The History of LDS Hymns

The History of the LDS Hymnbook

In Doctrine & Covenants 25:12, the Lord revealed that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.” He also commanded Emma Smith to compile a selection of hymns into a Latter-Day Saint Hymnbook. Meanwhile, the first hymns were printed and published in 1832 in Independence, Missouri. Unlike a modern hymnbook, each of the hymns was printed without the music (words only).

With the constant persecutions of the early Saints and the destruction of the printing office in Independence, Emma was not able to focus on making a hymnbook for the church. However, in 1835, while attending a meeting in Kirtland, Emma was counseled to follow the revelation she had received and compile a hymnbook. She did so, and the first hymnbook was published in 1836 but was known as the 1835 Hymnbook. It was printed on inexpensive paper and made into a small book. The first hymnbook contained 90 hymns (once again, words only).

In 1840, the Manchester Hymnal was published by Brigham Young, John Taylor and Parley P. Pratt in England. The hymns in the Manchester Hymnal only contained lyrics, as well. As hymns were added, new editions were printed (the printing and publication of this hymnbook eventually moved from England to Salt Lake City).

Emma expanded the hymnbook in 1841 to contain 304 hymns and more continued to be added over the years. The first unofficial hymnbook to include words and music was printed in 1844. It was later printed officially in 1889 with 330 hymns and was known as “The Latter-day Saints Psalmody.” In 1908, several mission presidents of the church compiled 100 hymns with simpler music into the “Songs of Zion” hymnbook. The church auxiliaries published yet another hymnbook, “Deseret Sunday School Songs” in 1909.

With four different hymnbooks in circulation, the church decided to compile the “Manchester Hymnal”, “The Latter-day Saints Psalmody”, “Songs of Zion” and “Deseret Sunday School Songs” into one hymnbook in 1827. The compilation of 421 hymns was known as “Latter-day Saint Hymns”.

The “Latter-day Saint Hymns” was revised and published as “Hymns: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” in 1948. It contained 391 hymns. It was revised under the same name in 1950.

In 1985, the most recent revision and publication of the Latter-day Saints Hymnbook was made. The church removed several hymns and added different hymns (including primary songs) to the hymnbook. The 1985 “Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” contains 341 hymns. The hymnbook contains 26 of the original hymns from the 1835 hymnbook but only 5 of the original hymns still have their original tune: “Come, All Whose Souls are Lighted,” #268; “Joy to the World,” #201; “This Earth Was Once a Garden Place,” #49; “O God! Our Help in Ages Past,” #31; and “Redeemer of Israel,” #6. It has also been translated into many different languages, including Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and more!