No End to Race If You Could Hie to Kolob

April 8, 2008 | 77 comments
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This conference I didn’t much like the choir’s new tune for If You Could Hie to Kolob so I thought over the words instead. “There is no end to race” got my attention.

The phrase probably just means the race of man. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean the U.S. Census checkboxes of Caucasian, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Amerindian, etc. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean that forever and ever you’ll be able to sort the immortal gods into broad groups by using visual features and genetic clustering.

But it used to be a man could speak of the English race, the Sioux race, the Breton race, and so on. He could even speak of a family as a race, Faulkner-style: the race of the Greenwoods, for instance. So the phrase may mean there is no end to descent. Or, take it in context–”there is no end to matter, there is no end to space”–and maybe it means there is no end to particularity.

Particularity? you say. Greenwood, you’re using big words to hide that you only have a fuzzy notion what you mean.

(You discompose me. Truth does that to me.)

Smile when you say that, stranger, says I. But all right, says I. I’m a kindly man. I’ll take a stab at explaining. Particularity, says I–I’m getting my composure back now as I listen to the sweet sound of my own voice, rolling on and on–particularity means that come the day when every woman is queen of heaven my mother and my wife will still be where my sentiments are. Particularity means, God willing, I’ll someday be something more important and more universal than an American, but in some sense I’ll still be an American. Particularity means God doesn’t love you and me because we’re in the category of mankind but because of what I’ve done and can do and because of the sins he’s rescued me from and you the same. Particularity means President Monson tells us about visiting Brother Hanlit in the hospital instead of telling us about service.

77 Responses to No End to Race If You Could Hie to Kolob

  1. Russell Arben Fox on April 8, 2008 at 10:39 am

    All true, Adam G. Still, the word should be changed. If we can get rid of the perfectly fine and wonderfully euphonious “you who unto Jesus” and replace it with the pedestrian “who unto the Savior” simply because some stuck-up people thought the grammar sounded weird, then darn it, we could change the easily-misunderstood “race” to “grace” without changing the broad meaning of the song (the God’s love is infinite, and that therefore those whom His love has created and saved are infinite too) one iota.

  2. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, Fox. Lame lyric changes in the past are all the more reason to put our feet down now.

    Also, that’s not the broad meaning of the song. Phelps and those guys were probably claiming that mankind was eternal, period, not just because God decided to make us so.

  3. bbell on April 8, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Adam,

    In regards to this lyric think King Follett discourse. No end to the Human Race

  4. Nate Oman on April 8, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I have thought about the use of “race” in IYCHK before as well, and I had assumed that it simply meant something like “human family.” I like your reading of there is no end to “particularity.”

    I have to agree with AG contra RAF here, inserting “grace” for “race” would change the song. Furthermore, if there are religious politics in Mormonism over the use of the word “race” there are also religious politics over the use of the word “grace,” which could quite easily be understood as a defacement of one of the great and unrepentantly Mormon hymns with Protestantizing vocabulary. Ick!

  5. Ardis Parshall on April 8, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Count me as against any word change, especially when there is no context for “race” to mean anything negative.

    Besides, “there is no end to grace” reminds me of too many pre-Thanksgiving dinner performances.

  6. TMD on April 8, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Count me as particularly opposed to protestantizing our eschatological vocabulary!

  7. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 11:24 am

    If “grace” is protestantizing, “race” can plausibly be understood as judaizing. The race meant might well be Israel or the people of Abraham.

    ——————-

    Besides, “there is no end to grace” reminds me of too many pre-Thanksgiving dinner performances

    Oh, no, Ardis P. We really can’t make the change now. Unless y’all like it when I turn red in church from keeping the laughs in.

  8. Jeremy on April 8, 2008 at 11:24 am

    A sidenote: I believe, but can’t confirm, that the melody used in the arrangement of IYCH2K is from the older edition of the hymn book. The Kingsfold melody with the Ralph Vaughn Williams harmony wasn’t adopted until the “new” edition (the green book) in the 80s.

  9. Frank McIntyre on April 8, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I don’t want to change the song, but now Russell has me searching for rhyming words…

    There is no end to face! (bizarre and unworkable– but it nails particularity)

    mace, lace, glace, the options are endless! In fact, aren’t there all sorts of wonderful chemical compounds ending in “ase”?

    Or try this.

  10. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 11:29 am

    You could adopt my particularity interpretation and go with “there is no end to place.” That still changes the meaning a lot.

    If we want to stay biological, we could take our cue from Frank M. and sing that there’s no end to polymerase.

  11. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Or, since the enzyme that allows adults to drink milk is a race-specific mutation, we could tip our hats to the old words by singing that there’s no end to lactase.

  12. Mark IV on April 8, 2008 at 11:40 am

    At the risk of being shouted down, I will say that I have no love for this hymn, regardless of the arrangement. I agree that it is uniquely Mormon, but I don’t care, give me Amazing Grace or The Old Rugged Cross anyday. It just drags, and drags, and drags, with no end to this and no end to that, verses without end. Years ago, one of my sons was just learning to read and he enjoyed holding his own hymnal and singing along. After a few verses, I heard his voice next to me sing “there is no end to this song”.

    Ardis, I agree with you that there is no context in the song itself for race to mean anything negative, but our discourse at that time, including our hymns, was full of talk about chosen races and heathen nations and savage Indian bands. I think it would have been hard for W.W. to be completely free negative racial attitudes. Then again, we are so hyper-sensitive to race now that I may be unduly influenced by the zeitgeist.

  13. paula on April 8, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Actually it’s not a new tune. It’s the one that was in the hymn book before this one.

  14. Jim Cobabe on April 8, 2008 at 11:53 am

    I don’t perceive any great wisdom behind suggestions to change the words, but confess a general lack of vision in such matters.

    Other people seem to be much more sensitive to words or ideas that might offend someone. I tend to attract criticism fairly often, insensitive dolt that I am, because I say what I think instead of considering what others would prefer to hear. Silly me.

    I wonder if W.W.Phelps ever had similar problems.

  15. Jim Cobabe on April 8, 2008 at 11:56 am

    There is no end to erythropoiesis.

  16. Nate Oman on April 8, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I love Amazing Grace and the Old Rugged Cross. I just like to hear them sung by Baptist Chiors or — better yet — a small group of folks playing banjos and mountain dulcimers…

  17. Nate Oman on April 8, 2008 at 11:59 am

    …followed by “Will the Circle be Unbroken”…

  18. Ardis Parshall on April 8, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    /shouting:/ Down with Mark IV and his zeitgeist!! /end shouting/

    My ward sang this two Sundays ago, the first time I ever recall singing it in public. And we could have sung it through at least 34 times in the same 18 minutes it would have taken to drag through “I Believe in Christ,” truly the most endlessssssssssssssssssss song in the book.

  19. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    If You Could Hie to Kolob with the modern tune has brought me to tears more than once and often edified my soul.

  20. Ardis Parshall on April 8, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Jim, W.W. was insane by the end of his life.

  21. akl on April 8, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Rather than bowdlerizing this hymn, I’d be in favor of letting the controversial verse slip into benevolent disuse, as has been done with some militant 19th-century content in other hymns. And, while “race” most likely refers to the perpetuation of the seeds of humanity/divinity through eternity, it still takes too much explaining in an age when “race” is a polarizing term.

  22. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Bring back the militant 19th-century content in other hymns!

  23. Ivan Wolfe on April 8, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    #22 -

    I still, sometimes, sing “Stain Illinois” when I think no one’s listening.

    As for The Kingsfold melody – well, that was stolen from an old Irish Drinking Song – “Star of the County Down.” Perhaps if we sang it at the same frantic pace Van Morrison does on his “Irish Heartbeat” album, some might like the melody better, and it wouldn’t drag as much.

  24. Jim Cobabe on April 8, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    W.W. was insane by the end of his life

    Something in common!

  25. East Coast on April 8, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Since Ardis has nixed the change to “grace,” I wondered why the words “space” and “race” couldn’t be switched. Reading back through the poem with these words switched and realizing that if the song is sung as a congregational hymn (big if) the last phrase sung would be “there is no end to space.” So you substitute something vaguely racist with something vaguely scientologist…not so great a fix.

    How about switching out the last two lines of the third verse and the first two lines of the fourth verse?

    3. The works of God continue, And worlds and lives abound;
    Improvement and progression Have one eternal round.
    There is no end to virtue; There is no end to might;
    There is no end to wisdom; There is no end to light.

    4. There is no end to matter; There is no end to space;
    There is no end to spirit; There is no end to race.
    There is no end to union; There is no end to youth;
    There is no end to priesthood; There is no end to truth.

    That buries the problematic word in a place where it’s unlikely to be sung.

    Surely if the music committee could remove all instances of the word “gay” from the primary songs since its meaning has changed, they could deal with another word whose use has changed.

  26. Mark IV on April 8, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Adam, have you ever heard the tabenacle choir sing Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand? I bet you would like it. This is how the first verse goes, and it is sung to a martial beat:

    Ten thousand times ten thousand, in sparkling raiment bright!
    The armies of the ransomed saints throng up the steeps of light.
    ‘Tis finished, all is finished, their fight with death and sin.
    Fling open wide the golden gates and let the victors in!

  27. Nate Oman on April 8, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    “Van Morrison does on his “Irish Heartbeat” album, some might like the melody better, and it wouldn’t drag as much. ”

    A great album…

  28. Nate Oman on April 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    I also have a recording of the melody played, much slower, by Yo Yo Ma…

  29. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I like it, Mark IV.

    For those who are interested, we had a thread on martial hymns:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=4254

  30. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    “There is no end to might.” That probably deserves a thread in itself.

  31. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    If you really had to get rid of race you could also junk space. Your lyrics could be “there is no end to plan, . . . there is no end to man.” But “plan” is ugly. Or you could really start shuffling things around–

    there is no end to the heavens, there is no end to earth,
    there is no end to spirit, there is no end to birth

    –where earth is our analogue for matter, spirit is spirit, birth is our analogue for race, and the heavens are our analogue for space. The problem is that the heavens is more metaphorical or afterlife sounding than space is while, paradoxically, earth too concretely suggests this Earth or other earths and not matter or earthiness in general.

  32. Russell Arben Fox on April 8, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Up with Mark IV and his zeitgeist. Up with “Amazing Grace” and “The Old Rugged Cross.” Up with Protestantizing our hymns in general (they’ve been at it longer than us, they write better than us, they sing better than us), in particular the eschtological ones. Up with the notion that we are eternal because God made us so (which, you know, He did). Down with the notion that the (non-canonized) King Follet Discourse somehow ought to complicate our praising of grace in terms that, from what I can tell, would have received the complete endorsement of Book of Mormon prophets like Nephi, Abinadi, and Jacob.

  33. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Does embracing “Amazing Grace” mean you have to bowdlerize If You Could Hie to Kolob? I don’t see it. The Book of Mormon and the early American church are both part of our heritage and both should be embraced. If you want to censor If You Could Hie to Kolob so its not suggestive of King Follet than you need to admit that you are changing it by more than just an iota, which was your original claim.

  34. Jacob F on April 8, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I’m a purist, I suppose, and don’t think it should be changed. Moreover, I think that someone offended by the word “race” in this song may be showing a lack of contextual understanding that could pose him/her much bigger problems down the road when he/she runs into quotes from Brigham Young (et al) on real race issues.

    I also like the Vaughan Williams setting.

  35. Bob on April 8, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Adam, I read it differently, so I guess I will be wrong. But I read it to say: We are in an eternal round, therefore…. no end to race to(?)

  36. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 8, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Perhaps the author of the hymn wanted to give you the FEELING of eternity and endlessness by the endless repetition of “There is no end to . . .” I have often thought that the great virtue of working on a welfare farm, weeding out a row of crops, is the appreciation it gives your for the meaning of endlessness.

    I like the simple idea of comment #25 to simply switch out parts of verses 3 and 4.

    One other approach to improving the hymn would be to cut back on some of the endless repetition, and it could give us room to add some explanatory adjectives:

    3. The works of God continue, And worlds and lives abound;
    Improvement and progression Have one eternal round.
    There is no end to virtue, No end to righteous might;
    No end to sacred wisdom, Nor to Christ’s spreading light.

    4. There is no end to matter, No end to star-filled space;
    No start or end to spirit, No end to Father’s race.
    There is no end to union, Nor resurrected youth;
    No end to blessed priesthood, No end to grace and truth.

    It is not just Abraham’s race, or the human race, but the Father’s race that is endless and eternal, whose immortality and eternal life is his great and everlasting goal.

    As to adding “grace” at the end: I like being reminded of Christ’s grace. Nephi liked to remind people of Christ’s grace; he labored diligently at it. Thomas B. Griffith, when he was General Counsel for BYU, wrote an article for the BYU alumni magazine in (“The Root of True Doctrine”) in which he said “I believe that one way—the best way, and possibly the only way—to meet President Hinckley’s challenge to do better at getting the gospel down into our hearts and the hearts of those we love and serve is to focus all we do on the Atonement of Christ.”

  37. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Good ideas, but too adjectival.

  38. Last Lemming on April 8, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I was thinking that if “race” means “human race,” then the most succinct word to transmit that meaning would be “species.” But then you have to replace “space” with something that rhymes with “species”…

    Actually, I like RT Swenson’s version, adjectives and all.

  39. John Mansfield on April 8, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    When I sing this hymn, which is about twice a month since the children often choose it for Family Home Evening, race means lineage. As I sing, I think of the curse with which the earth would be smited, but for Elijah coming, leaving the proud and wicked burned up with neither root nor branch. I think of the appointment unto the priesthood that Abraham sought to become a rightful heir, holding the right belonging to the fathers. I think of priesthood sealings in the temples which will never end.

  40. bfwebster on April 8, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    First, I agree that I didn’t like the new tune at all — I much prefer the Ralph Vaughn Williams music.

    Second, I also believe that ‘race’ refers either to ‘human race’ or to one’s own family descendants — but the word itself (and the phrase ‘there is no end to race’) carries such linguistic baggage at this point that I think the Church should change it. I think that ‘there is no end to grace’ would be wonderful. Orson Scott Card made the same suggestion some weeks back; his alternative suggestion was to cut the second half of the third stanza entirely, drop the repeated half of the fifth stanza, and shift everything up (making the entire song just four stanzas long).

    Third, I miss the original words to “Have I Done Any Good In The World Today?”: “Only he who does something is worthy to live; The world has no need for the drone.” Heh. ..bruce..

  41. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    race means lineage.

    That’s what I should have said when I said race means descent.

  42. mlu on April 8, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Reading scriptures with the emphasis on tribes, lineage, etc. I suppose “there is no end to race” is simply true, and that we are nowhere near the end of the learning as to what that means.

  43. Ardis Parshall on April 8, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I like John Mansfield’s #39.

    For me, this line has always been an affirmation that we will always be ourselves (Adam’s particularity), with individual awareness and personality rather than melting into some cosmic puddle of joint consciousness, and that since we are of the eternal lineage of God, that His is our race that will never end.

  44. Kaimi Wenger on April 8, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    What a trip down memory lane. This topic was one of the very first that T&S covered, way back in the day, November of 2003 (our very first month!), drawing a whole 4 (!) comments.

    In comments, Kristine suggested that “race” is being used in an innocuous way; but also that it would be simple enough to change, and probably worthwhile.

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=82

  45. Doug on April 8, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    This song fascinates me because Phelps equates time and space (traveling through space at enormous speed in search of past generations).

    Can any of you historians/physicists tell me if that sort of thinking was common in Phelps day?

  46. Ann on April 8, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    It’s a stupid hymn. OK, my convert sensibilities are peeking through. This hymn is interminable. It goes on and on and the words are just DUMB. “There is no end” indeed!

    The Methodists take the same beautiful Vaughan Williams arrangement of Kingsfold and set to it the lovely words of “Oh Sing a Song of Bethlehem,” which is all about the life of Jesus and ends in just four verses.

  47. Carl Youngblood on April 8, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I actually don’t think the melody that the choir sang during conference is new. I think it was taken from an older hymnal. But I agree that The Star of the County Down melody is way better: http://www.contemplator.com/ireland/star.html. Much more ethereal and contemplative for such lyrics. I don’t find “race” controversial–it obviously means perpetuation of the species, lineage etc.

  48. Kristine on April 8, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Adam, it’s a bit of a luxury to know have access to 19th-century understandings of the word “race” — a luxury that all but hypereducated potential victims of Anglo-Catholic Fiction Disorder are too likely not to have. I don’t especially like “grace”, either, as it disrupts the extended thought of the stanza, but I think it’s far less likely to offend, so I’m for changing it to avoid being a stumblingblock.

  49. Frank McIntyre on April 8, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Kristine, your political correctness is getting in the way of your intellectual snobbery.

  50. Adam Greenwood on April 8, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    KHH, that’s why I wrote this post, to spread the word. I suffer from ACFD so y’all don’t have to.

    We Mormons should try not to be ugly and ahistoric when we can.

  51. Left Field on April 8, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    I could stand to lose the last verse of Come, O Thou King of Kings.

    Hail! Prince of life and peace!
    Thrice welcome to thy throne!
    While all the chosen race
    Their Lord and Savior own,
    The heathen nations bow the knee
    And every tongue sounds praise to thee.

    Peace and race don’t even rhyme.

    Wait… maybe that’s the answer!

    There is no end to matter;
    There is no end to space;
    There is no end to spirit;
    There is no end to peace.

  52. Maren on April 8, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I find IYCHTK a great hymn- in moderation. It’s so singular. I can’t think of another that reaches beyond our earthly realm in the same almost-scientific way. I also agree with #39′s interpretation.

    I don’t mind singing it on occasion, but what I really, really dislike is when the conductor ends the singing at the end of the 3rd verse (“There is no end to race.”- what a strange place to end the song!) simply because the rest of the verses are not printed between the treble and bass clefs. It’s one of my greatest annoyances at church- not finishing all the words to a hymn- though I try to let it roll off my back every week. I usually spend a few moments reading the rest of the verses for closure and peace.

  53. Clair on April 8, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Particularity.

    Does anyone here think they will be of a different racial group after the resurrection, or that their physical appearance will be substantially different from their mortal appearance?

  54. rowish on April 8, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Does embracing “Amazing Grace” mean you have to bowdlerize If You Could Hie to Kolob? I don’t see it. The Book of Mormon and the early American church are both part of our heritage and both should be embraced.

    Green and Gold Balls, polygamy, now-disavowed teachings about preexistence worthiness, lame Church basketball violence, super-expensive youth activities, and “they live in the mission field” are all part of our Church heritage. Thankfully, we haven’t continued to embrace them.

    Some traditions die.

  55. Curtis DeGraw on April 8, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    “Does anyone here think they will be of a different racial group after the resurrection, or that their physical appearance will be substantially different from their mortal appearance?”

    I have no idea, and I don’t care one bit. (That’s not meant to be harsh; I simply don’t care.)

  56. rowish on April 8, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    I hope that I have a svelte figure, not my root-beer belly.

  57. Ray on April 9, 2008 at 12:15 am

    If we can change “I Am a Child of God” to better reflect our current understanding of doctrine, we can change this one to reflect better our current use of this word. If a stream doesn’t mind, I doubt a planet will.

  58. rowish on April 9, 2008 at 12:22 am

    The difference, Ray, being that IACOG was changed before it was ever really put in production. It’s a bit too bad, though, that we haven’t embraced the 4th verse.

  59. Ray on April 9, 2008 at 12:29 am

    and, while we are at it, can we eliminate “little Lord Jesus no crying he makes” and “he never got vexed when the game went wrong”?

    *end of soapbox*

  60. Chance on April 9, 2008 at 12:29 am

    It’s funny, I have an old MoTab recording of Kolob, and even as I listen to it now it sounds like they are saying ‘grace’…

    Adam, I agree, the performed arrangement did the original no justice. A rare flop by the MoTab imho.

    IR #53: I don’t care what color I am, I only want my hair back…That is, unless bald is perfection (which is what I keep telling myself…)

  61. Mark B. on April 9, 2008 at 12:29 am

    Joseph J. Daynes wrote the music, and it’s the version in the 1948 edition of the hymnbook.

    And we should stop importing 21st century meanings of and sensitivities about “race” into 19th century hymn texts. Is there any reason to suspect that either WW Phelps in “Kolob” or PP Pratt in “Come Oh Thou King” was thinking of race in the sense of color?

    As to taking all the “gays” out of the childrens’ songs–I don’t know about that, but they didn’t get it out of “High on the Mountain Top.”

  62. Clair on April 9, 2008 at 1:19 am

    #61. I had to look up “Mountain Top” and read it twice, but that was funny.

    #57. In “Child of God”, both “do” and “know” are solid doctrinally. We should alternate them.

    #55. I take your answer to mean that you trust that it will be good, whatever the details. I agree. But I have grown kind of used to this particular body, at last.

    Hey, I made a chiasmus.

  63. Patrick on April 9, 2008 at 2:18 am

    Russell (#1): I’m not so sure “you who unto Jesus” was changed out of a concern about weird grammar as much as the kids thinking they were singing “Yoo hoo! unto Jesus”…!

    Ivan (#23) – Why is it that every good Irish tune has to be a “drinking song?” (I happen to be partial to the “Star of the County Down” version – maybe all it lacks in Sacrament Meeting is a fiddle…?)

    And if we’re going to change the words, I vote for Raymond’s new lyrics (#36)!

  64. Jonovitch on April 9, 2008 at 3:38 am

    I’m a little late to this party, but I have some possible insight for why this older tune was sung, rather than the newer Ralph Vaughan Williams version. Read on.

    When I was in the BYU Concert Choir, we were invited to sing this very song (with the same older tune that we heard last weekend) in General Conference, in the new Conference Center (I forget what year it was — not too long ago). In our rehearsals, it quickly became apparent that the choirs weren’t exactly enthused about the older tune, yet we forged on, because we had been invited to provide the music for one of the sessions — a unique opportunity.

    As the day drew closer, we were told by our director that this older version was specifically requested by the First Presidency, as a nod to all the aging, stalwarts Saints who grew up singing the now-unfamiliar tune. I can’t verify the authenticity of that request, since it was second-hand information when I heard it, but it made sense to me then and it seemed to have a similar effect on everyone else.

    That short lecture was enough to get us smarty-pants college kids to offer our best that session, to honor those who went before us (as well as the First Presidency’s request), despite our snobby-musicians’ misgivings about the frumpy old melody. When I heard the old tune again this weekend, this was the first thing I thought of. It wouldn’t surprise me if a similar request was made to the Tabernacle Choir (many of whom are former BYU choir members).

    I couldn’t help but notice a gentle carefulness and sincerity in their sound as the Tabernacle Choir continued forward through each verse. It seemed to me as if they were honoring our predecessors in song once again, as we had done a few years before. It was a beautiful, simple performance.

    While we may not agree with the tune or the text, it is a hymn held dear by many of the older Saints who held the Church together long enough for us to now blog about minutiae. So I didn’t mind the old, frumpy tune at all.

    Jon

  65. Sarah on April 9, 2008 at 6:02 am

    I actually gave my PC at work a bit of a glare when that song came up — and tried to remember whether they said it was the combined institute choir or the MoTab that was singing. Was glad to see it end: some changes are made for the better.

    I don’t think there’s much benefit to changing the word: it’d stir up a lot more upset than what little angst is generated at the moment by it being in the exact same place it always has been. Far better to devote our time to restoring “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and getting the ward music director types to up the tempo of everything, stat.

  66. jeans on April 9, 2008 at 8:10 am

    I’m surprised at how many would be fine with keeping it. That word is nails on the chalkboard for me every single time I hear it, especially because it’s the last word of the last verse printed with the music in the hymnal, the next verses are down below and so they never get sung. We turn the time over to the next thing with that “race” ringing in the air. Shudder. Wince. Just leaves us open to major misunderstanding, especially since we’re not all so recontructed when it comes to racial dynamics. SO easy to change it, it would just be a nice gesture and eliminate the need to explain, “oh, that’s just a benign 19th century way of saying ‘everyone.’ ” (And, given the reality of race and power in the 19th century, it probably wasn’t entirely benign then either, no offense to WW Phelps).

  67. Adam Greenwood on April 9, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Green and Gold Balls, polygamy, now-disavowed teachings about preexistence worthiness, lame Church basketball violence, super-expensive youth activities, and “they live in the mission field” are all part of our Church heritage. Thankfully, we haven’t continued to embrace them.

    Some traditions die

    Mormon teachings about the eternity of lineage aren’t a green and gold ball. Criminy. Bad analogies persuade no one.

  68. Adam Greenwood on April 9, 2008 at 8:29 am

    While we may not agree with the tune or the text, it is a hymn held dear by many of the older Saints who held the Church together long enough for us to now blog about minutiae. So I didn’t mind the old, frumpy tune at all.

    Thanks for the information. The new tune is better but I am all in favor of nodding to the past.

    Far better to devote our time to restoring “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and getting the ward music director types to up the tempo of everything, stat.

    And the congregation said, Amen.

  69. Left Field on April 9, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Sarah, I don’t recall any hand-wringing over changed lyrics when the current hymnal came out. In some cases, I don’t think anyone even noticed. But I think we should consider the consequences of changing vs not changing the lyrics. If a few long-time members get into a snit over dropping a verse or changing race to something else, they’ll get over it. If visitors (who may already be predisposed to think of us as racist) or new members misunderstand the meaning of “race” in 19th century lyrics, they may well walk out, never to return, and we don’t get an opportunity to educate them on the context and true meaning intended by the lyricist. They then spend the rest of their lives repeating their misunderstanding of the lyrics as their impression of Mormonism. I wouldn’t call that a “little” angst. I don’t think we want to say “Good riddance, we don’t need them anyway if they’re not going to take the time to understand us and our profound but archaic lyrics.”

    Generally speaking, I’m all in favor of people understanding proper meaning in the proper context. But in some cases, the potential and consequences of misunderstanding and offense are great enough that we have to make a change. If that means that we change lyrics or avoid using the word niggard in church, then so be it.

    I do agree wholeheartedly about tempo and “Come thou fount..” However, I don’t think revising references to race precludes making any other welcome changes such as those you suggest.

  70. Adam Greenwood on April 9, 2008 at 10:35 am

    If a few long-time members get into a snit over dropping a verse or changing race to something else, they’ll get over it.

    Sensitive and understanding. You are to be congratulated on your efforts to reach out to the other side.

    The church can’t afford to get over having personality, character, and history. If keeping old words to hymns helps us not be some bland meaningless mush, then lets not be niggard niggardly about keeping them.

  71. Bro. Jones on April 9, 2008 at 10:39 am

    #70 Niggardly.

    If we’re going to talk about keeping old words to hymns, then let’s sing the awesome temple ordinances verse of Spirit of God. I was profoundly disappointed when we didn’t even sing that verse at the Nauvoo temple dedication.

  72. Hans Hansen on April 9, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I’m still trying to get over the dropping of “Though In The Outward Church Below” from the hymnal. Music by Mozart no less, with a fabulous bass part.

    As for faster tempi, I’m the ward organist. If the music director is a competent musician then we will work out the tempo beforehand; if the music director is a dumkopf, then I will set the tempo. And it will be fast; at least as fast if not faster then the metronome markings above the music. After all, they have little choice when I’m in the driver’s seat.

  73. East Coast on April 9, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Ditto on the tempo. Why should I be limited to that small range? No Easter should be celebrated with a dirge-like rendition of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” Ward organists unite!

    However, I was in a ward in Germany once where the music director directed “O My Father” at double speed. Very memorable experience. Maybe we could try that with “If You Could Hie to Kolob.” I’ll have to go try that on the piano…

  74. Jonovitch on April 10, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    For years I’ve wanted to learn to play the organ, for no other reason than I would then be able to enjoy the hymns at normal speeds.

    Jon

  75. Jonovitch on April 10, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    P.S. If any ward choir directors out there are up for a bit of a challenge next spring, Joseph Michael Hoffman wrote a great arrangement of “Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today.” It’s fast and rhythmic, and once you sing it, the normal version just sounds a bit dull to you. It will require a bit of practice with most ward choirs and some choir directors (it has odd time signatures throughout), but it’s a very fun piece and well worth the effort. You won’t be sorry.

    Joseph was a grad student at BYU, and I think he’s still in Utah. If you can’t find copies from your local music store, you can contact him personally on Facebook (he has red hair). He’d probably be happy to sell you some copies and send them to you himself. (Please don’t make photocopies of music, whether his or anyone else’s — it’s illegal and dishonest, and it does affect the composer financially. If you don’t have a budget to buy a few pieces of music for the ward choir, that’s the bishop’s fault, not the composer’s — talk to your leadership.)

    Jon

  76. Hans Hansen on April 10, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    #73. “…a ward in Germany once where the music director directed “O My Father” at double speed.”

    I had a ward music director that conducted “Master the Tempest is Raging” at roughly double to triple time. His name was Hansel Rayner and he was the music director of the Burbank Symphony in California. He let you know who was the boss. He also varied the tempo from verse to verse and within each verse. Scared the you-know-what out of me and I didn’t dare take my eyes off him. BTW, playing that hymn at that speed on an organ was a real adventure!

  77. Jane on May 19, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Hey! I\’m a half-Japanese Australian and I really like being a half-Japanese Australian. There\’s nothing wrong with race. It has absolutely no implication to rac-ism, so leave it alone. I really love this hymn and the truth it teaches us. And that\’s one of my favorite lines in the song. And I\’ll always keep my heritage. The hymn\’s not changing.

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Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.