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

Bookmark the permalink.


  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?

  4. Hymn #16 was a hymn about Cumorah and glad tidings. The hymnbook was published in 1835. The authors of Saints Vol 1 (1815-1846) knew the truth, but deliberately censored Cumorah in Saints Vol 1. Here is the 1st of 3 verses.

    1 An angel came down from the mansions of glory,
    And told that a record was hid in Cumorah,
    Containing the fulness of Jesus’s gospel;
    And also the cov’nant to gather his people.
    O Israel! O Israel!
    In all your abidings,
    Prepare for your Lord
    When you hear these glad tidings.

    Fortunately, we have the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt so we know what Oliver Cowdery taught the Delaware tribe (located in present day Kansas) in the spring of 1831. Oliver said, “This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the State of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario county. See https://archive.org/details/autobiographyofp01prat/page/58/mode/2up

    We also have the Lucy Mack Smith account about when Joseph is sent on an errand to Manchester in 1827 BEFORE he got the plates, and his parents are worried because he gets home very late. “He did not get home till the night was far spent. On coming in, he threw himself into a chair, apparently much exhausted. My husband did not observe his appearance, and immediately exclaimed, “Joseph, why are you so late? has anything happened to you? We have been much distressed about you these three hours.” As Joseph made no answer, he continued his interrogations, until, finally, I said, “Now, father, let him rest a moment — don’t trouble him now — you see he is home safe, and he is very tired, so pray wait a little.”

    The fact was, I had learned to be a little cautious about matters with regard to Joseph, for I was accustomed to see him look as he did on that occasion, and I could not easily mistake the cause thereof.

    Presently he smiled, and said in a calm tone, “I have taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life.”

    My husband, supposing that it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry, and observed, “I would like to know what business anybody has to find fault with you!”

    “Stop, father, stop,” said Joseph, “it was the angel of the Lord: as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel met me, and said that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to be brought forth; and that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do. But, father, give yourself no uneasiness concerning the reprimand which I have received, for I now know the course that I am to pursue, so all will be well.” See https://archive.org/details/historyofprophet00smit/page/98/mode/2up

Leave a Reply

Each comment will be reviewed by a staff member before it will appear on the site. We reserve the right to not approve any comments that do not meet our community standards. View our community standards here.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *