Hymns Sung Most Often in General Conference

Which hymns are sung most often in General Conference? My impression is that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is always opening Conference with “The Morning Breaks,” and every other congregational hymn is “Redeemer of Israel,” but I’ve never actually looked to see if that’s true.

I looked on lds.org, and the Conference summary pages list hymns (sometimes with video recordings!) along with talks back to April 1996. (To get them displayed, you just have to click “Show music” near the top of the page.) This seemed far back enough to give me some data to work with, and it allowed me to avoid having to wade through Conference Reports at the Internet Archive, so I used these pages to get information on hymns sung in Conferences between April 1996 and October 2014 (including RS and YW sessions).

For each hymn sung, I noted the name of the hymn and who sang it. I categorized who sang in three groups: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, other choir, or congregation. The “other choirs” are typically from stakes close to Salt Lake, although in the 1990s, they also include a group called the Mormon Youth Chorus that sang pretty regularly in Conference. Whenever two groups sang together, I counted it for the least skilled group, so for example, the common intermediate hymn combination of MoTab plus congregation I counted as congregation. One other note is that other choirs (but never MoTab, at least not in these data) frequently sing hymn medleys, but the Conference summary pages don’t always say what hymns are included in the medleys, so I just lumped these all together as medleys rather than counting the individual hymns that make them up.

There are some errors in the data on the Conference summary pages. For example, occasionally the singer of the hymn isn’t listed–it’s just shown as “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” And sometimes the title of a hymn is mistyped. I was almost always able to fill in the missing or incorrect information by watching the accompanying videos or looking at Conference Reports. I suspect that there are a few remaining errors in the data for Relief Society and Young Women’s sessions, though, because these sessions don’t appear in Conference Reports, and there isn’t always a video recording on the Conference summary page. The possible errors are almost all in who was signing (whether the congregation was included or not), though, rather than in what hymn was being sung.

Results

In total, I found 1103 hymns sung in the 19 years of Conferences I looked at. By group, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang 488, other choirs sang 400, and the congregation sang 215. This table shows the breakdown by session.

Session Count of Hymns
MoTab Other choir Congregation Total Average
Women’s/RS/YW 0 138 25 163 4.3
Saturday morning 160 35 38 233 6.1
Saturday afternoon 5 119 38 162 4.3
Priesthood 6 108 38 152 4.0
Sunday morning 198 0 38 236 6.2
Sunday afternoon 119 0 38 157 4.1

I had never realized that MoTab was so consistent in singing in some sessions and not in others. It looks like Saturday afternoon and the women’s and priesthood sessions pretty much always feature other choirs, and MoTab takes the other three sessions. I’m also surprised at just how many hymns are sung in the Saturday and Sunday morning versus afternoon sessions. There are half again as many in the morning sessions. As I probably enjoy the average hymn more than the average talk, I should probably make it a point to watch these sessions if I’m not going to watch every session.

But that’s all just preliminaries. I said I was going to look at which hymns get sung the most. Here are the top ten lists for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, for other choirs, and for the congregation.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir Top 10
Hymn Source # times sung
The Morning Breaks Hymns #1 14
Redeemer of Israel Hymns #6 11
High on the Mountain Top Hymns #5 10
Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah Hymns #83 10
How Firm a Foundation Hymns #85 9
We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet Hymns #19 8
Rejoice, the Lord Is King! Hymns #66 8
Come, Come, Ye Saints Hymns #30 8
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty Hymns #72 8
Press Forward, Saints Hymns #81 7

Ha! I was right about “The Morning Breaks.” MoTab has sung it in over a third of conferences in the data (14 times in 38 conferences). Most of the rest of the list isn’t too surprising. I wouldn’t have guessed that “Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah” or “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” would be that common, though.

other Choirs Top 10
Hymn Source # times sung
Hark, All Ye Nations! Hymns #264 11
I Know That My Redeemer Lives Hymns #136 9
More Holiness Give Me Hymns #131 9
Lord, I Would Follow Thee Hymns #220 8
Beautiful Savior Children’s p. 62 8
I Need Thee Every Hour Hymns #98 7
The Morning Breaks Hymns #1 6
Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah Hymns #83 6
Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise Hymns #41 6
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee Hymns #141 6

I like “Beautiful Savior,” so I’m happy to see that it was the number one non-hymnbook choice of other choirs.

Congregation Top 10
Hymn Source # times sung
We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet Hymns #19 25
Now Let Us Rejoice Hymns #3 20
Redeemer of Israel Hymns #6 19
High on the Mountain Top Hymns #5 15
How Firm a Foundation Hymns #85 15
Come, Ye Children of the Lord Hymns #58 13
Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah Hymns #83 12
Rejoice, the Lord Is King! Hymns #66 11
Let Us All Press On Hymns #243 10
Praise to the Man Hymns #27 8

I think what’s interesting here is that even though the congregation sings only about half as many hymns as either MoTab or other choirs, our most often sung hymns are sung about twice as often. This means that the congregation really is singing the same hymns over and over in a way that MoTab and other choirs aren’t. I would guess that the thinking of whoever is choosing the congregational hymns is probably that they want to make it easy for attendees to participate in congregational singing, so they try to stick mostly to the most commonly-sung and familiar hymns.

A tangential question is which hymns actually are the most commonly-sung and familiar. The choosers of the congregational hymns are, I’m guessing, influenced by which hymns are most familiar, but by having hymns sung in Conference, they’re also influencers of which hymns become most familiar. If they had arbitrarily chosen to have us sing “Rise, Ye Saints, and Temples Enter” (hymn #287) every Conference for the past 20 years, for example, that hymn would now probably be one of the more familiar ones to Church members, and would likely be sung a lot in ward and branch meetings. And thinking along those lines, my co-blogger Katya has been doing a survey of which hymns are sung most in wards and branches, so I look forward to seeing her results, and seeing how well they match up to the congregational hymns sung most in Conference.

hymn book coverage legend Getting back to the main topic, I also want to show a complete list of hymns from the hymnbook and how often they’re sung by each group. The tables below each have one cell for each of the 341 hymns in the hymnbook. The cells are colored by how often the hymn has been sung. The legend is to the right of this paragraph. The gray cells–labeled “dup title” in the legend–are for hymns that have the same title as a hymn earlier in the hymnbook, so I can’t distinguish them by title alone. For example, hymn #326 is “Come, Come, Ye Saints” for a men’s choir. In all cases, I counted a hymn for the first occurrence of the title in the hymnbook (so in the case of “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” for hymn #30). If you’re interested to look up any of the hymns by number, here’s the hymn lookup by number page at lds.org.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

motab hymn book coverage in conference

There’s a clear focus on the familiar hymns near the beginning, but it also looks to me like MoTab might be trying to also sing at least sometimes from a broad range of hymns in the hymnbook. Maybe the goal is to introduce us all to the hymns we’re less familiar with.

Other choirs

other choir hymn book coverage in conferenceThis looks a lot like MoTab in breadth, but there’s not the concentration at the beginning. Perhaps this is because “other choirs” includes a whole bunch of different choirs directed by different people with different selection preferences.

Congregation

congregation hymn book coverage in conference

This is about what I expected given the top 10: a whole lot of singing a small number of hymns over and over.

One last question is how often each group sings hymns from non-hymnbook sources. Of course the hymnbook is by far the most common source for hymns sung in Conference, but MoTab and other choirs sometimes sing hymns from the children’s songbook, new hymns published in Church magazines, or even occasionally, from non-Mormon sources. This table shows how often each group sings hymns from each source. Note that if a hymn appears in both the hymnbook and the children’s songbook (e.g., “I Am a Child of God”), I counted it for the hymnbook.

Source Count of Hymns
MoTab Other choir Congregation
 Hymnbook 413 325 215
 Other Mormon 56 73 0
 Non-Mormon 19 2 0
 Total 488 400 215

It looks like the Mormon Tabernacle choir feels freer to go to non-Mormon sources than do other choirs. Also, not surprisingly, we in the congregation aren’t ever asked to go outside the hymnbook.

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Credits: Thanks to Rachel Whipple of T&S who I’m sure raised this question sometime last year (although I can’t find where). Thanks to ColorBrewer for the color scheme in the hymnbook tables.

32 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I feel like we always sing “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet” at Conference, and everybody thinks it’s about prophets or the Prophet. This is kind of weird to me, because prophet happens once, in the title, and never again. The whole song is about thankfulness, and almost none of it is about the prophet.




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  2. Good point, Ransom. I’m also not a fan of that hymn because of its nyah-nyah attitude toward outsiders, as expressed at the ends of verses 2 and 3:

    Thus on to eternal perfection
    The honest and faithful will go,
    While they who reject this glad message
    Shall never such happiness know.

    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.




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  3. The congregational hymns are also probably influenced by into how many languages each hymn has been translated. The hymnal in other languages has fewer hymns, and they aren’t necessarily the same hymns as are in another language.




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  4. In the back of the hymnal it has suggestions of “standard, well-known hymns” for use at stake conference “particularly if hymnbooks are not available for the entire congregation”. Many of these overlap with the ones you list. So someone in Salt Lake thinks these are standard and well-known enough that we can sing them without the music.




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  5. Another factor doubtless ilimiting congregational hymn choice is that the music needs to be rousing and lively rather than contemplative. It would be weird to have a congregation stand — an action that serves to let us stretch and have a rest from silent listening — if the hymn were something slow and reflective like “There is a Green Hill Far Away” or “Abide with Me, ‘Tis Eventide,” although slower hymns by the Choir is often appropriate.

    Another winning analysis, Ziff. Thanks!




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  6. Interesting to note that the congregational hymns match up quite well to my list of least favorite hymns ever. Maybe it’s because we oversing them so much.




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  7. Thanks, Ardis. And that’s another great point I hadn’t though of. I’m pretty musically ignorant, but what you said totally makes sense about how it would be difficult to sing such a hymn with thousands of people.

    Interesting, MOQT. Makes sense.that you’d get tired of the same old same old.




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  8. Ziff, one of the things that I realized recently is that some of the seemingly unfamiliar songs (that you may have listed as non-Mormon) are actually in older versions of the hymnal and childrens songbooks. For example, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is in the 1948 hymnal, and Weary Not is in the 1951 The Children Sing.




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  9. One more thought, remember that the 1985 hymnal is topically arranged, with songs about the restoration, priesthood, and expected return of Christ located in the front. That is probably part of the reason for the clustering of songs from the first couple dozen pages.




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  10. Good point, Coffinberry. I looked the hymns up using hymnary.org, and I’m pretty confident that some of them actually aren’t Mormon. But you can look for yourself and see if I’m right if I can figure out an easy way to put everything up like Simon asked. 🙂




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  11. Speculation about “The Morning Breaks”: That’s what the Choir uses to open every Sunday morning broadcast, month after month, year after year. Do your notes happen to show if the use of this hymn in Conference is generally as an opening hymn? If so, perhaps it is because the Church thinks that people flipping radio or TV stations at the top of the hour may recognize this hymn, pause to listen because, hey, it’s the Tabernacle Choir!, and maybe stay around for a talk or two.




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  12. Ziff, I love this. Did you look at the old hymnbook to see what influence that has on the choices? Are newer hymns sung more or less often? Are some of the non-hymnbook songs found in the old one? Anyway, I love this kind of post.




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  13. Thanks, edje! I’m glad you liked it!

    Thanks, geoffsn! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I should’ve looked at other sources to see if there were connections, but I didn’t. Sorry. I’m going to try to post the entire list of hymns to answer Simon’s request, so then you can take it and look and see if you can find any such connections.

    Ardis, you’re right about “The Morning Breaks.” It’s nearly always sung to open a morning session. MoTab sometimes sings it as the second hymn but it’s typically still at the beginning. A few times, though, they have actually sung it in the middle of a session (April 2003, Sunday morning) or even to close a morning session (October 2008, Sunday morning and October 2010, Saturday morning). At least they’ve always sung it in morning sessions. Other choirs have sometimes sung it in afternoon sessions, and even once for a RS session. The evening breaks?




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  14. For Simon, Coffinberry, geoffsn, or anyone else interested, here is the complete list of hymns sung by the congregation and the number of times each was sung. Note that the use of punctuation in hymn titles varies when the hymns are listed on the Conference summary pages, so to make sure that all instances of the same title would be matched together, I just dropped all punctuation.

    We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet 26
    Now Let Us Rejoice 20
    Redeemer of Israel 19
    High on the Mountain Top 15
    How Firm a Foundation 15
    Come Ye Children of the Lord 13
    Guide Us O Thou Great Jehovah 12
    Rejoice The Lord Is King 11
    Let Us All Press On 10
    Praise to the Man 8
    Come Come Ye Saints 5
    Ye Elders of Israel 5
    I Am a Child of God 4
    Come O Thou King of Kings 4
    Hope of Israel 4
    Hark All Ye Nations 3
    I Know That My Redeemer Lives 3
    Called to Serve 3
    Press Forward Saints 3
    Sweet Is the Work 3
    Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel 3
    More Holiness Give Me 2
    Lord I Would Follow Thee 2
    I Stand All Amazed 2
    The Spirit of God 2
    There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today 2
    Count Your Blessings 2
    Teach Me to Walk in the Light 2
    Do What Is Right 2
    I Need Thee Every Hour 1
    True to the Faith 1
    Ill Go Where You Want Me to Go 1
    Joseph Smiths First Prayer 1
    Our Saviors Love 1
    As Zions Youth in Latter Days 1
    Glory to God on High 1
    Jesus Once of Humble Birth 1
    Choose the Right 1
    Israel Israel God Is Calling 1




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  15. Here’s the list for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

    The Morning Breaks 14
    Redeemer of Israel 11
    High on the Mountain Top 10
    Guide Us O Thou Great Jehovah 10
    How Firm a Foundation 9
    Rejoice The Lord Is King 8
    Come Come Ye Saints 8
    Praise to the Lord the Almighty 8
    We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet 7
    Press Forward Saints 7
    I Need Thee Every Hour 7
    Glory to God on High 7
    Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise 7
    Come Ye Children of the Lord 6
    Joseph Smiths First Prayer 6
    Lead Kindly Light 6
    Oh May My Soul Commune with Thee 6
    I Believe in Christ 6
    We Ever Pray for Thee 6
    Now Let Us Rejoice 5
    Praise to the Man 5
    I Know That My Redeemer Lives 5
    The Spirit of God 5
    Abide with Me Tis Eventide 5
    My Redeemer Lives 5
    Sabbath Day 5
    I Am a Child of God 4
    Sweet Is the Work 4
    There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today 4
    Jesus the Very Thought of Thee 4
    Come Follow Me 4
    Arise O God and Shine 4
    He Sent His Son 4
    I Saw a Mighty Angel Fly 4
    A Childs Prayer 4
    Beautiful Zion Built Above 4
    Did You Think to Pray 4
    Sing We Now at Parting 4
    Where Can I Turn for Peace 4
    For the Beauty of the Earth 4
    God Be with You Till We Meet Again 4
    O Divine Redeemer 4
    O Thou Kind and Gracious Father 4
    Come O Thou King of Kings 3
    Lord I Would Follow Thee 3
    I Stand All Amazed 3
    Our Saviors Love 3
    Israel Israel God Is Calling 3
    On This Day of Joy and Gladness 3
    The Lord Is My Shepherd 3
    Sing Praise to Him 3
    I Feel My Saviors Love 3
    Come Unto Him 3
    Faith in Every Footstep 3
    O My Father 3
    How Great the Wisdom and the Love 3
    Im Trying to Be like Jesus 3
    Love One Another 3
    Oh What Songs of the Heart 3
    Praise the Lord with Heart and Voice 3
    Come Let Us Anew 3
    Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing 3
    Come Ye Thankful People 3
    Consider the Lilies 3
    Each Life That Touches Ours for Good 3
    From All That Dwell Below the Skies 3
    He Is Risen 3
    How Wondrous and Great 3
    Lord Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing 3
    Love Is Spoken Here 3
    My Heavenly Father Loves Me 3
    Where Love Is 3
    Hark All Ye Nations 2
    Called to Serve 2
    Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel 2
    More Holiness Give Me 2
    Teach Me to Walk in the Light 2
    Ill Go Where You Want Me to Go 2
    Jesus Once of Humble Birth 2
    Come Rejoice 2
    Christ the Lord Is Risen Today 2
    Go Forth with Faith 2
    Sweet Hour of Prayer 2
    Come Listen to a Prophets Voice 2
    Come Thou Glorious Day of Promise 2
    Come unto Jesus 2
    God Bless Our Prophet Dear 2
    Have I Done Any Good 2
    If You Could Hie to Kolob 2
    The Iron Rod 2
    They the Builders of the Nation 2
    A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief 2
    Come We That Love the Lord 2
    He Died The Great Redeemer Died 2
    He Watching Over Israel 2
    How Lovely Are the Messengers 2
    In Hymns of Praise 2
    Lead Me into Life Eternal 2
    Our Prayer to Thee 2
    Prayer Is the Souls Sincere Desire 2
    Tell Me the Stories of Jesus 2
    The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare 2
    This Is the Christ 2
    We Are Sowing 2
    We Love Thy House O God 2
    What Was Witnessed in the Heavens 2
    When He Comes Again 2
    With Songs of Praise 2
    You Can Make the Pathway Bright 2
    Adam ondi Ahman 2
    Let Us All Press On 1
    Do What Is Right 1
    Choose the Right 1
    Beautiful Savior 1
    Jesus Lover of My Soul 1
    O Thou Rock of Our Salvation 1
    Sweet Is the Peace the Gospel Brings 1
    The Lord Is My Light 1
    Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd 1
    Dearest Children God Is Near You 1
    Faith of Our Fathers 1
    Love at Home 1
    Nearer My God to Thee 1
    Abide with Me 1
    As the Dew from Heaven Distilling 1
    Be Thou Humble 1
    Consider the Lilies of the Field 1
    Faith 1
    Father in Heaven 1
    Glorious Things Are Sung of Zion 1
    God Loved Us So He Sent His Son 1
    I Know That My Savior Loves Me 1
    If the Savior Stood Beside Me 1
    Precious Savior Dear Redeemer 1
    Secret Prayer 1
    Testimony 1
    We Listen to a Prophets Voice 1
    A New Commandment I Give unto You 1
    Baptism 1
    Cast Thy Burden upon the Lord 1
    Does the Journey Seem Long 1
    For He Shall Give His Angels to Watch Over Thee 1
    For I Am Called by Thy Name 1
    God Is Love 1
    God So Loved the World 1
    God Speed the Right 1
    Hail to the Brightness of Zions Glad Morning 1
    Hosannah Anthem 1
    How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place 1
    I Know My Father Lives 1
    I Will Follow Gods Plan 1
    If I Listen with My Heart 1
    If the Way Be Full of Trial Weary Not 1
    Jehovah Lord of Heaven and Earth 1
    Keep the Commandments 1
    Let Earths Inhabitants Rejoice 1
    Let My Heart Be Pure 1
    Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words 1
    Lo the Mighty God Appearing 1
    Lord We Ask Thee Ere We Part 1
    Master the Tempest Is Raging 1
    My Shepherd Will Supply My Need 1
    Now Well Sing with One Accord 1
    O Lord Most Holy 1
    O Thou Before the World Began 1
    Ode for Joseph 1
    Oh Say What Is Truth 1
    Search Ponder and Pray 1
    Softly and Tenderly 1
    Still Still With Thee 1
    Take Time to Be Holy 1
    Thanks for the Sabbath School 1
    That Easter Morn 1
    The Day Dawn Is Breaking 1
    The Seer Joseph The Seer 1
    This House We Dedicate to Thee 1
    This Is My Beloved Son 1
    Thy Holy House 1
    Thy Holy Word 1
    Truth Eternal 1
    When Faith Endures 1
    When Saints Unite to Sing Gods Praise 1
    With Humble Heart 1




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  16. Here’s the list for other choirs. Note that there are at least a couple here that I think are errors, like I mentioned in the post. For example, “Lord I Will Follow Thee” is probably “Lord I Would Follow Thee,” but since there’s no video for it on lds.org, and it was sung in an RS session meaning it’s not in Conference Reports, I don’t have a way of checking whether it actually is or not. (This may be an issue for a couple of hymns for MoTab too, but I’m sure it’s an issue for other choirs.)

    Medley 22
    Hark All Ye Nations 11
    I Know That My Redeemer Lives 9
    More Holiness Give Me 9
    Lord I Would Follow Thee 8
    Beautiful Savior 8
    I Need Thee Every Hour 7
    The Morning Breaks 6
    Guide Us O Thou Great Jehovah 6
    Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise 6
    Jesus the Very Thought of Thee 6
    I Stand All Amazed 6
    On This Day of Joy and Gladness 6
    The Lord Is My Shepherd 6
    True to the Faith 6
    Rise Up O Men of God 6
    High on the Mountain Top 5
    I Am a Child of God 5
    Come Follow Me 5
    Come O Thou King of Kings 5
    Sing Praise to Him 5
    Ill Go Where You Want Me to Go 5
    Carry On 5
    How Firm a Foundation 4
    Come Ye Children of the Lord 4
    Joseph Smiths First Prayer 4
    Our Saviors Love 4
    Called to Serve 4
    Come Rejoice 4
    As Zions Youth in Latter Days 4
    Redeemer of Israel 3
    Come Come Ye Saints 3
    Praise to the Lord the Almighty 3
    We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet 3
    Press Forward Saints 3
    Glory to God on High 3
    Lead Kindly Light 3
    Oh May My Soul Commune with Thee 3
    The Spirit of God 3
    Sweet Is the Work 3
    I Feel My Saviors Love 3
    Jesus Lover of My Soul 3
    O Thou Rock of Our Salvation 3
    Sweet Is the Peace the Gospel Brings 3
    The Lord Is My Light 3
    An Angel from on High 3
    As Sisters in Zion 3
    Rejoice The Lord Is King 2
    I Believe in Christ 2
    We Ever Pray for Thee 2
    Now Let Us Rejoice 2
    Praise to the Man 2
    Abide with Me Tis Eventide 2
    There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today 2
    Arise O God and Shine 2
    He Sent His Son 2
    I Saw a Mighty Angel Fly 2
    Come Unto Him 2
    Faith in Every Footstep 2
    O My Father 2
    Jesus Once of Humble Birth 2
    Christ the Lord Is Risen Today 2
    Go Forth with Faith 2
    Sweet Hour of Prayer 2
    Choose the Right 2
    Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd 2
    Dearest Children God Is Near You 2
    Faith of Our Fathers 2
    Love at Home 2
    Nearer My God to Thee 2
    Ye Elders of Israel 2
    Hope of Israel 2
    Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth 2
    I Love the Lord 2
    I Love to See the Temple 2
    In That Holy Place 2
    Jesus Savior Pilot Me 2
    Know This That Every Soul Is Free 2
    May I Serve Thee 2
    See the Mighty Priesthood Gathered 2
    The Light Divine 2
    When I Feel His Love 2
    My Redeemer Lives 1
    A Childs Prayer 1
    Beautiful Zion Built Above 1
    Did You Think to Pray 1
    Sing We Now at Parting 1
    Where Can I Turn for Peace 1
    How Great the Wisdom and the Love 1
    Im Trying to Be like Jesus 1
    Love One Another 1
    Oh What Songs of the Heart 1
    Praise the Lord with Heart and Voice 1
    Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel 1
    Come Listen to a Prophets Voice 1
    Come Thou Glorious Day of Promise 1
    Come unto Jesus 1
    God Bless Our Prophet Dear 1
    Have I Done Any Good 1
    If You Could Hie to Kolob 1
    The Iron Rod 1
    They the Builders of the Nation 1
    Let Us All Press On 1
    Abide with Me 1
    As the Dew from Heaven Distilling 1
    Be Thou Humble 1
    Consider the Lilies of the Field 1
    Faith 1
    Father in Heaven 1
    Glorious Things Are Sung of Zion 1
    God Loved Us So He Sent His Son 1
    I Know That My Savior Loves Me 1
    If the Savior Stood Beside Me 1
    Precious Savior Dear Redeemer 1
    Secret Prayer 1
    Testimony 1
    We Listen to a Prophets Voice 1
    Count Your Blessings 1
    23rd Psalm 1
    A Mighty Fortress is Our God 1
    All Creatures of Our God and King 1
    Arise O Glorious Zion 1
    As I Search the Holy Scriptures 1
    Awake and Arise 1
    Awake My Sons Awake 1
    Awake Ye Saints of God Awake 1
    Be Still My Soul 1
    Behold the Wounds in Jesus Hands 1
    Brightly Beams Our Fathers Mercy 1
    Choose That Good Part 1
    Come All Ye Sons of God 1
    Come Along Come Along 1
    Come Ye Disconsolate 1
    Daughters in His Kingdom 1
    Families Can Be Together Forever 1
    Feeling the Love of the Lord 1
    For the Strength of the Hills 1
    From Homes of Saints Glad Songs Arise 1
    Go Ye Messengers of Heaven 1
    God of Our Fathers Whose Almighty Hand 1
    Guardians of Virtue 1
    Guide Me to Thee 1
    Here Am I Send Me 1
    Home 1
    How Gentle Gods Commands 1
    How Will They Know 1
    I Heard the Prophet Speak 1
    I Lived in Heaven 1
    Ill Serve the Lord While I am Young 1
    Lean on My Ample Arm 1
    Let the Holy Spirit Guide 1
    Let the Mountains Shout for Joy 1
    Like Ten Thousand Legions Marching 1
    Lord I Will Follow Thee 1
    Make us One 1
    O Holy Jesus 1
    O Love That Glorifies the Son 1
    On a Golden Springtime 1
    Our Father by Whose Name 1
    Saints Behold How Great Jehovah 1
    Scatter Sunshine 1
    See the Mighty Angel Flying 1
    Sweet is the Word 1
    There Is a Green Hill Far Away 1
    Though Deepening Trials 1
    Truth Restored 1
    Walk Tall Youre a Daughter of God 1
    We Will Sing of Zion 1
    Well Bring the World His Truth 1
    What Glorious Scenes Mine Eyes Behold 1




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  17. As someone who leads music in Sacrament Meeting and has both played the piano and been the chorister for Relief Society, this is an interesting post! Choosing hymns for church can be a bit of an art based on the ability of the whoever is accompanying and trying to match topics and local/seasonal traditions. My last ward tended toward an older age and one member commented that I was stimulating everyone with new and unusual choices 🙂 Also, for the couple years I was choosing hymns with the organist I started keeping a spreadsheet to prevent too much repetition, which I suspect was not common among those less data-driven.

    I think there’s a lot of room for research into changing tastes and availability of hymns. The 1985 edition has been around almost my entire life, so I find former selections unusual though they could have been incredibly common in the 1940s. Two books I’d recommend that sketch out the history and sources of our hymn books are Stories of Our Mormon Hymns by J. Spencer Cornwall (1963) and Our Latter-day Hymns by Karen Lynn Davidson (1988).




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  18. The oft-repeated congregational hymns occur because every nation needs to know the song. Hymnbooks in some countries contain some popular hymns, but are missing many of the obscure English ones.




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  19. “one member commented that I was stimulating everyone with new and unusual choices”
    If only that had been the attitude back when I was WMC! In my ward a spreadsheet was drawn up highlighting which hymns were known by myself, the chorister, the members of the bishopric, clerk and exec sec. Unless a hymn was known by 5 of the people surveyed, we weren’t allowed to use it. We lost nearly half the hymnbook that way.
    I did try to keep repetition to a minimum though.




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  20. A lot of thoughts about this; I do love music, and share with Hedgehog a desire to mix it up a little! 🙂

    Re. #3 and #24, about foreign hymnals and hymn choices: I think there’s definitely something to this. In fact, most of the “older” foreign language hymnals were re-written in the 1990s or early 2000s so that the lyrics more closely translate from the English. A friend in the Church translations department informs me that this was done so that when hymns are quoted as part of talks, they actually resonate with what non-English-singing members see/sing in their hymnals. This has thrown some of us oldsters off; the translations are often strained and rhymes go by the wayside to make the lyrics fit, and the current Italian lyrics in the new Italian hymnal (for example) are often very different from the ones I learned on my mission (1987-89). I imagine it was a real pain for members.

    Ardis (#17), I think you nailed it, and I’d think it would almost always be a Sunday morning session for the same reason the MoTab is always the Sunday morning session choir – they’re still in their seats from the “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast which immediately precedes the session, the only thing I ever knew about Mormonism as a kid. (When I heard Spencer Kimball had died, I thought, “Oh, the guy from the Mormon radio thing!” thinking of Spencer Kinard.)

    #23 Gina, those are two good books on the history of the LDS hymns we know and love, although I found Sister Davidson’s book to be pretty superficial for even a semi-serious student of music history and hymnody. There used to be a website, unfortunately no longer up, which held the sheet music and histories for the 1835 LDS hymnal. The author had done some very careful research and put together the sheet music (the hymnal was published without music, of course) for what he believed to be the most likely tunes used by the Saints with those hymns. Fascinating stuff. Singing “The Spirit of God” as it was actually sung at the Kirtland Temple dedication, rather than with the modern tune, is an experience.

    The original tune to “Poor Wayfaring Man” is recognizable but much easier to sing; it’s a shape-note hymn and while it may have been “beloved” of the Prophet Joseph, it was very new at the time of his death and couldn’t have been making the rounds in Nauvoo for more than a couple of years at most. I once transcribed the shape-note score into four-part harmony and had my ward choir do it. We got many strange looks. So totally worth it. 🙂




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  21. Ziff, great work as always. One factor not discussed is the copyright status of the hymn. Without checking, I’m pretty sure that all (almost all? most?) of the hymns sung are in the public domain or the copyright is held by the Church (Intellectual Reserve, Inc.). This also explains why so many hymn arrangements are by MoTab director Mack Wilberg and others associated with the choir. If the Church had to worry about royalties, broadcast licenses, etc. for General Conference music, it would be a huge headache. Already, some hymns in the printed hymn book are not available online at lds.org because (I presume) of licensing issues. I would love to hear “For All the Saints” (Hymn no. 82) sung in General Conference, but it just won’t happen.




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  22. That’s really interesting, Jim. You’re right. That wasn’t even on my radar, but that totally makes sense. Thanks for pointing it out!




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  23. Another late note for anyone reading this post: Samuel Bradshaw at SingPraises.net did a survey of which hymns are sung most in sacrament meetings. It might be interesting to compare what gets sung in sacrament meetings to what gets sung in Conference. You can see his results here:

    http://singpraises.net/hymns/statistics

    If you scroll down to the bottom, he has a shaded chart that shows how often each hymn in the hymnbook was sung.




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  24. Not all hymns are equally suitable for non-professional singers. for example, That Easter Morn is gorgeous, but quite hard to sing. So I wouldn’t expect to ever see it sung by the congregation, and rarely by Other Choirs, though singers with the expertise of the MoTab should have no trouble with it.




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