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Song of the Wheat (1915)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 19, 2011

With its words written by a daughter of Brigham Young, its music by the director of the Tabernacle Choir, and its dedication to the General Relief Society president whom Brigham Young had called to save and store wheat against a day of need, it’s hard to imagine a song with a more Mormon pedigree than 1915′s “Song of the Wheat.” Note that the song was published during World War I (accounting for the imagery in verse 4), and just before the Relief Society sold its stored grain to the United States government.

As you read the words (typed out below the sheet music for ease of reading and for the sake of search engines), listen to the music recorded by Keepa’s own “Phantom:”

Song of the Wheat (audio link)

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The Song of the Wheat

Lovingly dedicated to Mrs. Emmeline B. Wells

Words by Susa Young Gates
Music by Evan Stephens

I sing the song of the planted wheat,
The beautiful baby wheat,
As it lies in the cold earth’s bosom deep –
Its leaves are folded, its soul asleep,
Awaiting the springtime sunbeams unfurled,
To push its way up to the glowing world.
Then sing the song of the planted wheat,
It follows the busy plough.
No drone may sow it or find it sweet –
’Tis grown by the sweat of man’s brow.

I sing the song of the ripen’d wheat,
The billowing blossoming wheat,
With green nodding heads the wheat whispers low,
Both heedless of rain, or the winds that blow;
For health and wealth and success are borne,
On the sickle that swings in the early morn.,
Then sing the song of the ripen’d wheat,
The billowing blossomed wheat;
For health and wealth and success are borne
On the sickle that swings in the morn.

I sing the song of the garner’d wheat,
The yellowing, drying wheat,
for it holds both life and faith as a part
Of the force that lies in its tiny heart;
And men must garner that women may eat,
So the wide world harvests the ripen’d wheat.
Then sing the song of the garner’d wheat,
The yellowing, drying wheat,
For men must garner that women may eat,
So harvest the ripen’d wheat.

I sigh and mourn for the desolate field,
That only red carnage yield;
While widows are made and orphan’s cry,
And groans of the dying reach the sky;
The bin is empty and the scythe grows rust,
For war has trampled the wheat in the dust.
Then garner the precious, precious wheat,
The starving hosts are gaunt.
Go out and glean that the babes may eat,
And store ’gainst their bitter want.

I sing, I sing of the gospel of truth,
The heavenly seed of truth,
‘Twas sown by a Prophet who watched it thrive –
Who gave his life that the seed might live.
The world needs bread, but the world needs more,
The Christ and his message the Prophet bore.
Then sing to the Lord of the harvest field,
And pray for the reapers, then
The gospel seed shall have mighty yield
In the souls of the children of men.



6 Comments »

  1. Ardis -

    When did Brigham Young specifically take action on calling “the General Relief Society president…to save and store wheat against a day of need”? Just wondered if this could be pointed out as a specific prophecy fulfilled or was it just a general you should always be prepared type of direction. Just curious.

    Comment by Cliff — July 19, 2011 @ 9:39 am

  2. Cliff, Brigham Young called Emmeline B. Wells in 1876 to a specific mission organizing the women of the church to raise and save and store wheat — that’s why wheat stalks are part of the RS symbol, and decorate the exterior of the RS building in Salt Lake.

    Withdrawals from the wheat stores were made frequently through the years, to help farmers with seed, or during bad harvest years, and to send to survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake — so I tend to think of it as an ongoing “be prepared” kind of program; the “day of need” comes around for most of us at different times. Certainly, though, when the great reserve was sold all in one transaction with the government, many Latter-day Saints did see it as a kind of prophetic preparation for that specific moment.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 19, 2011 @ 10:01 am

  3. Thanks Ardis. I really appreciate your ability to ferret out these interesting bits of Mormon history that would otherwise be lost to the Mormon church members and the general public when they read your blog.

    Comment by Cliff — July 19, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  4. For some odd reason, I have a vision of ETB turning over in his grave when he hears the words sickle and wheat. Thank goodness the word hammer does not appear next to sickle. ;-)

    Comment by Brian Duffin — July 19, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

  5. Well, that explains the song’s dedication.

    Based on the music, I suspect this was intended to be sung by a women’s chorus (SSAA?). With a little imagination, I can combine Phantom’s music with one of Ardis’ old “Latter-day Saint Images” photos and transport myself back in time a century or so.

    Comment by The Other Clark — July 19, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

  6. Nice!

    Comment by David Y. — July 20, 2011 @ 1:11 am

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