What is the Hosanna Shout?
September 1973

“What is the Hosanna Shout?” New Era, Sept. 1973, 14–15

“What is the Hosanna Shout?”

Answer/Reed Durham

On March 27, 1836, the Kirtland Temple was dedicated, and at the close of the dedicatory services the pattern for giving the Hosanna Shout was given. The Prophet Joseph wrote: “President Rigdon then made a few appropriate closing remarks, and a short prayer, at the close of which we sealed the proceedings of the day by shouting hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb, three times sealing it each time with amen, amen, and amen.” (Documentary History of the Church vol. 2, pp. 427–8.) This pattern of “hosanna,” to “God and the Lamb,” and “amen” repeated three times formed the basic pattern of the Hosanna Shout throughout all of Church history to the present. From time to time some modifications were made upon the basic pattern, such as striking the right hand into the palm of the left hand at the end of each word, which was done on the occasion of the reorganization of the First Presidency with President Brigham Young on December 27, 1847. (“Journal of Norton Jacob,” Journal History, September 5, 1848, p. 4.) On another occasion the Church members stood up on their feet while giving the shout (Millennial Star, vol. 24, p. 758); clapped hands while shouting; added the words “forever and ever, worlds without end” after the regular words “God and the Lamb” (B. H. Roberts, Life of John Taylor, p. 365); and often, especially since 1893, the Saints waved white handkerchiefs while shouting (James E. Talmage, House of the Lord, p. 150; Conference Report, April 1930, pp. 21–22). Often after the shout the congregation or choirs sang a song (“America,” “The Spirit of God,” or the Evan Stephen “Hosanna Anthem.”) But with these different modifications made from time to time during Church history, the basic pattern, repeated three times while waving white handkerchiefs, has persisted until the present.

Today, the shout is conducted at temple dedications and at solemn assemblies. However, in the past several other occasions and events were honored with the congregational Hosanna Shout:

1. At the close of the famous Sidney Rigdon Salt Sermon at Missouri in 1838

2. By the twelve before leaving for their missions to England, 1838

3. Upon arrival on English soil, Brigham Young and the rest of the Twelve with him, April 6, 1840

4. At a secret council of fifty meeting in Nauvoo, March 11, 1844, and April 11, 1844

5. At the laying of the capstone of the Nauvoo Temple, May 24, 1845

6. Upon entering the Salt Lake Valley for the first time

7. At several general conferences—April 11, 1852; October 6, 1862; April 9, 1882

8. At a 24th of July celebration in Brigham City—July 24, 1875

9. Occasionally, at a ward or stake conference

When the proper occasion arises for this spiritious congregational shout of praise and rejoicing (and it is now used only on rather special occasions), when the spirit guides the proper ecclesiastical authority, and when the congregation has been properly tutored and instructed in the sacredness and pattern of it, the Hosanna Shout is one of the most dramatic and impressive ceremonies in the Church.

“It is impossible to stand unmoved on such an occasion. It seems to fill the prairies or woodland, mountain wilderness or tabernacle, with mighty waves of sound; and the shout of men going into battle cannot be more stirring. It gives wonderful vent to religious emotions and is followed by a feeling of reverential awe—a sense of oneness of God.” (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 3, p. 317.) The word hosanna as we know it originated from two Hebrew words found in Psalm 118:25, and roughly means “Save us, we beseech thee.” [Ps. 118:25] (See also 2 Sam. 14:4; Ps. 20:9.) This psalm was recited by one of the priests every day during the procession around the altar during the seven-day holiday called the Feast of Tabernacles, when the people were commanded to “rejoice before the Lord. …” (Lev. 23:40). On the seventh day it was sung seven times, and when the priest reached verses 25 and 26, the trumpet sounded and all the people waved their branches of palms, myrtles, and willows (their lulab), and shouted the Hosanna many times. In fact, this seventh day of the feast was called the Great Hosanna. The Feast of Tabernacles was a season of great rejoicing for the Jewish people, and hence the Hosanna, though supplicatory at first, came to be equated with rejoicing. It was apparently used in this way in the New Testament.

The Hosanna became an acclamation of the multitude on the occasion of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It occurs six times in the Gospels. It is used alone in Mark 11:9 and John 12:13; it is twice followed by the dative “to the Son of David” in Matthew 21:9, 15 [Matt. 21:9, 15]; and it is used twice with the phrase “in the highest” in Matthew 21:9 [Matt 21:9] and in Mark 11:10. The element of rejoicing and praise even in an ejaculation or shout was present on this occasion as was the lulab or waving of branches or leaves.

The earliest actual use of the Hosanna Shout in the Church is not known. But it was most likely used from the very beginning. Indeed, the Lord commanded its use even before the Church was officially organized.

In March 1830 the Prophet received a revelation for Martin Harris in which the Lord commanded him to preach the gospel “even with a loud voice, with a sound of rejoicing, crying—Hosanna, hosanna, blessed be the name of the Lord God!” (D&C 19:37.) On several other occasions in the beginning years of the Church, the Lord commanded the use of the Hosanna Shout (D&C 36:3; D&C 39:19), and it is known that it was practiced. (Millennial Star, vol. 26, p. 504.) But in 1836 with the completing of the Kirtland Temple, the Hosanna Shout became well established in the Church. The Lord gave specific instructions pertaining to it for priesthood and general Church practice. (D&C 109:79–80; Documentary History of the Church vol. 2, pp. 381–92.)

  • Director of the Institute of Religion University of Utah