Sing a Christmas Carol: Christmas Music in the Latter-day Saint Hymnbooks

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather today around the world for their Christmas Sunday meetings, Christmas hymns and songs will be sung and performed as an important part of those meetings. One thing that not everyone may realize, however, is that the options for that music varies around the world. As a teenager, I had a strange obsession with collecting Church materials in different languages. When I picked up a few hymnbooks, I was surprised to find that they were not only much smaller than the English hymnbook I was used to, but that there were some different hymns in them. This was most noticeable in the Christmas section, where I was able to spot a few carols that I knew but that weren’t in the hymnbook as I knew it. I have been curious since then what Christmas songs have received approval from the Correlation Department to become part of the corpus of Latter-day Saint Christmas music that aren’t in the English hymnbook or children’s songbook. Finally, I sat down this weekend to spend a few hours browsing SingPraises.net in order to find out.

My first area of interest was in the hymnbooks. Do you agree with the Living Scriptures blog that “He is Born” (“Il est Né, le Divin Enfant”) is one of the most gorgeous Christmas hymns not in our hymnbook?[1] It actually turns out that it is in the Latter-day Saint hymnbook … if you speak French or Tahitian. Do you love the beautiful and iconic English carol “What Child is This?” While you won’t be able find it in most of the Latter-day Saint hymnbooks in the song’s homeland, you can go further east to Russia or Latvia to find it there. Do you remember the grand choral piece “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” from the 1948/1950 hymnbook? As it turns out, it’s still in the Portuguese hymnal. In all, while there are only 14 Christmas hymns in the English hymnbook (not counting New Year’s carols), there are 62 different Christmas hymns in Latter-day Saint hymnals around the world. Many are carols known in the regions that speak the language of the individual hymnbook, but not known widely elsewhere. For example, the Croatian hymnbook had the highest number of unique Christmas hymns at eight traditional Croatian songs. Some Christmas hymns were used repeatedly in different hymnbooks, such as “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (featured in five different languages) and “Fair Is Creation” (found in all of the Nordic language hymnbooks). See Table 1 for a list of all the Christmas hymns I found in the current hymnbooks of the Church (I’ve included all of the tables at the bottom of the post for the sake of those reading this post on small screens).

There are some implications for sacrament meetings at Christmastime here. I’ve had at least bishop who was an absolute stickler about only using music found in the Church’s hymnbook and children’s songbook, since those are the Correlation-approved music and thus the only music he thought would allow the Spirit into our meetings. I have often wondered since how he would react if we proposed to perform “Sing We Now of Christmas” with the ward choir, noting that it has passed Correlation in the French hymnbook. With that in mind, I also compiled a list of Christmas songs in the various editions of the children’s songbook used around the world to complete the list of Correlation-approved Christmas music (see Table 2). Fewer Christmas songs were added to the songbooks here than the hymnbooks. Still, it’s fun to see what Latter-day Saint children around the world have the opportunity to sing at Christmas.

I was also curious about what has been included in previous hymnbooks for Christmas hymns. This was a little bit more difficult and time-consuming to do, but I looked through the list of entries in English on SingPraises.net and tried to identify all Christmas songs used in the hymnbooks and Sunday School songbooks (which can also be viewed as the ancestors of the current hymnbook). Looking at all languages for this was a little too daunting, but I was able to compile what should be (but probably isn’t) a complete list of hymns used in English over the years. The most intriguing thing of note to me was that we did have the classic Christmas songs “Good Christian Men Rejoice” and “Angels from the Realms of Glory” in our hymnbook at one point, but only for the brief period of two years (1948-1950). I was also surprised to find more Christmas pieces with words or music written by Latter-day Saints than I expected (including a different setting of “Joy to the World” by Thomas C. Griggs), and that it was only in the previous (1948/1950) hymnbook that a large portion of the current Christmas songs we use today were included (see Table 3).

There are, of course, more lists that could be made–past children’s songbooks and the Mutual Improvement Association (M.I.A) publications contain many Christmas songs in particular. In a way, this post will likely be a moot point a few years down the road when the new hymnbook is published. It is possible, however, that regional supplements to the core hymnbook may include Christmas music in additional to patriotic songs. Regardless, I thought that this is a fascinating glimpse into the diversity that exists in Latter-day Saint music around the globe at Christmastime.

 

Table 1. List of all Christmas hymns identified in current Latter-day Saint hymnbooks used around the world as of 2018. When English is identified as language, it is likely to appear in many (if not most) of the other languages as well. In this case, other languages were omitted to reduce the size of the table.

Title Author Composer Tune Name Languages
A Babe Is Born in Bethlehem (Puer Natus) Latin hymn A. P. Berggreen Et barn er født i Betlehem Danish, Icelandic
A Child Is Born Martin Luther; Johan Olof Wallin Middle Ages melody Ett barn är fött Swedish
A Child Was Born unto Us Anon. Traditional Croatian melody Djetes?ce nam se rodilo Croatian
Angels We Have Heard On High French Carol French Carol Gloria English
At This Time of Year Anon. Traditional Croatian melody U to vrijeme godis?ta Croatian
Away in a Manger Martin Luther William J. Kirkpatrick Cradle Song English
Baby Jesus in a Manger Lay Hans Christian Andersen Niels W. Gade Barn Jesus i en krybbe lå Danish
Born unto Us Anon. Traditional Croatian melody Narodi nam se Croatian
Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light Johann Rist Johann Schop Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht Portuguese
Bright and Glorious is the Sky N. F. S. Grundtvig J. G. Meidell Dejlig er den himmel blå Danish
Carol of the Shepherds Czech folk tune Czech folk tune Nesem vám noviny Czech (also in Samoan Children’s Songbook)
Christ the Lord to Us is Born Jan Franus Czech folk tune Narodil se Kristus Pán Czech
Christ Was Born Today Traditional Romanian carol Traditional Romanian carol Ast?zi S-a n?scut Hristos Romanian
Christmas Has the Sound N. F. S. Grundtvig A. P. Berggreen Julen har englelyd Danish
Come, Shepherds Tárkányi Béla Hungarian Christmas carol Pásztorok, Pásztorok Hungarian
Daughter of Zion, Rejoice Johann Joachim Eschenburg George Frideric Handel Tochter Zion, freue dich German
Fair Is Creation Bernhard Severin Ingemann Silesian folk song Schönster Herr Jesu Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Swedish, and Norwegian
Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains John Menzies Macfarlane John Menzies Macfarlane Chatterley English
From Heaven Above Martin Luther Martin Luther Vom Himmel hoch Finnish
Give Me No Splendour, Gold, or Pomp Zacharias Topelius Jean Sibelius Giv mig ej glans, ej guld, ej prakt Finnish
Glory Simon Péter Jukundián Hungarian Christmas carol Dics?ség Hungarian
Glory to God F. A. Schultz F. A. Schultz Ere zij God Dutch
God is Born Franciszek Karpin?ski Traditional Bo?g sie? rodzi Polish
God’s Glorious Angel Hungarian Christmas carol Hungarian Christmas carol Mennyb?l az angyal Hungarian
Hail, Beautiful Morning Hour Johan Olof Wallin Philipp Nicolai Var hälsad, sköna morgonstund Swedish
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Charles Wesley Felix Mendelssohn Mendelssohn English
He Is Born, the Divine Christ Child French Carol French Carol Il est né le divin Enfant French and Tahitian
Heaven’s Court Anon. Traditional Croatian melody Dvorani neba Croatian
Hosanna Georg J. Vogler Georg J. Vogler Hosianna Swedish
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day Henry Wadsworth Longfellow John Baptiste Calkin Waltham English
In the Silence of the Night Anon. Anon. Ws?ro?d nocnej ciszy Polish
It Came upon the Midnight Clear Edmund H. Sears Richard S. Willis Carol English
Joy to the World Isaac Watts, ed. William W. Phelps George Frideric Handel; Lowell Mason Antioch English
Let All Together Praise our God (Praise God, All Christians) Nikolaus Herman Nikolaus Herman Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, all zugleich German
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming German Carol German carol; Michael Praetorius Es ist ein Ros entsprungen German, Dutch, French, Icelandic, and Swedish
Now Light One Thousand Christmas Lights Emmy Köhler Emmy Köhler Nu tändas tusen juleljus Swedish
O Jesu Sweet German carol German melody; arr. Johann Sebastian Bach O Jesulein süß Dutch
O Little Town of Bethlehem Phillips Brooks Lewis H. Redner St. Louis English
O Lord, Have Mercy Anon. Traditional Croatian melody Kirie eleison Croatian
O Ye Joyful People John Daniel Falk; Johann C. Heinrich Holzschuher Sicilian folk tune O du fröhliche German, Italian, Swedish
Oh How Valuable Is Every Soul N. F. S. Grundtvig Danish melody Unknown Icelandic
Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful John F. Wade John F. Wade Adeste Fideles English
Oh, Ye Shepherds Anon. Traditional Croatian melody Oj pastiri, c?udo novo Croatian
Once in Royal David’s City Cecil Frances Alexander Henry J. Gauntlett Irby English
Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord Frans Mikael Franzén German folk tune Bereden väg för Herran Swedish
Rejoice, Ye Peoples! Anon. Traditional Croatian melody Radujte se narodi Croatian
Ring, O Ye Bells N. F. S. Grundtvig Henrik Rung Kimer, I klokker Danish
Shepherds, He is Born Liefde-vier in den Kerstnacht De gheestelijcken leeuwercker; Gerardina Debaene Herders, Hij is geboren Dutch
Shepherds, Hear Ye Anon. Traditional Croatian melody Oj pastiri, c?ujte novi glas Croatian
Silent Night Joseph Mohr Franz Gruber Stille Nacht English
Sing We Now of Christmas French carol French carol Noël nouvelet French
The Angel Told the Shepherds Anon. Anon. Dies est lætitiæ Polish
The First Noel Traditional English carol Traditional English carol The First Noel English
The Lights in the Peaceful Village Jakob Sande Lars Søraas Det lyser i stille grender Norwegian
The Shepherds Ran to Bethlehem Anon. Anon. Przybiez?eli do Betlejem Polish
Today in Bethlehem Anon. Anon. Dzisiaj w Betlejem Polish
We Welcome Thee Paradijs der Gheestelijcke en Kerkelijcke Lofsangen Paradijs der Gheestelijcke en Kerkelijcke Lofsangen Nu zijt wellekome Dutch
What Child is This? William Chatterton Dix English folk song Greensleeves Latvian and Russian (also in Ukrainian Children’s Songbook)
What Wonderful News! Traditional Romanian carol Traditional Romanian carol O ce veste minunat?! Romanian
When Christ Is Born Anon. M. M. Mioduszewskiego Gdy sie? Chrystus rodzi Polish
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks Nahum Tate Yorkshire carol Yorkshire Melody English
With Wondering Awe Anon. Anon. Laudis Corona English

 

Table 2. List of all Christmas and Advent songs identified in current Latter-day Saint children’s songbooks used around the world as of 2018. When English is identified as language, it is likely to appear in many (if not most) of the other languages as well. In this case, other languages were omitted to reduce the size of the table.

Title Author Composer Tune Name Languages
Advent Carl-Bertil Agnestig Carl-Bertil Agnestig Adventstid Swedish
Away in a Manger Martin Luther Charles H. Gabriel Away in a Manger English
Carol of the Birds Martin Shaw Martin Shaw Carol of the Birds French
Carol of the Shepherds Czech folk tune Czech folk tune Nesem va?m noviny Samoan
Christmas Bells A. Laurence Lyon A. Laurence Lyon Christmas Bells English
Have a Very Merry Christmas! Mabel Jones Gabbott Michael F. Moody Have a Very Merry Christmas! English
He Sent His Son Mabel Jones Gabbott Michael F. Moody He Sent His Son English
Little Jesus Marilyn Curtis White Mark Newell; Charlene A. Newell Little Jesus English
Mary’s Lullaby Jan Pinborough German folk tune Mary’s Lullaby English
Oh, Hush Thee, My Baby Joseph Ballantyne Joseph Ballantyne Christmas Cradle Song English
Once within a Lowly Stable Patty S. Hill Mildred J. Hill Once within a Lowly Stable English
Picture a Christmas Patricia Kelsey Graham Patricia Kelsey Graham Picture a Christmas English
Rejoice, O Bethlehem Anon. Traditional Croatian melody Raduj se, o, Betleme Croatian
Samuel Tells of Baby Jesus Mabel Jones Gabbott Grietje Terburg Rowley Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus English
Sleep, Little Jesus Mabel Jones Gabbott Michael F. Moody Sleep, Little Jesus English
Stars Were Gleaming Nancy Byrd Turner Polish Carol W ?lobie le?y kt?? pobie?y English
The Nativity Song Avon Allen Compton Patricia Kelsey Graham The Nativity Song English
The Shepherd’s Carol (Round) Daniel Carter Daniel Carter The Shepherd’s Carol English
There Was Starlight on the Hillside Mabel Jones Gabbott Michael F. Moody There Was Starlight on the Hillside English
We Wish You a Merry Christmas English carol English carol We Wish You a Merry Christmas Korean
What Child is This? William Chatterton Dix English folk song Greensleeves Ukrainian
When Joseph Went to Bethlehem Bessie Saunders Spencer I. Reed Payne When Joseph Went to Bethlehem English
Where Are You Coming From, Shepherdess? French Canadian carol French Canadian carol D’où viens-tu, bergère? French
Who is the Child? Mabel Jones Gabbott Michael F. Moody Who is the Child? English

 

Table 3. Christmas and Advent hymns used in Anglophone Latter-day Saint hymnbooks, tunebooks, and Sunday School songbooks. The focus was on words paired with music, so the earliest hymnbook used is generally the first time that the tune was paired with the text in Latter-day Saint hymnbooks, unless no tune has been used with the text in our hymnbooks.

Title Author Composer Tune Name First Hymnbook/Songbook Most Recent Hymnbook/Songbook
“Glory be to God” the Angels Sang Evan Stephens Evan Stephens Glory Be to God the Angels Sang Latter-day Saint Hymns (1927), 241 Latter-day Saint Hymns (1927, 1940 ed.), 241
A Stranger Star O’er Bethlehem Orson F. Whitney Edwin F. Parry A Stranger Star O’er Bethlehem Primary Songbook (1905), 34 Deseret Sunday School Songs (1909, 1937 ed.), 28
A Stranger Star O’er Bethlehem Orson F. Whitney Evan Stephens A Stranger Star That Came From Far Latter-day Saint Hymns (1927), 335 Latter-day Saint Hymns (1927, 1940 ed.), 335
Angels From the Realms of Glory James Montgomery Henry Smart Angels from the Realms of Glory Hymns (1948), 5 Hymns (1948), 5
Angels We Have Heard On High French Carol French Carol Gloria Recreational Songs (1949), 140 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), no. 203
At First, the Babe of Bethlehem Parley P. Pratt George Careless Vesper Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody (1889), 260 Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody (1889, 1920 ed.), 260
Away in a Manger Martin Luther William J. Kirkpatrick Cradle Song Hymns (1985), 206 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 206
Away in a Manger Martin Luther Charles H. Gabriel Away in a Manger Songs of Zion (1908, 1912 ed.), 248 Children’s Songbook (1989, 2005 ed.), 42
Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light Johann Rist Johann Schop Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht Hymns (1948), 234 Hymns (1948, 1979 ed.), 239; also Hinos (1990, 2015 ed.), no. 130 (Portuguese Hymnbook)
Christ is Born, the Joyful Story Evan Stephens Evan Stephens Christ is Born, the Joyful Story Latter-day Saint Hymns (1927), 347 Latter-day Saint Hymns (1927, 1940 ed.), 347
Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains John Menzies Macfarlane John Menzies Macfarlane Chatterley Deseret Sunday School Song Book (1891, 1894 ed.), 135 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 212
Glory Be to God in the Highest Evan Stephens Evan Stephens Glory Be to God in the Highest Hymns (1948), 359 Hymns (1948, 1979 ed.), 359
Good Christian Men, Rejoice John Mason Neale; Heinrich Seuse Fourteenth-century melody In dulci jubilo Hymns (1948), 52 Hymns (1948), 52
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day Henry Wadsworth Longfellow John Baptiste Calkin Waltham Hymns (1948), 72 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 214
It Came upon the Midnight Clear Edmund H. Sears Richard S. Willis Carol Hymns (1948), 82 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 207
Joy to the World Isaac Watts, ed. William W. Phelps George Frideric Handel; Lowell Mason Antioch Latter-day Saint Hymns (1927), 188 (text included in 1835 hymnbook)’ Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 201
Joy to the World Isaac Watts, ed. William W. Phelps Thomas C. Griggs Maggie Deseret Sunday School Union Music Book (1884), 49 (text included in 1835 hymnbook) Songs of Zion (1908, 1925 ed.), 128
Mortals, Awake! With Angels Join Samuel Medley John Rippon Incarnation Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody (1889), 131 (text included in 1835 hymnbook) Latter-day Saint Hymns (1927, 1940 ed.), 304
O Little Town of Bethlehem Phillips Brooks Lewis H. Redner St. Louis Hymns (1948), 141 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 208
Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful John F. Wade John F. Wade Adeste Fideles Hymns (1948), 129 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 202
Once in Royal David’s City Cecil Frances Alexander Henry J. Gauntlett Irby Hymns (1985), 205 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 205
Silent Night Joseph Mohr Franz Gruber Stille Nacht Hymns (1948), 160 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 204
The First Noel Traditional English carol Traditional English carol The First Noel Hymns (1948), 39 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 213
The Incarnation Joseph H. Ward Ebenezer Beesley The Incarnation Deseret Sunday School Union Music Book (1884), 88 Deseret Sunday School Union Music Book (1884, 1888 ed.), 88
Watchmen! Tell us of the Night John Bowring NA NA Sacred Hymns (Nauvoo Hymnal) (1841), 242 Sacred Hymns (Nauvoo Hymnal) (1841), 242
When Christ Was Born in Bethlehem Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Ebenezer Beesley When Christ Was Born in Bethlehem Deseret Sunday School Songs (1909), 221 Hymns (1948, 1979 ed.), 295
While Shepherds Watched Ther Flocks Nahum Tate Yorkshire carol Yorkshire Melody Hymns (1948), 206 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 211
With Wondering Awe Anon. Anon. Laudis Corona Deseret Sunday School Union Music Book (1884), 86 Hymns (1985, 2002 ed.), 210

 

[1] Living Scriptures, “10 Gorgeous Christmas Hymns Not In the LDS Hymnbook,” 30 November 2017 http://blog.livingscriptures.com/index.php/2017/11/30/10-gorgeous-christmas-hymns-not-in-the-lds-hymnbook/.

7 comments for “Sing a Christmas Carol: Christmas Music in the Latter-day Saint Hymnbooks

  1. December 23, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    Awesome work, Chad. It’s giving me holy envy toward the past and the rest of the world.

  2. Jim Wallmann
    December 23, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Chad, this is great. Thank you for preparing this. While I never worry whether my prelude or postlude music is or is not in the hymnbook (and I’ve never been challenged about it), this morning my prelude included three different arrangements of “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (ending with the chorale prelude by Brahms) and I am gratified that 5 Church hymnbooks feature it. While I was playing the prelude this morning, one member of the choir told me that this was one of his favorite Christmas carols, he wished it could be in our hymnbook, and he had sung it with a choir at the Vienna ward. We’ll see what the new hymnbook brings us.

  3. December 23, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    “Fair is Creation” is probably the single most popular hymn in Denmark, at least, and quite possibly other Nordic countries. We English-speakers have it too, in the children’s songbook (Beautiful Savior), and I’m hoping it will make it into the new hymnal.

  4. December 24, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    That hymn is also in the current German hymnbook under its original title, “Schönster Herr Jesus” (https://www.lds.org/music/library/hymns/beautiful-savior?lang=deu). Here’s another vote for its inclusion in the English hymnal.

  5. Basil O Smith
    December 24, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Thank you so much for this enlightening post. It refreshingly opens our minds encouraging us to think outside the proverbial box and reminds us of the universality of Man. Instead of being bound by habit and constrained by the unquestioning compliance of our individual understanding of “how things work” in the Church, it opens the windows of the mind and heart inviting us to discover and embrace a wider reality and to enjoy the beauty of songs sung by non-English-speaking peoples.

  6. Grandpa
    December 25, 2018 at 3:59 am

    When I was Primary Music leader in one ward, the bishop knew my love for and research into old LDS hymnals, and he also knew that I would adhere to the spirit of my calling. So, he gave me permission to use any hymn or children’s song that had been published in an official LDS hymnal/children’s songbook. Oh, my, did I have fun! Besides my own collection of old hymnals, I spent a lot of time at SingPraises.net. I wish more bishops were so kind to their music people.

  7. December 25, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    This is excellent, Chad. Thanks so much for doing all the work to compile all of these! I would never have guessed (as a not-well-traveled American) that there was so much variation on the sets of hymns in LDS hymnbooks in different languages.

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