Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Concert Recitations

Concert Recitations

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 18, 2009

Concert recitations, like 2-1/2 minute talks and Sacrament Gems, were a longstanding feature of pre-block meeting Sunday School. Their purpose was to plant a few additional scripture verses in the memories of older children and teens, especially those who were prospective missionaries.

Each class was assigned a verse or two of scripture to prepare as a recitation, two to four times per year. The scriptures were chosen by the General Sunday School Board based on the course of study of the class, and published in the Instructor a month or two before the recitation was to be given. The assigned class memorized the scripture, reciting it in class each week for about a month.

Then, on Fast Sunday, as part of the opening exercises, the assigned class would rise together and recite the scripture and its citation in unison (“in concert”), from memory.

During some periods one recitation per month was assigned; at other times, two classes gave two different recitations. During some periods, each recitation would be preceded by a 2-1/2 minute talk on the subject of the scripture; at other times, talks were assigned to members of a different class and bore no relation to the concert recitation.

As a sample, the scriptures memorized for concert recitations by Sunday School classes in 1961 were:


Course 11 (13-14 year olds):

The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. – Isaiah 24:5

Course 17 (19-20 year olds):

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8


Course 9 (11-12 year olds):

… The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; the God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence. – II Samuel 22:2-3

Course 15 (17-18 year olds):

For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of jacob, and be saved. – 1 Nephi 6:4


Course 7 (9-10 year olds):

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them. – Abraham 3:25

Course 13 (15-16 year olds):

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. – 1 John 2:3-5

(last week in March due to April Conference)

Course 11 (13-14 year olds):

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned. – Doctrine and Covenants 121:41

Course 17 (19-20 year olds):

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. – Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19


Course 15 (17-18 year olds):

Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just –

But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. – Mosiah 4:17-18

Course 9 (11-12 year olds):

… I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. – 1 Nephi 3:7


Course 7 (9-10 year olds):

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. – John 14:1

Course 13 (15-16 year olds):

For whosoever wills ave his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. – Mark 8:35


Course 11 (13-14 year olds):

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you … – Matthew 28:19-20

Course 17 (19-20 year olds):

… Thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. – Ezekiel 37:16-17


Course 9 (11-12 year olds):

And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, m any followed after him. – Abraham 3:27-28

Course 15 (17-18 year olds):

Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ … – 2 Nephi 11:4


Course 7 (9-10 year olds):

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. – Matthew 12:36-37

Course 13 (15-16 year olds):

Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi – testifying that … [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come –

To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse. – Doctrine and Covenants 110:14-15

(last week in September due to October Conference)

Course 11 (13-14 year olds):

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the 3everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation and kindred, and tongue, and people. – Revelation 14:6

Course 17 (19-20 year olds):

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. – John 6:51


Course 9 (11-12 year olds):

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him … – Isaiah 55:6-7

Course 15 (17-18 year olds):

Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name – hear ye him. – 3 Nephi 11:7


Course 7 (9-10 year olds):

And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. – 3 Nephi 12:6

Course 13 (14-15 year olds)

… For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required … – Luke 12:48



  1. I remember doing a scripture in Sr. Sunday School, but I don’t think they were still doing the scripture concerts at the time (this was the late 1970s). I do miss some of the fun things we used to do before the bloc schedule. Things like the sacrament gems and 2 1/2 minute talks. I also miss the Thursday afternoon primary. I remember how we would take a penny and donate it to Primary Children’s Hospital. It just seems a part of our culture has changed (been lost?).

    Comment by Steve C. — November 18, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  2. As with much of the rest of my childhood, I had mostly forgotten this. As it is, I have only the vaguest recollection of concert recitations, and would have been in the 9-10 year old group. I remember the 2 1/2 minute talks and sacrament gems much better.

    The block program probably did some good in a lot of ways, but the lack of SS singing time has really hurt our congregational singing. I actually miss that, and wish we could find a way to put that back in.

    Comment by kevinf — November 18, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  3. I barely remember these, either, although we must have done them during my entire childhood and youth. What I do remember is that it was a relief to have the superintendent come into class with a concert recitation assignment, because they were easy and meant that we were off the hook for talks that month.

    Now, of course, I recognize the value of the 2-1/2 minute talk experience and could wish I had had more of it, with the right training (in writing them myself, I mean, rather than having a parent write them, which was the usual practice in the last few years before the church stopped doing them).

    And amen to missing singing practice in Sunday School. That’s a part of past culture that is sorely needed again.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  4. We still stand up in opening exercises for Mutual each week and recite “in concert” the scripture for the year. (This year it’s I Timothy 4:12 “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”)

    I remember, as a youngster, our ward choir director conducting the Ward Choir in a few “choral readings” of various Book of Mormon passages (as part of a Book of Mormon-themed cantata she had put together). My dad was in the choir and he loved it. The choir director would rehearse the choir over and over again on their pronunciation, the phrasing, and even conduct the accented words. She was such a strong character that no one dared question her!

    In the end, it was an effective way to make an impression, that’s for sure. I can still hear their voices speaking aloud the phrase from the book of Helaman in unison: “Ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly toooooooooooo late!”

    Huh – thanks for making me remember this quirky but pleasant memory.

    Comment by Hunter — November 18, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  5. I have to agree that it is a great loss not having the practice hymn in Sunday School. I remember during the early 1990s the Church tried to revive it during Sunday School opening exercises. In a BYU ward we had a music major who did the practice hymn. He was excellent. He taught us how to sing the hymn–i.e. the different parts. My next ward–not a BYU ward–the music director read the two scriptures at the end of each hymn and had us try to sing it. We got absolutely nothing from this. Perhaps the Brethren envisioned everyone doing what my first ward did but what they got is most doing what my second ward did.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 18, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

  6. I suspect you’re on to something, Steve. The old Instructor had a section every month on how to teach that month’s practice hymn, what to stress, what pitfalls to watch out for, so it seems clear that was what they wanted to happen.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

  7. I vaguely remember my sister doing a concert recitation–once. And we all thought the name was silly.

    And, frankly, it was a bit odd. To sit in the chapel with a lot of old people in Sunday school opening exercises, and to suddenly have a bunch of young people stand up and say something more or less in unison.

    I don’t recall any from the second half of the 60s, but my dad was the bishop. Perhaps he thought they were silly too–especially for a bunch of college students.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 18, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

  8. While working on the Hyrum Stake 100-year history, I ran into something similar to the hymn reading in concert that intrigues me. Primary minutes for 19 Mar 1904 show: “. . . Prayer in concert with the children by Pres. Jensen.” Why would the prayer be in concert? This is the only example I have right in front of me now, but I saw it notated several times.

    Comment by Maurine — November 19, 2009 @ 9:43 am

  9. I forgot to add a sentence from the same Hyrum Second Ward Primary minutes of 19 Mar 1904. “. . . Pres Jensen then had the children repeat some verses in concert from the Childrens friend.”

    Comment by Maurine — November 19, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  10. Hunh. I don’t know what that would mean other than Pres. Jensen saying the prayer with the children repeating it after him line by line, but I’ve never heard of that being done. Will keep this in mind in case I ever run into anything that explains it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  11. Say a line from a prayer and having the children repeat it sounds a bit tempelish. I wonder if there was a connection. It seems that back then the rules were a bit vague and lines got blurred between temple worship and regular worship. Hmmmmm.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 19, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

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