Category: Mormon Arts

Arts – Music – Poetry – Cinema – Television

Sacrament Meeting Hymns

Latter-day Saint sacrament hymns

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.

VII. The GAEL and Linguistic Typology

The GAEL provides for a mode of interpretation that finds expansive (but not unlimited) meaning in seemingly simple characters. Zakioan-hiash, as we have seen, is both a name, a word with a specific phonetic realization, and the equivalent of at least one sentence.

IV. The GAEL and the structure of Abraham 1:1-2a

In his 2009 article, Chris Smith argued for the textual dependence of the Book of Abraham on the GAEL. While Dan Vogel’s recent book about the Book of Abraham and related apologetics strenuously objects to any suggestion that the GAEL was reverse engineered from the translation of Abraham, Vogel nevertheless entirely rejects the basis of Chris Smith’s argument.

Robert Alter’s Translation of the Hebrew Bible

I’ve always wondered how well the talks of different general authorities translate to other languages.  For example, I can imagine that a lot of the alliteration that a few apostles adopt in their addresses doesn’t carry over.  And I know from my work on translating Spanish hymns that translating between languages is an inexact science and involves compromises to keep certain aspects of the original language – rhyme, meter, literal meaning of words, nuances conveyed in idioms, etc.  It’s almost impossible to carry all of those together across from one language to another.  Largely because of this, translations of the Bible have proliferated, with each trying to convey the meaning of the texts from the original languages in different ways.  For example, Robert Alter’s English translation of the Hebrew Bible focuses on carrying the literary forms of the Hebrew texts.  In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Robert Alter discussed his translation. Robert Alter is a noted scholar who received his doctorate from Harvard University and is a Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature.  His doctorate was in modern comparative literature, but he noted in the interview that: “as an undergraduate I spent three years studying biblical texts rigorously with H. L. Ginsburg, one of the leading philological scholars of the Bible of his generation.”  His familiarity with literary forms and biblical texts came together to lead to his translation: In the late 1970s I published…

II. What Joseph Smith Would Have Known About Champollion

Before we get to the heart of my argument – which is coming up next in a long post with a detailed look at what’s in the GAEL – we need to look at what Joseph Smith and his associates would have known about Champollion and the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics by 1835.

I. Putting the grammar back in GAEL

Scholars from seemingly every corner of Mormon Studies agree: While working on the Egyptian papyri, Joseph Smith and his associates were either unaware of Champollion’s recent work to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, ­or simply unaffected by the recent advances in Egyptology. Not only is this position untenable, it’s demonstrably incorrect.

Christmas Carols in the French Hymnbook

A few years ago, I talked about Christmas songs that are included in the various translations of the Latter-day Saint hymnbook that are not in the English hymnal.  I’m hoping to share the music and translations of those songs over the next few Decembers, starting this time with the music in the French hymnbooks.  In this case, there are three Christmas hymns in the hymnbook that appear in the French edition that aren’t in the English: “He Is Born, the Divine Christ Child” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” and “Sing We Now of Christmas“. He Is Born, the Divine Christ Child “He Is Born” (“Il est né le divin Enfant”) is a relatively well-known carol that is included in the French and Tahitian hymnbooks.  For the translation presented below, I’ve used the Samuel Bradshaw translation paired with the music from the French hymnal. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (“Es ist ein Ros entsprungen”) is a well-known German Christmas song frequently sung during the Advent season that leads up to Christmas. It is also one of the Christmas sonsg featured most frequently in Latter-day Saint hymnbooks outside of the English edition.  It is included in the German, Dutch, French, Icelandic, and Swedish editions of the hymnal.  I’ve elected to use the translation that I’m most accustomed to (the Theodore Baker translation) paired with the music from the French hymnal.  Given that the French…

“Final”, Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 9

“Our Savior, Jesus Christ, understands our pains and our afflictions. He wants to ease our burdens and comfort us.”[1] ~Moisés Villanueva Note: This is a part of an ongoing series, the Mexico Mission Hymns Project. Hymn Text: “Final”, by Joel Morales was included in the Spanish hymnals from 1912 – 1992.  The 1912 hymnal indicates that it is intended to be sung to the same tune as Songs of Zion, no. 168, which was “Ye Who Are Called to Labor” by Daniel B. Towner .  When printed with music in the 1942 hymnal, it was published with the tune of “A Happy Band of Children” by Edwin F. Parry.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any information about Joel Morales himself.     Table 1. Comparison of the hymn text in different editions of the hymnal 1912 1942 Ya suena la trompeta, Los justos llaman ya, Y Cristo se presenta, Los hombres juzgará. Ya suena la trompeta, Los justos llama ya, Y Cristo en su trono A todos juzgará. Serán las obras jueces, El mal á condenar; A justos dar la gloria, El bien á premiar. Serán las obras jueces, El mal condenarán; A justos dar la gloria, Lo bueno premiarán. En nube de la gloria, El Cristo ya vendrá; Del hombre la historia Escrita, El tendrá. En nube de la gloria, El Salvador vendrá; Del hombre la historia Escrita, él tendrá. La salvación eterna, A justos, les dará; El…

“Venid, Hermanos”: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 8

To the degree that members of the Church live the gospel and follow the counsel of the prophets, they will, little by little and even without noticing it, become sanctified. Humble members of the Church who conduct daily family prayer and scripture study, engage in family history, and consecrate their time to worship in the temple frequently, become Saints.[1]   Note: Note: This is a part of an ongoing series, the Mexico Mission Hymns Project. Hymn Text: “Venid, Hermanos” by José V. Estrada G. was published initially in the 1912 edition of the Mexican mission hymnbook, though it did not make the cut past the 1933 edition of the same hymnal.  It bears a similar name and the same author as the previous hymn discussed in this series (“Hermanos, Venid”), though it is a distinct hymn.  The original edition indicates that it was intended to be sung to hymn 87 from The Songs of Zion, which was “How Firm a Foundation.”  In this case, the same tune is used for “How Firm a Foundation” in the current hymnal.  It took me a bit to figure out how to do the translation, since rather than using an iambic meter (every other syllable is stressed), it uses a dactyl-based meter (every third syllable is stressed).

“Hermanos, Venid”: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 7

Problems form an important part of our lives. They are placed in our path for us to overcome them, not to be overcome by them. We must master them, not let them master us. Every time we overcome a challenge, we grow in experience, in self-assuredness, and in faith.[1] ~Horacio A. Tenorio Note: This is a part of an ongoing series, the Mexico Mission Hymns Project. Hymn Text: “Hermanos, Venid” by José V. Estrada G. was initially published in 1912 and continued to be published up through the 1942 hymnbook.  It was intended to be sung to the tune of Latter-day Saint Psalmody, 254, which was OMEGA by John Tullidge (“We’ll Sing the Songs of Zion”).  It was also published in the 1942 hymnal, though set to a tune by George Careless called SUPPLICATION (“O God, The Eternal Father”).  In the Latter-day Saint Psalmody, SUPPLICATION is the next page over from OMEGA, so it is possible that either there was a typo in the older hymnals or that both tunes were used interchangeably for the hymn and the latter won out later on (both tunes work for the text). Figure 1. “Hermanos, Venid” in the 1912 hymnal.   Table 1. Comparison of the text of “Hermanos, Venid” in various editions of the Spanish hymnal. 1912 1942 Se oyen por doquiera Anuncios y clamor, Que dicen á la tierra, Su pronta destrucción; Ya suena la trompeta, Con grande claridad, El Elder…

Clarifications on Uto-Aztecan

This post by Brian Stubbs, a well-respected linguist with numerous publications on the history of Uto-Aztecan languages, is a response to an earlier post by Jonathan Green from 2019.   In Times and Seasons, January 6, 2019, Jonathan Green published a post “Uto-Aztecan and Semitic: Too Much of a Good Thing.” A commenter, Steve J, asked: “I hope Stubbs will at some point address the concerns expressed in the post.”  Steve’s hope is justified and a response is rightfully due.  I did not learn of the post until long after it was written, thus the delay. Green is kind and fair in his opening paragraphs on my background and credentials. Later in the comments, he is again more than decent in my defense. So this is nothing against Green, only a clarification that he and many readers may appreciate. The research involves Uto-Aztecan (UA), one language family of some 30 related languages from the Utes in the north to the Aztecs in the south. UA contains a substantial amount of Semitic and Egyptian. Because some answers to the concerns are addressed in former publications, we refer to those past works with these abbreviations: Uto-Aztecan: A Comparative Vocabulary (2011) as UACV, which was favorably reviewed (Hill 2012) and praised by all UA specialists; Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan (2015) as Exploring; the 2nd edition of Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now (2020) as Changes in…

Dios, bendícenos: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 6

LNote: This is a part of an ongoing series.  To start at the introduction, follow the link here. Hymn Text: “Dios, bendícenos”, by Edmund Richardson, is an interesting example of a hymn where it’s not clear if it’s meant to be an original text, a translation of an existing hymn, or something in between.  It was published initially in 1907 and was included in every Spanish hymnal up through the 1942 hymnal.  In the 1992 Himnos, however, the translation of “Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessings” was published using the same title while the Richardson text was dropped from the hymn book, indicating that it might have been a translation or paraphrase of “Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessings” in the past hymnals.  There is a significant amount of overlap in ideas between the two hymns, similar meter, and the same number of verses.  On the other hand, the text was always attributed to Edmund Richardson as author rather than translator, a different translation by the same author was included as “Señor, despídenos” in the Mexican Mission hymnals (1907-1933), and the texts are not identical.  In addition, the hymn was written to be sung to Songs of Zion hymn 121, which was a tune used for “Guide Us, O, Thou Great Jehovah” rather than the “Go, Tell Aunt Rhody” tune used with the hymn most frequently (though it wasn’t uncommon for tunes to be switched around back then).  It was…

¿Por qué somos?: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 5

Our Father knows and loves His children all over the world, from Boston to Okinawa, from San Antonio to Spain, from Italy to Costa Rica. In Ghana, President Gordon B. Hinckley recently thanked the Lord “for the brotherhood that exists among us, that neither color of skin nor land of birth can separate us as Thy sons and daughters.” … We come to this world in many colors, shapes, sizes, and circumstances. We don’t have to be rich, tall, thin, brilliant, or beautiful to be saved in the kingdom of God—only pure. We need to be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ and keep His commandments. And we can all choose to do that regardless of where we live or what we look like.[1] ~Clate W. Mask Jr.   Note: This is a part of an ongoing series, the Mexico Mission Hymns Project. Hymn Text: The hymn ¿Por qué somos? by Edmund W. Richardson was initially published in the 1912 edition of Himnos de Sion (see Figure 1).  It is one of the three hymns that were written originally in Spanish that are included in the 1992 Spanish hymnal.  The hymn has also been included in the Portuguese hymnal as “De que rumo vêm os homens”, though it is not included in the current hymnbook in that language.  The original publication indicated that it should be sung to the tune of hymn 50 in Songs of Zion, which was ELIZA…

Santos, Dad Loor á Dios: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 4

What greater power can you acquire on earth than the priesthood of God? What power could possibly be greater than the capacity to assist our Heavenly Father in changing the lives of your fellowmen, to help them along the pathway of eternal happiness by being cleansed of sin and wrongdoing?[1] ~Adrián Ochoa   Note: This is a part of an ongoing series, the Mexico Mission Hymns Project. Hymn Text: “Santos, Dad Loor á Dios” by Edmund W. Richardson was initially included in the 1907 Himnario Mormón (see Figure 1).  It was published in the 1912 edition of the Himnos de Sion, but was not included in subsequent editions of the hymnal.  Both of the hymnals that it was published in did not indicate a tune to which it was intended to be sung, though the John-Charles Duffy and Hugo Olaiz article indicates that it was sung to the tune of “O Jesus! the giver of all we enjoy” from the Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody (GOSHEN, by Ralph Bradshaw), which can be made to fit.[2]  There are a few textual variations between the 1907 and 1912 editions (see Table 1).   Table 1. Comparison of texts from the two editions in which “Santos, Dad Loor á Dios” was published. 1907  “Santos, Dad Loór á Dios” 1912 “Santos, Dad Loor á Dios” Santos, dad loór á Dios, Himnos elevad; Alaban al Señor Por Su gran bondád. Antes en la cruz cruel Se marcó…

Humildad: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 3

Oh, beloved brethren! Let us always remember the teachings of the prophets, let us always remember the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ which he brought us in the meridian of time.   Let us remember also his exhortations to our people here in the Americas, which are recorded in the Book of Mormon; let us keep watch so that these great treasures which have been left to us will not be buried as they were during the time of the great apostasy.  Strive to preserve them, to cultivate them, to convert our families into strong units in Zion.[1] ~Guillermo Torres   Note: This is a part of an ongoing series, the Mexico Mission Hymns Project. Hymn Text: Humildad by W. Ernest Young was originally published in the 1912 editions of Himnos de Sion, and was included in the 1927 and 1933 editions of that book before being cut in subsequent editions. According to the 1912 edition, it was intended to be sung to the tune of hymn 223 in Songs of Zion, which was “Beautiful Isle” by J. S. Fearis.  It is notable as the only one of the 23 original hymns in the Mexican mission hymnals to have a verse-chorus structure. Figure 1. “Humildad,” in the second 1912 edition of Himnos de Sion.  Note: The author’s name is switched around slightly in the published text (Ernest W. instead of W. Ernest). The author, Walter Ernest Young (1887 – 1982),…

Padre Nuestro en el Cielo: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 2

Note: This is a part of an ongoing series, the Mexico Mission Hymns Project. Hymn Text: Padre Nuestro en el Cielo by Manrique González was one of the earliest-published Spanish hymns in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It was published in the 1907 Mexican Mission Himnario Mormón (p. 57, see Figure 1) and in the 1912 editions of the Himnos de Sion (p.44).  It was cut from subsequent editions of the hymnbook (1927 onwards).  Textual changes between the two editions it was included in are minor, consisting solely of punctuation alterations (see Table 1).  According to the 1912 edition, the hymn was to be sung to the tune of hymn 37 in the English-language Songs of Zion, which was “We are Sowing” by H. A. Tucket (8.7.8.7 D).  Oddly, the hymn tune fits two verses of the hymn at a time, but there are 5 verses of the hymn, which doesn’t work out math-wise.  In addition, the syllables do not completely align with the music as written.  As a result, I wonder if there was a typo in the 1912 edition where it indicated which tune to sing the song to.   Figure 1. The text of “Padre Nuestro en el Cielo” in the 1907 Himnario Mormón. The author, Manrique González (1880 – 1976), was initially from Nadores, Coahuila, Mexico.  He left home when he was 14 years old, living first with an uncle in Torreon, Coahuila,…

La Proclamación: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 1

“I know for myself that Joseph Smith was a prophet because I have applied the simple promise in the Book of Mormon: ‘Ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ’ (Moroni 10:4). In simple words, look up.”[1] ~Adrián Ochoa   Note: This is a part of an ongoing series, the Mexico Mission Hymns Project. The Text La Proclamación, by José V. Estrada G., is one of the few hymns original to Mexico that have survived up to the present (1992) Spanish-language hymnbook in the Church.  Also called “La voz, ya, del Eterno”, it was was initially included as hymn 51 in the 1912 Himnos de Sion (Mexican Mission) (see Figure 1), and was included in all subsequent editions of that collection, the 1942 Himnos de Sion that was published by the Church (Hymn 252), and the 1992 Himnos (Hymn 145).  In the original hymnal, it was intended to be sung to hymn 53 in Songs of Zion, which was “Improve the Shining Moments” by Robert B. Baird (the tune still used today).  The text itself has had a few edits over the years, particularly for the 1992 Himnos (see Table 1).   Figure 1. “La Proclamación” in the 1912 Himnos de Sion.   Table 1. Variations in text of La Proclamación over the course of Church Publications.  Changes from the 1912 edition are bolded. 1912 1942 1992 1. La voz, ya, del Eterno, Nos llama otra vez, A que…

Announcing a Mexico Mission Hymns Series

I’m excited to announce a new project that I’ll be sharing on Times and Seasons over the next few months – my Mexico Mission Hymnody project. A few years ago, a future new edition for the Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was announced. While working on what would become my first post on Times and Seasons, I talked a lot with friends about what the next hymnal might look like. Virtually all of my friends who had served in Spanish-speaking missions mentioned loving a song that didn’t have any English equivalent – “Placentero nos es trabajar”. I mentioned it in passing as something that might be added in an update to the hymn book in my 2018 post on the subject. I followed up in early 2019 with a post specifically about Spanish-language hymns that might find their way into the next hymn book. While researching for the latter post, I came across an article by John-Charles Duffy and Hugo Olaiz that detailed the history of the Spanish-language hymnals in the Church. One thing that stood out to me in the Duffy and Olaiz article was that there were 23 hymns written originally in Spanish and published in the hymnbooks that were prepared for use by the Church in Mexico, either in the original 1907 edition or the subsequent 1912 edition. As described in the article: Hymn texts were produced by American missionaries, Anglo saints…

Ghostwriter to the Prophet

I suspect that if we really knew and experienced the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for ourselves, we might be surprised by who were the most influential members in shaping the developing Church. In a recent From the Desk interview, Bruce A. Van Orden discussed one candidate for that last that tends to get overlooked – William Wines Phelps. Best remembered for his contributions to the hymnals of the Church,  he was also an important publisher and author of Church literature,  sometimes acting as a ghostwriter for Joseph Smith. What follows here is a copost (a shorter post with excerpts and discussions) to the full interview. Bruce A. Van Orden described some of W. W. Phelps’s contributions and background: In D&C 57, W. W. Phelps was called as “printer unto the church” and to dedicate his writings to building the Kingdom of God. More than any other man up through 1845, he was the major writer of gospel themes in the church. He was also instrumental in leading the Missouri saints ecclesiastically from 1832 to 1838 and in being one of Joseph Smith’s key scribes. Consequently, I claim that W. W. Phelps was one of the 10 most influential Latter-day Saints in the Church’s first 15 years. … W. Phelps penned twenty-five hymns entirely by himself. More surprisingly, he adapted in various ways another thirty-seven pieces, making sixty-two in all where his words are…

Of Flags and Symbols of the Church

The state of Utah is looking into creating a new flag.  I was interested, so looked into best practices for flag making (vexillology) and found a handy guide from the North American Vexillological Association that suggested five basic principles of flag design: Keep it simple (the flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory) Use meaningful symbolism (the flag’s images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes) Use 2-3 basic colors (limit the number of colors on the flag to three, which contrast well and come from the standard color set) No lettering or seals (never use writing of any kind or an organization’s seal) Be distinctive or be related (avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections)[1] An example of a good flag is New Mexico, with two colors (red and yellow) and very simple (sun symbol) while Utah is a bad example, with a complicated seal on a blue background (just like 14 other states in the United States of America).  I enjoy pondering, and after designing a few ideas for a Utah flag, I’ve been musing on what a flag for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could look like. Obviously, the most likely path forward would be to just use the official symbol of the Church (the Christus with the arch around it and the cornerstone beneath) and use that as a flag.  The simplified…

Jesus in Recent Latter-day Saint Art

At the Mormon History Association conference this weekend, Anthony Sweat shared a funny story during his presentation on “A White Jesus and a Global Church.”  Apparently there were some individuals who were visiting BYU from Saudi Arabia to observe teaching at the institution.  During a class that Dr. Sweat was teaching, the Saudis saw a print of the famous Del Parson Jesus the Christ painting.  They asked through an interpreter who the painting was depicting.  Dr. Sweat explained that it was Jesus, and the Saudis busted up laughing and started chattering.  Confused, Sweat asked the interpreter what they were saying and the interpreter explained that they were laughing about Jesus being portrayed as a white American mountain man.  Dr. Sweat asked them about what they thought Jesus looked like and they responded that he probably looked like them, which probably isn’t far from the truth.  In his presentation, Anthony Sweat went on to discuss the history of how Jesus has been portrayed and ultimately made the point that the traditional European iconography of Jesus as European in appearance is well-established and doesn’t need to go away, but that there does need to be more diversity in depictions of Jesus available for a global church. I’m not going to rehash the whole issue of Jesus’s complexion again, but I am interested in some of the artwork that has been produced in the Church in recent years that provide a different vision…

“As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ”

Of all the Christmas carols in the English hymnbook, the one with the longest association with the Church’s hymnals is “Joy to the World.”[1]  It’s probably fitting, then, that the “Come, Follow Me” materials for this week reference it.  The reading material for the week is the document “The Living Christ,” published by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve on 1 January 2000, “as we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago.”  The document covers the mission of Jesus Christ before, during, and after his mortal life.  In one section, it states that: “We testify that He will someday return to earth. ‘And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together’ (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him.”[2]  Asides from some nice references to the Biblical texts behind George Frideric Handel and Charles Jennens’s Messiah (which President Gordon B. Hinckley was fond of quoting), this paragraph is brought up in the “Come, Follow Me” manual because it addresses the Second Coming of Jesus Christ: “Christmas is a time both to look back on the day Jesus Christ was born and to look forward to the day He will come again. … It might … be interesting to read, sing, or listen to Christmas hymns that teach about…

“They saw the Lord”

What does Jesus look like?  It’s a question that we can only guess the answer to or speculate about, but one that does come up in a religion that embraces using artistic depictions of members of the Godhead.  In general, the scriptures fail to describe his physical appearance in any detail.  Joseph Smith documented several visions where he described seeing Jesus and God the Father, though nothing definitive about their appearances comes from the documents on the subject.  History and archeology give us some clues, all of which are interesting to explore.  At the end of the day, however, we do not really know what Jesus looks like. Several visions are recorded by Joseph Smith, including the dramatic appearance in the Kirtland Temple recorded in Section 110.  Contemporary, first-hand accounts of the 1820s First Vision include the appearance of Jesus, though little in the ways of details.  In 1832, Joseph Smith wrote that he saw “a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day” and that “the <?Lord?> opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.”[1]  In 1835, he gave little more detail, only noting that “a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar of flame … another personage soon appeard like unto the first.”[2]  The 1838/39 account that is canonized in the Pearl of Great Price today describes them as “two personages (whose brightness and glory defy all description) standing above me in the air.”[3]  In 1842, he made…