The hymn texts included in A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints, compiled by Emma Smith and William Wines Phelps, provide a window through which we can view the hopes, beliefs, and convictions of the early Latter-day Saints. Doctrines that were important to the new church were expressed and taught in hymn texts: agency, evangelism, baptism by immersion, and the Second Coming and the Millennium. Phelps and others also verified doctrine regarding the Creation, the Restoration, and the City of Enoch and the establishment of Zion.
In the early 1800s, hymnals were small books . . . and contained only hymn texts—sometimes with a metrical designation, making it possible to sing the lyrics to a number of familiar tunes. Hymnals were kept in shirt and apron pockets and used daily. Their lyrics reminded believers of God’s promised blessings for enduring the hardships and persecution that were the reality of their everyday lives. Latter-day Saints, as well as other early American Christians, used hymnbooks not only for worship, but also for educational and social purposes. Along with the Bible, the hymnals were used to teach children to read and recite poetry. A favorite evening pastime was to gather with family and friends and sing the hymns of Zion.
The hymns chosen for Emma Smith’s 1835 Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints present a picture of the faith, commitment, and hopes of the early Saints, as well as the doctrinal themes that were important to them. The hymns present a picture of members of the new church who had a personal and abiding belief in Jesus Christ and a consuming anticipation of his Second Coming. With a prophet to lead them, they eagerly awaited new revelation and joyfully engaged in spreading the gospel throughout the world in order that the faithful could gather as one in Zion.