I was surprised this year to learn that the beloved hymn “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” was altered from its original form sung at the time of Joseph Smith before appearing in the current LDS Hymnbook. I lived in Illinois and have visited Carthage Jail, in the very room where John Taylor sung this hymn at Joseph’s request just before the mob attacked the jail, killing Joseph and Hyrum.
What follows is a follow-up on a previous post about what is likely the closest version of what John Taylor actually sang that day. I have arranged it as a solo and a men’s trio.
This lovely hymn appeared in the 1909 Deseret Sunday School Songs, and in the 1927, 1948, and 1950 LDS hymnals, but not the 1985 edition – which is a pity, because it is one of the very few genuinely Latter-day Saint Christmas hymn tunes, written by Ebenezer Beesley.
This forgotten hymn by Parley P. Pratt appeared in the 1889 Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody. It is reminiscent of Brother Pratt’s better-known hymn, “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth”, with its before/after contrasting lines.
Many people know that William Clayton wrote the beloved “Come, Come Ye Saints” while the Mormon Pioneers were crossing the plains. You might even know that he wrote it after hearing about the birth of his son. But what you might not know is that he adapted the words from an English funeral hymn that shared the repeated phrase “all is well”. Here’s just s sampling:
What’s this that steals, that steals upon my frame? Is it death, is it death?
That soon will quench, will quench this mortal flame, Is it death, is it death?
If this be death, I soon shall be,
From ev’ry pain and sorrow free, I shall the King of glory see, All is well, all is well!
This beloved LDS Hymn first appeared in our Manchester Hymnal some time between 1847 and 1887; it has been included in every LDS hymnal since that time, set to the tune RUTH. Here is an alternate arrangement, set to an earlier shape-note tune entitled SABBATH MORNING. It first appeared with a article in the Times and Seasons, written by Alexander Neibaur, who was one of the first Jewish converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a friend to Joseph Smith. It is based on a text from the Psalms.
This is as close as we will ever get to the version that John Taylor actually sang on June 27th, 1844. It DOES sound familiar…
Many people do not realize that the tune of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” that is now in the hymnbook has been altered from the version that John Taylor sung at Carthage Jail shortly before the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. In this arrangement, Kurt does an excellent job of letting us glance back through history and gives a fascinating explanation about how this version came to be.