"Angry Anthems"

"Come, Come, ye Saints, and Pass the ERA"
Adapted score of "Come, Come ye Saints" [Click image to enlarge]

MERA newsletters and papers reveal the group changed the words to LDS hymns, calling them “Angry Anthems” and wrote their own versions calling for equality and an end to discrimination. It is unknown how many hymns were altered but one newsletter advertises the sale of MERA singer Cheryl Dalton’s tapes of her original songs as well as others she has adapted, suggesting a demand for the material. [1] The MERA collection in USU's Speical Collections & Archives has a copy of a MERA newsletter with the revised lyrics of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the score of their version of “Come, Come ye Saints.” 

“Come, Come ye Saints” is a historically significant hymns to LDS members. It describes the group’s pioneer heritage and their trek west after persecution. William Clayton wrote the original hymn. 

Original Hymn (opening verse):

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil or labor fear;

But with joy wend your way.

Though hard to you this journey may appear,

Grace shall be as your day.

‘Tis better far for us to strive

Our useless cares from us to drive;

Do this, and joy your hearts will swell--

All is well! All is well! [2]

MERA altered the words, inserting a call to pass the ERA, increase equality, and drive out discrimination.

MERA's Altered Version:

Come, come, ye Saints, and pass the ERA;

and with joy come our way.

Tho hard to you this journey may appear,

great shall be equality.

‘Tis better far for us to strive

discrimination for us to drive;

Do this, and joy your heart will swell--

ERA! ERA! [3]

"Battle Hymn of Women"
Lyrics to the "Battle Hymn of Women" as printed in the MERA newsletter from June 1981 [Click image to enlarge]

MERA’s alteration to the words of the song are significant due to the beloved nature of the hymn and its meaning to the LDS community. This surely would have been considered sacrilegious and orthodox Mormons likely took offense to the practice. The altered hymn calls for equality and to pass the ERA, but the tone of the song is not one of anger and hostility. In contrast, MERA's alteration of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” takes a tone of anger. This hymn was widely used throughout the national women’s movement, and MERA likely published the words in their newsletters because the hymn would have resonated with their Mormon audience, one that regularly sings the original hymn in church meetings. The hymn uses strong imagery and language with words such as “rage” “smoldering” “burning” and “prisoners.” The first verse of MERA's altered song reads:

“Battle Hymn of Women”

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the flame of women’s rage

Smoldering for centuries, now burning in this age

We no longer will be prisoners in the same old gilded cage,

That’s why we’re marching on.

Chorus: Move on over or we’ll move on over you

Move on over or we’ll move on over you

Move on over or we’ll move on over you

For women’s time has come [4]

The reader can feel the anger emanating from the verses. The additional verses of the song discuss women “speaking softly,” not being paid for their home labor, and doing all the household cooking and the cleaning. The last line again emphasizes their anger and reads:

Our anger eats into us, we’ll no longer bow to kings

That’s why we’re marching on. [5] 

MERA’s choice to alter and adapt religious songs serves as a reminder that their protest was both political and religious.

[1] “Mormons for ERA Newsletter.” April 1982. MERA MSS 225, Box 3, Folder 1, USUSCA.

[2] “Come, Come, ye Saints,” Hymns, no. 30.

[3] Marty LaBrosse, “Come, Come, ye Saints, and Pass the ERA,” score, Mormons for the ERA, 1977-1983. MERA MSS 225, Box 19, Folder 10, USUSCA.

[4] “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” MERA Newsletter June 1981. MERA MSS 225, Box 3, Folder 1, USUSCA.

[5] Ibid.