Dear 100 Hour Board,
Sometimes meetings run long and in the interest of time, a congregation will sing only the first verse of a hymn. I think I've heard before that there are some hymns that should only be sung in their entirety. Like maybe The Spirit of God or Praise to the Man, or something.
Is there any truth to this at all?
-Member of the Congregation
That is an interesting rumor. One I had not yet heard of. Let's find out if it's true.
I figured the hymnal might contain some information pertaining to the subject. Below is what I found:
Selecting Verses to Be SungSo it appears that certain hymns do not have restrictions and how many verses are sung is usually determined by the choirister and/or Bishop.
You need not feel compelled to sing all the verses of a hymn unless the message is otherwise incomplete. However, do not routinely shorten a hymn by singing just the first one or two verses. Singing the verses printed below the music is encouraged.
More information is available here.
I had the opportunity to read through the information given to ward music chairs a few weeks ago, and I don't remember anything about not omitting verses of certain hymns. (It does look like my last ward wasn't supposed to have a sacrament meeting musical number which included a tuba, though. Whoops!)
However, common sense will tell you that there are some hymns where you shouldn't sing just the first verse, because of the way the verses are structured. "Where Can I Turn for Peace?" (Hymn #129) is probably the best example. The first two verses are about searching for comfort, and the last verse is about finding it. Sung on its own, the first verse is kind of a downer. "Ring Out Wild Bells" (#215) might also fall under the same category. The first verse of "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" (#26) isn't depressing, but the story is left incomplete if you don't sing all four verses. If you're singing a hymn with multiple endings (#198 or #300), you'll have to keep track of which ending you're on. Oh, and you're never supposed to sing all 6 verses of "Father in Heaven, We Do Believe" (#180): if you're singing it as a sacrament hymn, you're supposed to sing verses 1-4. If you're singing it at a baptism, you're supposed to sing verses 1-3 and 5-6.
I can't find anything in the words or music to "The Spirit of God" (#2) or "Praise to the Man" (#27) that suggests there would be anything wrong with singing only the first verse of those hymns, on occasion.
In the old hymnbook, only the first three verses of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" were printed along with the music; the final two verses were written below. In the Boise, Idaho ward where my dad grew up, they often neglected to sing the verses printed below. No problem, right?
Wrong. The third verse of this carol, the verse my dad's ward stopped on, goes like this:
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Yes, that's right: they finished with hate mocking the song of peace, end of story. Pretty cool Christmas carol that way, huh?
PS: In the 1985 hymnbook, all five verses are printed along with the music, instead of sorting two below. Talk about eternal progression!