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Dyslexia and a new font to combat it was not a topic I expected to discuss last week when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rolled out the first 13 songs for a new hymnbook that will be completed in 2026.

Six years after the project was first announced, one of the natural questions to raise at a news conference in the Tabernacle on Temple Square was why the project was taking so long.

Expected answers included the amount of time it takes for 150 people to evaluate 17,000 submitted original hymns, copyright issues with older hymns and the difficulty translating the poetry of hymns into dozens of languages. Those answers came up:

  • Evaluating so many proposed new hymns for the six priorities set by the First Presidency has been a gargantuan task.
  • Copyright issues do exist. The global hymnbook must meet the legal rules in over 180 countries, but the task is smaller than one might expect because those who submitted new hymns gave the copyrights to the church and many older hymns are no longer protected by copyright law, said Elder Michael T. Ringwood, a General Authority Seventy who has been on the committee for all seven years.
  • Translation is the real bottleneck, Elder Ringwood said. Capturing the spirit of the art of a poem and expressing it again in another language can be incredibly difficult. It’s far more difficult than translating a general conference talk.

Now do it 50 times over.

“Let’s put this in perspective,” said Ed Krenicky, the church’s product manager for the hymnbook. Speaking of the church hymnbook released in 1985 in English, he said, “It took them the next 37 years to get that book translated into 45 languages. In fact, the last language to receive the 1985 hymnbook got it in December of 2022. It was Mongolian, if you’re interested.”

The challenge with the new hymnbook project is that the First Presidency challenged the committee to translate it into 50 languages by 2030.

“That’s six years from now,” Krenicky said. “Think about that compared to the last hymnbook. When we talk about ‘what’s taking so long,’ this is actually monumentally fast.”

Then he said something interesting, that the project had become a testimony of God’s hand at work.

“The Lord watches over each one of his children,” Krenicky said. “And there was a lot that we needed to learn in order to make sure that each one of his children was taken care of.”

For example, the font in the 1985 hymnbook proved difficult for people with dyslexia and poor eyesight to read at small sizes. It used the well-known font, Palatino, and reduced the size to 93%.

“We had to devise a new font to be used,” Krenicky said. “So we worked with people to design a new font. These are things that the Lord puts in our path to be able to make this. He watches over everyone.”

Krenicky said the church’s fonts are named after prophets, so the new font designed for the new hymnbook is called McKay Neue, or the new McKay, as in President David O McKay.

“It is designed to help people with dyslexia or poor eyesight to read it better at small sizes,” Krenicky said. “It has a taller X height — the top of the letter or the size of the X — so as you’re looking at a book from this far away, you’re better able to discern what those different letters are.”

I walked away from the Tabernacle last week surprised by how much more quickly translation will be done for the new hymnbook and by the creation and name of the new font.

If you’re an English speaker who finds it pretty easy to read the newly added French hymn on your phone while you sing it, you have a translator and McKay Neue to thank.

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