«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 ...»
Though the anthem and Phelps song are still used most frequently with the shout, they are not the only music that has been used. One of the most interesting selections was the choice of "America" following the shout given at the centennial conference (CR April 1930, 22). Even at temple dedications a variety of music has been used with the shout. At the 1945 dedication of the Idaho Falls Temple, in addition to the "Hosannah Anthem" and "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning," the hosanna shout was also followed by Mormon favorites: "The Morning Breaks; the Shadows Flee," "This House We Dedicate to Thee," "I Need Thee Ever Hour," and "Let the Mountains Shout for Joy" (Zobell, 565). The shout followed by appropriate music is one of the most dramatic and emotional experiences one can have in the Church. They complement each other in a remarkable way. Modern day observers may feel even as Job declared that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7).
Heath: The Sacred Shout 121
DOCTRINE AND THE SHOUT
As with some other historical events or practices in the early Church — among them the First Vision (Allen 1980) —doctrinal development associated with the shout does not occur until after 1880. In 1892 B. H. Roberts wrote after describing the use of the shout in the Church: "Indeed the shout was older than that, older than the everlasting hills which now listened to it — aye, older than the earth itself! For was not this the shout which shook the heavens before the foundations of the earth were laid, when 'the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy' " (Roberts 1892, 365;
CHC 6 : 5 4 6 ). Lorenzo Snow, who led the shout more than any other general authority in the Church's first seventy-five years, reiterated what Roberts had said in the 1899 solemn assembly, saying that the shout was that "given in heaven 'when the sons of God shouted for joy' " (Romney 1955, 469-70).
The centennial message of the First Presidency in 1930 implies that the shout was used by the angelic hosts announcing Christ's birth (Clark 5:277). The 1981 LDS edition of the King James Bible says "hosanna" means "save now" and was used at the Feast of Tabernacles when the waving of palm branches was prominent. It implies that the shout was used on Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem (LDS Bible Dictionary, 704-5).
With the surge of temple building in recent years many of these ideas will continue to be advanced. No doubt new ones will be suggested. The first historical studies of the shout were advanced only within the past few years (Durham 1973; Woodbury 1979). To the Saint today, the shout is an expression of great joy of the Saints in every dispensation.
FEELINGS OF PARTICIPANTS
Few participants recorded their feelings about the shout. B. H. Roberts, no
doubt speaking for himself, wrote:
This shout of "Hosanna" is given only on very great occasions. It is usually given three times in immediate succession; and when voiced by thousands and sometimes tens of thousands in unison, and at their utmost strength, it is most impressive and inspiring. It is impossible to stand unmoved on such an occasion. It seems to fill the prairie or woodland, mountain wilderness or tabernacle, with mighty waves of sound;
and the shout of men going into battle cannot be more stirring. It gives wonderful vent to religious emotions and is followed by a feeling of reverential awe — a sense of oneness of God (CHC 3:317).
More recently, Eugene England has recalled his feelings at participating in
the hosanna shout at the Oakland Temple dedication:
The experience, especially that first time, could have seemed awkward or even bizarre — mature citizens of the down-to-earth twentieth century, in business suits and college tweed and stylish bouffant hairdos, waving handkerchiefs over our heads and actually shouting hosannas. But President Brown, in explaining the procedure to us and then leading us with his own special dignity, which is intellectual and moral as well as physical, helped invest the experience with a solemn joy that was overwhelming; it was a full-hearted and full-voiced response to the prophetic prayer we had just
122 DIALOGUE: A JOURNAL OF MORMON THOUGHTheard. And I do believe, strange as it perhaps seems for me — a skeptical, rationalist, university-trained professor of English — to be saying this, that we were joined by spiriual beings whether former prophets, angelic messengers or repentant sinners who had similar reasons to our own to rejoice (1974, 62).
Of his second experience at the Washington, D.C., Temple dedication he continues: "We were then ready to shout hosannas and we did. And then joined in that unique expression of Mormon culture, not particularly esthetic, perhaps, but serving much higher values than art, when we united with our leaders and a chorus of our peers in one great circle, our eyes wet with joy but our voices not choked, singing the Hosanna Anthem" (1974, 66-67).
A rare report by a nonmember who witnessed the hosanna shout of the conference of 1882 was written by Phil Robinson of the New York World:
Nor could anything exceed the impressiveness of the response which the people gave instantaneously to the appeal of their President for the support of their voices.
The great Tabernacle was filled with waves of sound as the "Amens" of the congregation burst out. The shout of men going into battle was not more stirring than the closing words of this memorable conference, spoken as if by one vast voice (Roberts 1892: 366).
In 1892, a reporter for the anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune wrote: "It was a novel sight to witness 40,000 people shouting all at the same time and waving their handkerchiefs. The coloring from an artistic point of view, was beautiful.
There were every color of handkerchiefs that frne could imagine, although white predominated. There were blue handkerchiefs, red, yellow, black, purple, and pink. This shout was repeated three times" ("The People Shout," 7 April 1892, p. 1).
Having been privileged to participate in a hosanna shout once in my life — at the rededication of the St. George Temple in November 1975 — I can only echo the feelings of others. It was "one of the most dramatic and impressive ceremonies" that I have ever had occasion to witness. The powerful emotions of singing "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning" only added to that remarkable personal experience.
BIBLIOGRAPHYNote: Historical Dept. Archives refers to those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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Clark, James R. Messages of the First Presidency. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965— 75.
CR. Conference Reports of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Semi-annual.
Durham, Reed C. "What is the Hosanna Shout?" New Era 3 (Sept. 1973) : 14-15.
England, Eugene. "The Hosanna Shout in Washington, D.C." DIALOGUE 9 (Summer, 1974): 62-67.
Heath: The Sacred Shout 123 Harrison, Richard. Journal. Typescript. BYU Library, Provo, Utah.
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Lund, Anthon H. Journal. Microfilm copy, Historical Dept. Archives.
Madsen, Truman. Defender of the Faith: The B. H. Roberts Story. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980.
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. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930.
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Watson, Eldon J. Manuscript History of Brigham Young. Salt Lake City: Smith Secretarial Service, 1969. See also HC 4:21.
Woodbury, Lael J. "The Sacred Hosanna Shout." Third Annual Church Educational System Religious Educators' Symposium, 16-18 August 1979. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1979, 270-75.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journal of Wilford Woodruff, typescript 9 vols. Midvale, Utah: Signature Books.
Zobell, Albert L. "Dedication Proceedings." Improvement Era (Oct. 1945) 565.