Christian churches, including the Latter-day Saints, share many hymns

By John Enslen

Published: Sunday, April 10 2011 4:30 a.m. MDT

Four decades ago, when my wife Dianne and I were active Baptists, somehow we ended up with a Baptist hymnal in our home. This same kleptomaniac-like behavior has surfaced on multiple occasions with respect to LDS hymnals. We even have an LDS hymnal embossed with “Joseph Smith Memorial Building.”

Our Baptist hymnal is a part of the 22nd printing of the once widely-used, 1956-copyrighted edition published by Convention Press in Nashville, Tenn.

Dianne and I were married in The First Baptist Church of Hartwell, Ga., by her cousin minister in 1968. Five years and two children later, we became the first two converts in my small hometown of Wetumpka, Ala., to what the world calls “Mormonism.” Through the ensuing years subsequent to our conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we received much enjoyment sitting at the piano and singing some of our favorite hymns from this old Baptist hymnbook — hymns that we learned and loved throughout the 1950s, ’60s, and early ’70s and still love today.

Recently I searched our current 1985 edition of "Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" to determine how many of these hymns are common to our older Baptist hymnal. One might be surprised to learn that of the 341 hymns in the LDS hymnal, 55, or 16 percent, are also found in this particular Baptist hymnal.

The two hymnals share three Easter hymns, eight traditional Christmas hymns, six patriotic hymns, one sacrament hymn (“There Is A Green Hill Far Away”), two hymns with distinct missionary themes, five thanksgiving hymns and four benediction hymns.

In addition, there are 25 traditional Christian hymns contained in both hymnals. These 25 hymns could comfortably be sung in a joint meeting of Baptists and Mormons. Within those 25 traditional Christian hymns are 18 which I remember singing on a regular basis in my hometown Baptist Church: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah,” “How Firm A Foundation,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “Jesus Lover Of My Soul,” “Jesus Savior Pilot Me,” “Jesus, The Very Thought Of Thee,” “Lead Kindly Light,” “More Holiness Give Me,” “Nearer My God To Thee,” “O God Our Help In Ages Past,” “Praise To The Lord The Almighty,” “Rejoice The Lord Is King,” “Rise Up, O Men Of God,” “Rock Of Ages,” “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” “There Is Sunshine in My Soul” and “Sweet Hour Of Prayer.”

The hymn which commenced almost every Baptist worship service we attended in our youth, “Doxology,” (also known as “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”) is contained in our LDS hymnal, although very rarely sung in my experience.

I was surprised by some of the things I learned from my comparative study. For instance, the popular Christian hymns “How Great Thou Art” and “God Speed the Right” are in the LDS hymnal, but not in this edition of the Baptist hymnal.

A cursory view of the index reveals that the LDS hymnal contains a large number of hymns on restoration themes like prophets, pioneers, gathering to Zion, mountains, and temples that are not contained in the Baptist hymnal. This situation reflects a similar theme with respect to our respective scriptures. Latter-day Saints and Baptists are commonly blessed with and enjoy reading the Bible, while Latter-day Saints have the added blessing and enjoyment of reading the restoration scriptures.

Based on the commonality of hymns and the identical doctrinal assertions repeatedly contained within them which point to Christ; his divine sonship and virgin birth; his life of perfection; his attributes of love, mercy and compassion; his incomparable suffering in Gethsemane; his crucifixion; and his Resurrection, it is only logical to conclude that if Baptist believers of the 1950s through the 1970s were “Christians,” then also are the LDS or Mormon believers of the mid-1980s to the present.

By the way, “Thou shalt not steal” the hymnbooks is a teaching which is common to both religious traditions.

John Enslen is a courtroom lawyer who reads and writes about Mormon history. He is a consultant for LDS film artist T.C. Christensen and authored a book titled "The Bible and the Book of Mormon — Connecting Links."

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