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Dear Gramps,

Many of the hymns we have in the LDS hymnal have copyright restrictions, which prevent us from fully utilizing the material as we would sometimes like to.  My question for you is this: Shouldn’t the use of our talents for the building up of the Lord’s kingdom be freewill offerings and sacrifices, with no expectation of financial reward in this life?  If something is created with the expectation of financial reward, then isn’t it really tainted in some way?





Hello Robert,

I would hope that most people would be willing to consecrate their goods of any kind to the work of the Lord.  Someday, as Church members, we will be expected to live this law more stringently.  But until that happens, it strikes me that it would be a little unfair to require artists and poets to turn their workproduct over to the Church without compensation without similarly mandating that plumbers, automobile manufacturers, carpenters, attorneys, secretaries, architects, bookbinders, and people in every other line of work must also ply their respective trades for free anytime someone can argue that “the building up of the kingdom” requires it.

It’s also worth remembering that there are legitimate reasons besides money, for obtaining a copyright.  Copyright can prevent others from illegitimately claiming a work as their own, from profiting from that work themselves, or from reproducing the work in such a manner as to embarrass the work’s author or undermine the actual goal of the work.  For example, while the Book of Mormon was at the printer’s shop in Palmyra, New York, a hostile newspaper editor was able to obtain portions of the manuscript and began printing them, together with commentary ridiculing the passages, before the actual book was available, so that readers could give it a balanced consideration.  The editor was stopped, because Joseph Smith invoked his copyrights under American law.

As a side note, it’s also important to point out that many of the composers and lyricists of the hymns that we enjoy aren’t or weren’t members of the church.





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