The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the preface to the official hymnbook of the Church, states, “Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns.”
Sacred music is an integral part of Latter-day Saint worship, but did you know many of our leaders have written the text for multiple hymns and songs? Many of them are even in our hymnbooks! Here is an extensive, but not quite exhaustive list of hymns written by LDS Church leaders.
Eliza R. Snow – 2nd Relief Society General President
Eliza R. Snow has been called “Zion’s Poetess.” She published multiple volumes of poetry in her lifetime, many of which were set to music and are now in the current LDS hymnbook, including O My Father, In Our Lovely Deseret, and How Great the Wisdom and the Love. The music for the hymn O My Father was composed by, James McGranahan and is known by the tune name “My Redeemer.”
Parley P. Pratt – Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Parley P. Pratt was one of the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a prolific religious writer. He wrote both fiction and non-fiction; he also helped compile a hymnal which included 40 of his own pieces. Today, seven hymns written by Pratt are in the current LDS hymnbook, including Come, O Thou King of Kings and Jesus, Once of Humble Birth.
Orson F. Whitney – Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Orson F. Whitney was an early member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and served for over 25 years before his death in 1931. His family had a long history as writers and poets; his father set the first type for Deseret News. Whitney wrote several hymns, but the most popular by far is Savior, Redeemer of My Soul. While this hymn is in the current LDS hymnbook, it wasn’t very well-known until composer Rob Gardner wrote new music for it and included it in the movie, “17 Miracles.”
Edward Partridge – First Bishop of the Church
Edward Partridge was one of the earliest converts and served as the first Bishop in the Church. Partridge faced much persecution in his life, and was tarred and feathered by a mob in 1833. He was asked by Joseph Smith to help build Zion in Missouri, and many believe that task inspired him to write the text for Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise. The song was included in the first LDS hymnal compiled by Emma Smith.
Emmeline B. Wells – 5th Relief Society General President
Emmeline B. Wells served as the fifth Relief Society General President and is remembered for her advocacy work for women’s rights. She was the editor of the Woman’s Exponent, a Utah periodical for Mormon women, and she also compiled a volume of poetry. One of her poems is now hymn 33 in the modern LDS hymnbook, Our Mountain Home So Dear.
John A. Widtsoe – Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
John A. Widtsoe was born in Norway and immigrated to Utah with his mother and brother in the late 1880s. He served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until 1952 and is remembered as a noted scientist and academic. Alongside his wife, Leah Dunford, Widtsoe helped write the biography of Susa Young Gates, Dunford’s mother. Widtsoe also published multiple books expounding doctrine. He wrote the hymn How Long, O Lord Most Holy and True. It is currently hymn 126 in the current LDS hymnal.
Joseph Fielding Smith – 10th President of the Church
Joseph Fielding Smith served as the tenth President of the Church and was a prolific writer. In all, he published 25 books in his lifetime. He wrote the text for hymn 127, Does the Journey Seem Long? According to Smith, he wrote the text while on a train from Utah to Arizona.
Lee Tom Perry – General Sunday School Board & Mission President
Lee Tom Perry is the son of Elder L. Tom Perry, who served as an Apostle from 1974 until his death in 2015. Perry has served as a mission president and as a member of the Sunday School general board. He wrote the text for As Now We Take the Sacrament was put to music by Daniel Carter and the two entered it in a Church music contest. It won second place, but it wasn’t until two years later that the General Music Committee contacted Perry and Carter to tell them the hymn was being considered for the new 1985 LDS hymnal. However, they wanted new music that was easier for congregations. Carter tried six times to write a tune. On the seventh try, his mother-in-law Sylvia said, “That’s the one.” Even today, the tune name in the hymnal is called “Sylvia’s Tune.”
Bruce R. McConkie – Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Bruce R. McConkie is best remembered for his deeply doctrinal books and as the Apostle who wrote the chapter headings of the 1979-1981 editions of the Church’s standard works. He read a number of his poems in his General Conference addresses. He first read the text to I Believe in Christ in 1972 during his talk, “The Testimony of Jesus.” It was set to music and is now hymn 134 in the current LDS hymnal.
James E. Faust – Second Counselor in the First Presidency
James E. Faust served as the Second Counselor in the First Presidency from 1995 to his death in 2007. A lawyer, Faust served in the Utah House of Representatives and was appointed to numerous committees. He co-wrote the lyrics to This is the Christ along with Jan Pinborough; it is a sacred song describing the Nephites as they witness the arrival of Christ to the Americas. While not included in the hymnbook, it is a popular piece for choirs and musical numbers.
Gordon B. Hinckley – 15th President of the Church
Gordon B. Hinckley served as the fifteenth President of the Church and wrote the words for the hymn 135, My Redeemer Lives. Hinckley earned an undergraduate degree in English and also studied ancient languages, journalism, and public relations. Elder G. Homer Durham, a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy at the time, composed the music.
David A. Bednar – Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
David A. Bednar has served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 2004. He approached famed LDS pianist Paul Cardall to help pull a song out of him. Bednar expressed he felt he had no musical talent, but he had these words “one by one” constantly going through his mind and he had written some lyrics. Together, they created the beautiful song One by One released in late 2016. Of the song, Bednar wrote:
Much of what we need to know about the character of Christ is embodied in the simple principle of “one by one.” This principle evidenced in the life of the Savior has been a focus of my study for a very long time.