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The purpose of this blog is to help pianists learn to become true organists. Many individuals believe that if you play the piano you can play the organ, but the instruments differ greatly. While this blog is specifically geared towards members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much of the information shared can be utilized by all. I hope that the information I share here will help you become an effective organist in your ward, stake, or other congregation.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Revisions to the Church Handbook of Instruction

Old Manual

Did you know that the Church Handbook of Instruction has been revised? You can read the new information here:

I wanted to share some of the changes with you.


The old manual had a different format. It began with an introduction, then discussed music in the home, music in church meetings, etc. The new manual begins with the purpose of music in the Church, then outlines the music responsibilities for each calling, instead of having that information buried on page 292 (the fourth page of the old manual). It also is now a numbered document, so it is very easy to be referred to different sections.

Clearer Responsibilities

In the old Handbook, the Bishopric's responsibilities are simply listed as, "Oversees ward music." Now there is a list of things the bishopric should be doing. While much of this information was contained in the previous manual, it was scattered throughout other topics and required a close read to find it.

Some of the responsibilities that were previously assigned to the Ward Music Adviser have been reduced.

Quite a bit of redundant language has been omitted, so it is easier to read.

New Information

A new section entitled, "Adapting Ward Music to Local Conditions and Resources" has been added.

Music in the Ward

There is now a how-to section dedicated to the ward. Before, the ward music chairman was to collect the topics from the ward music adviser, then oversee the ward music director in choosing the hymns, then relaying this information back to the ward music adviser. That has been simplified. Nothing was ever said about a time frame. Now, the manual says, "When feasible, the bishop and his counselors choose meeting topics well in advance. This allows the music chairman, music director, and choir director to plan hymns, special selections, and choir performances that complement and reinforce the meeting topics." The emphasis is mine. I wish this statement was also under the bishopric responsibilities section!

We are reminded that music in our church meetings is "for worship, not performance."

The information under "Congregational Singing" has been expanded to add, among other things, "Congregational singing has a unique and often underused power for unifying members as they worship together."

The information under "Special Musical Selections" has been reduced.

In our Sacrament meetings, we are encouraged to not only use "hymns that are already known and loved," but to also "become acquainted with new or less familiar hymns." We are also told that, "No music should be played during the sacrament prayer, while the sacrament is being passed, or as a postlude after the sacrament is passed."

Under "Choirs" much information has changed. One new additions is, "Ward members may participate voluntarily in the choir, or the bishopric may invite or call them to participate." It also outlines variations for branches and large wards, and how long to hold practice.

A section on using music in the classroom has also been added.

Stake Music

The Stake Music Chairman's responsibilities for providing music have been changed to, "Arrange for music and musicians for stake conference sessions and other stake meetings and events as requested." References to Priesthood meetings have been removed.

Specific mention of calling an optional stake organist has been added.

Under "Music for Stake Conference," we learn that music "should be planned with the purpose of strengthening faith and testimony."

Something new that is mentioned is that standing choirs "should not use references to the Church such as 'LDS,' 'Latter-day Saint,' or 'Mormon' in their names," as they are not authorized to be sponsored by the Church.

Additional Music Policies and Guidelines

A section on cultural and recreational music in the chapels in included, outlining what is and is not appropriate.

Something that was buried in the previous manual that I'm hoping to incorporate in my current stake is now easier to find: "Music that is purchased with budget funds is usually kept in the meetinghouse library and belongs to all units that share the library." Each ward should not have its own collection of choir music. All choir and other music should be kept in the library and be available to all units in that building.

Information on music for funerals and baptismal services has been moved out of this section of the handbook. While the funeral information did not change, the baptismal information has, somewhat.

My Impressions

The largest change in this revision was organizational. Things are much easier to find and read now. Before, I had to read a number of sections to glean bits of information about my calling, and the callings I am a resource for (I'm currently serving as the Stake Music Chairman). Now, things are much easier to find and are organized in a more succinct and effective way. You can request a free manual at a distribution center or online at store.lds.org. Click on Serving in the Church --> Specialists and Committees, then scroll down to Music and click on "Music Handbook." The current picture looks like the old one, so you might want to wait a bit or email the Customer Service representatives at "help @ store . lds . org" before ordering.


  1. Thanks for doing this. Helps a lot.

  2. I am also a Stake Music Chair in my stake. I found a couple of interesting differences in the new handbook. It states not to use "less reverent instruments, which include [and I quote exactly] 'most brass and percussion instruments'". I have often thought that the French Horn has a reverent mellow tone that would sound very well in sacrament meeting with appropriate music. I wonder if this is now allowed?

    And did you know that a piano is considered a percussion instrument? While I also feel that drums are not a very reverent instrument, bells, chimes, and xylophones and those types of instruments are also percussion and could find very reverent introductions to music as well. Yes, most interesting to read the differences. I wonder what some of them mean exactly?

  3. When I was a Ward Music Chairman I got approval and had someone play the French Horn for a Christmas number and it was gorgeous and very reverent. A lot of instruments can be reverent when played a certain way. By percussion I think they're talking about drums, woodblocks, claves, maracas, triangles, xylophones, etc. It's a world-wide church and there are a lot of congregations that have different ethnic and musical backgrounds than we have in the U.S.

    Regarding the new handbook, I was disappointed that it says community choirs cannot use the name LDS or Mormon. So I did some research and there are exactly 13 choirs in the United States that use LDS or Mormon in their name. By contrast there are literally hundreds of non-music businesses that use those terms. Currently the choirs using the now forbidden terms are doing great missionary work in their communities...The Portland Mormon Choir and Orchestra, Las Vegas Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus, East Valley Mormon Choral Organization, San Diego Mormon Choir and Orchestra, Sugar Hill LDS Choir, The Colorado Mormon Chorale, etc. These choirs are doing for members outside Utah what the Mormon Tabernacle Choir does for those in their area, exposing church members to a higher standard of music. I am curious as to why these choirs have to change their names, some of which have been around a very long time, while not a word was mentioned about businesses like LDSsingles.com, LDS Agents, or LDSweddings.com who are using the name only to drum up business.

    Any thoughts on the subject?

    1. I believe that that these names are reserved specifcally for choirs that are sanctioned and chartered by the church...

  4. Hello I am too at present a stake music chairman, I can understand the need to limit to many variants when it comes to musical instruments in sacrament meetings. However, when we have our "Stake Christmas Festival" December 3rd, I have suggested many "other" instrumental options. So it is about what is appropriate for the ocassion. I do feel that one of my roles (being in this calling off and on over 25 years) is to raise the standard of music. To enhance the spirit. Remembering, this is our main aim as music leaders. Thanks for reading Stuart