Doctrines of Faith and Hope Found in Emma Smith’s 1835 Hymnbook

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The hymn texts included in A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints,1 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 versified doctrine regarding the Creation, the Restoration, and the City of Enoch and the establishment of Zion.

The Significance of a Hymnbook

In the early 1800s, hymnals were small books, usually around 2½” × 4½” and contained only hymn texts—sometimes with a metrical designation, making it possible to sing the lyrics to a number of familiar tunes.2 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 to recite poetry.3 A favorite evening pastime was to gather with family and friends to sing the hymns of Zion.

For believers, hymns have always been a source of spiritual nourishment, sustaining religious hopes as well as teaching and reinforcing doctrine. It was common in early-nineteenth-century church meetings for a leader to read aloud the song lyrics—which frequently had been first written as poetry—prior to the congregational singing of a hymn, a practice that stressed the importance of the textual content, as well as aiding those without hymnbooks.4 Often, long sermons are forgotten and only small portions of great discourses are remembered, but texts expressed in the rhythms of poetry and music are easily memorized and can become an integral part of a belief system.5

The First LDS Hymnal

Divine Call for a Collection of Hymns. In 1830, Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith, was commissioned by the Lord to select the hymns that would be appropriate for the worship of the Saints of God:

And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church. For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. (D&C 25:11–12)

In May 1832, “it was also ordered that W. W. Phelps correct and print the hymns which had been selected by Emma Smith.”6 The printing of this selection of hymns was forestalled when Phelps’s press was destroyed by a mob in 1833.7 In September of 1835, the high council in Kirtland appointed Emma Smith to again make a selection of hymns and assigned Phelps to edit and prepare the songs for printing.8 The title page gives 1835 as the publishing date for this hymnbook. However, some of the hymns that were published in the Messenger and Advocate in January and March of 1836 were in the same typeface in the hymnal, which suggests that the hymnal was still being printed and was probably not completed until the end of March when the Kirtland Temple was dedicated.9

Selection of the Hymns. Converts to the new church brought with them backgrounds from other religions that included familiar, beloved hymns. Emma Smith and W. W. Phelps gleaned texts from this vast body of hymn experience that would represent the doctrines taught by Joseph Smith.10 The preface of the hymnal states that, in order to sing “with the understanding” (1 Cor. 14:15), the Saints should have a collection of sacred hymns “adapted to their faith and belief in the gospel.”11 Ninety hymns were selected for this first hymnal with the hope that the collection, “selected with an eye single to his glory, may answer every purpose till more are composed, or till we are blessed with a copious variety of the songs of Zion.”12

At least twenty-nine of the ninety hymn texts appear to be authored by members of the Church. The remaining hymns were borrowed from other Christian sources. Some of these borrowed hymns were appropriate without alteration; others were adapted—a common practice in many denominations at the time. Church-music scholar Michael Hicks gives a number of motivations for adapting the borrowed hymn texts;13 three of these are particularly applicable to the 1835 hymnal: First, as the Latter-day Saint understanding of doctrine progressed, alterations were required to keep the borrowed hymn texts consistent with the doctrine. In the hymn “He died, the great redeemer died,” Phelps changed the line “The rising God forsakes the tomb”14 to “The rising Lord forsook the tomb,” apparently making a distinction between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, he underscored the Latter-day Saint doctrine of the separate nature of the members of the Godhead.

Second, for the Latter-day Saints, worship was a communal activity. Thus, the borrowed hymn texts of private devotion were altered to fit a communal perspective. An example of a simple adaptation to meet this perspective is “Guide us, O thou great Jehovah,” which is an adaptation of the first line of William Williams’s hymn “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah.”15 By simply changing the word “me” to “us,” worship becomes communal rather than individual.

Third, the Saints were focused on establishing Zion in preparation for the Second Coming, thus some adaptations alluded to this anticipated event. An example is Phelps’s adaptation of “There is a land the Lord will bless”:

Watts Phelps

Sweet fields, beyond the swelling flood,
Stand dress’d in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan roll’d between.16

Their fields along Missouri’s flood,
Are in perspective seen,
As unto Israel Canaan stood,
While Jordan flow’d between.

By changing the “Sweet fields, beyond the swelling flood” to “Their fields along Missouri’s flood,” Phelps defines Missouri as Zion in the context of the hymn. Another example of an adaptation in order to allude to the Second Coming is Phelps’s treatment of “Joy to the world,” which will be discussed later.

During 1832, Phelps wrote twenty-five new hymn texts and published them in The Evening and the Morning Star.17 Through the medium of hymns, he had a profound influence on the dissemination of doctrine to early Church members—his popular hymns spread the gospel, elucidated new doctrines, and instilled the hope of the Second Coming into the hearts of the Saints. Phelps’s hymns became an important part of the body of Latter-day Saint hymnody that developed over the next several decades. Fifteen hymns texts either written or adapted by Phelps are included in the current Latter-day Saint hymnal.

Subject Content of the Hymn Texts

Subject Headings. In the early part of the nineteenth century, it was common to organize hymnbooks by subject headings. These headings might include topics such as doctrine, evening hymns, and morning hymns. However, not all hymnals were organized by subject.18 For the most part, the 1835 hymnbook is not organized in any obvious manner. However, in the middle of the hymnbook (numbers 37 to 62 of the ninety hymns), the hymns are categorized under the headings of “Morning Hymns,” “Evening Hymns,” “Farewell Hymns,” “On Baptism,” “On Sacrament,” and “On Marriage.” The rest of the hymnal seems to have no subject grouping except for numbers 87, 88, and 89 at the end of the book, which are funeral hymns. Hymns that could have been included in one of the named categories are scattered elsewhere throughout the book. This inconsistency in organization is intriguing and may suggest that the center section was organized by one person and the rest of the hymnal by another. W. W. Phelps and Emma Smith both worked on the 1835 hymnal, but Phelps was not involved in the publication of Emma Smith’s 1841 hymnal, which is organized completely by subject headings.19 Apparently Emma Smith favored organizing the hymns by subject, and perhaps the subject headings in the 1835 hymnal were her contribution.

Index of the Hymnal by Subject. In the table at the end of this article, I have categorized the ninety hymns included in the 1835 hymnal, using five of the original subject headings, as well as adding a number of new categories. I have changed the original subject heading “Farewell” to “Missionary” and added three additional hymns to the four originally included under this heading. To the category “On Sacrament,” I have added two additional hymns. Several of the categories are self-explanatory, for example, “Christmas,” “Funeral,” and “Sabbath.” Most of the hymns fall comfortably into the definition of each category name.

Doctrines Taught by the Hymns

Affirmation. The majority of the hymns indexed in the table under “Affirmation” are borrowed and unadapted, and the texts have a traditional Christian perspective. They manifest faith in the Lord to protect, to bless, and to guide. Along with gratitude for the earth and all the blessings therein, these hymns express the all-encompassing significance of Christ in the life of a Christian. This perspective is exemplified by the hymn “Jesus the name that charms our fears”:20

Jesus the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease,
‘Tis music in the christian’s ear;
‘Tis life, and health, and peace.
(verse 1)

Agency and Consequence. The Second Great Awakening, also referred to as the American Christian Revolution, created a “religious environment that brought into question traditional authority and exalted the right of the people to think for themselves.”21 It was in this atmosphere that the early Church developed. The text of the first hymn in the hymnal, “Know then that ev’ry soul is free,” not only reflects this libertarian attitude of the Christian Revolution, but more profoundly, teaches the Latter-day Saint doctrine of the agency of man (see D&C 29:35, 39; 37:4; 58:27–28; and 98:8):

Know then that ev’ry soul is free,
To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is given,
That God will force no man to heaven.
(verse 1)

The hymn’s preeminent placement in both hymnals compiled under the direction of Emma Smith and sanctioned by the Church reflects the importance of this doctrine to the early Saints.

The text of “Know then” was borrowed from the Freewill Baptists and is used without adaptation. First published by Elias Smith and Abner Jones in 1805,22 this hymn was included in most of the Latter-day Saint hymnals published between 1835 and 1844. It does not appear in other denominational hymnals after 1830,23 but remains in the current Latter-day Saint hymnal. The word “then” in the first line was changed to “this” by George Q. Cannon in 1871 in his Collection of Sacred Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, published in Salt Lake City.24

“Know then” is the only hymn that specifically addresses the doctrine of agency. However, “Though in the outward church below” forewarns of the consequences of choices made contrary to the will of the Lord. The Lord allows the freedom of the “wheat” and “tares” to grow together. Without interfering with man’s agency, the Lord will separate the wheat from the tares in the final harvest. These two hymns go hand in hand to explain the doctrines of agency and the ramifications of the consequences. While “Know then” emphasizes that it is our free will that determines our consequence, “Though in the outward” emphasizes the nature of the consequence. It is the only hymn in the 1835 hymnal that has a theme of reward and punishment:

“Know then”:

It’s my free will for to believe:
“Tis God’s free will me to receive:
To stubborn willers this I’ll tell,
It’s all free grace, and all free will.
(verse 5)

“Though in the outward”:

No! This will aggravate their case,
They perish’d under means of grace;
To them the word of life and faith
Became an instrument of death.
(verse 3)

But though they grow so tall and strong,
His plan will not require them long;
In harvest, when he saves his own,
The tares shall into hell be thrown.
(verse 6)

Baptism. All four hymns under this heading are borrowed and unabridged. As one might expect, two are from Baptist hymnals. Like the Baptists, the early Latter-day Saints believed in baptism only of those accountable for their sins (no infant baptism) and in baptism by immersion. “Jesus, mighty King in Zion” and “In Jordan’s tide the prophet stands” both refer to baptism by immersion, as does “Salem’s bright King, Jesus by name,” which is an anonymous hymn published by the General Convention of Christian Churches in 1810.25 “Come ye children of the kingdom,” the only hymn in the hymnal that comes from the Shaker tradition, iterates the Lord’s promise to those who are baptized:

So I will obey the Savior,
Keep his law and do his will,
That I may enjoy forever,
Happiness on Zion’s hill.
(verse 4)

Christmas. Only three Christmas hymns are included in the 1835 hymnal. Christmas was celebrated simply by the early Saints, many of whom had come from a background of strict Puritan beliefs that did not include celebrations at Christmas.26 In fact, Phelps made a simple modification in Isaac Watts’s27 traditional Christmas hymn “Joy to the world!” that changed the spirit of the hymn from a celebration of the infant of Bethlehem to a hymn of joy in preparation for the Second Coming:

Watts Phelps

Joy to the World; the Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King:
Let every Heart prepare him room,
And Heaven and Nature sing.28
(verse 1)

Joy to the world! the Lord will come!
And earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
And saints and angels sing.
(verse 1)

Phelps also has “saints and angels” singing, which gives a personal response to this glorious event rather than the abstraction of “heaven and nature.” Coupling “saints” and “angels” also ranks the believers with the angels rather than the natural world.

Morning and Evening Hymns. The first two subject headings in the 1835 hymnal are “Morning Hymns” and “Evening Hymns,” the majority of which are borrowed and unadapted. The hymnbook contains six morning and six evening hymns, one of each for every day of the week except the Sabbath. The hymns were sung in homes with or as morning and evening prayers.29 The textual contents express gratitude for blessings received, beseech forgiveness, and ask for guidance. These hymns also reflect the early Saints’ fervent and deepened belief in Jesus Christ brought from their previous religious experience. Recently converted members surely sang these hymns with fresh commitment and insight as their understanding of gospel principles unfolded. For the Saints worshipping in the newly dedicated Kirtland Temple in 1836, the words of “Lord in the morning thou shalt hear” might have taken on new meaning:

O may thy Spirit guide my feet,
In ways of righteousness!
Make ev’ry path of duty straight,
And plain before my face.

O do thou give my daily bread,—
And be my sins forgiven;
And let me in thy temple tread,
And learn from thee of heav’n.
(verses 4 and 5)

Funeral. The four final hymns in the 1835 hymnal were funeral hymns. Three were unadapted, traditional Christian hymns, and one was written by a member of the Church. The three traditional funeral hymns speak of the fear and sorrow surrounding death, at the same time expressing the joy of the promise of rising with the Lord. “The sun that declines in the far western sky,” written either by Thomas Marsh or Parley P. Pratt, is a metaphor of the seasons of the earth and the mortality of man. It not only speaks of rising with the Lord, but also of descending again to the earth during the Millennium to “reign in perfection when satan is bound,” adding the LDS belief that the Saints will be part of the Savior’s millennial reign.

Marriage. The only hymn under this original heading was “When earth was dress’d in beauty.” This delightful Phelps hymn gives insight not only into the marriage relationship of man and woman, but also into their relationship to God within the marriage covenant. In this forgotten text, Phelps also cautions about human temptation and reinforces the importance of commitment to the intimate marriage relationship:

The Lord took Eve to Adam,
And taught them how to love.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
And bless’d them as an altar,
For chaste and pure desire,
That no unhallow’d being
Might offer there “strange fire.”
(verses 1 and 3)

The Second Coming and Millennium. The hymn texts in the 1835 hymnal express the expectation of the Millennium with a calm hope and quiet optimism, in contrast to Millerite enthusiasm and Calvinist determinism.30 These hymns reflect joy and rejoicing as well as the personal hope of meeting the Savior face to face.31 This expectation and optimism is expressed in the many hymn texts that refer to the millennial day.

Parley P. Pratt wrote “Ere long the vail will’ rend in twain.” This hymn foretells the magnificence of the Second Coming and of the joy and unity of all creation:

Ere long the vail will’ rend in twain,
The King descend with all his train;
The earth shall shake with awful fright,
And all creation feel his might.

Our hearts and tongues all join’d in one,
A loud hosanna to proclaim,
While all the heav’ns shall shout again,
And all creation say, Amen.
(verses 1 and 9)

Philo Dibble, who was baptized by Parley Pratt in Kirtland in 1830,32 contributed to this group of millennial hymns. “The happy day has rolled on,” expresses joy and hope in the prospects of the Second Coming:

The happy day has rolled on,
The glorious period now has come:
The angel sure has come again
To introduce Messiah’s reign.
(verse 1)

Twelve of the hymns on the Millennium and the Second Coming are either authored or adapted by W. W. Phelps and were sung frequently by the Saints. On December 16, 1835, Phelps wrote to his wife that he attended a “blessing feast” where several guests were blessed by the father of the Prophet Joseph. Phelps reminisced:

The greatest solemnity and harmony prevailed. The victuals were good and the affair was orderly and enjoyable, though many of those present were young. We sang “There’s a feast of fat things,” “Adam-Ondi-Ahman,” “O behold the Lord is nigh,” etc.33

“Adam-Ondi-Ahman,” in fact, is recorded as being used in more meetings and appears in more journal references than any other hymn.34 The hymn is indexed by the first line, “This earth was once a garden place.” The poetry describes the glories of the Garden of Eden (Adam-Ondi-Ahman, where Adam blessed his posterity and will come again to visit his people as prophesied in Daniel 7) and compares the millennial earth to the Garden of Eden:

This earth was once a garden place,
With all her glories common;
And men did live a holy race,
And worship Jesus face to face,
In Adam-ondi-Ahman.

Hosanna to such days to come—
The Savior’s second comin’—
When all the earth in glorious bloom,
Affords the saints a holy home
Like Adam-ondi-Ahman.
(verses 1 and 4)

Missionary. These hymns describe various attitudes regarding leaving home, preaching the gospel, and serving the Lord. Four made up the original group under the subject heading “Farewell Hymns.” Three of the seven are borrowed and unadapted. “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains,” authored by Reginald Heber, was first published in America in Lowell Mason’s collection of hymns for the Boston Handel and Haydn Society.35 Each of the three borrowed hymns expresses a different viewpoint about missionary work. “From Greenland’s” expounds the responsibility of spreading the gospel throughout the world:

Shall we, whose souls are lighted
With wisdom from on high,
Shall we to men benighted
The lamp of life deny?
Salvation! O Salvation!
The joyful sound proclaim,
Till earth’s remotest nation
Has learn’d Messiah’s name.
(verse 3)

S. Mattison’s “Adieu, my dear brethren adieu” counsels missionaries on benevolent, compassionate, and loving behavior and expresses the sorrow of parting:

Your acts of benevolence past,
Your gentle compassionate love,
Henceforth in our mem’ry shall last,
Though far from your sight we remove.
(verse 2)

The Baptist hymn, “Yes, my native land, I love thee,” describes the sadness of leaving home and family and questions the missionary’s ability to endure this sacrifice:

Yes, my native land, I love thee,
All thy scenes I love them well,
Friends, connexions, happy country!
Can I bid you all farewell?
Can leave thee—
Far in distant lands to dwell?
(verse 1)

On the other hand, while similar to Heber’s verse in propounding the duty or fervor of spreading the Gospel, the hymns penned by Phelps and Pratt are alive with evangelical enthusiasm, dedication, and excitement. “The gallant ship is under way” exults:

I go to break the fowler’s snare,
To gather Israel home:
I go the name of Christ to bear
In lands and isles unknown.
(half of verse 3)

In “How often in sweet miditation [sic], my mind,” Pratt reflects on the honor he feels in being a servant of God as well as the joy that will be his at the Second Coming. The poetry also defines his willingness and faith to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ:

How often in sweet miditation, my mind,
(Where solitude reigned and aside from mankind),
Has dwelt on the hour, when the Saviour did deign,
To call me his servant to publish his name.

O gladly we’ll go to the isles and proclaim;
And nations unknown then shall hear of his fame;
Yea, kingdoms, and countries, both Gentiles and Jews
Shall see us, and hear us proclaim the glad news.
(verses 1 and 4)

Praise. Four of the five “Praise” hymns were written by Latter-day Saints. Although the author of “The great and glorious gospel light”36 is anonymous, because the hymn was first published in this hymnal one may assume that it was also authored by a member of the Church.

Restoration Hymns. Phelps’s most famous hymn text, “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning,” gives insight not only into the restoration of the Church with “visions and blessings returning,” but also to the restoration of temple ordinances:

The Lord is extending the saints’ understanding—
Restoring their judges and all as at first;
The knowledge and power of God are expanding
The vail o’er the earth is beginning to burst.

We’ll wash, and be wash’d, and with oil be anointed
Withal not omitting the washing of feet:
For he that receiveth his penny appointed,
Must surely be clean at the harvest of wheat.
(verses 2 and 4)

In the 1835 hymnbook, the typeface of “The Spirit of God” is different from the typeface of the rest of the hymnal, and it is the last hymn in the collection, which suggests that it may have been added after the rest of the hymnal had been completed, lending support to the theory that it was written specifically for and about the temple. The hymn was printed in the January 1836 issue of the Messenger and Advocate37 in the same typeface in which it appeared in the hymnbook. The hymnbook was used at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in March 1836, which also suggests that the hymnbook was printed sometime between the printing of the January issue of the Messenger and Advocate and the dedication of the temple.

The exact nature of ordinances that would be and were performed in the Kirtland Temple is obscure. The complete endowment had not yet been revealed, but washings and anointings had taken place on January 21, 1836.38 Thus, Phelps refers to solemn assemblies, and washing and anointing. For him to typeset the word “PENNY” entirely in uppercase suggests a symbolic meaning—perhaps gift or endowment.

Although in 1836, the Saints did not have a complete endowment, they did have an understanding of the principles of an endowment and of eternal marriage. Phelps, in the marriage hymn “When earth was dress’d in beauty,” speaks of the place and time “Where union is eternal.”

Another Restoration poet, Eliza R. Snow, was converted to the Church in 1835. Her poetry as well as her leadership abilities made her one of the noble women of Latter-day Saint history. Readers of her poetry are vibrantly attracted to her enthusiasm. In “Great is the Lord: ’tis good to praise,” Snow is quite eloquent in her description of the exciting times she was experiencing. Although this hymn is indexed under the subject of “Praise,” it refers several times to elements of the Restoration:

Great is the Lord: ’tis good to praise
His high and holy name:
Well may the saints in latter days
His wondrous love proclaim.

The op’ning seals announce the day,
By prophets long declar’d;
When all, in one triumphant lay,
Will join to praise the Lord.
(verses 1 and 8)

In verse six, Snow confidently expresses her gratitude for a living prophet and her defiance of those who would mock her belief:

We’ll praise him for a prophet’s voice,
His people’s steps to guide:
In this, we do and will rejoice,
Tho’ all the world deride.

Sabbath and Sacrament. Interestingly, only one hymn directly addresses the Sabbath. Also written by W. W. Phelps, “Gently raise the sacred strain” is still one of the favorite hymns sung by LDS congregations. Phelps also wrote “O God th’ eternal Father,” one of the five hymns under the heading “On Sacrament.” The other four are borrowed and unadapted. These borrowed sacramental hymns convey a traditional Christian belief in the atonement of the Savior. The doctrinal content of these sacramental hymns acclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the opportunity of mankind to partake of the Atonement through belief and repentance.

Story. The three hymns under the subject heading “Story” are also written or adapted by Phelps. The shortest of these story hymns, Phelps’s adaptation of John Newton’s “When Joseph his brethren beheld” tells the story of Joseph sold into Egypt. Both “God spake the word, and time began” and “In ancient days men fear’d the Lord” are lengthy, eight and nine verses respectively, relating the prophets of old to the Saints of today. The sixth verse of “God spake the word, and time began” reads:

From Adam to the present day,
Many have sought a righteous way;
And some have found the narrow road,
And Enoch-like, have walk’d with God.

Zion. References to Enoch are frequent in the “Zion” hymns, which not only teach the doctrine of the gathering of Zion, but also characterize the nature of the inhabitants of a Zion society. Phelps’s adaptations of John Newton’s “Glorious things of thee are spoken” reflect doctrine specific to the Church. In verse two, Newton founds the City of Zion on the “rock of ages,” whereas Phelps firmly founds it on the “Rock of Enoch.” Although Enoch is only mentioned once in the Old Testament (Genesis 5:18–24), his history and the story of his Zion society are told in great detail in Moses 7 in the Pearl of Great Price. Also, the LDS doctrine that the righteous will reign as gods is evident in Phelps’s adaptation of verse eight:

Newton Phelps

On the rock of ages founded
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

’Tis his love his people raises
Over self to reign as kings,
And as priests, his solemn praises
Each for a thank-off’ring brings.
(verses 2 and 8)39

On the Rock of Enoch founded;
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile on all thy foes.

While in love his people raises,
With himself to reign as kings;
All, as priests, his solemn praises,
Each for a thank-offering brings.
(verses 2 and 8)

Isaac Watts’s text to “How pleasant ’tis to see” depicts the attitude of a Zion-like people as described in Moses 7:18, “And the Lord called his people Zion because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”

How pleasant ’tis to see
Kindred and friends agree;
Each in his proper station move,
And each fulfil his part,
With sympathizing heart,
In all the cares of life and love!
(verse 1)

It is worth noting that with few exceptions, the hymns grouped as “Millennial,” “Restoration,” “Second Coming,” and “Zion” are written by Latter-day Saint hymnists. These LDS writers rose to the occasion and created hymns proclaiming the primary message of the Restoration: That the gospel is restored and that Christ will return to rule and reign for a thousand years over the Saints in Zion. Speaking of these hymns that were born of the spirit that existed among the Saints in the early days of the Church, as well as those hymns still being written by present-day Saints, Michael Hicks has stated, “If the Mormons had to learn by heart the hymns of the new church . . . they should be the ‘songs of Zion,’ emerging from within the Church of Christ itself.”40

Summary

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. This expectancy and joy is exemplified in the eighth verse of Phelps’s sacramental hymn, “O God, th’ Eternal Father:”

He comes, he comes in glory,
(The vail has vanish’d too,)
With angels, yea our fathers,
To drink this cup anew—
And sing the songs of Zion
And shout—’Tis done, ’tis done!
While every son and daughter
Rejoices—we are one.
(verse 8)

A Collection of Sacred Hymns,
for the Church of the Latter Day Saints

Selected by Emma Smith, 1835, Arranged by Subject*

No. Subject / First Line Author Origin
Affirmation
11 Earth with her ten thousand flowers Thomas Taylorc Congregational
82 How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord Robert Keen Baptist
84 How pleased and blest was Ie Isaac Watts Independent
79 I know that my Redeemer lives Samuel Medley Baptist
67 Jesus the name that charms our fears Charles Wesley Church of England
2 Let ev’ry mortal ear attend Isaac Watts Independent
81 Let thy kingdom, blessed Savior J. A. Granada Methodist
86 O God! our help in ages past Isaac Watts Independent
8 O happy souls who praye Anonymous First in Emma 1835
75 O Jesus! the giver Anonymous General Convention of Christian Churches
78 The Lord into his garden comes Anonymous Baptist
36 There’s a power in the sun W. W. Phelpsd First in Emma 1835
27 Through all the world below Hibard [?] unknown
73 Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song John Stocker Non-denominational
Agency/Consequence
1 Know then that ev’ry soul is free Sally Swey Baptist
85 Though in the outward church below John Newton Church of England
Baptisma
53 Come ye children of the kingdomb Anonymous Shaker
55 In Jordan’s tide the prophet standsb Anonymous Baptist
54 Jesus, mighty King in Zionb John Fellows Baptist
56 Salem’s bright King, Jesus by nameb Anonymous General Convention of Christian Churches
Christmas
9 From the regions of glory an angel descended John F. Clarkec Unitarian
15 Joy to the world! the Lord will come! Isaac Wattsc Independent
77 Mortals, awake! with angels join Samuel Medley Baptist
Eveninga
43 Come let us sing an evening hymnb W. W. Phelps LDS
45 Glory to thee, my God, this nightb Thomas Ken Church of England
46 Great God! to thee my evening songb Anne Steele Baptist
44 Lord thou wilt hear me when I prayb Isaac Watts Independent
48 The day is past and goneb John Leland Baptist
47 When restless on my bed I lieb Baptist W. Noel Baptist
Funeral
87 Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound Isaac Watts Independent
28 The sun that declines in the far western sky Thomas Marsh or Parley P. Pratt LDS
88 Why do we mourn for dying friends Isaac Watts Independent
89 Why should we start and fear to die! Isaac Watts Independent
Marriagea
62 When earth was dress’d in beautyb W. W. Phelpsd First in Emma 1835
Millennial
13 Guide us, O thou great Jehovah William Williamsc Methodist
30 Let all the saints their hearts prepare W. W. Phelps or Parley P. Pratt LDS
31 Let us pray, gladly pray W. W. Phelps LDS
18 Now let us rejoice in the day of salvatione W. W. Phelps LDS
71 The glorious day is rolling on Phelps or Eliza R. Snow LDS
23 This earth was once a garden placee W. W. Phelps LDS
Missionarya
52 Adieu, my dear brethren adieub S. Mattison unknown
50 Farewell, our friends and brethren!b W. W. Phelps LDS
74 From Greenland’s icy mountains Reginald Heber Church of England
80 How often in sweet miditation [sic], my mind Parley P. Pratt LDS
49 The gallant ship is under wayb W. W. Phelps LDS
35 There’s a feast of fat things for the righteous preparing W. W. Phelps LDS
51 Yes, my native land, I love theeb Samuel F. Smith Baptist
Morninga
41 Awake! for the morning is come W. W. Phelpsd First in Emma 1835
42 Awake, my soul, and with the sunb Thomas Ken Church of England
37 Lord in the morning thou shalt hearb Isaac Watts Independent
40 My God, how endless is thy loveb Isaac Watts Independent
38 Once more, my soul, the rising dayb Isaac Watts Independent
39 See how the morning sunb Elizabeth Scottc Presbyterian
Praise
68 Come all ye saints, who dwell on earth W. W. Phelps LDS
70 Great is the Lord: ’tis good to praise Eliza R. Snow LDS
12 Praise to God, immortal praise Anonymousc unknown
7 See all creation join W. W. Phelps LDS
22 The great and glorious gospel light Anonymous First in Emma 1835
Restoration
16 An angel came down from the mansions of glory W. W. Phelps LDS
72 Before this earth from chaos sprung W. W. Phelpsd First in Emma 1835
26 Now we’ll sing with one accord W. W. Phelps LDS
90 The Spirit of God like a fire is burninge W. W. Phelps LDS
Sabbath
24 Gently raise the sacred strain W. W. Phelps LDS
Sacramenta
58 ’Twas on that dark, that solemn nightb Isaac Watts Independent
61 Alas! and did my Savior bleed!b Isaac Watts Independent
64 And did my Savior die Anonymous First in Emma 1835
59 Arise, my soul, ariseb Charles Wesley Church of England
60 Behold the Savior of mankindb Thomas Hastings Presbyterian
10 He died! the great Redeemer died! Isaac Wattsc Independent
57 O God th’ eternal Fatherb W. W. Phelps LDS
Second Coming
32 Awake, O ye people! the Savior is coming W. W. Phelps LDS
19 Ere long the vail will rend in twaine Parley P. Pratt LDS
66 Let Zion in her beauty rise Edward Partridge LDS
20 My soul is full of peace and love W. W. Phelpsd First in Emma 1835
6 Redeemer of Israel Joseph Swainc Baptist
21 The happy day has rolled on Philo Dibble LDS
17 To him that made the world W. W. Phelps LDS
14 We’re not ashamed to own our Lord W. W. Phelpsd First in Emma 1835
3 What fair one is this, from the wilderness trav’ling W. W. Phelps LDS
33 What wond’rous things we now behold W. W. Phelpsc Baptist
Story
69 God spake the word, and time began W. W. Phelps LDS
76 In ancient days men fear’d the Lord W. W. Phelpsd First in Emma 1835
25 When Joseph his brethren beheld John Newtonc Church of England
Zion
65 Come all ye sons of Zion W. W. Phelps LDS
4 Glorious things of thee are spoken John Newtonc Church of England
83 How pleasant ’tis to see Isaac Watts Independent
63 O stop and tell me, Red Man W. W. Phelps LDS
5 The time is nigh that happy time Parley P. Pratt LDS
29 The towers of Zion soon shall rise W. W. Phelps LDS
34 There is a land the Lord will bless Isaac Wattsc Independent

* Mary Dennis Poulter, “The First Ten Years of Latter-day Saint Hymnody: A Study of Emma Smith’s 1835 and Little and Garner’s 1844 Hymnals” (master’s thesis, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, 1995), 80–82. Some corrections and changes to this data have been made. I am indebted to Bruce A. Van Orden, Professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, for his consultation as I worked on my master’s thesis and for freely sharing with me his research on the authorship of the hymns.

a Original category in 1835 hymnbook.

b Categorized in 1835 hymnbook.

c Adapted by W. W. Phelps.

d Written or adapted by Phelps. In some cases, because no publication of a hymn prior to the 1835 LDS hymnbook can be found, it is unknown whether Phelps wrote the hymn or adapted an existing hymn. The hymns that are not known to have been published before Emma’s 1835 hymnbook are listed as “First in Emma 1835.”

e Sung at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, March 27, 1836. Elwin C. Robison, The First Mormon Temple: Design Construction, and Historic Context of the Kirtland Temple (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1997), 170–83. The tune names to which the hymns were sung were also listed in the minutes of the dedication. See also Hicks, Mormonism and Music, 22–23.

 

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About the author(s)

Mary D. Poulter is a preconcert lecturer and author of program notes for performing organizations. She would like to thank Karen Lynn Davidson, Michael Hicks, James B. Welch, and Carol Cornwall Madsen for their suggestions and help in developing this paper.

 

Notes

1. Emma Smith, comp., A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Kirtland: F. G. Williams, 1835). Throughout this article, all quotations of hymn texts are taken from this hymnbook unless otherwise noted. Hymns numbers may be found under the listing of the hymns by first line in the table on pages 52–56. A compact disc, Emma’s Sacred Hymns, which includes an authentic reproduction of the 1835 hymnbook, has been recorded by Scot Proctor, Maurine Proctor, and Clive Romney on Embryo Records, available through Deseret Book.

3. John Ogasapian, conversation with author, Lowell, Mass., spring 1994. Ogasapian, a specialist in American hymnology, is professor of music history, University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

4. The Boston Bee, cited in Andrew Jenson, Journal History of the Church, February 9, 1843, 5, Archives Division, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

5. Eliza R. Snow’s 1845 poem “My Father in Heaven,” set to a familiar tune in the hymn “O My Father,” is the quintessential expression of Latter-day Saint hope and belief in a life hereafter, as well as one of few references to the doctrine of a mother in heaven. “O My Father” is memorized and loved by Saints throughout the world. In the Churchwide Personal Progress program for fourteen- and fifteen-year-old girls, one of the suggestions for fulfilling the requirements for the value “Faith” is to memorize the words to “O My Father” and to write three ideas the hymn teaches about our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Personal Progress (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989), 47.

6. Joseph Smith Jr., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2d ed., rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971), 1:270 (hereafter cited as History of the Church).

7. Michael Hicks, Mormonism and Music: A History, Music in American Life (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 19. See also Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippets Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 57.

8. History of the Church, 2:273.

9. Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 57, 317 n. 15.

10. By 1844 at least eight other Latter-day Saint hymnals had been published, containing over 530 individual hymns. Six of these hymnals contained fewer than 100 hymns and included many of the hymns used in Emma Smith’s 1835 hymnal. Mary Dennis Poulter, “The First Ten Years of Latter-day Saint Hymnody: A Study of Emma Smith’s 1835 and Little and Garner’s 1844 Hymnals” (master’s thesis, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, 1995), 67. In 1841, Emma Smith compiled and published a second hymnal that contained 304 hymns. In 1840, Brigham Young published a hymnal in England that contained 272 hymns. Only Emma Smith’s 1835 and 1841 hymnals were officially sanctioned by the Church. In October 1839, the high council of Nauvoo voted that Emma Smith should select and publish a hymnbook for the Church. At the same time, they forbade Brigham Young to publish the hymnal for the British Isles. However, because of financial troubles, the Church in Nauvoo could not afford to publish and ship the necessary number of hymnals needed for the British Saints, and Young published his selection of hymns in 1840 in Manchester, England. Although in a letter written to the Apostles in December 1840, Joseph Smith gave his approval of the content of the Manchester hymnal, it never received official Church sanction. Hicks, Mormonism and Music, 25–27.

11. Smith, Collection of Sacred Hymns, iii.

12. Smith, Collection of Sacred Hymns, iv.

13. Michael Hicks, “Poetic Borrowing in Early Mormonism,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18 (spring 1985): 142. In addition to the three motivations for adapting hymns cited in the text, Hicks also states that because of their belief that all things are spiritual, the Saints adapted sacred lyrics to secular tunes and lyrics more readily than did the Protestants and that, because of their devotion to Joseph Smith, they changed lyrics to make the Prophet the focus of the hymn.

14. Samuel Worcester, The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, of the Rev. Isaac Watts, D. D. to Which Are Added, Select Hymns from Other Authors (Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong and Crocker and Brewster, 1827), “Select Hymns,” no. 20.

15. Worcester, The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, “Select Hymns,” no. 91.

16. Worcester, The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, “Watt’s Hymns,” Book II, no. 66.

17. Bruce A. Van Orden, “William W. Phelps’s Impact on Mormon Doctrine” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association, Claremont, Calif., May, 1993), 8.

18. Of the old hymnals in my personal library, about half have subject headings and half do not.

19. Emma Smith, comp., A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Nauvoo: E. Robinson, 1841).

20. I have capitalized only the first word and proper names in the “titles” of the hymns because the hymns were indexed by first line, rather than by a formal title.

21. Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 81.

22. Elias Smith and Abner Jones, Hymns, Original and Selected, for the Use of Christians (Boston: Manning and Laring, 1805), 231. The authorship of the text of this hymn is listed as anonymous in the current LDS hymnal, but the hymn has been attributed to William Smythe Babcock by other denominations. Babcock did not claim authorship, but a handwritten copy of the text is found in his papers from the late 1700s. On the reverse side of the scrap of paper on which the text is written are the words, “Sally Swey 9 years last 28 Nov. Kings [wit?] 3 or 4 years.” William Smyth Babcock, Papers, 1757 and 1788–1839, Manuscripts Department, American Antiquarian Society Library, Worcester, Mass.

23. Bruce David Maxwell, “Source Book for Hymns (1950),” unpublished paper, 1982, v; copy of typescript in possession of the author.

24. Sacred Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 14th ed. (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon, 1871), 263.

25. Mary Louise VanDyke to author, November 7, 1995. VanDyke is Librarian for the Dictionary of American Hymnology Project, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio.

26. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Jeni Broberg Holzapfel, Women of Nauvoo (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1992), 64.

27. Sixteen of Isaac Watts’s hymns are included in the 1835 hymnal. Watts was the first to metricize the Psalms in English, and he also wrote over three hundred additional hymn texts. Although he was considered a religious independent, by the 1830s his hymns dominated in the American Baptist and Presbyterian Church hymnals. Watts struggled most of his life pondering the true nature of the Godhead. In “The Glory of Christ as God-Man Displayed,” he expressed the unconventional view that Christ and Michael the Archangel are the same being and that Jesus Christ was that angel who generally appeared to the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Isaac Watts, The Works of the Reverend and Learned Isaac Watts, D. D. Containing, Besides His Sermons, and Essays on Miscellaneous Subjects, Several Additional Pieces, 6 vols. (London: John Barfield, 1753), 6:624. These philosophies are particularly serendipitous in that two of the unique doctrines of the Latter-day Saints are that God and Jesus Christ are separate beings and that Jesus is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Only three of the Watts texts were altered in the 1835 hymnal. Thirty hymns in Emma Smith’s hymnal stemmed from the Baptist tradition (sixteen of Watts’s texts and thirteen other texts borrowed from Baptist hymnals). Because both Joseph and Emma had had personal experience with the Methodist tradition (see Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 2–3, 25), one might expect that more Methodist hymns would have been included in the hymnal.

28. Isaac Watts, The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and Apply’d to the Christian State and Worship, 7th ed. (Philadelphia: Thomas Godfrey, 1729), 201.

29. While the Prophet was growing up, Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith led their children in a nightly hymn, one of which was “The day is past and gone,” which is included in the 1835 hymnal. Hicks, Mormonism and Music, 4.

30. The Millerites were followers of the American William Miller, who from 1833 until his death in 1849 publicly predicted the imminent beginning of the Millennium. The Calvinists were followers of the French Protestant theologian John Calvin (1509–64), whose severe doctrine taught a rigid predestination.

31. Klaus J. Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 68–83.

32. Davis Bitton, Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977), 89. Dibble was miraculously healed of a bullet wound in Missouri in 1833. History of the Church, 1:431 n.

33. Bruce A. Van Orden, “Writing to Zion: The William W. Phelps Kirtland Letters (1835–1836),” BYU Studies 33, no. 3 (1993): 569. “O behold the Lord is nigh” is the refrain from the hymn “There’s a power in the sun,” and presumably refers to that hymn, possibly also written by Phelps.

34. Lynn Carson, “Hymn and Song Use in the Early Days of the Church,” unpublished paper, 1986, 6; typescript in possession of Michael Hicks.

35. Lowell Mason, The Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music (Boston: Richardson and Lord, 1829), 235.

36. VanDyke, letter to author.

37. “Hosanna to God and the Lamb,” Messenger and Advocate, January 1836, 256.

38. On January 21, 1836, prior to the dedication, the first ceremonies of endowment—washing and anointing—were given in the temple. The Prophet also saw wonderful visions of the celestial kingdom. See History of the Church, 2:378–83. See also Elwin C. Robison, The First Mormon Temple: Design, Construction, and Historic Context of the Kirtland Temple (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1997), 84, 94–95, 156–58, 161, 163. At the time of the dedication, all of the Elders who had been out preaching returned to Kirtland to receive an endowment. The temple had no baptismal font and no provision for the endowment ordinances which were later revealed. According to Joseph Fielding Smith, “[The Kirtland Temple] was built primarily for the restoration of keys of authority. . . . The keys of salvation and exaltation for both the living and the dead were given within its sacred walls. An endowment, such as was necessary at the time, was also given. This was not as complete as the endowment later revealed.” Joseph Fielding Smith, “Purpose of the Kirtland Temple,” in Doctrines of Salvation, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955), 2:242; italics in original.

39 John Newton, Olney Hymns, in Three Books (Burlington: Isaac Neale, 1795), 65.

40. Hicks, Mormonism and Music, 12.