Don't mess with the music: Why changing hymn lyrics can be dramatic

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  • nobody_special Birmingham, AL
    April 7, 2016 4:55 a.m.

    The Rock wrote: "I knew a brother years ago with the last name of Drone. He was not fond of the words "The world has no need for the drone". He mentioned it to the General Authority at a stake conference. The timing was right. The next printing of the hymnal changed the words."

    More than one of us first came to Utah and then to join the Church because we were assigned to the 6514th Test Squadron at Hill AFB in the 1970s which was the unit at that time tasked with flight testing of what were then referred to as "remotely piloted vehicles" (RPVs), and we found that line rather humorous.

    My neighbor where I lived in Ogden in those days was the ward organist and a proponent of getting "How Great Thou Art" into the hymnal, and I loved it, too, so with her accompanying I performed it solo in Sacrament meeting. I was glad to see it added officially, even if that didn't happen until I'd already left Ogden and the USAF to work on a doctorate at BYU . . .

  • OlderGreg USA, CA
    March 27, 2016 7:23 p.m.

    As a convert of 40 some-odd years, I still find myself singing the vacation bible school version (i.e. saints and angels vs heaven and nature). Still scratching my head over some of those changes.

  • The Caravan Moves On Enid, OK
    March 27, 2016 1:00 p.m.

    LDS Hymn #259

    Hope of Israel, Zion's army,
    Children of the promised day,
    See, the Chieftain signals onward,
    And the battle's in array!

    [Chorus]
    Hope of Israel, rise in might
    With the sword of truth and right;
    Sound the war-cry, "Watch and pray!"
    Vanquish ev'ry foe today.

    See the foe in countless numbers,
    Marshaled in the ranks of sin.
    Hope of Israel, on to battle;
    Now the vict'ry we must win!

    Hope of Israel, rise in might
    With the sword of truth and right;
    Sound the war-cry, "Watch and pray!"
    Vanquish ev'ry foe today.

    Strike for Zion, down with error;
    Flash the sword above the foe!
    Ev'ry stroke disarms a foeman;
    Ev'ry step we conq'ring go.

    Hope of Israel, rise in might
    With the sword of truth and right;
    Sound the war-cry, "Watch and pray!"
    Vanquish ev'ry foe today.

    Soon the battle will be over;
    Ev'ry foe of truth be down.
    Onward, onward, youth of Zion;
    Thy reward the victor's crown.

    Hope of Israel, rise in might
    With the sword of truth and right;
    Sound the war-cry, "Watch and pray!"
    Vanquish ev'ry foe today.

    Awesome!

  • hilary nottingham, 00
    March 26, 2016 2:11 p.m.

    Why oh why do other people have the gall to sit and alter words written by total strangers, in order to fit in with something they do or do not like. When someone writes words from the heart whether lyrics or anything else they don't do it in order to allow others to come along and mess with it. Hands off!!

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    March 26, 2016 8:32 a.m.

    How Great Thou Art is one of my favorites as well, though apparently there are a significant amount of Mormons who don't care for it.

  • Eliyahu Pleasant Grove, UT
    March 25, 2016 12:45 p.m.

    @Wayne Rout
    " The goal of liberals is to destroy religion any way they can so changing beloved hymns is just one of these steps."

    Statements like this are not just foolish, but wrong, intended to promote the idea that Christianity is the sole property of the extreme right wing by suggesting that everyone to the left of center is an atheist who revels in the destruction of churches and wishes ill on religious people. Does this mean that the LDS authorities who supervised and approved the thousands of corrections in the Book of Mormon, PoGP and D&C over the years intended to destroy their church? Let's not be foolish. The reason people change the words in hymns is because the language changes and the meaning of words changes. Four centuries ago, referring to God as "awful" didn't mean He was terrible. It meant he was viewed with awe by our eyes, and hymns of that era meant that. Now, a hymn referring to God as "awful" wouldn't resonate with anyone. There are many hymns that have needed to be updated for the same reasons.

  • The Caravan Moves On Enid, OK
    March 25, 2016 10:55 a.m.

    Anyone who thinks the words "onward Christian soldiers" needs to be changed because it is too "warlike" need to get a grip on reality.

    Look around. Christians are indeed in a war. Usually not with bullets and guns (I say "usually" because look at the Christians in the Middle East who are in fact often being literally killed today with bullets from guns, fire, crushing by rocks, etc) but with ideas....ideas and theories and beliefs and policies. Those things are the weapons of this war.

    I hope I AM a Christian soldier.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    March 24, 2016 9:38 p.m.

    @Demo Dave
    Holladay, UT

    "And why did it take so many decades to include How Great Thou Art in the LDS hymnal? It is only the greatest hymn ever written."

    The copyright holders may have objected to their hymn being in an LDS hymnal. If you can't get permission, you can't put it in.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    March 24, 2016 9:36 p.m.

    I knew a brother years ago with the last name of Drone. He was not fond of the words "The world has no need for the drone". He mentioned it to the General Authority at a stake conference. The timing was right. The next printing of the hymnal changed the words.

    Nobody's name should be insulted at church.

    My daughters treated me to an unusual rendition of I Am A Child of God. (right after I taught it to them).

    It included the following:

    "With parents kind of weird"

    and

    "Teach me all that I must do so I won't turn out that way."

    My daughters taught that version to at least three wards primaries and Young Women.
    I was surprised to find it in the New Era.

    I will never do that again (my youngest is now 24).

  • Demo Dave Holladay, UT
    March 24, 2016 3:46 p.m.

    A much needed change was made to the lyrics in How Firm a Foundation, from “you who unto Jesus” to “who unto the Savior.” As a kid, I couldn’t keep myself from laughing when the congregation would sing what sounded like “yoo-hoo unto Jesus.”

    And why did it take so many decades to include How Great Thou Art in the LDS hymnal? It is only the greatest hymn ever written.

  • taatmk West Jordan, UT
    March 24, 2016 8:21 a.m.

    "Come to Zion, come to Zion" and "And Zion's walls shall ring with praise" always speaks to me that I should visit the national park near St George...

  • Wayne Rout El Paso, TX
    March 14, 2016 11:41 p.m.

    Those who think that Christianity's major problem is the need to revise lyrics that have served people well for perhaps hundreds of years are confused. t seems far better to me to focus on love for our fellowman. The goal of liberals is to destroy religion any way they can so changing beloved hymns is just one of these steps. There are fare better uses of our time, attention, and money.

  • Jamescmeyer Midwest City, USA, OK
    March 14, 2016 6:58 a.m.

    @RG

    I wouldn't jump and assume that "savage Indian band" is all that bad. When people say savage today, they mean strong, but brutal and immoral. In a song like that, the image that "savage" brings to mind would more closely mirror "fearless", a people who will go and accomplish something as if they were animals or robots; a committed focus.

    As for the topic more in general, in the case of the LDS hymnbook, I consider the songs as a form of scripture. If I'm worried that I call myself a wretch, perhaps I should sit and ponder more clearly just how short I come of being worthy to inherit anything Christ has. If I don't like gender-specific pronouns applied to Deity, it's an opportunity to re-affirm for myself that God the Father is in fact a man, and that gender is an eternal and essential characteristic. If I don't like war imagery? Whether I like it or not, we're in a spiritual and social war, and if I bury my head in the sand then I'm part of the problem.

  • Sanefan Wellsville, UT
    March 12, 2016 9:43 p.m.

    Well when they change the Marine Corps Hymn, I'm done. Religious hymns are now driven by PC. i wonder if the rest of the world is making these changes. No, I don't think so, the US has become so PC i's beyond "counter productive."

  • RG Buena Vista, VA
    March 12, 2016 12:15 p.m.

    Douglas Campbell's article "Changes in LDS Hymns: Implications and Opportunities" in Dialog, A Journal of Mormon Thought vol 28 no.3 (Fall 1995) --available for free online (downloadable PDF) has pages and pages of LDS changes. Very interesting. For example, "Have I done any good" used to say "Only he who does something/is worthy to live/the world has no use for a drone." Now it is "only he who does something/helps others to live/to God each good work will be known." This is a change I remember, since the 1985 hymnbook came out when I was 18. There were lots more changes in 1985.

    But also interesting is older changes. The Wintery Day Descending to Its Close used to speak of the "savage Indian band." Now it is the "fearless Indian band."

  • casual observer Salt Lake City, UT
    March 12, 2016 11:28 a.m.

    Stingray

    This original lyrics reflect the tyranies, both governmental and private, that were perpetrated on the early pioneers. They were time-appropriate, but no longer apply and changing the hymns is proper.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    March 12, 2016 10:19 a.m.

    "'People aren't quite as biblically literate as they were in the 1950s,' she said. 'We needed new ways to tell biblical stories.'"
    ==================

    Ya'know, if people are less "biblically literate" than 60 years ago one really good way "to tell biblical stories" is to actually use....The Bible!

    Now **there's** a novel idea!

  • Silver Stingray St. George, UT
    March 12, 2016 9:42 a.m.

    At least the Mormons have toned down some of their lyrics. Here are just some of the changes:

    Praise to the Man

    •Original Lyrics: "Long may his blood,/ which was shed by assassins,/ Stain Illinois/ while the earth lauds his fame"

    Oh, Ye Mountains High

    •Original Lyrics: "In thy mountain retreat/ God will strengthen thy feet,/ On the necks of thy foes,/ thou shalt tread,"

    Hymn from 1835 hymnbook

    •Original Lyrics: "And wash the Ethiopian white."

    O'er Gloomy Hills of Darkness

    •Original Lyrics: "Let the Indian and the Negro,/ Let the rude barbarian see/ That divine and glorious conquest/ Once obtained on Calvary