Janice Kapp Perry, one of the most prolific hymn writers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said she is thrilled with the announcement Monday of a new book of hymns being developed by the church.
“I’m giddy,” Perry said. “I love the hymns and have prayed for hymns for our day.”
It will take a few years, but the church announced it would be making significant changes to the church “Hymns” and “Children’s Songbook” used in worship services.
In a worldwide release to church leadership and music leaders, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Along with prayer and the scriptures, hymns invite the Spirit into our hearts and strengthen our testimonies of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.”
In the official statement, Rasband noted, “We recognize the power that sacred music has to unify the members of the Church throughout the world. We desire to offer a consistent core collection of hymns and songs in every language that reflects the diverse needs of the global Church in our day.”
Perry, who has written more than 300 hymns, including “As Sisters in Zion,” “A Child’s Prayer,” and “Love is Spoken Here,” said, “I’m thrilled there may be a place for them.”
Perry has collaborated with several writers over the years, but recently, she and Bonnie Hart Murray have written 30 Book of Mormon narratives.
Perry said they also started a project of writing from favorite conference talks with David B. Larsen, an LDS stake president in Dallas, when both of them realized they were all from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s sermons, they had a new project.
“We have one hymn for every sermon Elder Holland has given in conference,” Perry said. “That’s 48 hymns.”
Hymn selections will include core hymns and songs that teach the doctrines of the gospel and reflect the needs of members around the world.
For instance patriotic songs and national anthems such as “God Save the King,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” and “America the Beautiful,” will be removed from the new hymnbook.
Hymn contribution may come from many sources, including LDS general authorities. There are a few in the current hymnbook written by former leaders of the church. The most popular and familiar one is “I Believe in Christ,” by Elder Bruce R. McConkie.
Perry said she even collaborated with President Gordon B. Hinckley on a hymn entitled, “What Is This Thing That Men Call Death.” The words were written by Hinckley.
The words of the poem were on a paper and were hanging over the headboard of her niece’s bed that was dying of cancer.
“He gave me permission to use the words and asked to send him a copy. That was in November,” Perry said. “In January, my niece died. Two weeks later on a Sunday, President Hinckley died. I hadn’t received permission.”
She goes on to say that Monday morning she got a letter from his office that gave his permission to publish. His secretary sent it Friday, he died Sunday, and that Tuesday, Craig Jessop with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir called to ask if the choir could sing the hymn at his funeral.
The Children’s Songbook will also reflect the global needs and nature of the children of the church.
“I still remember singing songs in Primary as a young child growing up in Argentina,” said Sister Cristina B. Franco, second counselor in the Primary general presidency. “Those songs still ring in my ears, along with the gospel principles that they taught me while I was very young.”
According to the church statement, committees have been formed, under the direction of the First Presidency, to recommend revisions. New music will be compiled into one hymnbook and one children’s songbook in all languages for worldwide musical unity.
The public is being invited to submit no more than five hymns and five children’s songs for potential publication. They will be vetted by the various music committees.
Original hymns, children’s songs, song texts without music or music without text can be submitted for consideration at http://newmusic.lds.org. Feedback can also be provided about the current music through an online survey. New submissions must be received by July 1, 2019.