Emma Smith’s Hymnbook

Learn about and browse the pages of the first hymnal of the Church.

Shortly after her baptism in July 1830, Emma Smith was called by God to compile a hymnbook to edify the Church. The Lord says in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12, “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.”

A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of the Latter Day Saints was published in 1835. These hymns had a great influence on the Saints during the early days of the Church. Some of them are still included in the current hymnbook that was published 150 years later in 1985.

On the Joseph Smith Papers website, readers can turn through the original hymnbook page by page. The leather binding, the marbled inside cover, and the worn pages are beautiful and unforgettable. It’s almost as if you’re holding the hymnbook in your own hands.

You might notice something a bit surprising—there’s no musical notation! As was common in their day, the early Saints sang the printed lyrics to familiar tunes.

Many of the Saints were converts who had sung hymns before. However, the hymns Emma selected were particularly special. The hymnbook she created included familiar favorites from other denominations and hymns newly written specifically for the Latter-day Saints.

The Joseph Smith Papers project explains that Emma’s work “laid a foundation for the continued role of music in Latter-day Saint worship.” Emma contributed “in creating a distinct identity for the church” because this hymnbook’s lyrics “emphasize key tenets of the religion.”

Understanding how early Saints worked earnestly to build up the Church helps us better appreciate the value of their work.

Browse the pages of the original 1835 hymnbook.

Source: The Joseph Smith Paper

—Katie Hollingsworth, Mormon Insights

feature image by alexandre perrachon

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  1. Emma Smith had so much on her plate, so it’s inspiring to learn how she was willing to contribute to the growth of the Church while she was dealing with everything else.

  2. What does the L.M., C.M. and P.M. refer to at the beginning of each hymn? I’m guessing something to do with the meter, but I can’t figure it out!

  3. Is there a list anywhere of all the composers who had songs in Emma’s 1835 hymnal? I’m interested in seeing which traditions she drew from. For example, did Charles Wesley have any songs in her hymnal? Were most of her songs from her Methodist tradition, or did she draw more broadly?

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