D&C 25:11 “And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church.” — Joseph Smith revelation for wife Emma — Harmony, PA, July 1830

Today we’re taking a look at what members of the LDS Church have sung over the years. An essay in Dialogue Journal is a must read to understand how the Church has softened the blow of its true self. To read the article in full, see Changes in LDS Hymns: Implications and Opportunities Douglas Campbell.

For the sake of brevity I’ve only highlighted a few hymns, however, these examples are just a drop in the bucket of what they’ve done. Mr. Campbell investigated what, if any, changes had been made the Church’s hymn books since its inception in 1830, and admitted he was ‘surprised’ by  his findings.

Long story short, 90 hymns were published in the first LDS hymnal. When they revised it in 1927, only 55 remained. With the next revision in 1948, they were down to 30 of the original 90 hymns, and the 1985 edition contained a mere 26 hymns.

Mr. Campbell categorized the changes into 3 classifications: ‘doctrinal, linguistic, and cultural metaphors’. The changes he said, are of two types: ‘good neighbor policy and temple imagery’. He also noted some songs were being used arbitrarily by various wards throughout the Church. In order to have everything fall into conformity, they announced the new and approved hymnal in 1927.

With all that behind us – whew – the following is a small example of the changes. The one thing I can’t stop thinking about is, what my grandparents must’ve thought as they were singing these things…

1.Praise to the Man

Everyone today knows this song to be an adoration mantra for Joe Smith. While that was true in the original setting as it is today, back then it also cried out for revenge. Mr. Campbell classified this song under the ‘good neighbor policy’. [All emphasis below are mine.]

“W. W. Phelps’s hymn “Praise to the Man”, vs. 2 –

“Long may his blood

which was shed by assassins

Stain Illinois

while the earth lauds his fame.”

“George D. Pyper1 has remarked: “When the Latter-day saint Hymn book was compiled in 1927, in order to be in harmony with the ‘good neighbor’ policy of the Church and nation, the second line was changed to:

‘Long may his blood

which was shed by assassins

Plead unto heaven

while the earth lauds his fame.’”

2.Oh, Ye Mountains High

Truth: this hymn was changed in order to divert attention away from LDS participation in  the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Here’s what Mr. Campbell reported  –

“Verse 3 of Charles W. Penrose’s “Oh, Ye Mountains High” originally read:

“In thy mountain retreat

God will strengthen thy feet

On the necks of thy foes

thou shalt tread,”

and verse 4 originally read:

“thy oppressors shall die

the gentiles shall bow beneath thy rod.

“Considering the Old Testament” … “and the events surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Pyper observed: “It occurred to many of our own people that two lines in the third and fourth stanzas should be revised.”

They now read:

“In thy mountain retreat

God will strengthen thy feet

Without fear of thy foes

thou shalt tread,”

and verse 4 reads:

thy oppressors shall die

thy land shall be freedom’s abode.””

3. Racism

“In 1835, [hymn#] 67:3, baptism appeared to affect skin color literally: “And wash the Ethiopian white.” The hymn was omitted before 1927.”

While this is a very concise look at what the Church has done, we also know it’s an accurate one.  There’s no excuse for hiding the doctrinal beliefs of true Mormonism when they still parade them around in 2019, nor is there any excuse for racist ideologies. The other hymns Mr. Campbell examined had to do with gender neutrality, self worth, and geographical topics.

We’re praying that while members are busy looking up their genealogical records, Jesus would prompt them to wonder what those ancestors were doing at the time.

With Love in Christ;


1 Cor 1:18


1.George D. Pyper was the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.