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Cover image via LDS.org.
I get it. Meetings can only last so many minutes and music is usually the first item to get cut—or at least minimized. Many a Relief Society lesson wraps up just at closing time, and the hymn is skipped. The same thing happens in Sacrament Meeting, when songs have too many verses to squeeze into a full docket, so we sing the first three and miss the final ones.
But I love some of those unsung verses. Singing is one of the ways we worship, and many of these later verses are truly soul-stirring. Today I want to share a few of those with you, in hopes that these lyrics will speak to your heart, and stay in your mind.
Our ward sang all seven of the verses to How Firm a Foundationrecently, and our bishop announced that it’s one of Elder Bednar’s favorites. The third verse offers the resolute promise, “Oh, be not dismayed…I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous… omnipotent hand.” But the often unsung fourth through seventh verses speak extraordinarily comforting words for those with heavy hearts. We sing of the Savior sanctifying our troubles to us, helping us through fiery trials, and ends with the message, “I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”
Eliza R. Snow gave us many beautiful lyrics, but we rarely sing the extra verses of her Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses. In this song she speaks of the mote and the beam, and how important it is not to judge others. What a timely song for our day as well, when so many resist coming to church for the very reason that they feel judged. In the two extra verses of this song, she says, “When I saw my brother’s failing, I was not exactly right.” What a humbling admission we must all make at times.
Parley P. Pratt penned some inspiring texts, and the sixth verse of Father in Heaven, We Do Believe speaks of exaltation with the beautiful prayer, “Baptize us with the Holy Ghost and seal us as thine own, That we may join the ransomed host And with the Saints be one.”
This same unity is found in the additional verses of Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire, a gorgeous hymn that describes the many forms prayer can take, even a sigh or a tear. But those extra verses also speak of repentance, Christ’s intercession for us with the Father, and the humility we need to learn how to pray—all important messages.
In O Lord of Hosts we sing of the cleansing power of the Sacrament, but the final two verses remind us how to live with one another, to “forgive, that God may us forgive” then says, “May union, peace and love abound, And perfect harmony, And joy in one continual round, Through all eternity.”
Some hymns need to include the final verses because they tell a story. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Dayis a hymn we should sing all the way through, as Longfellow paints a bleak picture but ends with resounding hope. If we “close the book” before the ending in this case, we miss an important conclusion.
A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief is the same way—it builds to an essential ending. This hymn was beloved by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and is the one John Taylor was asked to sing just hours before the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum. Few of us can sing it without moist eyes, or without remembering the tender scene of John Taylor’s solo for the prophet he loved. It bears a fervent testimony of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us, and the importance of remembering that “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40)
I hope choristers will look at all the verses and, if time is tight, announce that we’ll sing the first, fourth, and seventh verses, for example. Perhaps we’ll pay closer attention to the heartfelt words in those stanzas, the poetry a lyricist crafted years ago. At the very least, we can take a moment to read those extra lines. Maybe we’ll find a few more hymns that fit snugly into our box of favorites– words we cherish, words we commit to memory, words that change our lives.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperbackand on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMomvideos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.
Chris HuntOctober 26, 2018
Yep! Add me to this list of agreement! I have never heard anyone else speak of it either. I wholeheartedly agree. While I am not musically inclined, our music is truly a prayer of the heart and lifts my soul as we sing. And we should endeavor if at possible, I believe, to sing every verse!
Debra McCrackenOctober 10, 2018
I am so with you! Hymns get short shrift too often. We need all the verses, and I long for the day we inject some time to learn the hymns, maybe in our newly emphasized home-centered worship and study? I wish more bishops understood the importance of music, and would throw in a hymn-sing every now and then. As we gain more and more converts, more and more members do not know the hymns, and I view that as tragic.