Hymns by Request in Sacrament Meeting

Three times since I’ve lived in my current ward, we’ve had a sacrament meeting that might be called “hymns by request.” Like a testimony meeting, there are no scheduled speakers; people get up as moved by the Spirit or by boredom. But unlike testimony meeting, what they’re asked to do is to name a hymn they particularly like and say something about why. Then the congregation sings a verse of the hymn that the person designates.

I’ve really enjoyed these meetings. I love to hear why people like the particular hymns they do. For example, the last time we had a meeting like this, a woman stood up and named Be Still My Soul as one of her favorite hymns because her soul was so often worried. This is one of my favorite hymns, and for precisely this reason.

I live in Arizona. I had never seen this kind of sacrament meeting before moving here. We already know that Arizona is strange; I was wondering where else it has been done, or where it might have originated. If your ward hasn’t ever had a sacrament meeting like this, you might suggest it to your bishop. He may be thrilled to get to schedule a meeting that doesn’t require scheduling speakers, although it does ask a lot of the organist or pianist and chorister.

24 thoughts on “Hymns by Request in Sacrament Meeting

  1. 1

    i am in southern California, so you can exclude at least my stake from this practice. but i will have to bring this up in my ward, thanks!

  2. 2

    My ward in Columbus, Ohio has been doing it for the last 7 seven years that we have been here. We do it every Thanksgiving weekend, I believe. Probably because no one wants to prepare a talk during Thanksgiving week.

  3. 3

    We did it as a testimony meeting for May. Best testimony meeting we’ve had since we moved into the ward, since it gave a real focus to what people said.

  4. 4

    My previous ward did it twice (I’m in Minnesota, but our bishop at the time was a Utah transplant so he had different ideas than we were used to) and I really liked it, despite the fact that I was a newly-called organist at the time and not very confident of my playing skills. But I had some others taking turns with me playing hymns I didn’t know very well.

    I’ll have to present the idea to our current ward’s music specialist.

  5. 5

    We do that twice a year in my married student ward here in Provo. Sometimes I like it, but sometimes I find it a little weird. I like when people want to sing hymns like Be Still My Soul, but I like it less when we sing hymns like “Ring Out Wild Bells” or “In Our Lovely Deseret.” It seems more often we sing songs like the latter.

  6. 6


    The problem is you taste in music. Both “Ring Out Wild Bells” and “In Our Lovely Deseret” are awesome.

  7. 7

    What a wonderful idea!!! I am definitely going to suggest this to my bishop… What a great way to feel the spirit.

  8. 8

    Well, for reference, I’ve never done this in any of my wards, nor have I ever heard of it being done in any of them. This includes wards in MN, IL, TX, NC, GA, WI, and PR. I’m pretty sure they’ve never done it in my parents’ ward in VA, either.

    I think it sounds like a great idea, though. I’ll have to see if they ever do it in my new ward. If not, maybe I’ll suggest it. Though you definitely need a good organist to pull it off, something not all wards have.

  9. 9

    We did this about 3 months ago in my ward in SLC, UT. It always makes for a spiritual meeting.

    Vada (#8), don’t wait to see if your ward does it, casually suggest it to your Bishop.

  10. 10

    I’ve never heard of this being done, (at home in CA, or on my mission in NC), but it sounds like a great idea.

    One of my previous wards did something similar, though, and it was great. It was called a hymn sing, and the chorister and organist prepared a selection of hymns with a scripture or two read in between. The choir and congregation would spend the meeting singing the hymns. It was a great way to feel the Spirit.

  11. 11

    I love, love, love this idea, but have never experienced it. Envy is setting in. But I wouldn’t want to replace regular testimony meeting. Can we do it instead of the high council???

    [Yikes, we’re using the same theme! I clicked over here on a link and thought I ended up at my own site! That was unnerving!]

  12. 12

    Our SD branch did this a few times, at baptisms while we waited for the person who had been baptized to get dressed, as well as once in a while as a sacrament meeting. I enjoyed it for the most part, but as the branch’s only quite mediocre and untrained pianist, I remember my despair when someone’s favorie hymn was “Master, The Tempset Is Raging.” But I got used to, and even impervious to, a certain level of public humiliation in that calling.

    Still, I think it’s a great idea. I like Keri’s ward’s ward sing as well. The wards I’ve been in during the last few years have tended to do mostly or entirely scripture reading, choir numbers, and hymn singing for Christmas and Easter sacrament meetings, and I really enjoy it.

  13. 13

    I’ve seen this done twice, and both times were unplanned, I think. Once, the speakers didn’t show up, and the other time, the bishopric member who was conducting forgot to ask anybody to speak. In both cases, the meeting was better than it would have been with speakers.

    I really like the idea of people saying why they like a certain hymn, rather than just requesting it. I think that would add an element of authenticity and foster understanding and a sense of friendship. Sometimes songs, even the hokey ones, have meaning for other people. I never liked the primary song I Often Go Walking, but my nieces and nephews sang it at my mother’s funeral. Now it has meaning for me that it didn’t have before.

  14. 14

    Our northern Utah ward did this one Sunday (I think the speakers fell thru?) and it was ok. The best was one of our British – born sisters getting up and requesting ‘God Save the Queen’ which she insists is way better than the Star Spangled Banner!

  15. 15

    We did this for part of the meeting, before, in a BYU student ward when one of the speakers didn’t show up or when the talks ran short or something. I was the sac. mtg. pianist at the time, but I’m pretty confident playing most of the hymns on the piano so it wasn’t a huge deal. (I wouldn’t fare so well on the organ.)

  16. 16

    My wards in Oregon and California have done this. It’s a great way to spend Sacrament Meeting, which in my opinion is usually two speakers longer than it needs to be.

    I’ve noticed that other churches tend to have a lot more music in their worship service. Also, they always stand to sing. I’m not a great fan of standing in Sacrament Meeting, as my children are usually piled on me, but I do think it helps people feel more engaged with the service.

    If I were in charge, I’d halve the number of Sacrament Meeting speakers and double the number of hymns. Right after I released my husband from being ward organist, of course. 🙂

  17. 17

    I’m glad to hear that other people have enjoyed this too, and I’m encouraged to hear that it might be suggested in other places. I hope that it becomes common everywhere because I enjoy it so much. Alison, I like your idea of doing it instead of having a high council speaker (well, at least some of the time).

    I am sorry that it can be so hard on the person playing the piano or organ, particularly since I can’t myself so I’m sure I have no clue just how difficult it can be to play a hymn that you may have never even heard.

    CS Eric, I like your point that having people talk about a hymn makes the meeting better by giving us more focus. On a similar issue, I think it was in Made to Stick I was reading recently where the authors made the point that sometimes it’s easier to solve a problem that includes more constraints because the constraints serve to focus your thinking. Anyway, I wonder if this approach might be generalized to more testimony meetings. There might be a suggested topic (share your testimony of tithing, the Book of Mormon, journal keeping, food storage, the Atonement) that testimony bearers could use to get them thinking. I don’t know; I can see how that might feel like it’s forcing too much structure too. I guess I like that my ward has done this not as a testimony meeting but in addition, so we get to have both.

  18. 18

    We did this in early-morning seminary in SoCal. We had two classes for each high-school grade so when all eight classes met in the chapel on designated Fridays, it was a wonderful change and started the day very spiritually. I wish we’d included the part about why someone selected a hymn: that would have fostered better unity with each other as well as with God.

  19. 19

    That sounds great! We did something like that in Relief Society once in my current ward, but I’ve never seen it in sacrament meeting. As others have said, I really like the idea of having people explain their choices–I think it’s always fun to hear that kind of thing.

    Re #5 and #6, I love “Ring Out Wild Bells”, and am sad that we only get to sing it once a year. I’m afraid that “In Our Lovely Deseret”, on the other hand, is a taint on the legacy of Eliza R. Snow.

    Ziff (re #17), I’m intrigued by your idea of suggesting topics for testimony meetings. I do think it’s often easier to come up with thoughts about a specific subject–though as you say, that might feel like too much of a constraint. (To really make things lively, perhaps we should adopt Robert Kirby’s suggestion that after each testimony, we open the floor to questions and/or rebuttals. 😉 )

  20. 20

    We used to do this in my BYU ward when I was in grad school. I really, really enjoyed it – and I found it much more uplifting than regular testimony meeting. People would go up and talk briefly about why the song they chose had meaning for them, that day, and what they wanted to convey by choosing it. Then we’d sing all the verses of the hymn.

    I immediately formed a crush on the cute boy who picked “Lead Kindly Light,” because that’s the one I would have picked, and for roughly the same reasons. 🙂

    Of course, there’s always SOMEONE who wants to Hie to Kolob…and that takes a long, loooong time, with loads of non-ending stuff to describe (like race, ouch – but not gender ;-).

  21. 21

    One of the things that made our Testimony meeting work was that we didn’t sing all the verses of any of the songs. Also, I am the organist, but the bishop wanted to do the songs on the piano, which made it much easier for me.

    The only song that started off a little was when one of the Young Men’s presidency wanted to do one of the Primary songs. He wanted to sing it by himself a capella, but there were enough others that joined him that I wished I’d have kept the book (instead of giving it to him for the words) and just played it. It was very moving.

  22. 22

    This is so late that maybe nobody will ever see it. However, I just need to share this.

    For years our ward has had about 3 Sacrament Meetings like this (in addition to mostly musical programs for Christmas and Easter). However, they are not impromptu. People are called in advance (even some children). Their names and songs appear on the program. One of the really great things about this is that lots of folk who would never be asked, or would refuse to give a talk, get a turn at the pulpit. It hardly seems intimidating to just have to say a few sentences about your favorite hymn. We also sing all verses.

    We also have a couple of Sacrament Meetings a year where specific people are asked to share their favorite scripture.

    Our (Salt Lake Valley family) ward has a very high level of cohesiveness. I think these meetings (and especially the heart and spirt that brought them into being are one reason.)

  23. 23


    Thanks for mentioning that; it sounds like a great idea. A friend in my ward has commented that he likes the “hymns by request” meetings because we hear from people who never get up in ordinary testimony meetings. I like your ward’s approach of asking people in advance so that people who ordinarily may be too intimidated to speak are able to participate.

  24. 24

    I am in a small Branch where the average Sunday we have around 30 people. We do this whenever there is a fifth Sunday in the month. It has gone over well here and we rarely have any time when we are not singing. The very first time we did it we had people who were asked to participate, now it is whomever would like to share their favorite hymn.

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