Columns Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

Finally! A new Mormon hymnal, designed for a global church

A young woman plays a hymn on the piano from the Mormon church’s Spanish hymnbook. Photo courtesy of Intellectual Reserve Inc.

(RNS) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday (June 18) that it is developing a new Mormon hymnal for worldwide use, as well as a replacement for its Children’s Songbook.

The heading of the LDS public affairs news release reads, “New sacred music to reflect global membership.” This statement distills the main theme of the announcement: to have music that more accurately reflects Mormonism’s global diversity.

The current hymnal of the LDS church dates to 1985, when the church had under 6 million members, a majority of whom lived in the United States. Today, it has more than 16 million members, and nearly 60 percent live outside the U.S.

“We recognize the power that sacred music has to unify the members of the Church throughout the world,” said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We desire to offer a consistent core collection of hymns and songs in every language that reflects the diverse needs of the global Church in our day.”

It will take several years for the Church to create the new hymnal, which will “offer the same hymns and songs in all languages.”

One interesting change is that national anthems will no longer be included in the printed hymnals. However, “sacred music of local interest may be made available to members by language through digital channels as appropriate and doctrinally correct.”

The church is also opening the door to feedback from members, who are invited to make suggestions about music they like via an online survey. Those who write original music may also submit up to five hymns and five children’s songs for consideration by July 1, 2019.

In the FAQ accompanying the announcement, the church states that it encourages submissions from “multiple cultural styles,” even if the proposed songs don’t “match the musical style that has typically been included in the hymnbook or Children’s Songbook in the past.”

Mormons have sometimes expressed strong feelings about the songs that are in the hymnal, lobbying for various favorites to be included or others to be excluded in deference to evolving sensibilities on race, gender and theology. (There was a lively discussion on the topic in 2015.)

The announcement’s emphasis on globalism is an interesting development in a church that has largely exported Amer-European tastes in sacred music to its chapels around the world, forbidding local instruments like drums in sacrament meetings in favor of Western-style piano or organ accompaniment. There is no word on whether that policy on acceptable instruments may also change in the presence of a new hymnal.

This announcement is the latest in a series of globally minded changes that have occurred in the LDS church since January, when President Russell M. Nelson, 93, succeeded Thomas S. Monson in the religion’s top post. At the church’s April General Conference, a Brazilian apostle joined the Quorum of the Twelve, the first LDS apostle to hail from outside North America or Europe. Immediately after the conference, President Nelson kicked off a world tour, visiting eight cities in Africa, Asia and Europe.


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About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church," which will be published by Oxford University Press in March 2019. She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

28 Comments

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  • This so called religion has 0, yes 0, yes 0 Black men in the top 3 tiers in America. How precious is that ? Please revoke this Racist Cults Tax Exempt Status.

  • The LDS Church should take a cue from a hymn survey among all brands of Christians in the past. The most favorite hymn of all time was How Great Thou Art. And the least favorite hymn of all time was How Great Thou Art,.

  • You are mistaken. The 3rd tier is the 1st Quorum of the Seventy and there are men of all racial backgrounds who serve in that quorum as General Authorities of the LDS Church.

  • Get your Facts straight !!! 1- Head Tabby Nackle……White., 2nd……12 White, 3rd Seventy, White, In America !!! You Racist Yahoo.

  • Sadly you expose your total & complete ignorance regarding the group that you attack.

  • That would constitute a prima facie First Amendment violation.

    The government may not admonish nor endorse any particular religion or irreligion, belief or disbelief, period.

  • Two thumbs up if the new book a few years down the road does not contain “Gifts of Finest Wheat”, “On Eagles’ Wings”, anything by Marty Haugen, or anything by Dan Schutte.

  • In the past, the LDS Church didn’t allow Christian Pop or Christian Folk style songs. Not for congregational singing and not for special music pieces. Accept for perhaps a very few old hymns in the public domain, the Church prefers LDS composers and lyricists. Occasionally setting LDS verses to old hymn tunes.

  • In 1978 they almost did. But the Mormons made up some Stupid Ass Story that Dead Smitty Called Dead Briggs & the talked with God & let Black man be Priest. Truth is The USA Government gave this Racist Cult a Choice. Let Blacks be Priest or Lose Tax Exempt. FACT.

  • You are arguing for a direct violation of the First Amendment: an edict from the government as to what a religion must believe and/or do.

    The Johnson Act, which purports to permit the IRS to revoke a religion’s tax exempt status, is in the view of most constitutional lawyers unconstitutional.

    Were someone in the government silly enough to try this stunt, that’s probably what they would find out in court.

  • You can never reason with a Racist Mormon. They are Brainwashed from Birth. By the way, Jesus just loves the fact that the 3 top tiers in your Cult in America have 0 Black Men.

  • Why would I argue with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day saints in the first place?

  • You seem to be a bit over-the-top when it comes to the Mormons and keeping your hands to yourself.

  • No, it isn’t. You are just butthurt that your precious church is going to lose its tax-exempt status for breaking the law. You don’t get to legislate your beliefs onto everyone else.

  • Says the guy who wants to outlaw abortion and gay marriage on religious grounds. #hypocrite

  • Finally! A new Mormon hymnal, designed for a global business cult!!!

    Some new lyrics for an Old Mormon standby:

    How Firm Your Foundations:

    now How Firm Your Finances

    How firm your finances, ye 12 Apostles of the mighty tithe,
    Are laid for your money in excellent monetary reward!
    What more can we say than dollars, pesos and rubles,
    Who unto you followers of the mighty Savior Smith. “the mighty con, ,
    Who unto the Prophet for maximum Profit gives us Party Time at BYU?

  • What does “In America” have to do with anything? They’re all general authorities. Besides which, the Quorum of the 12 has one Latino and one Asian-American, and nearly half of all general authorities were born outside the United States.

  • The Lds Cult Absolutely refuses to have a Black Man in the Quorum of 12. Its a Sad Sad Racist Cult.

  • It’s also too short to troll religious discussions with your own form of bigotry and lame attempts at humor.

  • By the same token, the Catholic Church refuses to have a Black Pope. Or, you know, it could be that in both cases demographics of the membership has something to do with it.

  • ‘Gifts of Finest Wheat’ is probably only sung in RC or Lutheran churches … Baptists would run and call it an abomination. Cultists like the Mormons wouldn’t get the meaning.

  • Knowing the theology of both Baptists and Latter-day Saints, both groups wouldn’t have an issue with the lyrics or understanding them. The music is another Issue, it’s too slow.

  • Thanks from the bottom my heart for your agreement on the Lds Scumbag RACIST principles when it comes to running the White Mans Cult. God Blesses you for that.

  • Dave, are you ok? Have you taken your medication? Is there a reason you decided to respond three weeks later with something that was totally non-responsive to my comment?

  • You can run from the truth all you want. The Lds Cult is the most Racist Scumbag Fake church on earth.

  • Yo Zamp, my black friends play a game with there sons,…….The dad tells the kids they want to be the leader of the lds cult,……the kids say,…..you cant !!…….the dad say why ????………The sons say…….Caus Yer Black !!!! We laugh soooo hard !!!

  • Its the funniest thing in the world when The Whitest Fake religion says that they are not Racist. My mom cracks up at that.

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