When I was a kid bored in sacrament meeting, finished with doodling on the program and desperate for entertainment, the hymnbook was my saving grace. (I know that’s supposed to be Jesus, but the hymnbook was much closer and more tactile.) After I’d finished the game of mentally adding naughty phrases to the hymn titles (“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me Under the Covers” still makes me giggle), I’d usually end up either trying to memorize the lyrics of “I’m a Pilgrim, I’m a Stranger,” which were oddly and inexplicably fascinating to me despite–still!–never having sung the song, or leafing through the national songs and wondering first, why there aren’t more countries represented, and second, why the national song for the UK and Commonwealth countries is captured as “God Save the King.”
Gina Colvin reminded me of this recently, but seriously: why? The green hymnbook was published in 1985, at which point the UK had had a queen as its ruling monarch for 33 years and–not that anyone could have known this at the time–would have one for at least another 31 years. Is it that the (likely American) editors of the hymnbook regarded “king” as the default version of the song and didn’t think about it hard enough to even leave a footnote mentioning that singers should fill in “queen” and “her” where appropriate? (Two minutes on Wikipedia tells me that “queen” has been correct in 47% of years since the song’s earliest publication date, but I guess they didn’t have Wikipedia then, and apparently had no one on staff who knew about Queen Victoria.)
Did the hymnbook editors consider the state of things, gamble that Queen Elizabeth II would inherit her father’s longevity rather than her mother’s, and opt for a hymnbook that would be inaccurate at publication rather than one that might become outdated shortly after publication? (Didn’t they know the prophets discourage gambling? At least add a footnote!)
Is it that the national songs in the hymn are really included as religious metaphors and so we have to sing about God the king since the first rule of Heavenly Mother is that we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother? (Now my mind is wandering into speculation about the religiously metaphorical meaning of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and, oops, I just added “Under the Covers.”)
Is this just that the editors, steeped in Mormon theology, felt uncomfortable with a vision of a woman in power, and couldn’t figure out how to make “God save the queen and priestess unto her husband” scan? (Scansion certainly didn’t bother them with “For All the Saints.”)
Speculate with me, dear readers. Under the covers.