Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

“Called to Serve” Was the Last Hymn to Be Added to the 1985 Hymnbook

It seems almost impossible not to feel the power of the popular children’s marching song “Called to Serve.” Its core message is a charge to press forward in God’s name. In a 1997 talk, Boyd K. Packer said, “The willingness of Latter-day Saints to respond to calls to serve is a representation of their desire to do the will of the Lord.”

How It Came to Be Included in the 1985 Hymnbook

In 1985, a meeting for LDS Church mission presidents was held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. During the meeting, “missionaries from the Missionary Training Center marched into the Assembly Hall singing ‘Called to Serve.’ The effect was electrifying. An editorial in the Church News stated, ‘The impact of this experience was so moving that tears were flowing and deep emotions were stirred. It was an unforgettable spiritual moment’” (Our Latter-Day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages [1988], 279).

Although the feeling among the meeting attendees was that “Called to Serve” would definitely be included in the new hymnbook, it was actually the last song to be approved, and ultimately added. It is also included in the 1989 Children’s Songbook.

Lyrical Changes

When “Called to Serve” was included in the 1951 Primary songbook, The Children Sing, it included the following verse that is now excluded from the present songbook and hymnal:

Called to serve his path of service loyal,
Called to lead his eternal light;
Rich reward awaits in mansions royal.
Forward then in heavenly might.
“The line that now reads ‘Sons and daughters, children of a king,’ was originally ‘Sons of God, and children of a King.’ It was altered to make the language more inclusive” (Our Latter-Day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages, 280).

Called to Serve (Lyrics)

Called to serve Him, heav'nly King of glory,
Chosen e'er to witness for his name,
Far and wide we tell the Father's story,
Far and wide his love proclaim.

(Chorus)
Onward, ever onward, as we glory in his name;
Onward, ever onward, as we glory in his name;
Forward, pressing forward, as a triumph song we sing.
God our strength will be; press forward ever,
Called to serve our King.

Called to know the richness of his blessing—
Sons and daughters, children of a King—
Glad of heart, his holy name confessing,
Praises unto him we bring.

(Chorus)


Watch the Choir’s music video for “Called to Serve,” which features footage of missionaries around the world.