Hymnbook Watch: January 2024

We’re getting closer to the new hymnbook/songbook being released. I talked about some updates last August, but there has been some other information that has come out since then.

The big announcement came in late September, right around general conference time. The key points from that article gave insight into what we can expect:

  • The new songbook will merge the hymnbook and children’s songbook into one volume of “450 to 500 hymns and children’s songs”
  • “Some new songs are planned to be released digitally in small digital batches starting in the first half of 2024”
    • “These will include well-loved music of the Church composed after 1985 (such as “Faith in Every Footstep”), music borrowed from other faiths, and some of the 17,000 new songs submitted by members of the Church.”
  • “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently plans to release “Hymns—for Home and Church” in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French by the end of 2026, with other languages to follow.”

These are some interesting updates. We will see some of the new music begin to arrive within the next six months and will see a finalized product in about two years.

The merging of the children’s songbook and the hymnal into one volume is probably the most startling revelation in that news piece. And, to be honest, I love that idea. I love many of the Primary songs and I’ve wished that it was easier to use some of the children’s songs during sacrament meeting. While I know some people will feel like it’s some sort of “infantilizing” of our meetings, I think it can have some good benefits. At the same time, I also don’t expect the wiggle time music to be featured in sacrament meeting.

Latter-day Saint hymnals and songbooks

Another interesting update came a few weeks after the announcement. In November, the Church held their annual music festival. Early announcements about the program indicated that it would include “new hymnbook selections.” The page for the event now only says that the program highlights “new sacred Church music in various languages and styles and focusing on hymns and children’s songs.” So it’s not entirely clear whether all music in the program will be included in the new hymnbook. But there were several songs included in the program that are not in the current English hymnbook:

  • Amazing Grace
  • Come, Thou Fount
  • I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me
  • Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger
  • This Little Light of Mine

Again, the change in wording makes me hesitate to say that all five songs will be in the forthcoming hymnal. But I suspect most of them will be.

List of Possible Inclusions

At this point, between current and past announcements, the following songs have been mentioned as possible inclusions in the new hymnal:

  • Amazing Grace
    • This one was mentioned in 2019 as one of the most-requested songs to add to the hymnal and was also performed in the November music festival. It was last included in our hymnal in the 1841 Nauvoo hymnbook compiled by Emma Smith. But it seems likely that this one will be in the new songbook.

  • Come, Thou Fount
    • This one was mentioned in 2019 as the most highly requested song for the hymnal and was also performed in November. I think we can say with 99% certainty that this one will be in there. Also, if you want to dive deeper into this one, I did share a post about “Come, Thou Fount” a while ago.

  • Faith in Every Footstep
    • This one was originally published for use in 1997 as part of the 150-year celebration of the Latter-day Saints arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. It was mentioned in the September announcement as being one of the popular songs written since 1985 that will be included in the digital releases this year. It was then performed by the Tabernacle Choir during the most recent general conference. This hymn, alongside “Come, Thou Fount,” is one that I’ve heard reports that some wards have pasted the music into their hymn books in the pews and sung in sacrament meetings occasionally.

  • If the Savior Stood Beside Me
    • This one was mentioned in 2019 as a highly-requested song to include in the new collection, so there is a good chance—Ziff’s hopes to the contrary—that it will be included.

  • I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me
    • I was not acquainted with this song before the November concert, but I liked it. It was also used last year in a Friend to Friend event. It’s an exciting indication that Church leaders have finally moved on from being opposed to including African-American spirituals in our worship services.

  • Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger
    • This one was performed in the November festival. It was previously included in the Latter-day Saint songbook MIA: Let’s Sing!,[1] and the Mack Wilberg arrangement was featured in the Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration film that used to show in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. It originated as an American folk song sung in the Southern Mountains (with possible Irish roots) and gained greater visibility when Burl Ives sang it on his radio program in the 1940s.[2]

  • This Little Light of Mine
    • This was another selection from the November concert. This is actually one that I was hoping (and suggested) to have included in the children’s songbook. It’s a fun African-American song originally written for children that I came to love during my time in the local Presbyterian church’s music ministry.


It will be interesting to see what we get with the full compilation, but for now, I’m excited to see what they release with the digital music this year.



[1] MIA Let’s Sing (Salt Lake City: The General Board of the Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1962), 11.

[2] Richard Chase, American Folk Tales and Songs (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1956, 1971), 162–163.

Thank you to @HymnalWatch on X for pointing out the previous performance of “I’m Going to Live so God Can Use Me.”

14 comments for “Hymnbook Watch: January 2024

  1. These are all great choices. It will be interesting to see if congregations manage to slow This Little Light of Mine down to the usual Mormon dirige speed.

  2. I’ve noticed in the online version that some songs have been doubled in the list and are credited as being in the “Hymnal” as opposed to “Hymns” or “Children’s Songbook.” While they’re still in old format page-numberwise, my bet is these too are future hymnal inclusions. I’ve been incorporating a couple of the songs listed above (Amazing Grace, Come Thou Fount, and If the Savior Stood Beside Me) into my Sacrament Meeting organ prelude rotation, along with Behold The Wounds (which is my odds-on favorite for a sacrament hymn addition) to help them become more familiar. Since I’ve not heard recently from Salt Lake about one of my own compositions (it is on the website, and I did get an email in 2019 that it was being considered) I doubt that I made the cut. Nevertheless I am excited for all that will be there. Here’s to also hoping for It is Well.

  3. @ReTx,
    Last week I got a ‘thanks’ from the chorister because I DIDN’T play ‘Come, Let Us Anew’ like a dirge. It’s not all of us, I promise! Though having played the incredibly poorly actioned organ at our closest church, I can see why so many songs get slowed down.

    I sure hope that Behold the Wounds makes it in, as well as Rob Gardner’s setting of Savior, Redeemer of My Soul.

    I’m so excited to see the new hymnbook. I love sacred music, and it will be a great opportunity to learn some new favorites!

  4. Yes, I second the wish for the Gardner version.

    I spent a good deal of my Tuesday evening organ practice time with a metronome running to make sure I had Come, Let Us Anew up to speed. So many Fematas, though!!!

  5. “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me” is “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” with different lyrics. The latter has a rich history in gospel and folk music, particularly in social justice movements. The former just seems comparatively unimpressive to me. If the hymnbook is going to use the melody, and doesn’t want “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” it should run with “Glory Glory (Laid My Burden Down), which is an actual and better known gospel song using that tune.

    The MoTab version of “This Little Light of Mine” is a crime against civilization. I’ll just walk out of meetings if congregations turn it into a funeral dirge.

    Speaking of funeral dirges, gossip is that when our ward got a new chorister who told the organist that the organist was playing hymns too fast, and therefore the spirit couldn’t be in the meeting, and so the organist had to follow the slower tempo the chorister would set, the organist did the introduction at the speed she preferred, things went to the bishop, and the chorister didn’t last long.

  6. I was going to say that the Mack Wilberg version of “This Little Light of Mine” was well on its way as far as turning “This Little Light of Mine” into a Mormon dirge.

    I’m glad the organist won out in that situation, Joebob.

  7. The Tabernacle Choir’s version of “This Little Light of Mine” is a problem, at least for me. The issue is not the tempo, but rather the rhythm.

    Syncopated rhythm is such a core element of this song that it feels debased without a backbeat. “This Little Light of Mine” originated in the AME Church. To me the song feels most authentic when it’s performed in the Black gospel style, but I’ve also heard thrilling, inspiring versions in the style of country, rock and bluegrass music. The backbeat is there in all of these versions.

    Wilberg’s arrangement turns the syncopation into a cute ornamentation. There’s a lot of room for innovation and variety as we adapt music stylistically, but I think Wilberg takes it a few steps too far in this arrangement. The Tabernacle Choir sounds like it’s singing a forged version of the song. I’m tempted to call this a case of cultural appropriation, but that would be giving it too much credit. “Embarrassing” is probably a better word for it. I’m often a fan of what Wilberg does, but not here.

    I support cultural diversity in our hymns. I like the idea. I’m just not sure what to make of this. It’s not a good model for adopting or adapting new hymns. I recognize that this is only my personal response to the music, but I guess I have a pretty strong response in this case.

  8. For years, ward library copy machines have sacrificed many trees printing out the lyrics (and sometimes the music) for “faith in every footstep” , so I suppose its inclusion in the new hymnal is unavoidable. That being said- it’s not good hymnody- it’s a choral work- and one with a jarring compositional problem transitioning from the introduction to the chorus.

    Thank you for informing me that Emma included “amazing grace” in an early hymnal. I love the words and story behind it, but loathe the pairing of the poem with the tune. A perfect example of the worst songwriting prosody and word painting possible. I’m bristling, but only for the music. Knowing Emma chose it makes it more bearable.

  9. I agree with you on “Faith in Every Footstep” Mortimer. Though it is still an improvement over some of the parochial “pioneer hymns” that are currently included.

    To be fair to Emma, she only chose the lyrics of “Amazing Grace”–they didn’t publish music with the hymnals for a while. Also, if I remember correctly, the tune that’s usually used these days was not even written/published until a few years after Emma included it in our hymnal.

  10. Loursat, I love your assessment of the arrangement. To be honest, I was recently working through plans for what my ward choir is going to sing this year. I was very tempted to find a Gospel-style arrangement of “This Little Light of Mine”, but got worried that it would be seen as pushing boundaries too much (we only recently moved into this ward and a lot of the ward is older white folks born and raised in Utah). I considered the Wilberg arrangement as a stepping stone, but decided I felt similarly to what you expressed and dropped it from my plans altogether.

  11. A few years ago I tried to figure out why I didn’t like “Faith in Every Footstep” and came up with “that plodding chorus…oh wait…plodding.” I still wouldn’t say I like it, but I get what it’s trying to do. I agree singing it as a congregational hymn could be problematic–that’s not what it was written to be.

    I didn’t have the visceral reaction some of you did to Wilberg’s arrangement of “This Little Light of Mine,” but I completely agree it’s lacking the energy the song should get from its syncopated rhythm. I was reminded of a concert long ago where the BYU Women’s Chorus sang “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing” and ended up proving the point.

    I will plead for mercy for a lot of our organists–they may or may not be able to play faster. But slowing down as a requirement for the Spirit? Ugh. And any chorister who gets into tempo wars with their organist (in either direction) needs to get over themselves.

  12. It will be interesting to see which songs are in the final version. I’m with Ziff about the children’s selections. For decades researchers (Scott Richards, at BYU, among others) have found perfectionism to be a problem. The church has been addressing it (just search “lds perfectionism and you’ll find many links from the church’s website), but including lyrics that promote perfectionism, whether intentionally or incidentally, would be a step backwards.

  13. Mike,
    Agree- perfectionism is extremely problematic. I hope that the church (including President Nelson) learned a lesson from the negative reaction to Wendy Watson Nelson’s atrocious children’s book, “The Not Even Once Club” which was about perfectionism for kids (as you can see from the title), promoting cliques, and shunning others who fail.

    It will be interesting to see what happens.

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