In June 2018, the Church announced it would make significant changes to its official Hymnbook and Children’s Songbook. As part of the process, members around the world were invited to submit original hymns and songs of their own for consideration. For the last year, the committees have begun working their way through the submissions and are astounded at the response. According to a news release published this week, members of the Church from 66 countries shared nearly 50,000 suggestions and more than 16,000 original hymns, songs, and texts.
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and an advisor to the revision committees said the committees never expected such an incredible response from members of the Church. “Their dedication and contributions are humbling!” But don’t expect to see published books anytime soon, he said. While progress has been made on the revision process, the new music collections are still several years away from being released.
Steve Schank, Church music manager and chairman of both the Hymnbook Committee and Children’s Songbook Committee, said the committees received approximately 16,000 original hymns and songs to consider for the new collections, which surpassed their expectations. “About 55 percent of the submissions were hymn and hymn texts, while the remaining 45 percent were children’s songs and children’s song texts,” Schank said.
“We are grateful for every contribution shared by our members and friends not of our faith,” said Elder Jeremy R. Jaggi, General Authority Seventy and an advisor to the committees. “The sheer volume of offerings speaks to the faith and love of each contributor.” Elder Jaggi said that all participants should feel satisfied and appreciated for their contributions, but “in the end, we will be able to publish only a small portion of them.”
So, how will the Church decide what new music to include? The process for reviewing each of the hymns and songs is the same.
Submission Review Process
A team of dedicated volunteers worked for months to prepare the hymn and song submissions for review, which included removing contributor names from the documents to ensure each submission would be reviewed without bias.
The submissions were then sent out across the world to be prayerfully considered in multiple rounds by many talented musicians and text experts. Seeking the Spirit’s guidance, each reviewer provides feedback on how well the submissions meet the criteria for inclusions. The top 2 to 3 percent of the submissions then move on to the Hymnbook and Children’s Songbook committees.
Once the committees have reached a consensus on which pieces best meet the goals for sacred music, their recommendations will be reviewed by the advisors of the committees and other Church leaders, including members of each general presidency.
In the end, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will determine which hymns and songs are included in the new music collections.
“We consider every submission to be a sacred offering that members of the Church have laid on the altar,” added Sister Cristina B. Franco, second counselor in the Primary general presidency and an advisor to the Children’s Songbook Committee. “And whether that offering is published or not, we know that it is an offering of the heart. For that reason, every hymn and song is reverently and prayerfully considered throughout the evaluation process. In the end, many of them may not make it into the new books, but we pray the Lord will bless everyone equally for their offerings.”
All individuals who submitted a musical selection for consideration will be informed of the status of their songs when the review process is complete.
Additional Hymn and Song Evaluation
While new hymns and songs will be added to the updated music collections, many current selections will also be republished. At the same time the invitation was made to submit original works, members were also invited to take a survey that documented both positive and negative feedback about current hymns and songs as well as suggestions of new hymns and songs. The committees have reviewed the feedback and suggestions, which have helped to inform their recommendations.
Schank reported that the process of sorting through current hymns and songs has largely been completed, but there is still much to do.
“Initial recommendations for the current hymns and songs have already gone to the senior leaders of the Church, and we have received helpful feedback. Our leaders are very interested and involved in this project and, in many instances, have given detailed and meaningful counsel regarding both the content and the process of the revision,” Schank said.
“Meanwhile, the committees have gone on to review hundreds of additional hymns and songs, including music published in the Church magazines over several decades, as well as sacred music currently used in other Christian faith traditions. Administrative review of the new music submissions is complete, but the evaluation process for those selections is ongoing,” he said.
Beloved hymns and songs from several cultures, countries and languages are being considered for the new music collections, as well as songs from different faiths that coincide with the teachings of the Church.
“We cannot overstate the power of sacred music to unify the Saints worldwide,” said Elder Soares. “Singing from the same body of hymns and songs, all children of God — regardless of ethnicity, country, culture or language — will unite their voices in praise of our common Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
He continued, “The Lord has said, ‘The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads’ (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12). As we unify our voices as the body of Christ, our Father will bless us by unifying our hearts in unprecedented ways.”