Today’s post is by The Chorister. Last week while I was playing the organ for Sacrament meeting, it hit me that often, the only time I feel touched by the spirit at church is while singing hymns or primary songs. I love singing songs at church. It makes me feel like I’m a part of a community of saints. So I asked the powers-that-be at Mormon Matters if I could do an occasional post here re: the hymns. So I will choose a hymn and post the text, an mp3, some comments about the scriptural references listed under each hymn, and some background info. about the composer or the history of the hymn, etc. I hope this can be a positive thread – I need some uplifting spiritual interactions.To begin, I read the introductory pages in the new hymnal as well as some information about some of the changes that were made between the 1948 and the 1985 versions (from the book Our Latter-day Hymns: The stories and the messages by Karen Lynn Davidson). It’s makes for a pretty interesting read, so if you’ve never read them before, you should. For now, a couple interesting tidbits:
the new hymnal was significantly changed to reflect demographic changes in the church. For instance, they took out “Utah, we love thee.”
In choosing which hymns would make it into the 1985 hymnal, the Hymnbook Committee reviewed over 6,000 submissions. Author and composer names were withheld so the selection process could focus on the musical or doctrinal merits of the submissions rather than the identity of the composers/authors.
The doctrinal message was considered by the committee to be more important than the musical and/or literary merit (unless a hymn was considered to be “widely-loved”). I’m familiar with the Spanish hymnal and know that there used to be a song in the old one about brushing your teeth. That one didn’t make the cut in the newer version of the Spanish hymnal. J But what happened to hymns like “Come, thou fount of every blessing?” Does anyone have the inside scoop on that one?
I feel good knowing that something as important as the official church hymnal out of which we sing every Sunday was changed to reflect increasing diversity within the church. This gives me hope that some of the things I struggle with about the church may be changed or at least diminished. So before I die, the songs in the primary book that talk about fathers’ wisdom, faith, and strength in one verse and mothers’ “happy, smiling faces” might get removed. Wishful thinking?? The Utah song lasted a long time, but was finally cut.
I’ll close with a thought-provoking quote from the Latter-day Hymns book: “From the texts of the hymns that have been preserved, we can discern the values, the collective wisdom, the beliefs, hopes, fears, and even something of the history of the people who wrote them. A hymnbook is a testament to the unique qualities of a people.”
So what can we learn about our beliefs from our hymnal? What do our hymns say about us as a people? I think the hymnal testifies of our belief and hope in Christ, of our unique history and traditions, and of the emphasis we place on serving others and strengthening our families. I feel good about these most basic of beliefs. And when I sing the hymns that talk about Christ, service, and families, I feel good inside. The first presidency message in the intro. of the new hymnal says that hymns “can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action.” Good goals.