Sunday Mixtape


“For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart.” (D&C 25:12)

“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (Article of Faith 13)

I learned in seminary as a young person that keeping the Sabbath day holy included listening only to hymns and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Sundays while avoiding any “secular” music. I realized even then, though, that the line between “secular” and “sacred” is not clear cut. So much of what I discover that is sacred, that swells my heart, that makes me want to be better and live more faithfully come from “worldly” sources. It is a false dichotomy, this separation between “us” and “them,” “the Church” and “the World.” I made this list of Sunday Songs to rejuvenate my Sabbath-day listenings and better acknowledge the light, wisdom, faith, and good works around me, both within and without of the church. And since making mixtapes are the most fun when you share them with others, I’m gifting this Songs for Your Sunday playlist to all of you, to anyone interested.

For the Apple Music playlist, click here. Otherwise, click the links below for the songs via YouTube.

And for Spotify listeners, click here (thanks again for the link, Mike!).

“Morning has Broken” — Cat Stevens
An obvious but necessary selection.
Favorite line: “Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden / Sprung in completeness where his feet pass”

“Sunday Morning” — The Velvet Underground
The least religious offering in this list, perhaps, but I couldn’t resist adding it.
Favorite line: “Sunday morning brings the dawn in”

“Heaven on a Sunday” — Paul McCartney
My husband gave me this song on a mixtape when we were dating long-distance. When I listened to it the first time, this epitaph Kurt Vonnegut said he wanted on his tombstone jumped into my head: “THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC.” This song has always been that kind of a song for me, a song that makes an eternity with my loved ones seem like the only logical outcome after this earthly adventure.
Favorite line: “We’ve been learning a song / But it’s a long and lonely blues”

“Word on a Wing” — David Bowie
Borrowed from Nina Simone (and others) and recorded in the midst of his coke-addled LA days, I love Bowie’s version of this hymn in large part because Bowie performed it from his lowest low. It reads not just of desperation, but of hope.
Favorite line: “Lord, Lord, my prayer flies like a word on a wing / Does my prayer fit in with your scheme of things?”

“Balm in Gilead” — Nina Simone
It was hard to narrow my list down to just one Nina Simone hymn.
Favorite line: “If you can pray like Peter / If you can preach like Paul / Go home and tell your loved ones / He died to save us all.”

“Instant Karma” — John Lennon
A hymn that, to me, represents Zion as a place where “we all shine on” because we are all actively doing and acting and loving and living. (Also a handy song to incorporate into any Sunday School lesson about the three kingdoms of glory.)
Favorite line: “Why in the world are we here / Surely not to live in pain and fear”

“Before this World/Jolly Springtime” — James Taylor (and Sting)
My husband Dave contributed this song when I told him about my idea for this post. It’s a lovely, sweet hymn.
Favorite line: “So let us love and let us not delay / The world is old and it will never last”

“Just a Closer Walk with Thee” — Willie Nelson & Patsy Cline
The Church would be more true if we sometimes got to play hymns accompanied by slide guitars.
Favorite line: “I am weak but Thou art strong / Jesus keep me from all wrong”

“I Think I Understand” — Joni Mitchell
This song, to me, is about communion. Church should always feel like “taking my thirsty fill of friendship.” It should be a place where we distance ourselves from fear by enjoying the company of each other.
Favorite line: “When forests rise to block the light that keeps a traveler sane / I’ll challenge them with flashes from a brighter time”

“Shelter from the Storm” — Bob Dylan
Reminiscent of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” but with even more verses.
Favorite line: “Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm.”

“Redemption Song” — Bob Marley & The Wailers
It was hard to select just one Bob Marley hymn, too. This one is particularly heavy and hopeful.
Favorite line: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds”

“His Eye is on the Sparrow” — Whitney Houston
God’s eye on every fallen sparrow has always been one of my favorite Christian scriptures. And Whitney Houston is everything.
Favorite line: “I sing because I’m happy / I sing because I’m free”

“Hymn to Love” — Cyndi Lauper
Particularly touching because Lauper performs it so softly. Translated from the French song, “Hymne á l’amour.”
Favorite line: “Those who love will live eternally / In the blue where all is harmony”

“I Won’t Back Down” — Tom Petty 
I can’t fully explain it, but this song always makes me cry. It is a prayer that I share every time I hear it.
Favorite line: “You can stand me up at the gates of hell / But I won’t back down.”

“All Things Must Pass” — George Harrison
I originally had “My Sweet Lord” as the Harrison track, but I changed it out after my husband recommended this one instead. They are both excellent tracks, but this one resonated with me more today.
Favorite line: “Daylight is good / At arriving at the right time / It’s not always going / To be this grey”

“Heal the World” — Michael Jackson
A classic because it should be. A prayer and a hymn as relevant now as it was then.
Favorite line: “There are ways to get there / If you cared enough for the living / Make a little space / Make a better place”

“Gabriel’s Message” — Sting
A Christmas song that isn’t so Christmassy that you can’t listen to it all year round. 
Favorite line: “Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head / ‘To me be as it pleaseth God,’ she said / ‘My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name.’ / Most highly favored lady, Gloria, Gloria”

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” — Elvis Presley
I had the chance to see Carousel on Broadway last week, and I was reminded how emotional this song makes me. Since coming home, I’ve listened to several covers of the song, and this is my favorite version so far. I’m realizing I haven’t listened to nearly enough Elvis gospel music. My next Sunday mixtape should really just be comprised of Elvis tracks.
Favorite line: “When you walk through a storm hold your head up high
/ And don’t be afraid of the dark.”

“Quiet” — Paul Simon
An underrated song that illustrates reverence, mindfulness, and sacred spaces.
Favorite line: “I am heading for a place of quiet / Where the sage and sweet grass grow / By a lake of sacred water / From the mountain’s melted snow”

What sacred Sunday tracks would you put on your own Sunday mixtapes?


  1. All the thumbs up, Grover. Thank you!

  2. Thanks, Ardis!

  3. I’ve got one of these playlists on my phone. We share a few. Some others I have include:

    I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, U2
    On the Turning Away, Pink Floyd
    Presence of the Lord, Blind Faith
    Jesus Is Just Alright With Me, Doobie Bros
    Revival, Allman Bros
    Kylie, Mr Mister
    Bargain, The Who

  4. Mark Brown says:

    This is a great post.

    One of my votes goes to Rosetta Tharpe.

    “I’m gonna lay down my heavy load, down by the riverside.”

  5. Mortimer says:

    Love your list!!!

    ‘Sweet Little Jesus Boy’ is an old black spiritual, sung by many pop musicians. I like the version by Straight No Chaser. Favorite line “you have shown us how, we are trying. Master you have shown us how, even when you was dying”.

    John Denver- Annie’s song. It’s a love song, but could describe God’s love as experienced through nature. “You fill up my senses, like a night in the forest”

    John Denver- Country Roads. Metaphor for the labyrinth of life. “Take me home, to the place I belong”.

    (How many John Denver tacks can I list? For brevity, I’ll move on, but you can just tell Alexa to play all his stuff on shuffle.)

    The Byrds- “Turn, Turn, Turn”.

    The Ash Grove – British folk song, recently done by the King’s Singers. Favorite line
    “I lift up my eyes to the broad leafy dome,
    And others are there, looking downward to greet me./The ash grove, the ash grove, again is my home.” (Mormon feminists can cheer this song on…campaign to put it in the hymnal- right behind “oh my father”).

    Bruce Hornsby- That’s just the way it is. Addresses issues of race and poverty.

    Phil Collins- Another Day in Paradise. A song calling us to act to resolve homelessness. (Proceeds from the song were donated to homeless shelters).

    Eric Clapton- tears in heaven. Written as a tribute to his 4 year old son who died. The entire song is spiritual in nature. He’s reflecting on his son’s perfection and place in heaven, and whether he would and the patent/child relationship there. “Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven, would it be the same, if I saw you in heaven. …beyond the door there’s peace I’m sure, and I know there will be no more tears in heaven.”

    Pete Seeger/Artie Guthrie/John Denver/ Others. Inch by inch. A simple children’s prayer to bless the garden and our lives.
    “Inch by inch, row by row
    Please bless these seeds I sow
    Please keep them safe below
    ‘Til the rain comes tumbling down”

    Elvis Costello. Veronica. A song about caring for his grandmother in a nursing home, remembering one’s spirit.

    Paul McCartney- Let it be. It’s about the eternal nature of families watching through the veil. His mother’s name was Mary McCartney- it’s about her- not The Mother Mary and his vision seeing her after her untimely death that left his father completely lost and with broken faith. It’s about forgiveness and peace. He once gave an interview describing all this, which make the words especially poignant. “When I find myself in Times if trouble (my) mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, “let it be, let it be”. And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, “let it be, let it be.” …and when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me. Shine in till tomorrow- let it be. I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. “

    This old house – various artists from Rosemary Clooney, to Bill and Mary Gaither, the Statler Brothers, etc. “ain’t gonna need this house no longer, I’m a gettin ready to meet the saints”

    Mike and the Mechanics- the living years. A song about the rift between father and son- conflict. “I wasn’t there that morning, when he past away. I think I caught his spirit later that same year, I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s newborn tears, I just wish I could have told him in the living years. Say it loud, say it clear…”

    And of course- Annie Lennox – the Eurhythmics- Missionary Man. “Don’t mess with a missionary man/Oh, the missionary man, he’s got God on his side/ He’s got the saints and apostles backin’ up from behind/Black eyed looks from those Bible books/He’s a man with a mission, got a serious mind…”

  6. The other other Chad says:

    It is Well (live) – Bethel Music & Kristine DiMarco – restores my hope
    All is Well – The Sabre Rattlers – a unique version of Come, Come, Ye Saints
    The Water is Wide – Karla Bonoff – we all need help
    Living Prayer – Alison Krause – every-Sunday listen
    Awake My Soul – Mumford and Sons – wake-up Sunday song
    Between Here and Gone – Mary Chapin Carpenter – comfort after my dad died
    From a Distance – Nanci Griffith – because we need reminded
    Little Victories – JD Souther – our family anthem
    Our Lives – The Calling – heart-pumping religion
    Let Your Love Flow (Gospel Mix) – Bellamy Brothers – better than the top-40 version

    And a strange one, that, for me, is a love song to a church with so much potential:
    The Hard Way – Mary Chapin Carpenter – lyrics:
    Show a little inspiration, show a little spark
    And show that things that drew me to you and stole my heart
    And tell me something I don’t know instead of everything I do
    And look at me as if I mean something to you

    Show a little passion, baby, show a little style
    And show the knack for knowing when and the gift for knowing how
    And have a little trust in us when fear obscures the path
    You know we got this far, darling, not by luck, but by never turning back
    Some will call on destiny, but I just call on faith
    Listen to your heart, and what your heart might say
    Everything we got, we got the hard way

  7. I love these comments so much, and I’m adding all these tracks to my Sunday-listening lists. The other other Chad, those Mary Chapin Carpenter lyrics are resonating with me, too. I can’t wait to give it a listen later today.

  8. “The Cross” by Prince.

  9. The Cross by Prince

  10. I don’t know why that posted twice but it’s ok cuz it’s a great song

  11. rjamesh says:

    “Down to the River to Pray” – Alison Krauss

  12. Thanks, JJ! I was hoping someone would recommend some Prince. I knew that was a major blindspot in the playlist.

  13. As much fun as slide guitars in the chapel would be, I’m holding out for tubas, as in Tuba Skinny “Just a Closer Walk.

    What are some of your other Nina Simone favorites?

    Looking forward to exploring all these suggestions.

  14. rapidgrowth says:

    It’s great to see others’ lists. And to see others finding inspiration in music beyond our tradition’s narrow boundaries. Here are some of mine:
    I’ll Be Glad by Bonnie Prince Billy (such a good spiritual folk song)
    In My Heart by Moby
    The Greatest Gift by Sufjan Stevens (and his whole album Seven Swans)
    Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young
    Neil Young’s album Prairie Wind
    Pedro the Lion’s album Winners Never Quit
    The compilation album Nearer that was released by Deseret Book has versions of some hymns that I really like.

  15. Some great ideas for a mixtape here.

    I stayed home from church with a sick 3-year-old today, and during his nap I listened to Neal Morse’s “One.” Modern day prodigal son story done in quality progressive rock.

  16. Xander Harris says:

    Everything The Lower Lights have recorded. Also The Carter Family, Ralph Stanley, and Johnny Cash did some great gospel tracks.

  17. Tyler Lewis says:

    Love this!! I love Shelter from the Storm. May even be my favorite Dylan tune. You inspired me to make my own list:
    “He Wrote the Book” by Hiss Golden Messenger
    “Blessed Be the Name” by Mississippi John Hurt
    “God Moves On the Water” by Blind Willie Johnson
    “He’s Calling Me” by Como Mamas
    “I Am the Light of This World” by Rev. Gary Davis
    “Tide of Life” by Phil Cook
    “Peaceful Dream” by Mavis Staples
    “Somebody Was Watching Me” by Pops Staples
    “Jump For Joy” by Jake Xerxes Fussell
    “Ring Them Bells” by Bob Dylan

  18. J. Stapley says:

    Though I still play, I don’t really listen much anymore. This is fun though. I thought I’d these two:

    Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us, by Allison Kraus and Robert Plant.

    The Transfiguration, by Sufjan.

  19. jlouielucero says:

    Sounds of Silence and Bridge Over Troubled Water Simon and Garfunkel

  20. MDearest says:

    I second anything by Alison Krause, and Sufjan Stevens is another favorite. Thanks for all the suggestions. In another life, when I volunteered at the local Salt Lake listener-sponsored public radio station, I would play “Easy to Slip” by Little Feat in heavy rotation. It’s still as relevant as ever to me, and I would enjoy hearing it on any Sunday. But that one might not resonate with everybody, so another suggestion for an uplift is this one, that brought a closer understanding of our Mother:

    (Sure On This Shining Night, sung by U of U choir)

  21. Youraveragemormon says:

    Down In the River To Pray by Allison Krause

    Hallelujah (the Pentatonix or original Leonard Cohen)

    Danny Boy (a family favorite)

    Prayer by Ke$ha

    Temporary Home by Carrie Underwood

    Goodnight My Angel by Billy Joel

    Bach or Rachmaninov piano pieces— both composers have spoken deeply to me

    Let It Be by Paul McCartney

    Prince of Egypt Soundtrack

    Kyrie by Alta Motettkor

    Preacher by One Republic

    River by Joni Mitchell

    Violin Concerto in d minor by Sibelius, played by Joshua Bell

    Compass by Lady Antebellum

    Glory by John Legend and Common (from Selma)

    When David Heard That Absalom Died by Eric Whitacre

    Too much to name by Eric Whitacre

  22. Lord Don’t Move that Mountain, Mahalia Jackson. I mean, really any Mahalia Jackson, but this one’s my favorite. Because, duh.
    Lord Can You Hear Me, Spiritualized. This song encapsulates for me the spiritual power of prayer even (and sometimes especially) when it goes unanswered.
    Lots of Brandon Flowers songs: Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Magdalena, Playing with Fire, Wonderful Wonderful, The Life to Come, The Calling, Uncle Jonny. There’s something very Mormon about big ambitious stadium-filling anthems with themes of deserts, mountains, sin, and justice.
    When the Man Comes Around, and God’s Gonna Cut You Down, both by Johnny Cash. Both powerful calls to repentance.
    “The Plan,” Osmonds. It’s just so weird and so Mormon.
    Mink Car, They Might Be Giants. I don’t know why I like this absurd song so much, but it just feels like perfection is small, absurd things: the very definition of filling the measure of it’s creation and having joy.
    Older, They Might Be Giants. Because Momento Mori.

  23. Lots of great ideas here, but I will add a few from my 70s country rock days:

    “Look Within,” written by Jim Messina, and “If it Wasn’t For You,” written by RItchie Furay, and both recorded by Poco.
    “Our House,” by Crosby, Stills, & Nash
    Also, i don’t know if you can get it anywhere, but the version of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” performed by David Johanson and Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls) at the end of the Arthur Kane documentary, “New York Doll” is great.

  24. A couple more to propose.

    “Yahoo” by Erasure. Actually, the entire “The Innocents” album is fairly spiritual in nature.

    “Lightning Crashes” by Live. Powerful song about the cycle of life and death.

  25. richellejolene says:

    Love this idea! There is lots of popular music that is sacred to me, but two songs that come immediately to mind are Gregory Porter’s “Take Me to the Alley” (which I would absolutely love to hear performed in Sacrament meeting) and Laura Mvula, “Father, Father” (especially the recording with the Metropole Orkest).

  26. Also, Jesus Walks by Kanye. I can’t believe I forgot that one

  27. Antonio Parr says:

    As an ardent seeker of sublime songs of faith, these represent the best of what I have found. Every one is worth a listen. Every lyric is worth a read

    (The last song is from Christian artist Andrew Peterson. Both video and song are so beautiful as to require inclusion to the list of the otherwise mainstream and/or alternative and/or fringe artist included on this list.)

    1. Bruce Cockburn: “All the Diamonds”.

    2. Bob Dylan: “Every Grain Of Sand”.

    3. Mark Heard: “Strong Hand of Love”.

    4. Luke Brindley: “Broken Land”:

    5. Julie Miller: “Broken Things”.

    6. Pierce Pettis: “That Kind of Love”.

    7. The Call: “Let the Day Begin”.

    8. Vigilantes of Love: “On to Bethlehem”.

    9. Andrew Peterson: “Is He Worthy?”

  28. Thank you for sharing! I agree that the line WE draw between secular and sacred is ridiculous. Here are some of my favorites for Sundays:

    “Broken” – Patrick Watson

    “It’s Alright” – Fractures

    “Don’t Be Scared” – Andrew Bird

    “You Can’t Rush Your Healing” – Trevor Hall

    “Up There” – Trevor Hall

    “Everything I Need” – Trevor Hall

    “Ponytail” – Panda Bear

    “Dear God” – The Roots

    “Separator” – Radiohead

    “Give Up the Ghost” – Radiohead

    “I Fought the Battle of Trinidad & Tobago” – Loney Dear

    “Grown Ocean” – Fleet Foxes (*my personal favorite*)
    Energetic and driving throughout, littered with powerfully meaningful lyrics. I feel compelled to share many of the lyrics here because this song needs to be heard by everyone!
    “You would come to me then without answers
    Lick my wounds and remove my demands for now
    Eucalyptus and orange trees are blooming
    In that dream there’s no darkness alluded…
    I know someday the smoke will all burn off
    All these voices I’ll someday have turned off
    I will see you someday when I’ve woken
    I’ll be so happy just to have spoken
    I’ll have so much to tell you about it…
    In that dream I could hardly contain it
    All my life I will wait to attain it
    There, there, there”

    And Caleb Darger for good indie-folk covers of hymns :)

  29. Patty Griffin, “Up To The Mountain (the MLK song)”

  30. Jennifer says:

    Anything. Anything at all by Mahalia Jackson. And I second Mortimer’s appreciation for John Denver.

  31. Lord, Help Me Jesus- by Kris Kristofferson is one of my absolute favorite not church “hymns.” “Looking for Space” “I Want to Live” and “Come and Let Me Look In Your Eyes” are immensely moving to me. I may be too big of a John Denver fan. I don’t want to move too far secular, but some of K’naan’s rap is deep and spiritually searching.

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