New hymnbook seeks to unify members, bring Spirit into homes

The first revision since 1985 is scheduled to be translated and published in 50 languages by 2030.

The Old Testament has a book of hymns. In the New Testament, multiple apostles encouraged singing hymns. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi wrote a hymn of his own. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Emma Smith was directed by the Lord to compile hymns. And over the next few years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hopes to publish a new collection of hymns in 50 languages. 

The project has involved members from all over the world in many different roles. Some contributed to the lyrics and music of more than 17,000 new songs submitted to the Church for consideration to be included in the new hymnbook. Some have participated in evaluating the content of current hymns, submissions and music from other faiths. 

Church leaders have been involved in the process since the new project was announced more than five years ago, in June 2018. Among them, Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has been the senior Church leader overseeing the project. 

“One way God helps us to feel the Spirit and motivates us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ is through sacred music,” Elder Renlund said. “We are pleased to share an update on the anticipated consolidated music collection. This collection will help deepen conversion to the Lord and His work. We pray that it will bless, edify, comfort and cheer you in the coming years.” 

A family in San Francisco, California, sings a hymn. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning through music 

The adjustment to home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning — as has been reiterated since the introduction of the Churchwide “Come, Follow Me” curriculum in October 2018 — gave some direction to those involved in the multi-year journey to create a new hymnbook. 

Elder Isaac K. Morrison, a General Authority Seventy and adviser for the hymnbook revision, said music can help teach and create an environment where the Holy Ghost can testify of gospel truths. 

“Sacred music holds a unique place in worship, serving as an invaluable source of inspiration and spiritual connection to Jesus Christ and His Atonement,” said Elder Morrison. “It is chosen to enhance the home-centered and Church-supported worship services, uplift the soul and bring individuals closer to God. It plays an integral part in all Church meetings and gatherings.” 

Supporting gospel teaching in the home and for individuals of all ages helped lead to the decision to consolidate 1985 “Hymns” and 1989 “Children’s Songbook” into what will now be called “Hymns — for Home and Church.” 

Primary General President Susan H. Porter is also an adviser for the hymnbook revision. She said she is excited to have one collection of music for a wide range of ages. 

“What a blessing ‘Hymns — for Home and Church’ will be for all of us. I love the power of the hymns to touch my heart as I sing about the Savior and His gospel of joy.” 

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Up to 500 hymns in 50 languages by 2030 

The new collection will contain up to 500 hymns and children’s songs in one printed hymnal. The same songs will eventually be available in 50 languages in the same order with the same hymn numbers. 

In contrast, the 1985 version of the hymnbook required 20 years after its initial release to be translated into 21 languages. In December 2022, Mongolian became the 43rd and final complete translation of that version. 

Eventually, additional language-specific songs on top of the 500 will be available through digital channels and may differ from one language to another, according to Steve Schank, one of the Church’s music managers and chair of the hymnbook committee. 

Schank said the new compilation of both hymns and children’s songs will provide increased opportunities for “families and congregations to sing more children’s songs.” 

Many children’s songs teach gospel principles in a simple and understandable way, and Elder Morrison said he feels it is important that music teach the doctrine of Christ. 

“One of the key aspects of sacred music is its ability to convey important core doctrinal messages of the Restoration in a way that resonates with children, youth, and adults in all countries,” he said. “Through hymns and songs, these musical compositions impart profound teachings, strengthen faith, and provide a medium for personal reflection and prayer.” 

Singing a hymn in Mexico | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Testifying and worshipping through music 

When Emma Smith was instructed to put together the first compilation of hymns in this dispensation, she was told by the Lord, “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” 

Elder Morrison said musical expressions sung by multiple people in unison are not only a shared type of prayer, like is referenced in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12, but they are  also a way to unify in the sharing of a testimony as the song is sung. 

“Beyond the lyrics and melodies, sacred music often carries deep emotional and historical connections. Many hymns have been passed down through generations, resulting in a shared experience that unites members of the Church worldwide,” Elder Morrison said. 

“This collective singing and musical expression help to create a powerful sense of belonging and a love of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Through rich melodies and meaningful lyrics, music uplifts the spirit, delivers messages of faith, hope, love and brings one closer to our Heavenly Father.” 

One of the ways the Church plans to help members learn some of those “rich melodies and meaningful lyrics” is by publishing digital audio versions of every song that has its sheet music published. This will enable ward music leaders, choir directors, organists, pianists and anyone wanting to sing the new songs to hear the song and sing along as a way to learn it. 

President Porter said hearing and learning those new songs isn’t a passive experience. 

“As we learn new hymns, we will want to lift up our voices and sing,” she said. 

An example of a song the Church is considering for inclusion in the hymnbook is one that Church members may already know because of its prevalence since the last hymnbook was published in 1985. In 1997, the Church commemorated the sesquicentennial of pioneers arriving in the Salt Lake Valley after crossing the plains. As part of those celebrations, many Saints learned and sang the hymn “Faith in Every Footstep.” Some wards and stakes even glued versions of that song into their hymnbooks at the time. 

Hymns from other Christian traditions are also being considered for inclusion, such as “Amazing Grace,” which appeared in Emma Smith’s original 1841 hymnbook collection. 

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Helping children feel connected in Church meetings 

Also, some of the songs might be unfamiliar to adults in the Church, but they may be very familiar to Primary children. The digital audio versions will help the adults catch up with the children in learning and singing those songs. 

“Children will feel that they belong in sacrament meeting when we sing from the inspiring collection of children’s songs that will be included in the new hymnbook,” Sister Porter said. 

Children and adults alike can benefit from singing and hearing sacred music, so the Church is making updates to its music website and the Sacred Music app to allow users to print sheet music, change the key or tempo of a song, sort through the available music (including hymns, children’s songs, youth songs and choral arrangements), search and filter to find a precise song or type of song. 

Singing a hymn | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Morrison said this more-widely available sacred music is capable of building individuals’ testimonies and helping them to have emotional stability in the face of challenges. 

“Sacred music has a significant impact on personal worship and spiritual growth,” he said. “Whether sung individually or as a congregation, it can serve as a channel for personal revelation, fostering a deep connection to God and providing solace in times of joy, sorrow or spiritual seeking. The uplifting and reverent nature of these hymns creates an atmosphere conducive to spiritual communion.” 

Handbook updates allow for local adaptations 

In December 2021, the Church updated the music section of the General Handbook, found in chapter 19. One of the adjustments to that section includes this guidance for selecting music used in sacrament meetings: 

“Musical selections should be consistent with the worshipful spirit of the hymns. They should teach the gospel with power and clarity. 

“Sacred music that is written or sung in culturally diverse musical styles may help unify congregations. Music coordinators and priesthood leaders may include a variety of appropriate musical styles that appeal to members of various backgrounds.” 

Singing a hymn in Africa | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Part of creating an environment where the Holy Ghost can testify of gospel truths to those worshipping through the new music is verifying the music’s doctrinal purity. That is one of the many tasks being undertaken by members of the hymnbook committee. 

Some hymns may need adjustments to be more globally acceptable. Others may need some lyrics adapted to avoid misinterpretation or to clarify doctrine, Schank said. 

Since the final list of songs has not been determined yet, those who took the time to send one of the 17,000 songs for consideration are still waiting to know if their submission will or will not be selected. Schank looks forward to the day when those decisions are made. Church music staff will be in touch with submitters when there is news to share. 

“We want to thank those who submitted music for their patience as we treat every submission with great care and appreciation,” Schank said. 

The committee has used more than 150 global music reviewers who evaluated every submission. Several hundred of the 17,000 were moved forward to the committee to be measured against five core standards: 

  1. Increases faith in and worship of 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.  

What to expect: 

  • Hymns and children’s songs will be published together in one volume. 
  • Between 450 and 500 hymns will be published in print with the same hymn numbers in all printed languages. 
  • English, Spanish, Portuguese and French hymns are currently scheduled to be released by the end of 2026. 
  • Up to 50 languages are scheduled to have the hymns available by 2030.  
  • Small batches of songs may begin to be published digitally in 2024. 
  • All hymns are planned to be released with both sheet music and digital audio files simultaneously to help with learning of the hymns.  
  • In addition to the traditional style of sheet music, guitar chords are planned to be included for each song. 
  • Improvements will continue to be made to the channels where music is displayed and listened to — including the music portion of the Church’s website and the Sacred Music app
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