Choosing music for sacrament meetings is an interesting responsibility sometimes. One of a few different challenges is that there are only 27 hymns specifically selected as sacrament meeting hymns, so there is a lot of potential for repetition.
As Kaimi Wenger explained the dilemma:
Two of the … Sacrament hymns are duplicate texts with different music. And others (such as 178, O Lord of Hosts, or 189, O Thou Before the World Began) are rarely sung. That leaves an awful lot of weeks each year for I Stand All Amazed, There is a Green Hill, and Jesus, Once of Humble Birth. With so much repetition, there is a risk that Sacrament becomes auto-pilot. Part of the music director’s job is arranging hymns to help the congregation reflect on the meeting.
Are there other options for Sacrament hymns?
The hymn book states that, “the Sacrament hymn should refer to the sacrament itself or to the sacrifice of the Savior.” In addition, Sacrament hymns are traditionally solemn and reverent. Are there other hymns that fit the bill?
While there’s some benefit to frequent repetition and the official sacrament hymns should always take precedence, it’s still a good question. The statement that: “The sacrament hymn should refer to the sacrament itself or to the sacrifice of the Savior.” is repeated in both the hymnbook itself and in the General Handbook, so that seems like the best starting point from which to work.
With that in mind, I went through the entire English-language hymnbook and kept an eye out for hymns that specifically referenced the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or the sacrifice of the Savior. Along the way, I also noted that there were a few hymns that I might call Sacrament-adjacent, which don’t meet the specific requirements outlined but are close enough in theme that they could probably work as passable sacrament hymns. I’ll share a table of each group, then go into more details below.
Table 1. Hymns that seem to meet the guidelines offered in the hymnbook and the General Handbook for Sacrament hymns.
|65||Come, All Ye Saints Who Dwell on Earth|
|67||Glory to God on High|
|86||How Great Thou Art|
|111||Rock of Ages|
|113||Our Savior’s Love|
|134||I Believe in Christ|
|135||My Redeemer Lives|
|136||I Know that My Redeemer Lives|
|146||Gently Raise the Sacred Strain|
|155||We Have Partaken of Thy Love|
|169-196||Sacrament meeting hymns|
|197||O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown|
|209||Hark! The Herald Angels Sing|
Table 2. Hymns that do not explicitly follow the guidelines for selecting Sacrament hymns, but which could potentially still pass as acceptable options.
|6||Redeemer of Israel|
|57||We’re Not Ashamed to Own Our Lord|
|90||From All That Dwell Below the Skies|
|101||Guide Me to Thee|
|112||Savior, Redeemer of My Soul|
|115||Come, Ye Disconsolate|
|118||Ye Simple Souls Who Stray|
|129||Where Can I Turn for Peace?|
|131||More Holiness Give Me|
|141||Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee|
|205||Once in Royal David’s City|
|220||Lord, I Would Follow Thee|
|221||Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd|
|234||Jesus, Mighty King in Zion|
|236||Lord, Accept into Thy Kingdom|
|242||Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow|
|258||O Thou Rock of Our Salvation|
For the first group (hymns that seem to explicitly match the criteria that they “refer to the sacrament itself or to the sacrifice of the Savior”), here are the more detailed explanations:
- “Come, All Ye Saints Who Dwell on Earth” (65)
- This hymn has a lot of relevant content with its focus on “our great Redeemer’s love to sing”, with the second verse particularly focused on how “His love is great; he died for us”.
- “Glory to God on High” (67)
- This one has a lot of atonement focus, i.e., “His love and grace adore, / Who all our sorrows bore,” or “Jesus, our Lord and God, / Bore sin’s tremendous load. / Praise ye his name. / Tell what his arm has done, / What spoils from death he won.”
- “How Great Thou Art” (86)
- This has both the repeated focus on “My Savior, God” and has a verse that talks extensively about the Atonement of Jesus Christ: “And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; / Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; / That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, / He bled and died to take away my sin.”
- “Rock of Ages” (111)
- This one has a lot of Atonement focus to it. For example: “Let the water and the blood, / From thy wounded side which flowed, / Be of sin the double cure, / Save from wrath and make me pure.“
- “Our Savior’s Love” (113)
- This one goes through the Godhead, and in addition to the verse focused on the Savior, the verse focused on God the Father talks about the Atonement: “In rev’rence, awed / By thy Son’s sacrifice. / Praises we sing.”
- “I Believe in Christ” (134)
- This one is pretty extensive in talking about the Atonement. For example: “I believe in Christ; he ransoms me. / From Satan’s grasp he sets me free”. Plus, there is virtually no risk that the priests will still be breaking the bread by the end of this song.
- “My Redeemer Lives” (135)
- The first verse for this hymn in particular seems appropriate, which praises Jesus for being “Victorious over pain and death”, etc.
- “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” (136)
- In focusing on the Savior, there is a decent amount of Atonement imagery interspersed throughout. I.e., “He lives, he lives, who once was dead”, “He lives, and I shall conquer death”, or “He lives, my Savior, still the same. / Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives: / ‘I know that my Redeemer lives!’”
- “Gently Raise the Sacred Strain” (146)
- Asides from being familiar as the song that the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square sings almost every week for Music and the Spoken Word (even if they forget the words after the first line every time), this was actually included as a sacrament hymn in previous hymnbooks and is included in the list of sacrament hymns in the topics. I’m actually not sure why it isn’t included in the sacrament hymn section in the current hymnal, but it does have a lot of sacrament imagery. For example, “Holy day, devoid of strife— / … And partake the sacrament / In remembrance of our Lord” or “Tho your sins be crimson red, / Oh, repent, and he’ll forgive.”
- “We Have Partaken of Thy Love” (155)
- This one is more intended as a closing hymn, but could work for a sacrament hymn, particularly with the focus on how: “We have partaken of thy love, / O Lord, this sacred hour; / We have renewed our covenants / And felt thy cleansing pow’r”.
- “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown” (197)
- The entire song is literally about the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, so it works. Plus, it’s right next to the sacrament hymn section, so most people won’t even notice that it’s technically in the Easter section even if it’s sung at a different time of the year.
- “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (209)
- This is one you could use during the Christmas/Advent season for a sacrament hymn. It talks a lot about the Atonement, i.e., talking about how “God and sinners reconciled” or “Light and life to all he brings, / Ris’n with healing in his wings. / Mild he lays his glory by, / Born that man no more may die”
As for the second set (the Sacrament-adjacent ones), these are hymns that might pass for sacrament hymns even if they might not focus explicitly on the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Christ or on the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, here are the ones I picked out:
- “Redeemer of Israel” (6)
- With the focus on the “Redeemer of Israel” and “How long we have wandered / As strangers in sin” with the promise that: “The hour of redemption is near,” this one could probably work.
- “We’re Not Ashamed to Own Our Lord” (57)
- I’ve talked about the purpose of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and one of the reasons we do it is to look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus the Christ. This hymn works well to highlight that focus, talking about how: “When he comes down from heav’n to earth / With all his holy band, / Before creation’s second birth, / We hope with him to stand.”
- “From All That Dwell Below the Skies” (90)
- This one is a song of praise to Jesus, proclaiming: “Let the Redeemer’s name be sung / Through ev’ry land, by ev’ry tongue.” Since the sacrament is focused on the Redeemer, it would probably work out okay as a sacrament hymn.
- “Guide Me to Thee” (101)
- This hymn is a prayer asking for help from Jesus to guide us to Him, i.e., “Jesus, my Savior true, / Guide me to thee. … / Let thy redeeming pow’r / Be with me ev’ry hour.” So, it could be used as a meditative way to focus on Jesus Christ and asking for His help in preparation for the sacrament.
- “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul” (112)
- This is another one focusing on asking for help from our “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul” and praising Him.
- “Come, Ye Disconsolate” (115)
- This one focuses on coming to the Savior for healing and solace, “Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish; / Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel. / Here bring your wounded hearts; here tell your anguish. / Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.” In addition, it does mention Jesus being the “Bread of Life; see waters flowing”, which is sacrament imagery.
- “Ye Simple Souls Who Stray” (118)
- This one is dependent on how people are conditioned to view themselves in the context of the hymn. It reflects on how “he whose blood is all our boast / Has made us priests and kings” and how “Riches unsearchable / In Jesus’ love we know”. If we view ourselves as the simple soul who strays, it’s a reflection on how we can turn to the Savior and be blessed. If we think of it as being ourselves telling other people off for straying and then talking about how amazing we are for turning to Jesus, then it isn’t the best hymn to sing. (Might as well build a Rameumptom as sing this hymn at that point.)
- “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” (129)
- Another one reflecting on how the Savior can be a source of healing and solace: “In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.”
- “More Holiness Give Me” (131)
- One area of reflection during the sacrament is to think about how we can better turn to God and live a Christian life, which this hymn discusses.
- “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” (141)
- Lots of focus on Jesus here and expressions of gratitude for Him.
- “Once in Royal David’s City” (205)
- Another option for Christmas sacrament hymns, particularly with the final verse: “And our eyes at last shall see him, / Through his own redeeming love; / For that child so dear and gentle / Is our Lord in heav’n above, / And he leads his children on / To the place where he is gone.”
- “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” (220)
- The opening lines outline the focus on this hymn: “Savior, may I learn to love thee, / Walk the path that thou hast shown”. This focus on living a life like the Savior and turning to Him fits the sacrament well enough to work, I think.
- “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd” (221)
- This one focuses on how dear everyone is to the Savior, whether we are wandering sheep or among the 99 still in the sheepfold.
- “Jesus, Mighty King in Zion” (234)
- This one is more a baptism hymn than a sacrament hymn, but still references the Atonement enough to be taken under consideration here, especially since we have (right or wrong) a commonly-held belief that sacrament is a renewal of the baptismal covenant: “As an emblem of thy passion / And thy vict’ry o’er the grave, / We, who know thy great salvation, / Are baptized beneath the wave.”
- “Lord, Accept into Thy Kingdom” (236)
- This one is a prayer to God to accept repentant folks who observe the ordinances into his Kingdom: “Lord, accept into thy kingdom / Each repentant, humbled one, / Born of water and the Spirit / In thy name, Beloved Son.” It is close enough to the intent of the sacrament that it seemed relevant to include.
- “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow” (242)
- This one is very short, but it was worth a mention for its focus on praising God.
- “O Thou Rock of Our Salvation” (258)
- This is one I’ve been borderline on. It does reflect the goal of praising the Lord and on repentance. “O thou Rock of our salvation, / Jesus, Savior of the world, … / We a war ’gainst sin are waging.” I’m not a fan of martial imagery, however, and question whether it is appropriate for the sacrament.
Other hymns might be mentioned too. For example, in the earlier post by Kaimi, we read the suggestion that:
A few other, perhaps unorthodox suggestions which might also fit the bill of focusing on the Savior’s sacrifice, and having a reverent tone, include:
#111, Rock of Ages.
#117, Come Unto Jesus.
#100, Nearer, My God, to Thee.
#108, The Lord is my Shepherd.
#308, Love one Another.
While I don’t necessarily feel like we need to be restricted to hymns that are “reverent” in the sense Kaimi intends for the sacrament, they are good suggestions.
In addition to using hymns outside of the normal group for sacrament, it is also very possible to focus on using the hymns that tend to be overlooked within the official sacrament hymn section of the hymnal. For example, a survey that Sam Bradshaw did a few years ago, it was found that hymn 189 (“O Thou, Before the World Began”) was sung least frequently among the hymns in the sacrament section, with 178 (“O Lord of Hosts”), 179 (“Again, Our Dear Redeeming Lord”), and 186 (“Again We Meet around the Board”) also ranking as less common sacrament hymns. It may be worthwhile to consider using hymns like these more frequently as the sacrament hymns.
In any case, hopefully this is a good resource for considering additional options for sacrament hymns.
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How about Upon the Cross of Calvary? It’s been one of my favorites since I was a kid. And then I learned to love it even more after studying music. The contrapuntal motion between the soprano line and the bass line is almost perfect. A nice offering by a good latter-day saint composer. The lyrics a simple, direct, and meaningful. It’s a little gem, IMO.
That one is one of my favorites (and Leroy Robertson is a fantastic composer), though that one is already classified as a sacrament hymn (169-196), so it’s kind of a given. It also ranked as #14 for sacrament hymns in the Sam Bradshaw survey, so not an uncommon one either.
Regardless of how it is listed in the hymnal, I think #197 is far more appropriate as a sacrament hymn than an Easter hymn. I feel Easter should be focused on the resurrection and I want to sing triumphant and celebratory hymns on that day. It bothers me that we basically combine Easter and Holy Week into one day, and many wards plan somber and introspective musical numbers. The tune we use for #197 is traditionally associated with Holy Week, and our current text fits that mood as well. It is listed in the topical index under the heading of “Sacrament”. If we’re going to call it an Easter hymn, maybe the best choice is sing it as the Sacrament hymn on Easter Sunday. But I wish we sang it far more often than that.
I was not aware that #178 and #189 are rarely sung. In many wards I’ve lived in, sacrament hymns have been chosen by simply going through that section of the hymnal in order, so we sing all of them equally.
When I say “Holy Week”, I’m meaning the rest of Holy Week, not Easter. Good Friday.
Silly me! I totally missed what your OP is really about. Sorry about that, Chad. Even so, it’s nice to know that I’m in good company with respect to my taste in hymns.
Re: Leroy Robertson: I’m not a musicologist–but my sense is that Robertson seems to be rather underrated. I wish there was a way to get his work performed and recorded at a level of proficiency that his music deserves.
Lisa, I very much agree with your perspective. In planning music, I try to include 197 about 2 times a year as a sacrament hymn to build familiarity with it. And I wish there were better awareness of how the liturgical calendar works – that’s one of my holy envies after serving in a Presbyterian music ministry for a decade. Partly because of that, I generally will include at least Palm Sunday (and Pentecost, actually) in my hymn planning (and have been known to refuse to play “Praise to the Man” on Palm Sunday, much to the shock of a previous bishobric that requested it, not thinking about what Sunday it was).
Jack, I totally agree on Leroy Robertson. I’ve gone out of my way to collect recordings of his music, but they are surprisingly difficult to find. I’ve been shocked in particular that basically no recordings exist for some of his most highly awarded music.
Just jumping on to say thank you for this!!!
Has anyone heard rumors about the status of our hymn book, or what the next stage of hymn development is???
I haven’t really heard much about its status in a couple years at this point.
Chad, from the hymnbook:
— “[B]eing listed in a certain category should not limit the use of any hymn.” (p.379)
— “The sacrament hymn should refer to the sacrament itself or to the sacrifice of the Savior.” (p.380) (The “sacrifice of the Savior” is equivalent to the Atonement/Crucifixion/Resurrection.)
Your original post caught the 2nd quote, but not the first, which I thought I’d throw in here. In addition, the Church FAQs on the church website include the following Q&A:
Should we choose sacrament hymns only from the “Sacrament” section in the hymnbook’s table of contents?
Hymns throughout the hymnbook may be used as sacrament hymns if they follow this guideline: The sacrament hymn “should refer to the sacrament itself or to the sacrifice of the Savior” (Handbook 2, 14.4.4).
My short list of additional Sacrament-appropriate hymns includes the following, some of which you have already noted:
103 Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer (reference to both staying tide of sin and everlasting peace)
111 Rock of Ages (explicit reference to crucifixion and repentance)
112 Savior, Redeemer of My Soul (atonement)
113 Our Savior’s love (repentance/atonement)
115 Come, Ye Disconsolate (repentance, explicit reference to bread and water in 3rd verse)
116 Come, Follow Me (atonement, one with Christ, eternal life)
117 Come Unto Jesus (repentance, atonement)
134 I Believe in Christ (all of the above!)
136 I Know That My Redeemer Lives (all of the above!)
141 Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee (resurrection, repentance)
146 Gently Raise the Sacred Strain (explicit reference to sacrament in 2nd verse, explicit reference to Christ’s sacrifice in 3rd verse)
155 We Have Partaken of Thy Love (explicit reference to sacrament, renewing covenants)
197 O Savior Thou Who Wearest a Crown (This is classified as Easter, not Sacrament, in the Table of Contents, but it fills all the sacrament criteria and is grouped next to them. It’s frequently sung as a sacrament hymn.)
To Thor, I have two acquaintances (I couldn’t call them close friends, but I know them reasonably well) who have very active roles in the committee which is compiling the new hymn book. I can tell you that they’re actively engaged in the project, and I know that certain hymns have been selected, but I have no idea what the timeline for publication is.