One of the main parts of religious worship is singing. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because music helps set the proper mood. If that’s the case, it’s not working for me.
I can’t sing. Among my myriad personal failings, that’s one I regret the most. The best I can muster is an adenoidal squawking that offends everyone within earshot. So I just lip-sync the hymns.
Then again, maybe it’s the music. Church hymns are not exactly suited for some voices. Just imagine how a reverent sacrament song would fare from the voice boxes of a heavy metal choir.
Maybe that’s why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints periodically changes its hymnbook, adding or subtracting songs for arbitrary reasons to keep it in line.
A lot of the Wehrmacht marching hymns such as “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Behold! A Royal Army” of my youth are no longer favored as much.
But now we have a tiny say in what goes into our new hymnal. Members have been invited to offer submissions to be included. We have until July 1 to offer songs based on the following criteria.
The songs should essentially increase faith, teach core doctrine, and be the sort of tunes to be heard at home and in church. They should also comfort the weary and inspire people to endure in unified faith throughout the world.
Not that it will matter to anyone with the authority to make it happen, here are my choices:
• “White (Temple) Wedding” by Billy Idol.
• “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi.
• “Armageddon It” by Def Leppard.
There are any number of rock, blues and country songs that would — if incorporated in the proper manner — “teach core doctrine” and “inspire people to endure in unified faith.”
For example, imagine if the assigned subject for a sacrament meeting talk were on being submissive to priesthood authority. What better song to support that than one by the Eagles.
“I thought by now, you’d realize. There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.”
How about Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven?” And don’t try to tell me that “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd wouldn’t make for a great sacrament hymn.
There’s a little-known precedent for this. Years ago, Bammer and I would sit in the back of the chapel and softly sing rock songs to counter the somnambulistic hymns served up by the ward chorister.
We were reverent about it. Somewhat. Case in point was changing Steppenwolf’s “Easy Rider” movie anthem’s first line to “Get Your Mormon running” so as to better fit the audience.
If the new hymnbook is supposed to unify a global church, I’m sure it’s past time to include worship songs like “Smokestack Lightning” by Howlin’ Wolf. Here’s a sample. “Whoa, smokestack lightning. Shinin', just like gold. Ah, don’t ya hear me cryin'? A-whoo-hoo, ooh. Whooo..."
Roll your eyes in righteous disgust if you will, but don’t tell me that a Latter-day Saint congregation in Utah singing this with genuine feeling wouldn’t make everyone and the Lord sit up and take notice.
And isn’t that the point of a worship tune?
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.