Another well-loved, often sung (at least in July!) hymn with Church History ties. I have heard the story of the writing of this hymn countless times, and yet I still love it. William Clayton was in one of the first groups to cross the Mississippi in the great exodus from Nauvoo. The first week of a frigid (remember--east coast humidity there!) February, William had to leave his very pregnant wife behind. A couple of months after leaving he received word that his wife had delivered and both she and the baby were fine. In the midst of great trial and suffering, he found joy. And if you know my blog, you know that is the theme of my life, so it is no wonder that I have a tender spot for the hymn that he wrote because of that joy in the midst of trial.
It fit so perfectly with what the Saints were just then embarking on--the long journey west. Yet every verse, except for the reference to the west in verse 3, applies perfectly for our personal journeys in life. This song took on greater meaning when my cousin Jordan died about 2 months before his 16th birthday. The weekend of his death, our ward choir was putting on our delayed Pioneer program. I didn't make it through Verse 4. Off and on it has been a difficult one to sing, most recently being last year when my aunt died around Pioneer Day. I stood in front of my ward congregation leading the song, unable to sing as I cried through the verse. With the deaths I have experienced in my life, this verse takes on the meaning not because of the loss I have felt, but because of the truth I can sing of that they "are free from toil and sorrow, too" and believe that "with the just [they] shall dwell."
For my own personal life, that verse is one to sing in the sense that "Thy will be done." "If I perish, I perish." But I would love to live some more days to experience more things in this life--have a chance to grow and learn and serve. So, if I am blessed with a few more days on this earth--how very grateful I will always be for the Lord giving them to me!
From the history book
There was already a hymn called "All is Well" that Clayton wrote new words to. Another Church history anecdote with this hymn was shared. I think there are many. This hymn has been in every LDS hymnal since 1851. I remember once practicing at another religion's church when I lived in West Virginia. Always intrigued by hymnals, I looked inside. And I found this hymn. So apparently it made its way to other hymnals, too!