In 1985, the LDS Church published the current edition of the hymnbook used in its English-speaking chapels. In their preface, the First Presidency wrote, “Inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, creating a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.” And so they do. The hymns give us a chance to sing praise to our Savior and bring His Spirit into our meetings, testifying to us that He lives and loves us.
However, for many of us who sing the hymns week in and week out, the hymns become rote. Instead of allowing the Spirit to touch our hearts, we sometimes let our minds wander instead of hearing the message contained in each hymn. Sometimes we plow through phrases that we don’t actually understand the meaning of. We know the tune and we want to join in the singing, and for the most part, that’s good enough. But each of the hymns contains kernels of doctrine that, when heard, can make singing the hymns a meaningful and powerful experience every week.
The Beesley Project, named for Ebenezer Beesley, composer of twelve of those hymns, proposes to break down every hymn in the LDS hymnbook, one day at a time. We want to explore the doctrinal messages in each of the hymns and offer our lyrical insights. We want to explore the hymns partly for our own benefit, but also to get the chance to share what we find with you so that “he that preacheth and he that receiveth understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).
We hope you enjoy reading about what we learn from our close readings of the hymns, and hope that you’ll join in the discussion and tell us what you’ve learned from the hymns, too. And we hope that as you do so, you can feel the Spirit testify to you the truth of the message found in the hymns as we have.