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- This article deals with music's role in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outside of the context of worship; for hymns, see The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hymns or for the hymnal Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985 book)
Music has had a long history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from the days in Kirtland, Nauvoo, and the settlement of the West, to the present day. In the early days of the Church, stripped-down Mormon folk music, which could be sung without accompaniment due to the lack of instruments in Utah, was popular. In the 19th century, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was created and began touring, while musicians began writing devotional and praise music with a Mormon influence, paralleling the success of Christian Contemporary Music. Several organizations have existed and do exist to promote these artists, such as Deseret Book and the now-defunct Faith-centered Music Association. Starting in the late 20th century and to the present day, Mormons have been increasingly involved in modern popular music in America and elsewhere in the World.
Mormon folk music
Mormon folk music constituted some of the earliest white/euroamerican music in the boundaries of modern Utah. These songs, simple and easy to remember, were usually sung without accompaniment because of the scarcity of musical instruments in territorial Utah. Although they often employed the same tunes as folk music elsewhere, Mormon folk is distinctively Utahn. The songs often include unique pioneer-era Mormon culture references such as crossing the plains, Mormon ecclesiastical leaders, and LDS religious convictions. Hymns and other folk music were used to lift the spirits of all the saints along their treacherous journey known as the Mormon Trail. They are still used as praises or prayers to their Heavenly Father as well as a way to welcome comfort, peace and guidance from the Holy Ghost whom they try to keep as a constant companion.
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Since 1847, the Latter-day Saint influence in Utah music is manifest in the state’s most famous musical institution: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Named after the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, the 300+ member choir is world-famous. The LDS Church supports the choir both for prestige and as a proselytizing tool for spreading familiarity of the church. The choir performs at least weekly at the Tabernacle for a radio program called "Music and the Spoken Word" which is the longest-running national radio program in the US. The Mormon Tabernacle choir has released innumerable albums since it first recorded in 1910.
LDS-themed popular music
Beginning in the 1960s, gospel music gained some success, and Mormons played an integral role in the development of Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) into the 1970s. Since then, Michael McLean from Heber, Utah and Kenneth Cope in Salt Lake City have become relatively popular among mostly-older Latter-day Saints for their religiously-charged easy listening music. Music for LDS worship services is generally traditional with minimal accompaniment with piano or organ, so these musicians perform in venues other than in LDS worship services. In the 2010 and 2011, respectively, Jenny Oaks Baker and Hillary Weeks became popular contemporary Mormon-themed inspirational recording artists.
Especially For Youth albums
Each year various artist from LDS Music are featured on an annual album called Especially for Youth (EFY), that is produced for a summer youth camp sponsored by Brigham Young University but are held at many universities across the United States. Several producers bid for the album on a 2-year cycle. The producer for the album is usually decided by EFY executive J.D. Hucks, a senior administrator for the Church Educational System's Youth & Family Programs.
From 1998–Present the EFY album producer roll has been bouncing back and forth between the production duo Tyler Castleton & Staci Peters and their competitor Jim Funk & Barry Gibbons, making it difficult for independent artist and producers to participate with the album production.
Opponents of this idea find that though the albums might be youth-orientated and were created to be given to youth at EFY camp, they were also intended to be wonderful and uplifting - appropriate for any age. Many Saints enjoy the peaceful music with a modern twist in their homes daily as a way of inviting the Holy Ghost and making the day feel more reverent. Also, Deseret Book has written on their website that "Perhaps no other collection of albums has sold better to the youth over the last decade than the EFY albums released every summer." The EFY albums in the last decade are:
- Arise and Shine Forth (2012)
- Believe. Hope. Endure (2011)
- The Courage to Stand Strong (2010)
- Be Thou an Example (2009)
- Steady and Sure (2008)
- Power in Purity (2007)
- The Greatest Gift (2006)
- A More Excellent Way (2005)
- Stand in the Light (2004)
- Look and Live (2003)
- We Believe (2002)
- Remember The Promise (2001)
- Forward with Faith (2000)
Faith-centered Music Association
For a time, the Faith-centered Music Association rewarded excellence in music with the Pearl Awards given in a number of different categories.
Over its final few years the FCMA, which was run by senior management at Deseret Book, had been viewed as a way to "pat themselves on the back." Many if not all projects that were nominated and receive awards, are published by Deseret Book.
In 2010, the FCMA decided to take an indefinite hiatus from workshops and the Pearl Awards. In a letter to the general public, the FCMA stated that it had grown too large of an organization and tried to accommodate too many recommendations and criticisms to continue.
In mainstream popular music
There are numerous artists active in the secular music world who are LDS, but do not write devotional or praise-style music. Prominent examples include Donny Osmond, Neon Trees, Dan Reynolds and Wayne Sermon of Imagine Dragons, Lindsey Stirling, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low, Brandon Flowers of The Killers, Gladys Knight, David Archuleta, Dallon Weekes of Panic! at the Disco, Dan Truman of Diamond Rio, Fictionist, SheDaisy, KASKADE, The Piano Guys, The Vibrant Sound, Amy Whitcomb, Jennifer Thomas (pianist) and many past and present members of The Aquabats. There have been efforts to expand the umbrella of "Mormon Music" to encompass all Latter-day Saints who write or perform music, reflecting an increasing frustration with institutions like Deseret Book that confine their musical offerings to a very narrow view of what Mormon Music is. In particular, the blog Linescratchers has interviewed and compiled a list of many artists who fit this description.
Partial list of major label LDS artists
- David Archuleta (formerly of Jive Records)
- Alex Boyé (Shadow Mountain)
- Brandon Flowers (of The Killers) (Island Records) - Grammy nominated
- Gladys Knight (of Gladys Knight & The Pips) (Verve Records) - Grammy winner, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee
- Donny Osmond (of The Osmonds) (Decca Records)
- Marie Osmond (Polydor Records) - Grammy nominated
- Nathan Pacheco (Disney Pearl)
- Ryan Raddon, aka DJ KASKADE (Warner Bros. Records) - Grammy nominated
- Dan Reynolds and Wayne Sermon (of Imagine Dragons) (Interscope Records) - Grammy winners
- Alex Sharpe (formerly of Celtic Woman) (Manhattan Records)
- Lindsey Stirling (BridgeTone)
- Dan Truman (of Diamond Rio) (Word Records) - Grammy winner
- Fictionist (formerly of Atlantic Records)
- Neon Trees (Island Records)
- Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand (formerly of Capitol Records)
- SheDaisy (Lyric Street Records) - Grammy nominated
- The Moth & The Flame (Elektra Records)
- The Osmonds (MGM Records) - Grammy Lifetime Achievement
- The Piano Guys (Sony Masterworks)
- Jessen, Wade (November 4, 2011), "Hilary Weeks First Mormon to Reach Christian Albums Top 10", Billboard
- Loftus, Hikari (16 August 2010). "Nashville Tribute Band salutes missionaries". Deseret News.
- "BYU Division of Continuing Education". Ce.byu.edu. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- "Orson Scott Card and LDS Music". Mormon Matters. 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- Various (2010-07-17). "The Best of EFY". DeseretBook.com. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- http://www.pearlawards.org/overview.htm Archived February 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- "FCMA calls it quits". May 4, 2010. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
- "Q&A with Arthur from Linescratchers | A Motley Vision". Motleyvision.org. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- "Staff @ Linescratchers". Linescratchers.com. Retrieved 2011-08-18.