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Does It Bother You Like It Bothers Me?

Don - June 22, 2008

I don’t remember exactly when it started but it has finally gotten to the point where it really bothers me.
Maybe this came down as a memo from SLC and I missed it or something!

Or maybe this is just our ward/stake thing and everyone else is immune.

Ok, here it is: the person who is going to give the opening or closing prayer gets up as the hymn is ending and makes their way up front before the hymn is over. Sometimes if they get up too early they have to find a place to sit for a moment, or they just stand next to the podium until the hymn is over.

I find it very distracting. I also consider it rude to be up and walking toward the front during the hymn. Are we in such a hurry to start the prayer?

I remember the good old days. The hymn ended, the person got up and went to the podium to pray. It gave you a moment mentally prepare for the prayer.

Am I missing something here…..do they do this in your ward…..what’s the deal?


  1. You seem to be easily distracted. Maybe you could look at your hymn book until the song is finished?

    Comment by JM — June 23, 2008 @ 4:40 am

  2. I always wait until I am done singing before I go up when it’s my turn to pray.

    Comment by Kim Siever — June 23, 2008 @ 4:49 am

  3. Are we in such a hurry to start the prayer?

    I support anything we can do to get sacrament meeting over faster. There’s nothing more depressing than singing *I Believe in Christ’ as the closing hymn.

    Comment by Norbert — June 23, 2008 @ 6:00 am

  4. I start up during the last verse (varies depending on how long the verse is) because a–I don’t want people to watch me walking so I go while they are busy and b–I have children who eagerly anticipate the end of Sacrament to move on to the good stuff and KNOW there is only a song and a prayer and close their eyes tight and cross their arms across their chests as soon as the song is over. Why make them wait MORE?

    Comment by ESO — June 23, 2008 @ 6:26 am

  5. Why not ask the opening pray-er to sit on the stand? That would help with half of the problem.

    But, “No, it doesn’t bother me.”

    Comment by mondo cool — June 23, 2008 @ 8:28 am

  6. Don,

    I’ve seen this happening for years. Although I don’t think I’ve seen anyone stand by the pulpit if he misunderestimated the length of the hymn. [Only seven more months!]

    Maybe you could suggest to the bishopric that the person giving the prayer should come up as soon as the intro to the hymn begins. Then he or she can sing along with everybody else and get up after the singing is done.


    With all due respect to Elder McConkie and Brother Longhurst, I would not be sorry if we added that hymn to the long list of “never sung” hymns. Last night in a leadership meeting we sang “Go Ye Messengers of Glory,” a great missionary hymn written by John Taylor with music by Leroy Robertson–and nobody (except me) had ever heard it. So, take that out of the “never sing this” list and add “I Believe . . .” Everybody gains.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 23, 2008 @ 8:33 am

  7. I like I Believe in Christ. I think it’s a beautiful hymn. Please tell me why I shouldn’t, and I’ll consider hating it.

    Comment by meems — June 23, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  8. I love it too.

    The walking to the podium early doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is people closing their hymnals and putting them away before the hymn is finished. It makes a lot of noise and detracts from the song.

    Comment by Susan M — June 23, 2008 @ 9:02 am

  9. I too would prefer to have a moment of quiet as the person giving the prayer walks up. I’d bet most people feel uncomfortable with the attention that would bring to them as they are walking up from their seat in the congregation. But why can’t we have a little pause to allow for collective reflection?

    Here’s why “I Believe In Christ” is painful for me: it’s an 8-verse song crammed into 4 verses, so it’s LONG. The words are simplistic and dogmatic. The God/sod rhyme makes me cringe (why pair the omnipotent deity with the muddy earth image of sod, just for a rhyme?) The rhyming in general is forced, so phrases are skewed from normal English (on earth to dwell his soul did come …) The music is a plodding 4/4, which does match the meter of the poem, but it ends up sounding like someone is beating the war drums and the congregation is marching along in a brainwashing repetition of this credo. You could just as easily have Marines shout out the lyrics as they’re marching along in 4/4. Longhurst did a fairly good job, given the simplistic literary style of the original poem, but unfortunately for me the song just drags on without any upward lilt or sense of joy in our savior.

    And yet, many church members love the song. Who am I to tell them otherwise?

    Comment by no-man — June 23, 2008 @ 9:48 am

  10. I would prefer that “I Believe in Christ” be cut into eight verses, with the last four in text-only paragraphs below the music. That would make singing them optional. My quarrel is with the length.

    However, I don’t have any problem with the literary style. And there are plenty of other hymns in 4/4. Why single out Bro. McConkie’s?

    As far as walking to the rostrum before the hymn is over, I consider it one of the rare sports available during the three-hour block. One cannot help but feel “awesome” upon arriving at the podium two or three seconds after the hymn ends. It’s all about timing. Would you deny fellow church members the joy of participating in said sport?

    Comment by Jacob F — June 23, 2008 @ 11:28 am

  11. I like the venom to which you all attack and bash a potentially powerful song about our Lord, and to be so picky and hateful because you choose to look at it as boring and tawdry instead of about someones expression of faith. There have been many times I’m sure when this song has been used in a missionary effort, as well as just a general way to bring in the spirit since, if sung A Cappella by a small group, it can be one of the more powerful of Hymns.

    But then again, this is just classic Mormon culture, (and classic mormon blogging) to whine and complain about Hymns(and most other topics as of late)as if it was the Top 100 on Billboard.

    Comment by Bryce — June 23, 2008 @ 11:48 am

  12. When I’m asked to say the closing prayer, I always wait until after the hymn. In fact, I usually wait a few moments after that. Typically, I wait until my wife nudges me to remind me that I need to go up and say the prayer..


    Comment by Mark Hansen — June 23, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

  13. I really like ‘I Believe.’ It has brought tears to my eyes. Its’ a great opening hymn, should be performed with clarinets, someone doing their own McConkie voiceover, whatever. But after an hour ten with little kids, the eight verses is a bit much; let’s roll on out with ‘A Mighty Fortress’ and a twenty word closing prayer.

    Comment by Norbert — June 23, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

  14. A couple months ago I was asked to give the opening prayer a couple days before Sunday, and I forgot about it. During the announcements, someone asked me a question, which I was answering when the who-was-going-to-pray announcement was made. When the hymn was done, I sat there wondering who had forgotten to get up, or had failed to show up to the meeting, when someone near me whispered something and I realized it was me. I always sit at the back of the chapel, second row behind the pews (after working for the state I am afflicted with the Wild Bill Hickock Syndrome), so it was awhile before I got to where I should’ve been about half a minute before I made it there. (So all those hoping for a moment of silence got their wish, with an added amount of time–which was longer than the prayer.) The bishopric was trying to control their laughter. Occasionally I do off-the-wall stuff, so they probably suspected that it was intentionally done–and maybe I won’t get asked again for several years.

    As for the debate on “I Believe In Christ”–most musical criticisms I’ve seen are by those whose qualifications to do so are highly suspect. It is a finely crafted piece of music, by a highly talented composer–there are few his equal. I was in the Tab Choir when John Longhurst composed it, and when it was introduced to us, Jerry Ottley gave us background on how it had been put together. I would like to see Mack Wilburg do an arrangement of it.

    It is long, but there was no way to shorten it and keep the complete statement of the poem in tact. It should be used more judiciously than mostly as a closing hymn, with some exceptions, which should be spontaneously done as the Spirit calls for it.

    Poems are written in non-standard speaking language–it’s called poetic license–and most people I know don’t speak that way (outside of that fellow in “Alley Oop”) and I’d probably end up belting anyone who did so.

    I would like to see “no-man”’s critique on the Lord’s Prayer and how it’s “skewed from normal English” and simplistic and dogmatic, etc. How about an example of a hymn that meets the requirements?

    Comment by Dan Knudsen — June 23, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

  15. To avoid a pointless threadjacking, I guess I’ll hold off on replying directly to these nasty motives ascribed to me (Bryce #11) and say, in brief, that I have no requirements for hymns (Dan #14). I like militant hymns (Onward Christian Soldiers) and thoughtful hymns (I Stand All Amazed) and powerful testimony hymns (Go Forth in Faith, Redeemer of Israel). Since Longhurst set the hymn in question to music after the death of its author, he couldn’t very well tweak the wording, but if the hymn had gone through normal church music committee reviews I’d be willing to bet they’d have asked for slight modifications to make it flow more naturally (why not, in verse 4, “I’ll gain from him my fondest dream”? no change in meter, no harm done). When an apostle writes, few dare to edit.

    I quite agree that a thoughtful arrangement can take away much of the awkwardness. If such care is not taken, it can sound repetitive and lose its appeal. But in the end, sorry, it’s just not my hymn. Compare it to #135, My Redeemer Lives, also written by an apostle. That’s more my style.

    Comment by no-man — June 23, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

  16. I would prefer that “I Believe in Christ” be cut into eight verses

    That’s a good suggestion. Alternatively, I’d be fine if we removed it from the hymnal.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 23, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

  17. Nope, it doesn’t bother me when people get up there early to say the prayer. But I would likely be mildly bothered if someone slowly sauntered up from the overflow to give the benediction after the closing hymn was over…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 23, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  18. PS — I find comment #11 baffling. “Venom”? “Hateful”? The comment is so over the talk that I at first thought it was sarcasm…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 23, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

  19. Make that “over the top”

    Comment by Geoff J — June 23, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

  20. re: 15

    Was the music really written after E. McConkie’s April 1985 death?

    Comment by Jacob F — June 23, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  21. The poem originally was written in 1972; I understand that John Longhurst wrote the hymn arrangement as a tribute to McConkie after his death in 1985. I may be wrong.

    Comment by no-man — June 23, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  22. “…if the hymn had gone through normal church music committee reviews I’d be willing to bet they’d have asked for slight modifications to make it flow more naturally (why not, in verse 4, “I’ll gain from him my fondest dream”? no change in meter, no harm done).” I agree with your suggestion, but some things are overlooked in such a large undertaking. However, the hymn did go through the church committee before being put in the hymnal. Roger Miller was on the committee, and was in the choir during that time, and has written dialog for choir broadcasts for years. I don’t know if he still does, but look at the credits at the end and see if he’s still listed–if so, you could ask him about it. He also was on the music faculty at U of U.

    Hymn #135 is rather unique in that its music was written by a Seventy.

    There’s a wide variety so that everyone has a chance to find some they like. Because you don’t like a specific hymn is no reason to have it removed from the hymnal. Ask the bishop to let you choose hymns some time/s. Maybe he’d consider letting several people, who desire to do so, choose the hymns, and rotate through them. There are hymns I’m not in love with, but I don’t openly complain about them because others like them, and hymns I like cycle through.

    The 1948 hymnal had a hymn I absolutely hated, until Mack Wilberg arranged it and now it’s my favorite, but only in his arrangement (“Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”).

    Comment by Dan Knudsen — June 23, 2008 @ 8:23 pm

  23. “I Believe in Christ” was in the first edition of the 1985 hymnal. The copyright at the end of the hymn shows the poem was copyrighted in 1972, and the music in 1985. It’s possible that the music was written after his death, but since printed material is chosen and organized well before the publishing date, I would suppose that the music was written in 1984 or very early 1985, before McConkie’s death.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 23, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

  24. The walk up during the hymn is something I like, but I could really do without metal chairs being folded at stake conference while the organist is still playing postlude.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 24, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

  25. Seriously? People are complaining about being distracted from hymn-singing? That’s pretty stupid, sorry. World hunger must really keep you up at night.

    As to the question of lame hymns, I am a firm believer that the most important message in the universe should be conveyed by the best possible medium. “It has a good message” in no way redeems a bad piece of art, a bad poem, or a bad song, but actually makes it worse, because of the injustice being done to the subject.

    Comment by Kullervo — June 24, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

  26. I wondered if there were something I’d written that qualified as “venom.” Then I realized that it was “no-man.” :-)

    My relationship to the McConkie hymn was sort of like my relationship to dill pickles. Once when I was about 6 years old, I ate way too many and, basically overdosed. I didn’t touch another dill pickle for about 10 years.

    There was a senior sister missionary serving in our branch a little over 10 years ago who absolutely loved the hymn. So, during half-time at every baptism (and we were having a lot back then), she’d request that it be sung. And then the next week, again, and then again.

    My quota was filled. So, before I sing it again in a congregation there are a whole host of other wonderful hymns that I would like to sing.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 24, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  27. Just a personal note about “I Beleive in Christ.” Eight years ago a good friend died suddenly of a heart attack while at Youth Conference. I was there with him and his wife when he collapsed and died. He was our YM President and I guess his love for the youth is what ultimately led to his death. He had just finished a pick-up basketball game with the boys and, as usual, he was running harder than anyone on the floor. A few minutes after the game he collapsed outside and died. He was 43 years old.

    I was bishop at the time and conducted his funeral. One of the most touching moments of the funeral was when the young men of the ward stood together and sang “I Beleive in Christ.” Of all the things my friend would have wanted for the young men, their willingness to sing words proclaiming their belief in the risen Lord would have topped his list. Every time I hear or sing that song, my thoughts are turned to pleasant memories of my friend. For that reason only, I love that song.

    Comment by lamonte — June 25, 2008 @ 4:45 am

  28. I don’t care what hymn we sing. Just as long as the organist and choristor keep the beat going. Nothing drives me more insane (okay, many things drive me more insane) than hymns sung at a snail’s pace.

    Comment by cheryl — June 25, 2008 @ 6:31 am

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