For many years the familiar red hymnbook, Himnos de Sión, was used by Spanish-speaking saints all over the world. It was a curious collection of old primary and MIA songs, and hymns from a variety of LDS hymnbooks. In 1992 the Spanish edition of the new “green hymnbook” was published. It follows the model of the latest English version and has also improved previous translations and corrected problems that existed in the old hymnbook. The general order of the hymns is the same in both English and Spanish, although many of the new, unfamiliar hymns in the new English hymnbook have been left out of the Spanish version. (There are over 140 more hymns in the English version.)
The wording of some of the well-known hymns has been changed in both hymnbooks and, just as older English-speaking members still tend to sing “You who unto Jesus” instead of “Who unto the Savior” in How Firm a Foundation, so older Spanish-speaking members continue to sing “Te quiero sin cesar” rather than “Te necesito, sí” in Señor, te necesito.”
The translation of poetry or the words of a song is a difficult task. Because of syllable differences and rhyme scheme, sometimes the best that translators can do is to take the meaning of a hymn and try to express the same ideas or a similar message in Spanish. They must fit words with the correct number of syllables to the melody of the music, and they have to rhyme the words at the end of stanzas. These considerations quite often take them a little away from the words of the original. For example, the hymn Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel is translated “Pon tu hombro a la lid (battle)” because the word for “wheel” in Spanish (rueda) is two syllables, and the music provides for only one. Besides, Spanish does not use the idiomatic expression “put your shoulder to the wheel.” The hymn Love at Home becomes “When there is love” (Cuando hay amor), God Speed the Right becomes “God gives courage” (Dios da valor), and so on. Whenever possible, the original doctrinal concept is kept; if not, another is taught in its place.
Occasionally cultural, historical or geographical factors require a change in the message of a hymn. As an example, For the Strength of the Hills is a hymn sung in thanksgiving for the protection of mountains. Since that does not apply to many Spanish-speaking Saints, the hymn was changed to “We sing praise for Thy gifts” (Por tus dones loor cantamos) and talks about gifts we receive from God and the beauty of this world. For those reasons, the hymn They the Builders of the Nation is not included in the Spanish hymnbook, as are other hymns referring to the Zion that was established in the Rocky Mountains. In Our Lovely Deseret is given a more global setting in the new translation with En el pueblo de Sión.
The new version of the hymnbook has taken a more literal approach to the translation of original English lyrics. Some examples are the changes from the old version of La oración del profeta. “Animales de verano” was changed to “Pajaritos y abejas,” much closer to the original. The word “bosque” of the first translation was changed to “arboleda,” since Joseph prayed in a grove of trees, not a forest. “Que brillante fue el sol” was changed to “Que brillante era el sol” to be more grammatically correct.
Generally speaking, the new hymnbooks require a more frequent use of the joining of two syllables to act as one. To help the singers, this is indicated in the hymnbook with the symbol “‿”. For example:
…qué brillante era‿el sol…
…confiaba en Su‿amor…
…Su‿oración fue contestada…
Another example is the translation of How Great Thou Art (¡Grande eres tú!)
This linking of syllables to be sung with one note is a natural pattern of the Spanish language and does not detract from the singing.
In translating poetry and hymns, the word order of sentences is sometimes severely changed to keep the rhyme scheme and to have the necessary number of syllables, or for emphasis. For example, the verb may come at the end of the phrase, rather than near the middle, where it is normally found; as in Jehová mi pastor es [Jehovah my shepherd is]. An example of an English hymn with this construction is the phrase in Come, Come Ye Saints: “Tis better far for us to strive, our useless cares from us to drive. The Spanish translation is similar: “Mejor nos es el procurar afán inútil alejar.” [Better for us is the useless worrying to distance.] In normal Spanish this would be “Nos es mejor procurar alejar inútil afán.” In the hymn Cuando hay amor (Love at Home), the phrase “Cuando del hogar, el amor el lema es [When of the home love the theme is] would normally be said “Cuando el amor es el lema del hogar.”
This “poetic license” may cause some difficulty in understanding the meaning of the hymn. If you read the lines through, rearranging the sentences in your head, you should understand the message. Then, as you sing, keep the thoughts of the individual phrases in mind. Just as you become accustomed to singing in English, “Angels above us are silent notes taking” so you will soon get used to “Angeles toman arriba en cuenta.”
Certain words, often archaic, which lend themselves to hymns, are used very frequently instead of more modern words. Here are some examples:
son in place of melodia or canto
…Entonad sagrado son…
don in place of regalo or talento
…Por todos los dones que Tú sabes…
loor in place of alabanza or elogio
…Angeles cantando loor…
do (doquier) in place of donde (dondequiera)
…con sonrisas por doquier…
Since vosotros is the scriptural plural of tú, it is used very frequently in hymns, especially in exhortations. Study these examples:
Santos venid……mas con gozo andad…
…¿Por qué decís, es dura la porción?; es error, no temáis…
Spanish-speaking saints love to sing hymns, and with the arrival of the new hymnbook, many of the new hymns are rapidly becoming popular, such as:
Grande eres tú (How Great Thou Art)
Tú me has dado muchas bendiciones, Dios (Because I Have Been Given Much)
Como os he amado (As I Have Loved You)
Creo en Cristo (I believe in Christ)
Un pobre forastero (A Poor Wayfaring Man)
Señor, yo te seguiré (Lord, I Would Follow Thee)
Oh creaciones del Señor (All Creatures of Our God and King)
Baluarte firme es nuestro Dios (A Mighty Fortress is Our God)
Singing hymns in Spanish can be very helpful in learning the language. The more you sing them, the more familiar the vocabulary becomes. Sing as often as you can. This is one way you can personally share the Spirit with our Hispanic brothers and sisters and you will certainly enjoy the meetings much more.
The LDS hymbook is available in English and Spanish online at
and as a mobile app at www.lds.org/pages/mobileapps