Thirty years ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a newly revised version of its official hymnal. The release celebrated another milestone — it was 150 years after the publication of the Church’s first book of hymns in 1835. The Church’s collection of hymns had undergone several revisions before 1985; however, few revisions have been made since.
The newly published version included both familiar favorites — only between 70 and 82 hymns were omitted in the newer version, leaving many hymns from earlier editions—and some newly submitted songs of praise (committee members evaluated 6,000 submissions for inclusion).
In celebration of the book’s 30th anniversary, here are five 1985 newcomers that have since become classics and five old hymns that didn’t make the cut.
1. “Press Forward, Saints”
Marvin K. Gardner was serving as chair of the Hymn Review Subcommittee and as an editor for the hymn texts when he noticed something about the submissions he was reading.
“I was surprised to find how few of them were based on Latter-day Saint scripture,” Gardner said in an interview with the Humanities Department at BYU. “Although I had never even considered writing a hymn text myself, I began looking for verses in the Book of Mormon that could be adapted into a hymn text.”
He wrote the first draft of “Press Forward, Saints,” during a stake conference session where a speaker quoted 2 Nephi 31:20.
2. “I Believe in Christ”
The 1985 hymnal included several new hymns written by general authorities. “I Believe in Christ” was written by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who passed away a few months before the hymn book’s publication. The hymn has since become a classic.
3. “I Am a Child of God”
Primary songs, though well-known and well-loved by many Church members, were not previously included in the hymnal. In an interview with the Ensign, then-chairman of the General Music Committee Michael Moody said, “Sometimes we forget that our congregations in sacrament meeting are made up of children as well as adults, and the music in our meetings needs to speak to them, too.”
Other children’s songs included in the hymnal include “Teach Me to Walk in the Light,” and “Families Can Be Together Forever.”
4. “Prayer of Thanksgiving”
Though many of the new additions were original songs written by living Latter-day Saints, some traditional Christian hymns were newly added to the 1985 edition. These including “Prayer of Thanksgiving” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” among others.
5. “As Sisters in Zion”
Though originally penned just 13 years after the author arrived in Salt Lake City after crossing the plains, Emily Hill’s poem about sisterhood remained in LDS Church archives until those working on the new hymnal sought out a song about sisterhood and womanhood to include in the hymnal. They found Hill’s poem and invited Janice Kapp Perry write music to accompany it. Another hymn about women, “A Key Was Turned in Latter Days,” also made its debut in the 1985 hymnal.
1. “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
Easily the most controversial omission from the 1985 hymnal, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was printed in earlier editions but left out of the 1985 version. The precise reasons why are unclear, though some reports state that the committee considered it too little-known. Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of the hymn after the book was published increased the hymn’s popularity and led many members to wonder why it was omitted at all.
2. “Oh, Give Me Back My Prophet Dear”
“Oh, Give Me Back My Prophet Dear” was a beloved hymn written to mourn the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. The hymn was left out of the 1985 edition, as were many other hymns with a focus on ideas and emotions that Church members around the world might have difficulty relating to.
3. “Land of the Mountains High”
This hymn, now known as “Utah, We Love Thee,” is the official state hymn of Utah. (It was formerly the state song, but was replaced by “Utah, This is the Place” in 2003.) With lyrics including Land of the mountains high, Utah, we love thee! / Land of the sunny sky, Utah, we love thee! / Far in the glorious west, Throned on the mountain’s crest, / In robes of statehood dressed, Utah, we love thee!, it’s not difficult to see why the General Music Committee deemed this song irrelevant to many Church members around the world.
4. “O Happy Home Among the Hills”
Because of the culture in the Church at the time, many hymns written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries sang the praises of not only Zion generally but of Utah specifically. “O Happy Home Among the Hills” was one of these, with lyrics paying tribute to the “mountain home” with “snowclad summits.”
5. “Come, Lay His Books and Papers By”
Though a well-beloved figure in Provo, Utah, Dr. Karl G. Maeser wasn’t well-known among members of the worldwide Church in 1985. A hymn about him was published in the 1948 edition of the hymn book, titled “Come, Lay His Books and Papers By,” but was omitted from the 1985 hymnal.
What about “Called to Serve?” Wasn’t that one that was added to the 1985 Hymnal?
And what about “Hark, All Ye Nations”?
What a treasure this hymn became to me when the overturn of communism and the Berlin Wall’s demise happened in the late 80’s and early 90’s. It brought me to tears at the time and still does when singing the 2nd verse
Yep, you are correct. And it was the last hymn to be approved in the ’85 hymnal and almost was not included.
What about ‘Because I Have Been Given Much’?
Because I Have Been Given Much is not included in the electronic hymnal. It says due to copyrights, but it truly is one of my favourite hymns and was so sad I cannot see it in my hymnal on my tablet. I hope this will be changed in the near future.
I just checked my old hymnal.
Neither “Called to Serve”, “Hark, All Ye Nations” nor “Because I Have Been Given Much” are in it.
I was ward organist when the new Hymnal was published, and had been for several years. One of the changes made in the new hymnal was that “Oh God, the Eternal Father” was written in a different key. It was lowered from the key of Eb with 3 flats to the key of D with 2 sharps–probably to make it a little easier to sing. The first time I played from the new hymnal in Sacrament Meeting, I unconsciously from memory started in the former key, and I only realized it after the congregation started singing! I don’t know how to transpose into another key while I am playing, and neither my memory or ear were good enough to take me through 4 verses of a hymn. I gave a very sincere prayer that I would be able to continue through the hymn in the wrong key and was able to do so without anyone know they had seen a miracle! Last Sunday, 30 years later, we again sang “Oh God, the Eternal Father” in Sacrament Meeting, and I was the organist. My notes (Think!) and circles (drawn around the 2 sharps) at the first of the hymn to get my attention brought back memories, but I also noticed that I had no inclination to start in the key of Eb.
Come, Thou Fount was likely omitted due to costs. The cost for the copyright would have driven up the price to publish. If you consider how many hymnals have been printed, it’s easy to understand why cost may be a contributing factor.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is an old American folk hymn. There is no copyright in this hymn so cost would not have been a factor. It was a terrible mistake to omit it from the new hymn book.
Because Come Thou Fount was omitted in 1985, it has become much more beloved. While it was tucked away in the earlier Hymnal it was not popular, particularly amongst the youth of the church. I am so grateful that it has been resurrected, so to speak, and has a more uplifting and respected appeal to congregations now than it ever had while I was growing up in the Church.
One of the omissions was a favorite of my mother’s: “One Sweetly Solemn Thought”
My favorite that was left out is Think Not When You Gather to Zion. Granted the arrangement is difficult for even a good choir, but the lyrics are phenomenal. I wish they had just reset the tune.
I miss the alternative versions of “Tis Sweet To Sing the Matchless Love” and “Guide Us, Oh Thou Great Jehovah” which were removed.
One glorious and extremely popular hymn among almost all Christian churches is “Amazing Grace”, which I believe should have been included in the first LDS hymnal in 1835. I just heard a beautiful version of this beloved hymn, sung by a 14 year old popular LDS young woman, where the word “wretch” was replaced by “soul”, which fits the lyrics perfectly. I hope that when the church music committee is ready to add some additional hymns in a new edition of our hymn book that they consider this great old standard.
Michael Moody (head of the General Music Committee at the time) later said he felt the omission of “Come Thou Fount” was a mistake. But perhaps it wasn’t clear it was a mistake until the hymn became well known. Because we have copies of the older hymn book, we often sing this hymn at family gatherings.
Another omitted hymn is “Though in the Outward Church Below,” with a great bass part. The music is by Mozart, from “The Magic Flute.” Perhaps it was omitted because the lyrics at times could be interpreted as conveying hard-core Calvinist doctrine. I’ve slightly modified the words for times when my wife and I have performed the hymn as a duet.
I miss one called “Each Cooing Dove” from the old hymnal.
As a convert to the church, I enjoyed singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” because it was one of the few hymns in the LDS hymnbook that was familiar to me. I was very distressed when it was dropped from the new hymn book.
How Great Thou Art?
Our family favorite to complain about being omitted is “Hushed Was the Evening Hymn” very singable, beautifully harmonized and telling the story of Samuel the son of Hannah; even softly making the homily in the last verse with power. We discovered it while studying the 1948 hymnbook in FHE and learned it for a musical number in sacrament meeting before 1985.
It was not well-known before but should be revived!
“Families can be forever, far beyond the reach of time…” I love this hymn but can’t find it. It is from an old hymnal. Does anyone know how I can find it? I don’t know the title.