"9/11 | Coming Together" 20th Anniversary Special

The Tabernacle Choir Blog

6,000 Hymns Were Submitted For 1985 Hymnbook

Each Sunday, members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather to worship and sing sacred hymns from the book's beloved pages. Twice a year, a general conference of the entire Church is broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah, where instruction is given by Church leaders, and hymns are sung by the 360-member Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 

In 1835, Emma Smith compiled the first hymnbook for the Church. Since then, numerous hymnbooks have been published by the Church, with the latest being printed in 1985—the sesquicentennial of the first hymnbook. In 2015, the 1985 hymnbook turns 30 years old, and it has now been translated in many languages for Church members around the world to enjoy.

In the early 1980s, a committee in the Church Music Department was tasked with compiling hymns for a new hymnbook. The committee reviewed over 6,000 hymns that had been submitted in recent years for consideration in the new hymnbook. A 1985 Ensign article noted, “During the selection process, all names were taken off the texts and music submitted so they would be evaluated on their own merits, not on the credentials of those who submitted them.” Michael Moody, chairman of the General Music Committee, added, “Historically, many of the beloved hymns were written by nonprofessionals who drew from everyday experiences to create hymns that people could relate to.”

Regarding the hymns submitted, committee member Vanja Watkins (who composed “Families Can Be Together Forever” and “Press Forward, Saints”) said, “It was thrilling to realize that there are so many people in the Church who have strong testimonies and can express them in artistic ways.”

Below, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs Mack Wilberg's arrangement of “For the Beauty of the Earth,” which was a new addition to the 1985 hymnbook.