This arrangement by Mack Wilberg is amazing (but it does leave a verse out, FYI).
Growing up in the Church, and loving Church History, and attending BYU, this is one of the "over-sung" songs. Granted, in my musical preferences no good or great song can ever be over-sung. It definitely can be sung so much that we sadly neglect so many other great hymns. Yet we sing these ones over and over because they resonate with us, and we love to join together singing it. This particular hymn was written in the very early days of the Church, and sung at the dedication of the first temple built in our dispensation. That was a really big thing, and it has become a standard among the LDS ever since.
Like yesterday's hymn, this must have been so exciting for the composer to write as they watched the Gospel being restored, the Spirit being poured out upon the Saints as they gathered together, sacrificed to build a temple, and started going forth to preach the Gospel. This song's feelings and text continue today as we have seen the number of missionaries increase, temples being built all over the world, continued guidance from the Lord through the Spirit, and the Second Coming even closer than 180 years ago.
This is one of the hymn's I have memorized. (Helps when you sing it all the time since birth!). Lines that I love:
*Angels are coming to visit the earth
*The Lord is extending the Saints' understanding
*The knowledge and power of God are expanding; The veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst
*To spread forth the kingdom of heaven abroad
*That we through our faith may begin to inherit The visions and blessings and glories of God
*How blessed the day when the lamb and the lion Shall lie down together without any ire
*As Jesus descends with his chariot of fire!
*The entire chorus.
This hymn fills me with joy, excitement, and anticipation for what is to come as we build the Kingdom. There is a reason that the first section of this hymnbook are the "Restoration songs." The Gospel is Good News, and that's how we should start out the hymns--good news, the the full truths of the Gospel have been restored again to earth!
Tidbits from "the history book"--which for those interested is Our Latter-Day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages by Karen Lynn Davidson--one of my favorites! (At this point, I pause to read the few paragraphs and then sum up, comment, whatever. It's a work in progress right now--just so you know what is happening here. :-) Always fun for me to see what I have commented on and then what Sister Davidson said!)
When this was sung at the Kirtland Temple dedication, it was to the same tune as what we now sing Now Let Us Rejoice (Hymn #3). I remember us singing it to that tune at some point in my life. A Doctrine & Covenants class? Most likely at some point with my Nauvoo semester peoples. Maybe even in the Kirtland temple. But I have sung it, and it goes well. I just love the current tune we sing, which was first published in 1844 for use of missionaries in New England. Some believe it may have been the tune Hosanna, but is not called Assembly. They aren't sure and no one knows it origin. Whatever it is, I know it is heavenly inspired! Because I feel that this is one of those songs that the tune is absolutely perfect with the lyrics. The history book also mentioned 2 verses included in the 1835 hymnal. They have more reference to the Old Testament as well as the washing & anointing ordinances performed in the temple (which ironically, were the only ones that were able to be done in the Kirtland temple).
Also, this hymn is sung at every temple dedication! Because it is so apropos. :-)