"A Selection of Sacred Hymns": Singing Women into Citizenship in Zion
Among the hundreds of hymnals published in the United States during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1850), the first official hymnal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a rare example of a hymnal compiled by a woman. The Latter-day Saints wanted a hymnal adapted to their unique beliefs and emerging identity, and Emma Smith—the wife of founding prophet Joseph Smith—was given sole charge of selecting the hymns. The hymnal is also significant because Emma Smith selected and arranged hymns from 1830–1835, years of an emerging rhetoric for the early women’s rights movement. Nevertheless, few studies attend to Smith’s agency and priorities as a compiler, being preoccupied with the contributions of W. W. Phelps, the editor, printer, and most represented poet of the hymnal.
Drawing on Karlyn Kohrs Campbell’s theories of agency and of feminine style as well as Kenneth Burke’s theory of form, this thesis uses close textual analysis and coding to examine the rhetorical strategies Smith employed in the hymnal’s preface and in the organization of the Sacred Hymns section. The analysis reveals the hymnal’s recurring themes as well as the ideas it circulates about sex, gender, agency, and community inclusion/exclusion. It also uncovers tension between Smith’s and Phelps’ priorities for the hymnal, particularly in how Smith and Phelps characterize those who should and should not be included with equal authority in Zion, the ideal community the Latter-day Saints sought to build.