Comparing Music/Singing in the LDS & RLDS: Part 1

by: markag

April 13, 2014

This is our second guest post from Markag.  He shares his experiences as a convert from the RLDS to the LDS Church.

I have been a singer/player of music, both sacred and secular, all my life; eventually getting a degree in music. I was elected Music Director on a branch/district level in the RLDS Church.  After my conversion to the LDS Church in 1998, and I’ve been called as a ward Choir Director since 1999 and Music Director since 2006.  I wanted to compare the music programs of the two Churches. Part one will focus on the Hymnbooks and later Part two will look at how music and song are used in worship services. I give some statistics below, but please regard these as “approximate” since I may have missed one here or there.

humns“Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” [LDS Hymns] was published in 1985. It contains 341 hymns, 14 of these hymns are duplicates:  they make a 2nd appearance arranged for women’s or men’s choirs. The previous LDS Hymnbook was published in 1948.

Community of Christ Sings [CoC Sings] was published last year and is the 3rd RLDS hymnbook since 1956; with several supplemental song booklets in between. It contains 664 hymns for general use. Because it’s almost twice the size of LDS Hymns some comparisons would be proportionately unfair, but I will highlight a few.

When I joined the LDS Church, one of the first things I noticed was that hymns addressing Deity in the 1st person (ex. “I Need Thee Every Hour”) had no A-MEN at the conclusion. I’ve no explanation. CoC Hymns use it when appropriate.

The Book of Mormon has an equal amount of representation in both Hymnbooks. LDS Hymns has 129 hymns with at least one scripture verse from it and CoC Sings has 136, although they are located only in the scripture index.

The introduction to CoC Sings speaks of “….the diversity and global nature of Community of Christ.” To exemplify this, the Hymnbook has an impressive feature called the Core Repertoire. 27 alternative languages appear within 125 hymns; either as a complete song, lyrics on a page opposite the hymn, or a single-verse hymn with several languages to choose from. Spanish and French have the most entries

I think this is a neat idea, especially for a metro or university congregation with multi-linguists. They wouldn’t have to fumble with a different hymnbook all the time. Of course the encouragement is for English speakers to get a taste of international singing

Now let’s compare each Church’s contributions to their Hymnbook. LDS Hymns identifies 61 composers and 98 authors as Latter Day Saints. CoC Sings designates 21 composers and 57 authors as Community of Christ but this is misleading for two reasons. First, the listing includes W.W. Phelps, William Fowler, and Parley P. Pratt. Second, 23 of the listed authors merely provided language translations or verse alterations to existing hymns

I found one example of lyric alteration in LDS Hymns but CoC Sings is replete with changes to LDS, RLDS, and mainstream Christian hymns. To provide an example I’ll use “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”; the only “Utah Mormon” hymn regularly included in RLDS hymnbooks


LDS Hymns #19

We thank thee O God for a prophet to guide us in these latter days
We thank thee for sending the gospel to lighten our minds with its rays
We thank thee for every blessing bestowed by thy bounteous hand
We feel it a pleasure to serve thee and love to obey thy command

When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us and threaten our peace to destroy
There is hope smiling brightly before us and we know that deliv’rance is nigh
We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness We’ve proved him in days that are past
The wicked who fight against Zion will surely be smitten at last

We’ll sing of his goodness and mercy We’ll praise him by day and by night
Rejoice in his glorious gospel and bask in its life-giving light
Thus on to eternal perfection the honest and faithful will go
While they who reject this glad message shall never such happiness know


CoC Sings #180

We thank you O God for our prophets who guide us in witness today
We thank you for sending the gospel enlightening our minds with its rays
We thank you for every blessing bestowed by your generous hand
We lift up our promise to serve you to bring healing and peace to all lands

When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us and threaten your peace by our fear
There is hope smiling brightly before us and we know that your kingdom is near
We doubt not your grace and your goodness, We’ve claimed them in days that are past
And all those who labor for Zion will surely be blessed at last

A people God calls to be prophetic will walk in the way of the Christ
Welcome all who would join in the journey seeking joy in God’s life-giving light
By prayer may we always be open to bear further truth God would give
We dare to act boldly for justice and serve so that others may live.


As a musician, I DO NOT agree with this practice of modifying lyrics. My personal opinion is that if the church disagrees with the message a hymn conveys, don’t select it. That’s easy enough. Certainly the LDS follow this criterion. Imagine altering the words to “Amazing Grace” to make it more acceptable.

I believe most hymns, especially from the restoration, were powerful testimonies of what the gospel meant to the writer. Who are we to say their words are no longer inspiring?

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25 Responses to Comparing Music/Singing in the LDS & RLDS: Part 1

  1. andrew h on April 13, 2014 at 7:22 AM

    “The Spirit if God” is also in both hymnals. It also has alterations in “Community of Christ Sings”. A couple of Parly Pratt’s hymns are in both as well.

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  2. andrew h on April 13, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    The 4th verse of “The Spirit of God” in the LDS Hymnal (which is actually the 6th verse, 2 are ommited) is used as the 3rd verse in ” Community of Christ Sings” with the 3rd LDS verse being used as the 4th in “Community of Christ Sings”. The wording has also been altered to remove the part about “Ephraim” being “Crowned” and Jesus descending “in his chariot of fire.” The Community of Christ verse reads:

    “How blessed the day when the lamb and the lion
    shall lie down together in peace with a child.
    With one heart and mind may the Lord call us Zion:
    a people of justice, by God’s love inspired.”

    The last two Community of Christ hymnals (published when they still went by the RLDS name) included The Spirit of God but omitted the 4th LDS verse.

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  3. andrew h on April 13, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    The LDS Church has altered several of itsnown restoration hymns as ideas/feelings have changed. “Sons of Michael He Approaches” has been altered so that it does not make it sound like it supports the “Adam God” theory. “Praise to the Man” had the phrase “Long shall his blood which was shed by assassins stain Illinois while the Earth lauds his fame” changed to “plead unto heaven while the Earth lauds his fame. “O Ye Mountains High” had several violent lyrics changed. Here is a comparison:

    Here our voices we’ll raise, and we’ll sing to thy praise,
    Sacred home of the Prophets of God;
    Thy deliv’rance is nigh, thy oppressors shall die,
    And the Gentiles shall bow ‘neath thy rod. (Thy land shall be freedom’s abode.)
    O Zion! Dear Zion! Land of the free, In thy temples we’ll bend,
    all thy rights we’ll defend,
    And our home shall be ever with thee.

    In thy mountain retreat, God will strengthen thy feet;
    On the necks of thy foes thou shalt tread; (Without fear of thy foes thou shalt tread)
    And their silver and gold, as the Prophets foretold,
    Shall be brought to adorn thy fair head.
    O Zion! Dear Zion! Home of the free,
    Soon thy towers shall shine with a splendor divine,
    And eternal thy glory shall be.

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  4. Howard on April 13, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Interesting comparison , I’m looking forward to Part 2!

    “threaten our peace to destroy” represents a very different (more victimized) philosophy than the more advanced and enlightened “threaten your peace by our fear” which explains both the problem and the solution. Do you know which lyrics are closer to the original?

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  5. andrew h on April 13, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    @Howard – The version of “We Thank Thee Oh God For a Prophet” in the LDS hymnal is the original version

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  6. andrew h on April 13, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    I wrote a review of “Community of Christ Sings” for the Association of Mormon book review panel which I later posted here. It is a fantastic hymnal that has set a high mark for future hymnals to follow.

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  7. Hedgehog on April 13, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Love this. I was recently reading up on the new CofChrist hymn book – I think it was Andrew’s review that got me looking into it actually. I really enjoyed the various talks and such that went with the introduction of the book, and I think it’s great there are so many hymns included from different nations.

    I don’t think it’s true to say that LDS never adapt hymn words though. I think it was fairly common practice in the early church, though probably not done now, but we still retain some of those altered hymns. Joy to the world has gone through a few changes:
    ( and although we’ve now gone back to ‘is’ rather than ‘will’ in the 1985 hymnbook, we still retain the other changes.
    a couple of word changes are also noted in the footnote to ‘How Great Thou Art’, works to worlds and mighty to rolling. I think it’s less common more recently though.

    Using new hymns still in copyright is probably tricky, so I’m wondering how CofChrist manage that, particularly if they’re going to adjust the text. Would the original author’s permission be required?

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  8. Hedgehog on April 13, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Additionally, should anyone be interested, lots of stuff on the history of LDS hymns here:
    ( lots of episodes.
    And on music in the church ( and includes the influence of correlation.

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  9. Hedgehog on April 13, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    correction to the first link in #8:

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  10. Rich Brown on April 13, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Thanks for a wonderful post. Looking forward to Part 2.

    It seems like I discover new treasures in the new “Community of Christ Sings” hymnal almost every time I open it up. The OP is quite correct that the CofC is not shy about changing lyrics when theology and/or cultural understanding call for it.

    The example of “The Spirit of God” is a good one to use, not only for the different words used by the two churches but also for the way this beloved hymn is often sung in the two traditions. I first became aware of this years ago when attending Mormon History Association meetings. At the risk of overgeneralizing, the LDS tend to give it a smoother, perhaps somewhat slower and more pensive treatment. The CofC rendition is more like a march, with staccato accents, especially on the refrain.

    Here’s a couple examples on YouTube: an orchestral version with the Tabernacle Choir here. And in the Temple in Independence at last fall’s CofC Peace Colloquy, which served as the formal introduction of the new hymnal, here.

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  11. Rich Brown on April 13, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    andrew h (#6)

    I just read your review of “Community of Christ Sings” using the link you provided. Very well done. The hymns you highlighted are among my new favorites, as well, particularly the one that speaks to me most powerfully, “For Everyone Born.” The words are terrific and combined with the wonderful tune, it’s just incredible.

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  12. Dan Jeffers on April 13, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Why don’t W.W. Phelps, William Fowler, and Parley P. Pratt count as Restoration authors or composers?

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  13. Mormon Heretic on April 13, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    I also believe that early LDS hymns often adapted Protestant or Catholic songs and changed the lyrics completely. I can’t think of any of the top of my head, but the sing “Israel, Israel god is calling” is the exact same song as the Protestant song “we all have a frend in Jesus.”. The words aren’t remotely similar, but everyone would recognize the tune.

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  14. Rich Brown on April 13, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    MH (#13)

    That kind of complete rewriting of words but keeping the familiar music continues with the now much-beloved CofC hymn by Barbara and Dick Howard, “Now in This Moment.” Barbara was a fellow editor with me at Herald Publishing House years ago and her husband Dick was RLDS Church historian.

    Fanny Crosby’s theology is far removed from current CofC theology:

    Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!/ Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
    Heir of salvation, purchase of God./ Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

    This is my story, this is my song,/ Praising my Savior all the day long. (repeat)

    Perfect submission, perfect delight, / Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
    Angles descending, bring from above/ Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

    Now in This Moment (CCS #96):

    Now in this moment, now in this day/ God is creating and leading the way;
    Life is behind us, life is before;/ we write the story not heard before.

    This is our story, this is our song, / praising our Savior all the day long. (repeat)

    Past, present, future, joy, sorrow, hope,/ we write the story, and life is its scope.
    God’s love assures us through the unknown,/ God’s grace sustains us, we’re not alone.

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  15. Hedgehog on April 13, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    Rich, I love how the changes in that hymn includes moving from ‘my Saviour’ to ‘our Saviour’. I love congregational singing of hymns in part because of the communal experience of worship together.

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  16. Hedgehog on April 13, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    MH, of course lots of hymn tunes were taken from folk tunes back when hymns began to be written in the vernacular for congregational singing. I guess in part it helped that they’d be familiar with the tune. Certainly there are a number of British hymns that have more than one tune available depending where they had been sung. The hymn with the most tunes is the Christmas Carol ‘While Shepherds Watched’ as it was the only Carol permitted to be sing in church, early on. It’s really good to the tune of Ilkley Moor.

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  17. Rich Brown on April 13, 2014 at 3:48 PM


    That expansion of salvation from personal to social/communal/global is at the heart of the message of the Restoration movement–Zion–and as such is reflected in all of its diverse branches. I’ve tried explaining this to Evangelicals and Pentecostals (we’ve got a lot of Southern Baptists and Assembly of God here in Missouri). Their eyes tend to glaze over just before they respond, “But are you saved?”

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  18. Hedgehog on April 14, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    The LDS hymn book seems to have a mix of ‘I’ or ‘my’ and ‘we’ or ‘our’.
    ‘Our Saviour’s Love’ ‘O thou Rock of our Salvation’ v. ‘I believe in Christ’ or ‘I know that my Redeemer Lives’.

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  19. andrew h on April 14, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    @ Rich (#11)

    Thanks Sir!

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  20. Rich Brown on April 14, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    Located this video of Shirley Erena Murray’s “For Everyone Born” (CCS #285) here.

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  21. New Iconoclast on April 15, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    In re. #7, the wording changes to “How Great Thou Art” are not LDS hymnal changes; they were made by the copyright holder. They hymn is identical right down to key signature in every modern hymnal in which it is included. I sang it at my mother’s funeral, as a duet with a Baptist friend of mine. She used her hymnal, I used the LDS one, the organist used the Catholic hymnal at Mom’s church. Same arrangement. :)

    The modifications to “Joy To The World” are Phelps’s mods to a beautiful poem by Isaac Watts, and they particularly pain me as many LDS don’t know the real words. There are no doctrinal problems with them; I think Phelps was just trying to Restorationize them. IMHO he should have left well enough alone. If you are ever in an LDS congregation around Christmas and hear a strong baritone singing the original lyrics (“And heav’n and nature sing!”) it’s me. Please come up and introduce yourself.

    The motif to the chorus can be heard in Handel’s Messiah as the intro to the first tenor aria, “Comfort Ye.”

    Much 19th century hymnody borrowed music; melodies were frequently used for more than one tune, and many of the tunes we sing today bear no resemblance to the ones used in the early days of the Restoration. The version of “The Spirit of God,” for example, sung at the Kirtland Temple dedication sounded nothing like the modern version (since the author of the modern music wasn’t even born then). There used to be an online version of the hymns in the 1835 Hymnal with the researcher’s best conjecture as to what the original tunes were, but I haven’t been able to find it in a lng time, and I fear it’s been taken down.

    If your community has a Fasola or Sacred Harp (shape-note singing) group, and you’re interested in early hymnody, you may wish to participate. One hymn common to the two most common books in use today is called “Duane Street,” and is actually the version of “Poor Wayfaring Man” that the Prophet Joseph would have been familiar with. It is similar to, but not nearly as slow and hard on the lungs as, the modern version. I’d love to hear them play THAT one in Carthage Jail.

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  22. New Iconoclast on April 15, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    #12 (referencing the CoC hymnal) – They were Restoration authors; it’s a stretch to identify them as CoC since all were Utah LDS.

    #14 – MH, mostly Protestant hymns. In some cases, we borrowed the tunes (you reference “Israel, Israel, God is Calling”/”What A Friend We Have in Jesus”), in some cases the words (“How Firm A Foundation,”), in some cases the entire hymn (“Old Hundred” – “O God Our Help In Ages Past” and many others). And we leaned Methodist, rather than Presbyterian (with their predestination emphasis). I can’t thik of a Catholic hymn of the early 19th century, since most would have been in Latin, that we’ve borrowed, really. Some of the much older melodies might have been used in Catholic worship, but RC hymnody of the period didn’t encourage a lot of congregational singing.

    We also borrowed from popular music (“Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing” – “Go Tell Aunt Rhody”; “In Our Lovely Deseret” – “Tramp Tramp Tramp”; “School Thy Feelings” – “The Vacant Chair”; “Do What Is Right” – “The Old Oaken Bucket”; etc.)

    Relatively few entries in the 1985 LDS hymnal were written, both words and music, by the Saints, for the Saints. Some of the ones that were are, frankly, dismal pieces of music. “I Believe In Christ” comes to mind.

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  23. jspector106 on April 15, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    I think “I Believe in Christ” would be a fine hymn if not for that extra half verse to incorporate all the verse of the poem at Elder McConkie’s insistence. John Longhurst lamented about that on more than one occasion.

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  24. Hedgehog on April 16, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    NI, you certainly surprise me on that works to worlds change.
    There are a number of hymns my kids sing at school where some of the words differ to those we sing at church. I don’t know if that’s a national (Britain v US), or a denominational difference though. Guide me o thou great redeemer (rather than Jehovah), being one such.

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  25. New Iconoclast on April 16, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    #24: The “Jehovah/Redeemer” difference in “Guide Us O Thou…” seems to be a very early division in opinion, in the free translation from the original Welsh. Anglicans usually sing “Redeemer.” It’s probably no surprise that we sing “Jehovah.” :)

    #23: Frankly, “I Believe In Christ” is a bad, mechanical poem set to truly insipid music. I always figured that Longhurst wrote such a terrible tune for it as a tongue-in-cheek way of mocking the wooden, robotic dullness of the poetry. I can’t for the life of me understand how it became so popular in the Church.

    I’ve noted in my study of hymnals (I collect them, in a very unorganized fashion – I buy them whenever I find them as used bookstores, garage and estate sales, flea markets, and so on) that a lot of modern churches have changed the lyrics of hymns to be more gender-inclusive, and in some cases, to blur the gender of God. It’s interesting to compare original wordings to the newer, more “PC” versions. As a rule, I’d rather not see the changes, but the evolution of thinking is interesting to me, especially to see how far some denominations’ hymnbook committees will go.

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