Read our lips: No new Mormon hymnal :-(

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LDS-HymnsI loved almost all of the comments on last week’s post about my Fantasy Mormon Hymnal. You folks are very thoughtful and creative.

Several readers suggested, for example, that the offending line “There is no end to race” in “If You Could Hie to Kolob” could become theologically lovely if changed to “There is no end to grace.” Hear, hear.

A few of you commented that we should get rid of “In Our Lovely Deseret” (#307), with its trippy stanza about how righteous we all are for keeping the Word of Wisdom. Honestly, I couldn’t place this hymn at all, so I looked it up and found that . . . yeah, it’s an odd bird. (Though it does prove one thing at least: there was a time in Mormon history when people actually took WofW vegetarianism a tiny bit more seriously than we do today.)

A couple of readers let me know that other Mormon blogs and websites have already covered this territory.  Wheat and Tares discussed it just last week with a top ten list of “Hated Hymns.” It’s a really good list, and I’m sorry I missed it before. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of scrapping “Who Is on the Lord’s Side,” as they suggest. They’re right; it’s pretty bad. (Maybe we could update it to the tune of “Who Let the Dogs Out? Who, Who, Who, Who, Who?” That would totally invite the Spirit.)

But the comment that broke my heart, possibly irrevocably, was from Jeff, who wrote:

No new hymnal … see the Sept. 2015 Ensign, “The Hymnbook Turns 30”. Per the article: “Because translation work is ongoing, and given the quality and continued usefulness of the current hymnbook, there are no plans at this time for a new edition.”
Jeff is all too correct; click here for the Ensign article in question. No new hymnal is in the works, people. We are all going to have continue praising the man and hieing to Kolob for the foreseeable future.
In Our Lovely DeseretBut I’m never one to allow cold, hard reality to derail me from warm, fuzzy fantasy, so I’m doing this follow-up post anyway, on hymns you and I have suggested to be added to our Fantasy Mormon Hymnal, even if said hymnal will not be updated until most of us are pushing up the daisies.
Here are ten that kept coming up in people’s comments, or that I added because I LOVE THESE HYMNS AND THIS IS MY BLOG, DAMMIT.
  1. “Amazing Grace” (this got the most votes of any hymn . . .  and a reader noted that it was played on the bagpipes at President Hinckley’s funeral in 2008. Maybe that will help pave the way toward canonization?)
  2. “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (This was in the LDS hymnal until 1985, so at least there’s a precedent for bringing this gorgeous song back . . . but can we please actually sing it at tempo?)
  3. “Beautiful Savior”
  4. “Souviens-toi” (apparently this is in the French LDS hymnal, and “it references heavenly parents”; I’m intrigued)
  5. “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” (MLK’s favorite hymn — love it!)
  6. “I’ll Fly Away”
  7. “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”
  8. “It Is Well with My Soul
  9. “God So Loved the World”
  10. And finally, one that no one else mentioned but that is one of my top five hymns of all time: “Be Thou My Vision.” I love this Celtic-influenced hymn so much that I had it sung at my LDS baptism.
Perhaps the most promising comment came from Eli, who served a mission in Denmark and loved some of the Danish-specific hymns. “I would love to see the Church pull these Hymns from around the world.”
And why not? Why not at least one or two hymns from every country where the LDS Church has a missionary presence? The hymnal as we have it is remarkably Anglo-American and nineteenth-century in its composition. Actually, it’s not just American but Utahn; several of you rightly pointed out the many hymns that reference the Church’s specific geographic headquarters, like “Our Mountain Home So Dear.”)
In the absence of any imminent hymnal revision, we’re all just dreaming aloud here. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, right? And we’d be singing all the while.
  • Troy

    Stairway to Heaven

  • Lindsay

    Maybe I didn’t read far enough down in the comments, but I was surprised no one mentioned to cut “We Thank Thee Oh God For a Prophet,” with it’s stirring last line …”And those who reject this glad message, shall never such happiness know.” If that won’t help newcomers feel welcome amongst us, I don’t know what will.

  • Joseph

    I agree with “Be Thou My Vision” and since there is precedent for 2 different hymns with the same words (See: Abide With Me Tis Eventide), Why not 2 different hymns with the same tune? “Take Time to be Holy” is a song oft sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and is in the same tune as “Be Thou My Vision,” and it’s lovely.

    I’d also add “How Can I Keep From Singing” and “James E. Faust’s haunting and lyrical “This is the Christ.” Like…why is that not in the hymnbook? Why?

    Lastly, who needs permission? Let’s make our own ideal Hymnal, and sell it for home use.

  • V Child

    Along the Scandinavian line, you could add “Children of the Heavenly Father” – it’s lovely, easy to sing, and beloved of every Dane, Finn, Swede or Norwegian in any church I’ve led as pastor.

  • Dan the Mormon

    There are enough hymns in the hymnbook that it is not problematic to find ones you like. For some people, “Praise to the Man” and “In Our Lovely Deseret” really resonate. Personally, I really like the quirkiness of “In Our Lovely Deseret” and the Spanish-language version was a favorite on my mission. I would love to sing an English version of “Oid El Toque Del Clarin” which is found in the Spanish hymnal. The Church adds Primary songs all the time, but they don’t update the Primary Songbook. It would be great if they took a similar approach with the adult hymns. I love the new primary song “Gethsemane” (if you haven’t heard it yet, google “lds primary gethsemane”). It is a gorgeous song that teaches about the atonement beautifully and simply.

  • How could I forget “How Can I Keep from Singing?” That’s beautiful.

    Your last question — Who needs permission? — is a good one. In my view we don’t need permission from the church to make our own home use hymnals . . . but we would need to pay for permissions for every hymn we wanted to include that’s not in the public domain. And that can get very, very pricey.

    But we’re in fantasy land, right? Where money is no object. So YES! We will DIY ourselves the coolest hymnal in Zion.

  • Sounds perfect. Do you know of a link where we could hear what it sounds like?

  • BT

    Isn’t that in the hymnal? #299? Anyway here’s the MoTab singing it

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAq-PZ6KbF0

  • Jack Madsen

    Hi Janna,

    This is a wonderful list – including some I had not heard or sung before! Glad you wrote a follow-up.

    It is indeed heartbreaking that we are not getting an update at this time.

  • Jason Hunsaker

    Oid El Toque Del Clarin (a.k.a Hark! Listen to the Trumpeters) is hymn number 253 in the 1948 English LDS hymnal, and hymn number 58 in the 1909 Deseret Sunday School Songs.

  • Jay

    So Kolob is still a thing with Mormons…? Interesting.

  • Hedgehog

    I’d also like hark listen to the trumpeters. But then, you know, disgruntled brass players like myself might use it as an argument for brass instruments in worship services…

  • Bob

    I am a life-long member of the Church. My wife is a convert. We often attend services with her parents when we are visiting them (Edmond, OK). About 20 years ago we happened to be with them when their church was presenting a new hymnal to the congregation: The New Century Hymnal (the Pilgrim Press). It was a revelation.

    Yes, it has a lot of what you would expect from an english-language, made-in-america, hymnal (As I Survey The Wondrous Cross, Precious Lord Take My Hand, and yes, Be Thou My Vision), but it also had many “new” hymns. There’s “Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth” (based on the writings of Julian of Norwich), and my favorite “Bring Many Names” (look it up, it’s amazing). This hymnal also has many hymns in other languages, with a pronunciation guide below each syllable to guide you as you sing.

    I think our worship would be richer if we included things like these in our hymn book. But for now I will have to enjoy my personal copy of The New Century Hymnal.

  • Bob

    Dan, I think your moniker should be Dan the Mor-Man. Works on so many levels. 🙂

  • “A few of you commented that we should get rid of “In Our Lovely Deseret” (#307), with its trippy stanza about how righteous we all are for keeping the Word of Wisdom.”

    That’s good. The last thing anyone wants to attempt to do is approach God with their own righteousness, since He has made it clear that He will accept no one on their own merits.

    Romans 3:20, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”

    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/2015/03/definition-of-grace.html

  • LRC

    The translation work for thousands of hymns has already been done – there’s no reason for Mormons to start from scratch. The current (30-year-old) book leaves women out of the picture most of the time. There are hundreds of beautiful, inspiring, uplifting and inclusive hymns already written and ready to be used.

    And, frankly, a new and inclusive hymn book would have a lot more impact than another MP/RS manual that cherrypicks quotes from recent prophets to rehash the same dozen gospel topics again.

    Blaming the lack of a new hymn book on translation is just a silly copout. At least put together a digital supplement. Or even a paperback version that can be printed every five to ten years with new hymns and old favorites from around the world.

  • JMP

    Done with Janice Kapp Perry. Absolutely done!

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Right. Because the whole point is supposed to be that it doesn’t matter whether you share our faith or not.

    What? Is that what the whole point is supposed to be? Sometimes you people amaze me with your vacuousness.

  • EG

    You’re preaching to the choir, downtown dave.

  • BLB

    More of the children’s songbook should be sung in sacrament meeting. It really helps the kids connect and feel a part of the meeting when they recognize and know the music. Our ward once sang “To think about Jesus” as the sacrament hymn (primary children sang it once then the full congregation sang it) – really neat experience for the kids.

  • Kathryn

    “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is another favorite. I would love to see more hymns about Jesus in our hymnal!

  • JBB

    I would love to see the Mozart hymn (in the LDS German hymnal), “Noch Warten, Herr, in Deinem Reich,” added. I have heard that it used to be in the English hymnal as “Tho’ in the Outward Church Below.”

  • EditorJack

    In “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” the line “There is no end to race” isn’t talking about Africans vs. Caucasians vs. Asians, fer cryin’ out loud. It’s talking about the *human* race and its relation to that of the Gods. One of the best hymns in the book.

  • Mike

    Let’s add, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” It is a beautiful hymn, plus it’s about Easter. We need more Easter hymns!!!

    Also, please add, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”

  • I wouldn’t mind a new hymnal, but *please* don’t cut out *If You Could Hie to Kolob*. That’s perhaps the most awesome hymn in the current edition. How anyone could be offended by it is completely beyond me.

  • MFDJ

    Your are confusing ‘hymns’ (texts) with ‘hymn tunes’ (music).
    Hymns are texts praising God written in specific meters which can be sung to many different tunes with the same meter. A hymnbook has an index of meters which is useful for finding tunes to use, & for encouraging congregations to sing…use the tunes they already know!
    The Mormon and Christian Science hymn books are full of Victorian hymns with overly sentimental texts which were in vogue at the time they were first written. Musical tastes change, hence the need to update hymn books. Many of the Favorites named by commentators (and church polls) are “pietist” hymns which focus on the feelings of the singer rather than any theology, e.g “Beautiful Saviour”, its generalities make it useful in any Christian denomination. Other favorites mentioned are sung to real folk tunes: Irish for Be Thou my Vision and American for Amazing Grace & Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Folk Tunes rule hymnody!!

  • KMDuff

    I’ve worked as a pianist at a few other denominations in the past few years and have enjoyed being exposed to some new hymns. One thing I appreciated was that if the hymn didn’t do it already, they just made alternating verses have alternating genders (e.g. lets do “she” on vs 2 & 4). It was lovely.

    2 Hymns that I have learned, enjoyed and have stuck with me over time:
    1. Turn your eyes upon Jesus
    2. Come and Find the Quiet Center

  • Allan

    woild that be different from hymn #299?

  • i’ve never read ‘there is no end to race’ as racial. rather, i’ve read it to be the human race. there is no end to mankind or humanity. i’ve never hesitated to perform it. your readers have misread, methinks.

    On another point, there are some excellent picks in the LDS hymnal, as well as plenty of bad filler that seems to read as the personal playlist of a collective of church bureaucrats. i have a few hymnals and binders and from those are the gospel songs my kids have grown up with. ‘must jesus bear this cross alone; somewhere there’s a god; were you there?; do you live what you preach?; by the mark; meet me heaven; jesus be a fence around me; every grain of sand; eternal father, strong to save; precious lord, take my hand; this train; elijah rock, etc. etc. endless list.
    by the same token i’ve performed LDS hymns i have loved MOST for non-mormon audiences and they have been well appreciated as well.
    take the best and leave the rest. let sister gladys compile…

  • except i spelled my own name wrong. Mark ABERNATHY. facepalm.

  • Mortimer

    That’s what I said too! But, let’s use Mozart’s original lyrics from Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) about the eternal nature of love and marriage. The wheat and tares stuff poorly fits the word painting and is rather depressing.

  • Megan

    A little late to the party, but one of my favorite Spanish-language hymns is “Placentero nos es trabajar,” it has a great tune, an upbeat tempo, and a good message. It’s been over a decade since my mission and I still sing it to myself all the time. They should definitely translate it for the English-speaking (and all other -speakings) set.