant by “hymns of the Restoration,” a very common view has been that it means the hymns in the current LDS hymnal, regardless of their topic or source. It’s not clear that President Packer spent much time studying the “course of doctrine” that lasted from 1948 to 1985. Chad’s reference to “Sing Praise to Him” reminded me of a 1985 regional conference encounter with President Packer. Supposedly he had approved the hymn choices in advance, just as stake and area presidencies had done before submitting them to SLC. Yet just before conference he approached me with the question whether “Sing Praise to Him” was new in the 1985 hymnal. I responded to the effect “No, it’s been in the LDS hymnal since at least 1948 and, in my experience, widely sung. But if you now wish to have the congregation sing something else, please choose one you are sure they can sing without having it in front of them. They have the approved hymns, including ‘Sing Praise to Him’.” We sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”

    I may complete the survey. I am not convinced, however, that the Brethren generally (as opposed to a few of them) have any interest in what the variety of members have to say about our church music. I suspect they are more interested in whether their personal favorites are included – whether they whistle them while milking cows or not.

  19. I find it interesting how some hymns remain in the Hymn book. A revision is in due order.

  20. As an old (>70), 6th generation MORMON, that has become *enlightened* over the years, almost the only pleasure I get from attending Sacrament Meeting is singing the bass part of most of the hymns. One broad change they made back when the current hymnal was published is to the bass parts of many hymns. I still sing the part I had learned over the many previous years–and only partly out of spite, I have trouble finding the right note in unfamiliar hymns. Also, eliminate the hymns no one knows so the octogenarian chorister can’t select them. We all mumble through, but without the song practice during Sunday School (ended in about 1970) we are NEVER going to learn them.

    But a more pertinent gripe: Let’s eliminate hymns that reference:

    -Militarism…”Lo, Zion’s standard is unfurled!,” “We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,” “Is marching triumphantly over the world”

    -Anachronisms associated/derived from kings/royalty/thrones/dominion/realm/bowing down, etc…”Come, rejoice, the King of glory,” “Sing, rejoice, the King of love,” “Hosanna! Let our praise ascend unto the Savior’s throne”

    -False doctrine (highly subjective, but Boyd K Packer is definitely not a good source for recognizing it)…”His vengeance will not slumber long,” “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven,” “Fear God, who made the water pure, The heavens, sea, and land,”

    Curmudgeon drops the mic

  21. fbisti, fellow curmudgeon here. Do you remember “Though in the Outward Church Below” from the 1948 hymnal? John Newton’s text (Newton of “Amazing Grace” fame) sung commonly to a much simpler tune and to a different elaborate tune in the LDS 1844 hymnal and in 1978 put to a Mozart piece with a refrain with running 1/8 notes in the bass against miscellaneous including rests in the middle of words in the upper voices. Wanna go back to singin’ that?! In the early 80s a chorister in my ward made us go on to the stanzas not printed between the staves and the curmudgeon I was sitting next to exclaimed loudly enough for a good share of the congregation: “You’ll roast in hell for that!” — for me one of the most memorable hymn singing events ever (of course there have been others better and memorable for better reasons).

    I rather vindictively and self-righteously liked “In harvest, when he saves his own, The tares shall into hell be thrown.” But the final stanza (no. 7 in our 1948 hymnal) then had me pray and fret: “O! awful thought, and is it so? Must all mankind the harvest know? Is every man a wheat or tare? Me for the harvest, Lord, prepare.”

    Maybe the Newton/Mozart duo (not their doing, I’m sure) will make a comeback. :)

  22. fbisti — I’m almost as old as you and my family has been in the church as long as yours, and I think you want to get rid of some of the BEST hymns in the book. Jesus IS my King and I’m not ashamed of it. We are part of the armies of Heaven and we ARE at war for the souls of mankind. And singing practice in Sunday School ended with the 3-Hour meeting schedule that went church-wide in January 1980. And I DO miss that singing practice! I have been trying to get people interested in having a weekly singing session, but so far I’m the only one interested.

  23. Curmudgeon fbisti,

    Err, do you belong to a Latter-day Saint congregation? Anyone that’s been active for 50 years would understand a lot about exaltation, dominion, thrones, principalities, and so forth.

    And I can join many others in testifying that I’ve come to know God with the veil very thin through sacrifice that brings for the blessings of heaven. Sheesh… Your entire post is like an anti-testimony of the temple.

    I can understand some misguided people like you exist. But why would you expect the faithful to actually listen to what you have to say?

  24. “How we interact with each other is a measure of our willingness to follow Jesus Christ. … How we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable.” (Elder Quentin L. Cook, CR April 2010). Please be courteous in your response to other comments.

  25. fbisti, many of those songs are just paraphrasing scripture. Those may be elements you don’t like, but it’s hard to criticize some of the most popular songs for those elements. I recognize not everyone likes The Battle-hymn of the Republic, mind you. But I can’t see them eliminating it (nor would I want them to).

    ”Lo, Zion’s standard is unfurled!,” with “Set up the standard toward Zion” (Jer 4:6) “he did raise the standard of liberty” (Alma 62:4) “Lift up a standard for the people” (Is 62:10)
    “Come, rejoice, the King of glory,” with “the King of glory shall come in” (Ps 24:7)
    “Hosanna! Let our praise ascend unto the Savior’s throne” with “throne of him who sitteth upon the throne, even the Lamb” (D&C 88:115) “stood before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev 7:9) “nearest unto the throne of God (Abr 3:2) “Lord thy God which delighteth in the to set thee on his throne” (2 Chr 9:8) “worshipped God that sat on the throne” (Rev 19:4)
    “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven” with “ye also…to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5) “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Ps 51:17) “Christ’s sacrifice answers ends of law unto all who have broken heart and contrite spirit” (2 Ne 2:7) “offer for sacrifice unto the Lord broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Ne 9:20)
    “Fear God, who made the water pure, The heavens, sea, and land” with “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Eccl 12:13) “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” (Ps 66:16) “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come” (Rev 14:7)


  26. I’ve mostly just read this discussion and not posted much. But I’d like to throw a few of my thoughts out.
    — First, I’d like to see all of the hymns/children’s songs I’ve personally submitted make it into the new hymnal and children’s book, but I’m not holding my breath. :-)
    — I would like to see the revised books retain many themes on the Restoration. I would like to see a fair share of the “army of God” and “Jesus is our king” hymns retrained. As President Packer said, “we are at war and we are living in enemy territory.” I would like to see the books retain the hymns about Zion and maybe add some more. I would like to see hymns about the House of Israel retained and sung more. And more hymns about Christ’s return and Millennial Reign.
    — I’m guessing that the hymns about the Mountains, alluding to the Wasatch Mountains protecting the Pioneers from the World, are going to start being retired as I’ve never heard them sung outside the United States. Which is a shame, because I dearly love them. I find great strength in them. Baroness Maria von Trapp wrote that when you grow up with mountains you feel their strength and you need them because they are a part of you. I am one of those people (but not from Utah), but not everyone in the Church is. I will wave a fond but bitter farewell when they retire.
    — We need Mother’s Day hymns. “Faith of our Fathers” works on Father’s Day, but as ward music leader, Mother’s Day is always a hard one for me to pick opening and closing hymns to honor the mothers.
    — We needs hymns/songs celebrating how the priesthood blesses all our lives, both man and woman.
    — We needs hymns/songs about the strength of covenants and covenant making. Latter-day Saints and Jews are the only “covenant-makers”, and it’s something we need to recognize more even in our hymns. I wrote a beautiful sacrament hymn about covenanting to remember and follow Christ that I’d love to see in the revised book.
    — We need hymns about Grace, using the LDS Bible Dictionary’s definition of the word. Six verses of Amazing Grace were in the 1841 Nauvoo hymnal (#118); I’d love to see all seven of the original verses in the next LDS hymnal. It’s time. Life would be complete to see that hymn return into our hymnal. I’m pretty sure I’d get emotional.
    — I would like to see spirituals. They have a peace all their own that you don’t get in any other hymns. I would love to see spirituals in the children’s book to which the children could clap as they sang — they did say they want the Primary music leaders to have hand motions to teach the songs — sounds like it’s time for spirituals!
    — Hymns about rising from the darkness of despair and depression. Face it, the world is depressed; let’s sing our way out of it.
    — More Easter hymns. We only have four Easter Hymns in our hymnal! As a music leader, I’d be scheduling Easter hymns for weeks before Easter, just like we do at Christmas.
    — I would enjoy more Old Testament-themed hymns; have submitted several. I am submitting a children’s song about the Courage of Queen Esther. A friend has submitted one about Adam and Eve and celebrating their choice. We need songs about Abraham being a stranger in a strange land and about Abraham and Isaac’s faith when father was told to sacrifice son. We need songs about the faith of the Children of Israel marching off into the desert at the call of a prophet. The Old Testament is story after story about Faith, and we need to sing those stories.
    — There are a fair number of hymns that have never been in our books that I would like to be in the next one, specifically “It Is Well with My Soul” and “I Will Sing of My Redeemer”.

  27. Thanks, Old Guy, for those suggestions. Doesn’t often happen, but I felt uplifted (and a bit emotional) reading through them.

  28. I think a lot of mountain hymns, while people associate them with the Wasatch, are actually about mountains in the Palestinian region. Mountains are a common scriptural motif.

  29. Clark, “For the Strength of the Hills” was written with respect to the Vaudoix mountains of Switzerland and adopted by Mormons for the Wasatch mountains. The poet Felicia Hemans died in 1835 in Europe. It’s original title was “Hymn of the Vaudois Mountaineers in times of persecution. ” It has nothing to do with the Palestinian region. But, yes, mountains are a common scriptural motif. It can have multiple applications. I would not like to see it go away because of either its Vaudois or Wasatch connections.

    On the other hand “The Wintry Day” begins well but quickly (mid stanza 2) becomes a song about being homesick for Utah. That just doesn’t cut it elsewhere. I have rewritten stanza 2 to give it a universal message and preserve the imagery of stanza 1. I will likely suggest that to the committee, but I have no illusions that it would be accepted or that hymn retained.

  30. Interesting, I didn’t know that about that particular song. I confess I’m just not familiar with The Wintry Day. I was more thinking though of High on the Mountain Top, which I think is largely just adopting Isaiah imagery, although it clearly also is referring to Utah. “In Deseret’s sweet, peaceful land, On Zion’s mount behold it stand!” While I can’t recall the last time I heard it sung, Our Mountain Home So Dear, seems pretty Utah centric too. Although I’d not call any of the Utah forests “sylvan depth and shade” let alone the deserts. Ye Elders of Israel is the one I always associate with mountains and the “mountains of Ephraim” while explicitly being Palestine has an obvious double meaning.

    Of course having grown up in the Canadian rockies to me the Wasatch are often just ridiculously large hills not real mountains. (grin) Although the Uintas are very nice.

  31. “The Wintry Day” should be retired. A hymn that celebrates the displacement of indigenous people by white settlers (4th verse) has no place in a 21st century hymnal of any denomination, much less one which proclaims Israelite heritage for the native peoples of the Americas.

  32. Yes, Dirk, “The Wintry Day” from the 2d half of stanza 2 through the 4th should be retired. The imagery of the first stanza is worth preserving if there is a way to do it. I expect to propose such a revision of stanza 2, leaving it as a 2 stanza hymn. I expect that the whole thing will go away at least as a congregational hymn. It’s rather unsingable for many congregations for reasons of both range and melodic leaps, but the big leap (and some of the range) might also be adjusted.

  33. To “libcon” and some others…My objection to, among the other elements I mentioned, references to the language of kings and dominions and principalities, etc. is that it is all culturally-derived. It just so happens that nearly all the information we have about *our God* comes from so-called scripture. Even if you believe that God had a hand in what is written, that doesn’t make its positive references to kings/kingdoms an accurate telling of what God was supposedly teaching those prophets. Back *then* (however many thousands of years ago you think the writers of the old Testament were writing–but considerable editing was done by the KJV writers, and note the “K”–King/dominion/power-related concepts were all they had as leadership models. They had, apparently, no other way to refer to God’s dominion OVER us. I think we can agree that kings, and others in power, have almost universally not been known for love, compassion, kindness, charity, etc. So, they are a very bad example/reference point (as in “antithetical”) for what we aspire to, for what we gain (or are *rewarded* with) by becoming “Christ-like.”

    So, why should we sing hymns in the 21st Century that reference the cultural imagery and aspirations of a militaristic, totalitarian-dominated culture of 3+ thousand years ago? Based on what Christ focused on teaching, I would expect that He is embarrassed by the many references to him as a king on a throne with all of us minions bowing *down* to him. Let alone the teachings of Brigham Young and his ilk that more wives means a higher throne, more principalities, and power for men.

    One of LibCon’s comments refers to “why would the faithful” listen to me. Just to be clear, I don’t participate in this blog (and several others) to hear from or speak to the so-called “faithful.” I am here to hear from the questioning and the doubters, from those that are using their intellect and understanding to challenge the party line, and get it to change. What I don’t understand is why anyone who would be categorized as “faithful” would tolerate all the questioning and criticisms of the Church found here–are you trying to bring us all “back into the fold/matrix?”

  34. Yes, I see what you mean — it’s a nice Isaiah moment. But that would be a lot of work to bring the rest of the hymn around! I also agree that the setting is challenging; it doesn’t really work as a congregational hymn.

    At the very least, that fourth verse has got to go.

  35. fbisti, given the number of NT military metaphors, including in sayings attributable to Christ, I’m not sure that’s an easily defensible view. Matthew 10:34-36 is the obvious example. Now one can, and many do, see this as metaphoric. But it’s most explicitly a violence and war metaphor. That also ignores his actions such as with the money changers.

    Even if you think the metaphors of the scriptures are culturally conditioned (and I certainly agree they are) I’m not sure how that justifies changing hymns to break the connection to the scriptures. It also runs into the problem that modern scripture typically references or paraphrases these same metaphors.

    To your final point, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. After all one can be critical of where one thinks peoples views are in error without imagining one is bringing them into the fold. An intellectual engagement is not necessarily aimed at conversion so much as understanding. I think everyone posting here considers themselves as orthodox even if we may disagree with each other at times. It’s in discussing our disagreement that we come to better understanding, if only in terms of the arguments for differing views.

  36. I wonder what the new book of hymns will be titled. Hymns (2021) would be nice, but these days we tend to get titles like Preach My Gospel, Come, Follow Me, Teaching in the Savior’s Way, so the title will likely be an imperative that references Jesus Christ either directly or by pronoun.

    One lovely old hymn that I like a lot that simply doesn’t belong anymore: Come, go with me beyond the sea / Where happiness is true / Where Joseph’s land, blest by God’s hand, / Inviting waits for you. / With joyful hearts you’ll understand / The blessings that await your there. / I know it is the promised land, / My home, my home is there./

    Very beautiful reminder of an honorable past properly superceeded by the present and dropped in 1985.

  37. fbisti — I understand what you are saying about language and it being based on ancient stuff. I don’t completely agree, but I understand what you are saying and respect your opinion. I think you would like a Primary song I’ve submitted about the Godhead — it’s titled “The Godhead is a Quorum Strong”. Fresh, modern terms the children can understand and is not based on ancient forms of government.

  38. “Beautiful Zion for Me” from the pre-1985 has a great tune, regardless of the words.

  39. “— More Easter hymns. We only have four Easter Hymns in our hymnal! As a music leader, I’d be scheduling Easter hymns for weeks before Easter, just like we do at Christmas.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this comment. This is the preeminent holyday of planet earth.

    Also, more cowbell.

  40. Which songs go in is not as important as getting back to better embossing on the cover, like the blue one had before the green one came along, so we can use a program and the side of a pencil lead to make art.

  41. Can we please delete the hymn(s) which talk about proving our worthiness? Happily, this idea does not exist in the French translation of “With Humble Heart.”

  42. Thank you so much for this post. I am surprised there hasn’t been more people talking about it. The new hymnbook is going to affect the culture of the Church for decades to come. There are so many questions to answer. It is one thing to say we want hymns that are more international and heels comfort the weary, but another to do it. We need to first understand the needs of international congregations, why people are feeling weary in the first place, and how the hymns affect that.

    I think we need to have a serious conversation in the Church about how to resolve these issues. We need to encourage people to participate and share their perspectives. There are so many things that affect people in different ways it is hard for a small group of people to understand them all.

    I think this web site would be of interest. It is taking about different issues, like globalization, race, and gender and it might affect different servants of the population. If anyone is interested, the web site is here:


    Again great post. It is good to get some insight on the decision-making process and the backgrounds of the people involved in the committee. Hopefully the next hymnbook will be there best one ever.

  43. Joshua J, thank you for pointing out that web site. I’ll have to check it out.

  44. Joyful joyful we adore thee by Beethoven is a very universal hymn sung thru out the world that would be well received by converts. It has a glorious uplifting text and the music really lifts us up. I would love to see it included in the new hymnal. Ken Noble organist mesa Arizona.

  45. I agree, Ken. I love that hymn and would love to see it in the new hymnbook.

Comments are closed.