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Weird Hymns

I wore my Christmas tie to church today.

It’s an innocuous little black number with miniature Santas all over it, but it was more than enough to embarrass my ten-year-old daughter, who prematurely entered a teenage state of mind a decade or so early.

“It’s not even December yet!” she huffed. “Why do you have to be such a geek?”

“’Tis the season to be jolly!” I geeked back. “Don we now our gay apparel!”

“It’s gay, all right,” she said. (I walked right into that one.)

I don’t want to have my rugged masculinity called back into question, but it’s slightly sad that the word “gay” has now lost its original, nonsexual meaning entirely. Nobody has the guts to change the words to “Deck the Halls,” but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has purged all usage of the word from its hymns and children’s songs. Hymn 276, “When the Rosy Light of Morning,” used to contain this line:

  • “Fresh from slumber we awaken;
 Sunshine makes the heart so gay. 

The New, Orwellian hymnbooks now read:

  • “Fresh from slumber we awaken;
 Sunshine chases clouds away. 

It could be worse, though. And it was. Growing up, we were all taught to sing a ditty called “When Grandpa Comes” that went something like this:

  • “It’s always fun when Grandpa comes; when Grandpa comes, I’m gay!

Now my kids sing “When Grandpa Comes” every Father’s Day in Sacrament Meeting with this minor but significant revision:

  • “It’s always fun when Grandpa comes; when Grandpa comes, hooray!

Hooray, indeed.

It’s not just intimations of latent homosexuality and pedophilia that have prompted the Church correlation department to revamp the hymnal over the years. For decades, the stoic anthem “How Firm A Foundation” included this couplet:

  • “What more can He say than to you He hath said/ You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?”

Nothing wrong with that, right? Except that the song required you to sing the first phrase of the second line three times in a row, and the meter made it sound like everyone in the congregation was saying “YooHoo unto Jesus.” Now I think Jesus probably appreciated being YooHoo’d – why wouldn’t he? – but the unintentional giggles proved too much for the folks at Church Headquarters, who altered the words thusly:

  • “What more can He say than to you He hath said/Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?”

It’s new, but can you really say it’s improved? I swear that every time this hymn is sung, there are some stubborn YooHooers unto Jesus who refuse to go quietly into that good night.

The hymns that are really fun are the fire-and-brimstone tunes that have been softened for politically correct reasons. The cheery paean to drudgery called “Have I Done Any Good In The World Today?” once told us that:

  • “Only he who does something is worthy to live/The world has no use for the drone.”

Probably to prevent an onslaught of drone euthanasia, the words were transformed into something less Draconian:

  • “Only he who does something helps others to live/To God each good work will be known.”

Not quite as threatening, but it lets you know that God is still watching, so all us drones aren’t really off the hook.

If I had my way, some of the weird old hymns from yesteryear would be pulled out of mothballs to freak out the youth of today. If you want an example, look no further than “Though In The Outward Church Below:”

Though in the outward church below

The wheat and tares together grow;
Jesus ere long will weed the crop,
And pluck the tares, in anger, up.
Will it relieve their horrors there,
To recollect their stations here?
How much they heard, how much they knew,
How long amongst the wheat they grew!
No! This will aggravate their case!
They perished under means of grace;
To them the word of life and faith,
Became an instrument of death.

Bet you didn’t know the word of life and faith could become an instrument of death, didja? I, for one, can’t wait for the weeding!

I suppose it’s inevitable that a lot of this quirkiness falls by the wayside as the Church continues to roll forth. We offend less people as the hymns get blander, but we lose something indefinable in the process. I plan to stay faithful regardless, but you know that “If You Could Hie To Kolob” isn’t going to make it to the next edition, don’t you?

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