In the 1930s, when the genre was still quite young, the Church broadcast radio dramas over KSL Radio. They were intended to sell a missionary moment rather than soap, and they were often broadcast late at night when radio signals carried over greater distances and reached more than an LDS audience. No sound recordings have been preserved to the best of my knowledge, but some scripts do survive.
Try reading with your ears as well as your eyes. Imagine the urgent intensity of the well-spoken announcer, hear the sound effects produced at the microphone in the choir loft, and feel the dramatic swell of the Tabernacle organ as it signals a change from one scene to another. Cue music …
Radio Program Over KSL Sunday, January 21, 1934
Editor’s Note: in the following radio continuity the account of the writing of “O Ye Mountains High” and “Blow Gently Ye Wild Winds” are the words of Charles W. Penrose. However, the dramatization of the circumstances surrounding the writing of “School Thy Feelings,” including the words spoken by Elder Penrose and the other characters, are purely fictional, having been written imaginatively by the author, Richard L. Evans. The two English characters, Brothers Gardner and Coleby, have never existed in reality, but the dramatization is in strict accord with the spirit of the terse written record left by President Penrose.
Announcer: As another Sabbath nears its thoughtful close, we bring you once more the Sunday evening Radio Service of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church.
Tonight’s presentation deals further with the hymns and anthems of this people, for in them – in their music and in their words – we find some of the noblest expressions of the great ones of this Church – expressions of eternal truth, phrased in the language of poets and inspired men – matched with the music of God-fearing, humanity-loving masters, who wrote mighty anthems and hosannas, and gave expression to the everlasting testimonies of truth that burned within their hearts and cried out for utterance through the musical talent that the Lord God had given them.
(Organ modulates into “Great God Attend While Zion Sings,” the first verse of which is sung by the choir.)
Great God, attend while Zion sings
The joy that from thy presence brings;
To spend one day with thee on earth
Exceeds a thousand days of mirth.
When Israel has mourned, Israel’s poets have left a record of deathless verse that bears witness of the dealings of the Lord with his people. When Israel has rejoiced, Israel’s mighty men of words have left a graven record of her joys, in solemn songs of reverent jubilance.
And so the journeyings, persecutions, achievements, triumphs and God-given precepts of the Mormon people have been preserved to generations yet unborn, in song – hymns of the restoration, hymns of the martyrdom, hymns of the plains and of proselytes from far and distant lands, hymns of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and mighty anthems of the heavens, and of life’s meaning in the eternal plan of salvation.
(Organ continues playing background throughout the preceding paragraph and modulates again into “Great God, Attend While Zion Sings,” two more verses of which are sung b the choir.)
(Organ modulates into “School Thy Feelings, Oh My Brother,” and continues to play softly for announcer’s background.)
Announcer: Among the hymns of the Mormon Church is found one titled “School Thy Feelings.” It was written in England. It speaks the message of a burdened heart wrongfully accused and painfully misunderstood.
One of the most vigorous defenders of the faith ever to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days, was Charles W. Penrose, an English convert of the mid-nineteenth century, a missionary of many years’ service, and author of the words of many of the Mormon people’s most meaningful hymns.
In his native England, Elder Penrose had served voluntarily and ardently in missionary labors for ten years, principally in and near the city of Birmingham, in which district he became presiding elder. The restored Church was young in that land. Its members were devout, ardent, but human withal, and some of them were given to gossiping, fault finding and unwarranted criticism to those in authority. The written record that Charles W. Penrose has left takes us back beyond the span of memory for most of us who are living today, to the mission office in Birmingham, near three-quarters of a century ago.
(Music fades out and voices come in.)
(All characters speak with a pronounced English accent.)
Gardner: Oh, good evening to you, Brother Coleby. I didn’t expect to find you here so early.
Coleby: I shouldn’t have been here either, Brother Gardner, except that it’s a bit raw out yonder this evening, and I thought I’d come and set the fire a bit early.
Gardner: Yes, indeed, it’s a bitter night. I was right pleased to find the fire already started when I came.
Coleby: Brother Penrose must have been here already. I can’t fancy anyone else coming so early on a night like this.
Gardner: Aye, it’s a good thing he did. It’s little enough heat it’s giving off in the room.
Coleby: It will warm up all right. It lacks forty minutes of being time for services.
Gardner: Aye, that’s so. We’re both quite earlier than usual.
Coleby: And a long, beastly walk it must have been for you, too.
Gardner: Four miles in a fog and rain! It’s perishing.
Coleby; Shouldn’t have made the effort, myself, I think, had it not been that President Lyman is to be here.
Gardner: Aye, it’s seldom enough that the president comes. Have you heard that he has surely arrived?
Coleby: I have that. Sister Harkness was telling that he had been delayed in Coventry and has come but late this afternoon.
Gardner: I’m right glad to hear that. No doubt it will be sometime before we see him down this way again.
Coleby: Quite right, but it’s quite a story there’ll be to tell him now.
Gardner: What story is that?
Coleby: Haven’t you heard? No, of course you haven’t. I quite forgot that you haven’t been here for a fortnight.
Gardner: No, indeed, I regret that I haven’t; has there been some trouble?
Coleby: President Penrose has removed some of the Mission Office furniture to his home.
Gardner: Surely he must have done it with good reason.
Coleby: Aye, reason enough, I suppose. Around the branch it is being said that he needed to increase his comfort since he became presiding elder.
Gardner: But the furniture was no longer needed here. Indeed, it has been much in the way since the meeting room was enlarged.
Coleby: But that’s not the point of the matter.
Gardner: He has labored long among us and has devoted himself to the work of the Church without money. If there was no longer need for the furniture here he is certainly deserving of it.
Coleby: But some of the members are saying that the furniture was bought with their tithes and offerings, and that he should never have taken it home. There are whisperings about, and some have even quit coming to sacrament meetings because of it.
Gardiner: They judge hastily. Even if what you say is true, the brethren have no right to stay away from sacrament meeting, nor to accuse Brother Penrose secretly without knowing more about the circumstances.
Coleby; Aye, but he is the branch president.
Gardner: No matter. In the church of Jesus Christ everyone stands on his own knowledge and testimony. Even if we think they who hold offices err, you and I must answer only to our own consciences and to our Father in heaven, and must not judge uncharitably in our own hearts, for he has not given us the right to judge our brethren.
Coleby: It may be as you say, but still there is disaffection in the branch.
Gardner: Does Brother Penrose know of this disaffection?
Coleby: I think no one has told him yet, but he must know. At least he knows that there are whisperings and that he is coldly treated by many.
Gardner: Misunderstandings should not be permitted to linger and warp the reason of men and destroy the kindly spirit. This thing should be cleared up tonight. If none of the other brethren informs President Lyman of the circumstances I shall take it upon myself.
(Music dwells 15 seconds and fades.)
President Lyman: Elder Penrose, my dear brother, before you came this evening some of the brethren have hastened to report that there is gossiping and disaffection in the branch.
Elder Penrose: I regret that it seems to be so, President Lyman. My heart has been heavy because of the change that has come over this branch during the past fortnight. Did those who reported tell you why there are ill feelings here?
Lyman: Yes – and no. At first they were reluctant and said only that the spirit of the gospel seems not to dwell with the Church in this branch. Perhaps you are able to tell me why?
Penrose: I regret that I cannot. I have my own opinion about the matter. I have heard whisperings. Some stay away from services. But none have been open in their confidences to me.
Lyman: Perhaps I have found out what you have not been able to. Frankly, Brother Penrose, it is said in the branch that you have taken Church furniture from the mission office to adorn your own home.
Penrose: (Obviously disturbed and temperamentally ruffled.) President Lyman, I have labored earnestly and diligently for the Church for more than ten years without wage. I have neglected my own affairs completely. I have paid my tithes and offerings on such increase as the Lord has been pleased to bring to me. I have never taken one farthing of the Church’s money or property. I can scarcely believe that these people who are dear to me, and with whom I have labored with love and diligence so long, could think that I would do this thing. If that is the result of my labors, perhaps my mission here is fruitless and I should no longer preside over them.
Lyman: Perhaps the circumstance itself was not so much to blame as the gossiping that followed it.
Penrose: When the mission office was in great need of furniture and had no money to purchase any, from my own home and family I brought to this place the furniture that we used here so long. Gradually the branch acquired some funds, and the office furniture was added to from time to time. The enlargement of the meeting room, about which I wrote you, somewhat crowded the mission office quarters. And so I took back to my home the furniture which I had brought here. All this time my own home has badly felt the need of that which I lent to the branch. As you know, my long labors in the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which have lasted more than ten years, have prevented my accumulating worldly goods. And my home has often been in want. If long association in the church of Jesus Christ cannot teach trust, charity, confidence and brotherly kindness, perhaps our labors for the salvation of souls are more vain than we like to believe.
(Organ begins playing softly – “School Thy Feelings.”)
Lyman: Your disappointment and troubled feelings are in a measure justified. When this matter has been explained and love and confidence restored between you and your brethren you will be grateful for every opportunity that you have had for bringing a knowledge of the gospel to those who are seeking truths.
(Organ swells slightly with “School Thy Feelings” and fades again for Announcer’s background.)
Announcer: Charles W. Penrose was a man of militant nature – a fighter with a quick temper and a sharp tongue. Being overwhelmingly in the right, and falsely accused, his wrath was wholly justified. But in this instance, instead of giving vent to his rage he controlled himself until he reached home.
Announcer: Stung to the heart, he sorrowed deeply. After years of service in the ministry of the Church, his friends had misjudged and misunderstood him. That evening the verse, “School Thy Feelings,” was written – a song verse begotten in pain and mental struggle for personal consolation. Brother Penrose had no intention of making the poem public in the beginning, but when he discovered that the appeal of the selection was universal, after reading it to a friend who found much comfort in it, finally allowed it to be published.
The composition comprises five line stanzas and has been set to several refrains. The one to which it is sung tonight is that of the “Vacant Chair.”
The hymn is a veritable sermon, and is expressive of the same thoughts given and the spirit manifested by the Master on the Mount of Olives, when He said: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
(Quartet sings first two verses of “School Thy Feelings, Oh My Brother.”)
(After quartet concludes organist continues to play, “School Thy Feelings” softly for reader’s background.)
School thy feelings, O my brother,
Train thy warm, impulsive soul:
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.
School thy feelings, there is power
In the cool, collected mind;
Passion shatters reason’s tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind.
School thy feelings; condemnation
Never pass on friend on foe
Though the tide of accusation
Like a flood of truth may flow.
Hear defense before deciding,
And a ray of light may gleam,
Showing thee what filth is hiding
Underneath the shallow stream.
Should affliction’s acrid vial
Burst o’er thy unsheltered head,
School thy feelings to the trial,
Half its bitterness hath fled.
Art thou falsely, basely slandered?
Does the world begin to frown?
Gauge thy wrath by wisdom’s standard.
Keep thy rising anger down.
Rest thyself on this assurance;
Time’s a friend to innocence,
And that patient, calm endurance
Wins respect and aids defense.
Noblest minds have finest feelings,
Quivering strings a breath can move,
And the Gospel’s sweet revealings
Tune them with the key of love.
Hearts so sensitively moulded,
Strongly fortified should be,
Trained to firmness, and enfolded
In a calm tranquility.
Wound not willfully another;
Conquer haste with reason’s might.
School thy feelings, sister, brother,
Train them in the path of right.
(As the reader concludes the organ modulates from “School Thy Feelings” into “O Ye Mountains High” for announcer’s background.)
Announcer: Later in life Charles W. Penrose came to Utah, and became one of the First Presidency, or highest governing quorum of the Mormon Church, but the incident we are going to relate now happened long before that day, and pertains to another glorious and meaningful hymn of the Mormon people. Charles W. Penrose has long since passed away but one who knew him well speaks again for him tonight in his words of many years ago.
(Organ continues playing “O Ye Mountains High’ softly for background.)
Reader (J.F. Smith): “O Ye Mountains High” was written somewhere along about 1854, published in 1856. I was walking on a dusty road in Essex. My toes were blistered and my heels too. I had been promised that if I would stay in the mission field another year I should be released. That was the cry every year: “Brother Penrose, if you will stay and labor another year, we will see that you are released to go to Zion.” But it kept up for ten years. Of course I had read about Zion and heard about the streets of Salt Lake City, with the clear streams of water on each side of the street, with shade trees and so on. I could see it in my mind’s eye, and so I composed that song as I was walking along the road, and set it to a tune – the Scotch ditty, “O Minnie, O Minnie, Come O’er the Lea”; those were the opening words. When I got to a place called Mundon in Essex, we held a cottage meeting, and in that meeting I sang it for the first time it was ever sung. Of course the words were adapted to a person who had never been to Zion then, but it was afterwards changed in a very slight respect or two, to fit people who had gathered with the Saints. It was inspirational and seemed to please President Brigham Young.
(Organ modulates to beginning of verse which is sung by soloist and chorus – 2 or 3 verses.)
In thy mountain retreat,
God will strengthen thy feet;
On the necks of thy foes thou shalt tread;
And their silver and gold,
As the Prophets have told,
Shall be brought to adorn thy fair head.
O Zion! dear Zion! Home of the free.
Soon thy towers shall shine
With a splendor divine
And eternal thy glory shall be.
Here our voices we’ll raise,
And we’ll sing to thy praise,
Sacred home of the Prophets of God;
Thy deliv’rance is nigh,
Thy oppressors shall die,
And the Gentiles shall bow ‘neath thy rod.
O Zion! dear Zion!
Land of the free,
In thy temples we’ll bend,
All thy rights we’ll defend,
And our home shall be ever with thee.
(Organ modulates from “O Ye Mountains High” into “Blow Gently Ye Wild Winds” playing softly for announcer’s background.)
Announcer: The day finally arrived when Charles W. Penrose was permitted to come to Utah. It was in 1861. Thirty days on the ocean, sea-sick, travel-worn, at the mercy of winds and waves; and then nine days overland from New York to St. Joseph. The Civil war had broken out and travel was slow. Then three days to the Missouri River, followed by eleven weeks on the plains, driving two yoke of oxen. Finally Zion was reached. Elder Penrose was united with the body of the Church, and settled for a brief time in Farmington, Utah, where, on one occasion, a violent storm so impressed itself in his memory, that three or four years later, when he had again returned to England, he wrote the hymn, “Blow Gently Ye Wild Winds.” We hear now an abbreviated version of his own account of the events of that storm, which prompted the writing of this hymn.
(Organ improvises “Furioso” music and wind storm effect, rising in intensity as the account of the storm progresses.)
J.F. Smith: Just a few words about Farmington. There I had the experience of my life. I had obtained a small log cabin which faced the east. One afternoon I noticed the wind was blowing from the east to the west and the clouds had settled low like a pillow on the mountains. The wind was rising and I knew that something was going to happen.
In order to protect my house I fastened my door. It had a little latch on it – no lock.
The wind grew stronger until it was blowing terribly. I piled up two heavy boxes of clothing against the front door, and helped to secure it by using a pair of scissors in the latch. My wife lay in bed with twins, two little children three days old. I lay down on the floor and the wind began to screech and howl in a way you cannot imagine; it was a horrible sound, rushing and screeching like whirlwinds. It blew everything loose on the house and made an awful noise. The door blew open pushing the boxes of clothing before it and the snow blew right over that bed. So strong was it that I was unable to close the door and the snow poured in over my feet and ankles. Finally, by waiting until the wind lulled a bit, I was able to get the help of two strangers, and it took us three-quarters of an hour to nail the door up. Suddenly the window crashed and I looked out and saw that the wind had blown the ground bare of snow – had actually blown rocks out of the ground, and one had smashed the window. The snow was blowing in. I had to take a buffalo robe and nail it across the window to keep the snow from coming in. We were in that condition all day long, and allo that night the wind howled and blew and tore and not until the next morning did it subside. Then we learned of the damage it had done. Cows and sheep were destroyed. Barns blown away, and there was great damage everywhere.
As long as life shall last, the relentless fury of that wild wind shall never be forgotten.
(Organ modulates into “Blow Gently Ye Wild Winds” as background for the reader.)
Blow gently, ye wild winds
With frost in your breath,
That smite the glad stream
With the chill hand of death,
When shrieking and fierce
O’er the mountains ye come,
Blow gently, I pray
On my loved ones at home!
Thou ice-crowned King Winter,
With storms at thy side
Thou white-breasted Snowdrift,
The stern monarch’s bride,
While binding the sunshine
And chilling the air,
Be gentle in Utah.
My loved ones are there!
(Choir sings two verses of “Blow Gently Ye Wild Winds.”)
(Organ continues to play for announcer’s background.)
Announcer: In addition to the three L.D.S. hymns that have been dramatically portrayed tonight, Charles W. Penrose gave many other noble expressions to the songs of the Mormon people. Many other inspired writers of music and verse have contributed undying literature and anthems which give breath and fire and spirit to the history and precept of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When Israel has mourned, Israel’s poets have left a record of deathless verse that bears witness of the dealings of the Lord with his people. When Israel has rejoiced, Israel’s mighty men of words have left a graven record of her joys in solemn songs of reverent jubilance.
And so the journeys, persecutions, achievements, triumphs and God-given precepts of the Mormon people have been preserved to generations yet unborn in song – hymns of the restoration, hymns of the martyrdom, hymns of the plains and of proselytes from far and distant lands and hymns of the heavens and of life’s meaning in the eternal plan of salvation.
(Choir sings “Hark, Listen to the Trumpeters” two verses.)
(Organ modulates into “O Ye Mountains High” which is hummed by the choir for Announcer’s background.)
Announcer: So closes another Sunday evening radio service of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This presentation – “Hymns of the L.D.S. Church” was written and produced by Richard L. Evans. The entire series is under the direction of Elder George D. Pyper of the Church Music committee.
The part of Charles W. Penrose tonight was portrayed by J.F. Smith; President Lyman by Paul C. Kimball; the two English brethren, Chester K. Dowse and Harry R. Allen. For the singing of the hymns we are indebted to the Eighteenth ward choir under the direction of Albert J. Southwick and a quartette composed of Mr. Southwick, Richard P. Condie, Howard Frazee and John Wood. Emma Worsey was the soprano soloist. Mr. Erroll Miller is the regular accompanist for the Eighteenth ward choir. Frank W. Asper was at the organ this evening.
Another presentation – “Hymns of the L.D.S. Church,” will come to you at this same hour – 10 p.m., next Sunday.