One of the main goals of the new hymnbook is to make it more relevant to an international audience. That is a great goal, but what exactly does that mean? Sometimes it is hard to realize how geared our hymns are to a specific environment if we come from that environment. Even if we don’t, we may have become so used to singing about other places that we don’t even realize the bias.
The first hymns to go are probably the ones about currently living in Utah. Our Mountain Home So Dear and In Our Lovely Deseret hasn’t reflected the demographics of the Church for a long time. There are also hymns about being in the desert or being surrounded by mountains. Zion is often placed in the mountains even as saints are building Zion all over the world. What about hymns about the pioneers arriving in Utah, or the gospel spreading out from Utah? That is a combined heritage that all of us across the world share. Should we get rid of all of references to Utah or are there some that would still appeal to an international audience? Perhaps adding some about other places and keeping those with international appeal would strike a good balance.
Weather also can also betray regional bias. We sing about the passing of the seasons and snow being on the ground for the new years. Children’s songs in particular are full of building snowmen in winter, apricot blossoms in spring, a green summertime and autumn leaves falling. How do we handle weather and seasons?
We also need to be careful about the activities in the hymnbook. Not everyone has access to a pool, can gather flowers in meadows, or shines their shoes. Some children may have an easier time thinking of the kilometers Jesus walked than the miles.
How do we handle these questions? Do we avoid anything that isn’t a shared experience for everyone, or would it suffice to add more variety? Maybe we could change Oh, What Do You Do in the Summertime? to be more of a open question that allows us to showcase different activities children participate in around the world? The most important thing is that the new hymnbook helps people around the world feel a part of the Lord’s Church.
What do you think we could do to handle these international questions? Answer in the comments below.