Is the Children’s songbook full of false doctrine?

January 15, 2023    By: Matt W. @ 8:40 am   Category: Life

In a recent ward conference, a local church leader made the claim that David Bednar told him the children’s songbook is full of false doctrine. This surprised me. I know there is the classic complaint from Neal A. Maxwell that “Give said the Little Stream” was “not exactly theologically drenched”, but being simple and being false are two different claims.


Is this common sentiment? Have you heard this? What Songs do you think this is pointing to?


  1. I like Primary songs just fine. The music is frequently beautiful, and there is nothing to compare to Primary kids singing their hearts out. Wandering closer to the topic: Give Said the Little Stream has a lot more doctrine than Hinges or Popcorn Popping, but it’s all good. Go to the hymn book for some real problems. Apart from the sneakiness inherent in I Believe In Christ pretending to be a four verse song when it’s really an eight verse song, there’s Because I Have Been Given Much. Satan wrapped that batch of evil doctrine in a beautiful tune, but it’s still rancid inside!

    Comment by Paul — January 15, 2023 @ 3:26 pm

  2. Wouldn’t go as far as false doctrine, but Primary songs definitely as aren’t supported by the scripture that inspired them, i.e. the slightly disconcerting to nonmembers, Follow the Prophet:

    Jonah was a prophet, tried to run away,
    But he later learned to listen and obey.
    When we really try, the Lord won’t let us fail:
    That’s what Jonah learned deep down inside the whale

    Comment by jpv — January 16, 2023 @ 12:07 am

  3. Paul, it’s a Protestant poem, but please unpack Satan’s “batch of evil doctrine”.

    Is it that you think it’s too strong in suggesting you *have* to show gratitude by works?

    Comment by jpv — January 16, 2023 @ 12:12 am

  4. “Faith is knowing the sun will rise” is a troubling thought that doesn’t square with scripture. I think that the Hymnbook is full of doctrinally questionable ideas too.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — January 17, 2023 @ 2:58 pm

  5. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t go to the Primary songbook for doctrine. Kids have no idea what they are singing. They just want to sing and have fun. I remember when they changed the words to “I Am a Child of God” from “teach me all that i must know” to “teach me all that I must do” and didn’t really see what the big deal was. Decades later, I still don’t.

    Comment by CS Eric — January 17, 2023 @ 7:59 pm

  6. So Pickle Theology is drenched in doctrine and not just vinegar?

    Even if the local leader correctly quoted Elder Bednar, these pious men with their dark suits and long faces need to recognize that children’s songs (and lessons and Bible stories and everything else you can name) are simplified to bring abstract principles into the grasp of small children. It isn’t false doctrine if a song doesn’t include some grumpy guy’s favorite nuance or support his favorite hobby horse. You’re certainly right that “simple” and “false” are normally too very different things. I don’t know of any children’s song that teaches false doctrine (unless, in some particular case a child doesn’t “always want to be with [his] own family” or whose parents are not “kind and dear,” perhaps. But even indoctrination is not necessarily false doctrine.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 18, 2023 @ 8:41 am

  7. jpv:

    For the Jonah verse of “Follow the Prophet.”, it is best to teach the children that the chorus changes following just that verse: “Swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet…” Doing that can alarm Primary presidencies, though.

    Regarding “Because I Have Been Given Much,” it’s the “Because.”

    Comment by Paul — January 22, 2023 @ 11:30 am

  8. I was recently called as primary chorister. I thought I was fully on the side of “simplicity is just fine for kids” camp But when I sat down to plan this years songs I struggled. As a parent to primary kids, I just can’t teach some of these words.

    Example: “Jesus Once was a Little Child”
    Love the tune, but way too much speculation, border line manipulation, and meek and mild are not even helpful attributes in today’s world where confidence and resolve are so important. The line “he never got vexed if the game went wrong” paired with “a little child like me” stands out as obviously false to many older primary kids and ironically makes Jesus seem un-relatable.

    I agree that the “Faith is knowing the sun will rise” song is problematic. “Keep the Commandments” and “Choose the Right Way” also bother me a lot. They make teaching healthy tools for dealing with unsafe situation or times of sadness even harder.

    But in the end I’m excited about the songs I’ve planned for this year, there are still plenty of great ones to choose from.

    Comment by Toria — January 23, 2023 @ 11:27 pm

  9. I love the doctrine in the children’s songbook and in the hymn book. Sure, there are some crazy lines in Follow the Prophets, etc, but there are some verses in scripture that are problematic too. Nothing is perfect. If I step back and take them as a whole, they get very high marks from me. I have felt the spirit more times singing primary songs and hymns than in any other way, so that’s good enough for me. Jesus Once Was a Little Child is a favorite of mine. Away in a Manger is not ruined for me by it’s saying that the baby Jesus didn’t cry.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 1, 2023 @ 10:47 am