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«The Sacred Shout Steven H. Heath INTRODUCTION O N E OF THE LEAST KNOWN RITES of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the sacred hosanna ...»

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NOTES AND COMMENTS

The Sacred Shout

Steven H. Heath

INTRODUCTION

O N E OF THE LEAST KNOWN RITES of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day

Saints is the sacred hosanna shout. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written:

At the dedicatory services of temples and in certain other solemn assemblies, the

saints follow the pattern set by the Prophet Joseph Smith at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple and give the hosanna shout. While standing, ordinarily with faces toward the east, and waving white handkerchiefs with each word or phrase of praise,

the united congregation exults:

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna To God and the Lamb Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna To God and the Lamb Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna To God and the Lamb Amen, Amen, Amen! (1966, 368) Perhaps the most unusual occurrence of this shout came in 1886 at the Utah State penitentiary in Salt Lake City. Many Mormon men were serving prison terms for unlawful cohabitation, including Lorenzo Snow, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve. At President Snow's funeral, Rudger Clawson, called just seven days before as his second counselor, spoke of this

unique experience:

He called the brethren together (there were some thirty-five or forty in all) and said in substance: "We have been sent to this place and are associated together in prison. It will 'be our privilege, if we so desire to express our feelings to the Lord by offering up unto Him the sacred shout."... The sacred shout was then offered up within those prison walls — a great and mighty shout to God and the Lamb. The foundation of the prison seemed to shake, and the shout ascended to heaven (CR, Oct. 1901, 95; Madsen 1980, 197).

STEVEN H. HEATH is chairman of the Department of Physical Science at Southern Utah State College in Cedar City, Utah, where he is associate professor of mathematics. He is co-author with Reed C. Durham, Jr., of Succession in the Church (Bookcraft, 1970). This paper was given at the August 1984 Sunstone Symposium.

116 DIALOGUE : A JOURNAL OF MORMON THOUGHT

When was the hosanna shout first used in the Church? What motivated its establishment? What forms has it taken? What are its doctrinal connections?

And how have shout participants felt about it?

THE ORIGIN OF THE SHOUT

Though the shout's origin is most often associated with the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in the spring of 1836, its use had been commanded on at least three earlier occasions (D&C 19:37, 36:3, 39:19). In the first of these revelations given March 1830, Martin Harris was commanded to preach the gospel, "even with a loud voice, with a sound of rejoicing, crying-Hosanna, hosanna, blessed be the name of the Lord God!" Similar injunctions were given to Edward Partridge in December 1830 and James Covill in January 1831.

It appears that some gave this shout even before they joined the Church.

Heber C. Kimball, Brigham Young, and others while contemplating the message of the Mormon missionaries in 1832 experienced a remarkable vision.

They later recalled, "These things caused such great joy to spring up in our bosoms, that we were hardly able to contain ourselves, and we did shout aloud, Hosannah to God and the Lamb" {Mill. Star 26 [6 Aug. 1864]: 504). Elder Seymour B. Young recalled that his father, Joseph Young (a brother of Brigham), had said Hyrum Smith gave the hosanna shout during the Zion's Camp March in 1834 (CR, April 1915, 125-26). In these cases, a single individual or a small group shouted.

Shouts of hosanna echoed within the Kirtland Temple's unfinished walls as early as 21 January 1836 (HC 2:382). The pentecostal pre-dedication experiences of the Saints during the next three months formalized the shout and made it a group expression of fervor and faith. On the day of dedication, 27 March 1836, coupled with singing of William W. Phelps's "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning," the hosanna shout was the supreme event of the day. Joseph Smith's history reports, "We sealed the proceedings of the day by shouting hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to God and the lamb, three times sealing it each time with amen, amen, and amen" (HC 2:427-28).

As a result of its association with the Kirtland Temple, it had acquired three characteristics: its form, its sacred reservation for special occasions, and the need to have it led by Church leaders.

MOTIVATIONS

Joseph Smith does not indicate a reason for establishing the shout. Perhaps a Palm Sunday celebration at Easter could have brought questions to the mind of the Prophet. It may also be that the practice originated when Joseph Smith was making his revision of the Bible between 1830 and 1833. He may have become aware of the chanting of Psalm 118 and the waving of palm branches at the feast of Tabernacles or more likely the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John when jubiHeath: The Sacred Shout 117 lant crowds chanted Hosanna (Matt. 22:9, 15; Mark 11:9-10; John 12:13).

The Book of Mormon also contains several instances of shouts of hosanna. The most dramatic was the appearance of the resurrected Christ to the Nephites.





After this unique encounter, "they did cry out with one accord, saying:

Hosanna, Blessed be the name of the Most High God!" (3 Nephi 11:16-17).

Lael J. Woodbury, former dean of BYU's College of Humanities and Fine Arts, has suggested that it was instituted as part of the temple ordinance restoration. He said: "It is my judgement, however, that the Saints received complete instruction in its form and usage, over a period of time, during events attendant to the dedication of the Kirtland Temple" (1979, 271).

The first formal use of the shout occurred in a context suggesting that it "sealed" a temple ordinance after it was performed. Joseph Smith's use of the term sealed in connection with the dedication lends itself to this interpretation as do several separate incidents preceding the dedication.

On 21 and 22 January 1836, following each series of anointings with oil of the priesthood quorums (the Patriarch, the First Presidency, the Bishopric of Zion, the Quorum of Twelve, the High Council of Zion, etc.), the quorums shouted hosanna (HC 2:381, 382, 383). That the shout was used as a sealing for these ordinances is evidenced by the Prophet Joseph Smith's words on 6 February 1836 when the anointings of the High Priests and Elders were

sealed:

Called the anointed together to receive the seal of all their blessings....1 labored with each of these quorums for some time to bring them to the order which God had shown me, which is as follows: The first part to be spent in solemn prayer before God, without any talking or confusion; and the conclusion with a sealing prayer by President Rigdon, when all the quorums were to shout with one accord a solemn hosanna to God and the Lamb, with Amen, Amen, and Amen (HC 2:391).

For those unable to attend the Sunday dedication on 27 March, a second dedicatory service was held Thursday, 31 March where "the services of the day were commenced, prosecuted and terminated in the same manner as at the former dedication" (HC 2:433). A year later, a special solemn assembly celebrated not only the seventh anniversary of the Church's founding but also

sealed the previous week's anointings. Elder Wilford Woodruff relates:

While all the anointed present lifted their hands towards heaven this first presidency of the Church confirmed & sealed upon our heads all the blessings of our ordination, annointing, etc. & the seal was confirmed with uplifted hands to heaven Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to God & the Lamb, Amen, Amen, & Amen. Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to God & the Lamb, Amen, Amen & Amen. Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to God The Lamb, Amen, Amen, & Amen (1:132-33).

In 1839 as the Quorum of the Twelve made their way east from Illinois to their European missions, they stopped in Kirtland to preach and see old friends.

On Sunday, 17 November 1839, Brigham Young anointed John Taylor and Theodore Turley in the temple. These anointings were then "sealed by loud shouts of hosannah" (Watson 1968, 57-58; HC 4:21).

118 DIALOGUE : A JOURNAL OF MORMON THOUGHT

HISTORY OF THE SHOUT

After the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the shout was given formally on only five occasions during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. The first was the 6 April 1837 solemn assembly at Kirtland. The second came when the cornerstones of the Far West Temple were laid on 4 July 1838, following Sidney Rigdon's fiery and politically imprudent "Salt Sermon." Elder Parley P. Pratt said: "This declaration was received with shouts of hosannah to God and the Lamb with many long cheers by the assembled thousands, who were determined to yield their rights no more, unless compelled by superior power" (Pratt 1973, 173-74; HC 3:41-42).

The next two occurrences of the shout came in connection with the mission of the Twelve to England. Joseph Smith was not present on either occasion. The first was the anointing of John Taylor in November 1839, and the second came when Brigham Young "landed on the shore [and] gave a loud shout of hosannah." He had been confined to his berth with seasickness for the entire trip but had promised such a shout before leaving Illinois (HC 4:102-4;

Watson 1968, 69).

The last time Joseph Smith participated in a hosanna shout was 11 April 1844, two days after his last and perhaps greatest general conference where he delivered his famous King Follet sermon. Meeting with the recently organized Council of Fifty, Joseph Smith said: "had a very interesting time. The Spirit of the Lord was with us, and we closed the council with loud shouts of Hosanna!" (HC 6:331; Watson 1968, 165).

The shout was performed infrequently through the remainder of the nineteenth century. Table 1, which does not claim to be complete, lists many of these.

In the twentieth century, the shout has been reserved almost exclusively for temple dedications, rededications, or a rare performance at a solemn assembly in a temple. One interesting exception was a hosanna shout given by Cache Valley seminary students in the spring of 1939 under the direction of district supervisor J. Karl Wood. Russell R. Rich, a seminary teacher at the time, indicated that the valley's four seminaries practiced the shout prior to their songfest on the Logan Temple grounds, then Wood led the combined groups in the shout at the conclusion of the singing (Rich, 1984). Another notable exception was a hosanna shout at the Centennial General Conference. On Sunday, 6 April 1930, thousands on Temple Square and within KSL radio range shouted with President Heber J. Grant as the Church celebrated its first 100 years (CR April 1930, 21-22). In addition, local Church leaders led special performances of the shout in hundreds of wards and branches throughout the world on the same day and, where possible, at the same time (CR April 1930, 2; Clark 5:272-73).* Thus, every member of the Church was given the unique opportunity to shout hosanna on that remarkable day.

For examples, see minutes of ward sacrament meetings on 6 April 1930 for Barnwell Ward, Taber Alberta Stake; Kanab Ward, Kanab Utah Stake; Hurricane South Ward, Zion Park Stake in Historical Department Archives.

Heath: The Sacred Shout 119

–  –  –

During the 150 years of Mormon hosanna shouts, some differences in its performance have been recorded. In the Kirtland Temple, participants gave the shout with uplifted hands, most likely with upward gestures on each word or phrase (HC 2:386-87; Woodruff 1:132-33). At the reorganization of the First Presidency in 1847, according to Norton Jacob's journal, participants struck the right fist into the palm of the left hand on each word or phrase (Journal History, 5 Sept. 1848, 4). At the 1862 general conference, participants clapped their hands together (Deseret News, 15 Oct. 1862). Beginning in 1892, with the capstone laying at the Salt Lake Temple, participants

120 DIALOGUE: A JOURNAL OF MORMON THOUGHT

waved handkerchiefs with each word or phrase (Millennial Star [11 July 1892]: 435; Salt Lake Tribune, 7 April 1892). The tradition of waving handkerchiefs has continued to the present.

Minor changes in the wording have occurred. When compared to the version used at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the 1847 version has one "amen" after a triple hosanna and "to God and the Lamb," then it concludes with a triple amen (Journal History, 5 Sept. 1848, 4). In the 1862 version, each triple hosanna was followed by a triple of the phrase "to God and the Lamb" (Deseret News, 15 Oct. 1862). In the 1871 version, after the third triple hosanna and "to God and the Lamb," the words "forever and ever" are added, followed by a triple of amens (Walker, 9 Nov. 1871; Millennial Star 36 [21 April 1874]: 255). In the 1882 version, after each triple hosanna and "to God and the Lamb" comes a "forever and ever worlds without end" (Roberts 1892, 365; Salt Lake Tribune, 11 April 1882). The 1892 and 1930 versions have the same wording as the 1836 version. Today's version differs from the 1836 version in that the triple amens come only once at the end of the shout.

HOSANNA MUSIC

Music has been associated with the shout since the singing of the W. W. Phelps hymn "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" at the Kirtland Temple dedication. George D. Pyper said of this hymn, which had been included in the Church's first hymnbook, "the full measure of its emotional and spiritual power was not reached until it climaxed the dedicatory services" (1939, 88). The Phelps masterpiece has remained the musical basis for the shouts ever since. Evan Stephens, the Tabernacle Choir's conductor, incorporated the hymn into his "Hosannah Anthem" for the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, bringing a unique blend of choir and congregational participation to the temple dedications. He remained involved in composing special music for the hosanna shout for nearly fifty years (Millennial Star 46 [23 June 1884]: 391 and 55 [29 May 1893]: 353; CR April 1930, 20).



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