Survey responses and new music submissions have been received from over 40 countries since the official Church announcement ten months ago that Hymns and the Children’s Songbook would be unified and revised.
With the revision underway, new information has been released regarding strategic goals for hymn and song selection, as well as doctrinal priorities for new music submissions. Updated submission content guidelines and points of emphasis provide members with additional insight into which gospel topics to focus on as they prepare and submit music before the final submission deadline, which is due July 1, 2019.
What You Can Do
Latter-day Saints from across the globe are encouraged to participate in the revision process. Elder Erich W. Kopischke, a General Authority Seventy and advisor to the revision efforts stated, “We invite all members of the Lord’s Church who have been blessed with musical and poetic gifts to share those gifts freely as guided by His Spirit.
Here are ways to participate:
What hymns or songs are your favorites? Which do you think should be taken out? Are there any things about Church music you would change? Give input by taking the revision survey.
When writing and composing works, consider this list of doctrinal points of emphasis provided by the Hymnbook Committee and Children’s Songbook Committee.
Submit music, lyrics, or complete songs before July 1, 2019, to be considered in the revision process.
Revision Committee Members
Under the direction of the First Presidency, a Hymnbook Committee and a Children’s Songbook Committee have been called and set apart to recommend revisions for Hymns and the Children’s Songbook. Audrey Livingston, product manager for sacred music and secretary of both committees, explained, “The committee members have expertise in a variety of areas, including music, education, literature, world cultures, and Church doctrine.”
Creating and selecting sacred music for worship is a revered tradition in the Church. Elder Kopischke said: “Emma Smith was the first in this dispensation chosen by the Lord to select sacred music to be used in His Restored Church. What was true in Emma’s day is still true today. …Now, the Lord’s prophet has called others to select sacred music for this day and time, as we as a Church continue to prepare the kingdom of God on earth for the Savior’s Second Coming.
The committees consider multiple points of data to ensure their recommendations are sound; however, the committee members don’t ultimately decide what is and is not included. Steve Schank, a Church music manager selected to chair both committees, clarified: “The goal of the committees is to make recommendations to the senior leadership of the Church. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles decide what goes in the book, so these committees are not decision-making bodies—they're recommendation bodies.”
Strategic Goals and Selection Progress
So far, both committees have evaluated more than 1,200 pieces of music found in various Church music publications. Sister Livingston noted, “The Hymnbook Committee has evaluated the 341 selections in the English Hymns and 209 additional hymns found only in various non-English language editions.”
She added, “The Children’s Songbook Committee has evaluated the 268 songs in the English Children’s Songbook and 86 additional songs found only in various non-English language editions.”
In selecting sacred music of the Church, both committees consider the following five strategic goals to guide the recommendation process:
- Increase faith in and worship of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
- Teach the core doctrine of the gospel with power and clarity.
- Invite joyful singing at home and at church.
- Comfort the weary and inspire members to endure in faith.
- Unify members throughout the Church.
What Type of Revisions Are the Committees Recommending?
In addition to considering which songs to include, both committees are also recommending textual and musical adaptations. Typically, these changes are recommended to help hymns or songs better align with the goals outlined above.
Sister Livingston clarified, “In the majority of cases, the recommended edits are modest improvements, such as changing a single word or phrase to make language more culturally sensitive or doctrinally correct, or lowering the key of the music to accommodate easier singing.”
Changes like this are a common editorial practice that previous hymnbook revisions have followed. Brother Schank added, “The 1985 hymnbook, for instance, included 244 hymns with music edits and 75 hymns with text edits. In fact, only 18 hymns in the 1985 hymnbook were preserved from the previous edition without any changes at all.”
Member Recommendations Received
The Church has extended an unprecedented invitation to Latter-day Saints throughout the world to participate in the revisions by giving suggestions regarding the new collections through an online survey.
No matter what changes come to Church music in the following years, the intent of Church music will remain the same: Inspire all who hear it to continue down the Savior’s covenant path.
Sister Livingston concluded, “Sacred music will strengthen families and individuals through a home-centered and Church-supported approach to teach doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship.”