Talk About Your Easy Fixes

A proper missionary sendoff, in my ward, includes the performance of a certain EFY medley you’ve probably heard once or twice. This is fairly conventional stuff. Back in my day (aka the 80’s) the Young Women invariably sang In the Hollow of Thy Hand to whichever boy was leaving for the MTC on the other side of the country. Its chorus was equal parts sweet and cringe-worthy. To wit:

In the hollow of thy hand as he grows from boy to man
Help his understanding deepen and increase
In the hollow of thy hand as he grows from boy to man
Let him know the special blessing of thy peace

The lyrics were/are vintage Janice Kapp Perry. We sang them very sincerely, secure in our belief that a better, manlier version of our departing brother would be returned to us in two years. And, wonderfully, this was very often the case. By the way, there was no analogous song for the Young Men to sing to outgoing girls. (Nor would we have particularly cared to listen to the boys warbling about us growing from “girls to women”—er, no thank you.)

In any case, the youth + leaders in my ward will sing a different number tomorrow: the As Sisters In Zion/We’ll Bring the World His Truth medley (music by Janice Kapp Perry, natch). Initially, I found this custom tedious in a ward that launches an extremely robust number of missionaries every year. But it has deep meaning for the young men and women who leave us, and those are often very good customs to keep. I’ve actually come to like it. Now I wouldn’t change it for all the herbal tea in China.

I should say that I wouldn’t change most of it. I’m all for keeping the song, but I’d tweak the lyrics ever so slightly. It’s strange to have the boys sing about being born “as Nephi of old to goodly parents who love the Lord” but have the girls sing about being daughters of “our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him”. So much dissonance right there for people who believe in the divine reality of heavenly parents as much the importance of earthly counterparts! Where is Heavenly Mother? What’s the point of excluding Her?

Anyway, it’s a super easy fix. We could simply swap out “Heavenly Father” for “Heavenly parents” and “we love Him” for “we love Them.” And then we could repeat the process a thousand, thousand, thousand times for all the hymns and Primary songs and lessons in which Father is referenced without Mother. How easy is that?

EmilyHB

Emily HB is a hausfrau living in Utah with delusions of grandeur & survival, a writer of books, a hoper of all things and a believer in several of them.

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14 Responses

  1. Dani Addante says:

    Thanks for your post! I like that song, “In the Hollow of thy Hand.” When I got back from my mission, I would listen to it and then I altered some of the lyrics and made a version for female missionaries.

  2. Wendy says:

    Super easy fixes! We already change lyrics of church songs to include Heavenly Mother and a female perspective in our home and I do it in the pew at church. But I’ll admit it still feels alienating as a woman to feel erased in the masculine language of scriptures, lessons and songs most of the time at church. And I’m raising two daughters and don’t want them to feel the impact of being treated as subordinate to men and boys through thoughtless language.

  3. Janell says:

    When our youth and YSAs sang the As Sisters in Zion/We’ll bring the World His Truth medley for stake conference last year, we did make that lyric change. I whited out Father and Him and wrote in Parents and them on every copy of the sheet music. We just made the executive decision and did it. The girls absolutely lit up, and we didn’t get any kind of pushback from stake or ward leadership.

  4. KT says:

    SPOT ON! And while I love that medley, as a primary girl I *relished* belting out “we’ll bring the world his truth” and was always bummed out when the chorister would have the boys sing it alone.

  5. My mom and aunts used to sing “In the Hollow of His Hand” when my cousins went on missions. I loved the song, and it makes more sense to me for older relatives who knew the young man since he was a baby to sing about him growing from child to man than for the Young Women to sing it: sort of the same vibe as when the parents sing “Sunrise, Sunset” in “Fiddler in the Roof.”

  6. Rachel says:

    “And then we could repeat the process a thousand, thousand, thousand times for all the hymns and Primary songs and lessons in which Father is referenced without Mother.” Yes!

    My mother makes changes like this (and includes “sisters” when a hymn says “brothers”). It makes me happy every time I sing beside her.

  7. Ziff says:

    Yes! This sounds like a great idea to me!

  8. Heather says:

    I was at Girls Camp testimony meeting last week. The closing song was “As Sisters in Zion” and I watched one of the bishops in attendance sing a few words then shrug uncomfortably and give up. The woman next to me said something like, “he shouldn’t have to sing this.” How many thousand of times have I sung “man” & “brother” in the first person? It makes me nuts that I am “crazy feminist” if I get bugged by language in the hymns and yet a man can’t identity as “sister,” not even for one verse.

    • Ziff says:

      Wow, that’s so telling, Heather. As you point out, women in the church face an avalanche of male-centric language, and men face pretty much zero female-centric language. That’s really sad that he couldn’t even sing one song that didn’t make him the subject.

    • emilyhbutler says:

      The pervasive use of the male as default has negative consequences–nobody is seriously arguing about this anymore. Except maybe us?

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