Music and hymns have always been an integral part of Mormon Church history. Mormons believe that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me [God], and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (see Doctrine and Covenants 25: 12). Music is used to bring reverence and the Spirit into meetings. The hymns can be as powerful as scripture, and members of the Church are encouraged to use them as the great religious text that they are. Emma Smith, the wife of Joseph Smith, compiled the first collection of hymns for the Church. It was called A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. In 1830, Emma Smith was called by the Lord to do this work. In Doctrine and Covenants 25:11, it says, “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.” This command was given only three months after the Church was organized. The compilation contained 90 songs. Only the words for the songs were printed in the book, and during meetings they would sing the words to various known tunes. Often they would sing different songs to the same tune.Emma Smith’s compilations served the Church for many years; sometimes, new songs would be added. In 1886, the president of the Church, John Taylor, asked five prominent LDS musicians to come up with music for all of the songs in the current book. Three years later, they had finished, and published Latter-day Saint Psalmody. This hymnbook was the first in the Church to have both text and music for the songs.
The Mormon hymn book used by the Church today is called simply, Hymns. It was first published in 1985, and it contains 341 hymns; 26 of which are from Emma Smith’s original compilation. This hymnbook is being used as the starting point for translating hymns into other languages. Hymns has been translated into 21 languages and other translations are in progress.
LDS Hymns are available online and include audio. Go to www.lds.org/churchmusic. For popular music by LDS artists, go to www.churchmusic.org.