Posted by: rcottrill | April 14, 2010

Today in 1846 – Come, Come, Ye Saints written

Englishman William Clayton converted to Mormonism in 1837, moving to America in 1840. He became the private secretary of the cult’s founder, Joseph Smith, later heading to Utah with Mormon leader Brigham Young. Once settled there, he played second violin in the Salt Lake City orchestra.

William Clayton wrote the Mormon hymn Come, Come, Ye Saints, claiming he created the song during the group’s trek to Utah. But part of it was already published two years before, in a song about death and heaven. In 1966 Avis Christiansen took some of Clayton’s opening stanza and produced a fine hymn which emphasizes not the locating of the Mormon sect in the American West, but the prospect of the Christian’s home in heaven. Here is part of Mrs. Christiansen’s song:

Come, come, ye saints, no toil nor labour fear,
But with joy wend your way;
Though hard to you life’s journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
God’s hand of love shall be your guide,
And all your need he will provide;
His pow’r shall every foe dispel,
All is well, all is well!

God hath prepared a glorious home above
Round His throne, for His own,
Where they may rest forever in His love,
Toil and tears all unknown.
There they shall sing eternal praise
To Him who saved them by His grace.
Through heaven’s courts the song shall swell,
All is well, all is well!

(For more about Mrs. Christiansen and her hymns, see Today in 1895.)

(2) Today in 1902 – Edward Cottrill Born
MGraphic Edward Cottrill (young)y father was a gospel musician with many years of experience playing in a church orchestra, playing the organ, and leading choirs and other musical groups. He also composed a simple tune called Garside to go with Henry Harbaugh’s hymn, Jesus, I Live to Thee (see Today in 1817).

Back in the 1940’s Edward Cottrill’s quartet had a weekly gospel broadcast over station CHML in Hamilton, Ontario. That was the era of live radio, and the program was preceded by a crime drama. On one particular hot summer’s evening, in the drama, the police were supposed to track down an offender, finally surrounding him in a small shed. Then they were to break down the door, and one of the officers was to shout, “Look out! He’s going through the window!”

At this point the script called for the sound effects man to make the appropriate shattering noise. What was used for this was a collection of small metal plates which, when hit in just the right way, sounded like breaking glass. But, the fellow had this device in his pocket, and when he reached for it with sweaty, nervous fingers, it got stuck. The more he panicked and pulled, the stucker it got!

Meanwhile, of course, you couldn’t just have dead air time. So, the “police” were frantically ad-libbing. “Look out! [sounds of scrambling feet] He’s going through the other window…” “No, he’s coming back your way…! He’s going through the other window”

My father laughed, telling the story, saying there seemed to be more windows than you could ever imagine in that tiny shed! But finally, in desperation, somebody spotted a vase of fresh flowers on the studio piano. He grabbed it, and hurled it to the floor with all his might, shouting the appropriate line. Then, the crook was nabbed, and the program came swiftly to an end–with broken glass and water everywhere.

In those days, actors used to slip completed pages of their scripts off the top and carefully let them fall to the floor. These were now scattered about, a sodden mass. The studio looked as though some kind of hurricane had just swept through! But there was no opportunity to clean up. It was time for my father’s gospel program.

The actors in the drama moved away, and the Dayspring Quartet stepped gingerly around the microphone to sing their theme song, “Here from the world we turn, Jesus to seek…” The listening audience was unable to appreciate the unplanned irony of those words!

That lovely hymn, used each week for their opening, is called Moments of Prayer. It was written in 1876, by Fanny Crosby.

Here from the world we turn, Jesus to seek;
Here may His loving voice tenderly speak!
Jesus, our dearest Friend, while at Thy feet we bend,
O let Thy smile descend! ’Tis Thee we seek.

Saviour, Thy work revive; here may we see
Those who are dead in sin quickened by Thee;
Come to our hearts tonight, make every burden light;
Cheer Thou our waiting sight; we long for Thee.

(3) Today in 1912 – Nearer, My God, to Thee played
BGraphic Titanicased on the report of a Canadian passenger, it is a persistent claim, whether true or not, that Nearer My God to Thee was played and sung as the now famous Titanic sank with a loss of hundreds of lives. (For the story of the writing of this well-known hymn, see Today in 1805.)

Wallace Hartley, the ship’s bandleader, and a Methodist, was known to like the song, and had requested that it be played at his funeral. We do know that the band courageously played on deck as passengers were being loaded into the lifeboats. Sadly, all of the musicians went down with the ship.

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!

In spite of what various dramatized accounts of the sinking of the great ship portray, if  the hymn Nearer, My God, to Thee was played as it sank, it was not the familiar American tune Bethany that was used, but more likely the English tune Horbury. The video clip below comes from the 1958 film A Night to Remember. It get’s points for historical accuracy for using Horbury!


  1. […] *This is a much revised version of a Mormon hymn, rendering it more in keeping with orthodox Christianity. (See Today in 1846.) […]

  2. […] Lowell Mason) is almost certainly not the one used. To learn more. See the third item on the page here. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  3. Regarding Come, Come Ye Saints – did Avis Christiensen’s version have the same name? Is there somewhere it could be purchased in a book or sheet music. You once helped me find another so-called “Mormon” hymn, Abide With Me Tis Eventide, in a book on Amazon. I also was able to get a recording of it from the Oasis Chorale, a Mennonite group – really very beautifully done. I recently heard the tune of Come, Come Ye Saints on the radio but had a bad connection and could not hear many of the words, but the last line of the chorus was “Sing His praise, sing His praise” in one verse and in another “God is great, God is good.” – instead of All is Well, All is Well. They did not give the name of the group singing it. It was on WFME Family Radio and you have to have the name and exact time it was played for them to telll you what it was. If you have any info on this, I would appreciate it.

    • Well, let’s see. You have several questions there. As noted in my blog, the song was written by a Mormon, and it refers to the cult’s trek across America to find a place they could settle–which eventually turned out to be Utah. The original third stanza speaks of that.

      We’ll find the place which God for us prepared,
      Far away, in the West,
      Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
      There the saints, will be blessed.
      We’ll make the air, with music ring,
      Shout praises to our God and King;
      Above the rest these words we’ll tell –
      All is well! All is well!

      So the journey being described is not first of all a pilgrim journey to heaven, but a Mormon’s search for an earthly home. But it doesn’t take much adjustment to remove the Mormon slant. Check out the version of Come, Come, Ye Saints on the Cyber Hymnal here. In the altered version, the above lines become: “We’ll find the place which God for us prepared, / In His house full of light” (referring to Jn. 14:2-3).

      Avis Christensen’s version is quite different–though the theme of the Christian’s pilgrim journey from earth to heaven remains. The hymn is #405 in Hymns for the Living Church, first published by Hope Publishing Company in 1974. And, yes, the title of the hymn there is the same. I’m not familiar with the version you heard on the radio that has altered the closing phrase.

      I hope that’s a bit of help. It’s a great hymn, if it can be separated from its Mormon roots and associations.

    • Thanks so much for the information about this hymn. I will probably get a copy of the hymnal and perhaps, who knows, I will find the song sung by someone other \than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I can’t believe you answered me so quickly. God bless you. In His love, D. Tamblyn, Toms River, N.J.

  4. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  5. Thank you so much for the information on these very touching hymns/songs. My Choir sings “Moments of Prayer” in the Kru dialect of Liberia, West Africa; but I do not actually get the wordings. Now that I’ve got the wordings, Thanks so much and I’m grateful. Moreover, please send me the wordings of Come, Come Ye saints. I appreciate your kindness. Remain blessed. Beatrice T. Jlopleh

    • Thank you for your words of encouragement. As for Avis Christiansen’s Come, Come, Ye Saints, the words and music can be found in Hymns for the Living Church, a hymn book available quite inexpensively from May God bless you.


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