Are all the “hymns” in our hymnbook really hymns? And if a song isn’t actually a hymn, does it help us worship?

Joyce P. Brown, former member of the music committee of the Sunday School General Board, answers this question in an excellent Oct. 1980 Ensign article:

In the Church, we classify as hymns everything in the hymnbook, without making the more academic distinction between what is a true hymn and what is not. A true hymn is technically a sacred song addressed to God—a prayer. But it is also proper to consider as hymns many songs of praise (about God) and songs that teach or encourage.

Examples of true hymns (prayers addressed to God) are “O My Father” and “Sweet Is the Work, My God, My King.” Examples of hymns of praise are “Glory to God on High” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Hymns of encouragement and instruction are such favorites as “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” “Do What Is Right,” “Ere You Left Your Room This Morning,” and “Love at Home.” Psalms, chorales, and gospel songs are other forms of music often classified as hymns.

Hymns of prayer and praise express love and adoration to or about God; hymns of exhortation or instruction elevate, unify, and challenge us to become more like him. All three kinds of hymns are directly or indirectly addressed to God—all are forms of worship.