Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “Israel Reigns”: A Song by William W. Phelps

“Israel Reigns”: A Song by William W. Phelps

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 20, 2012

There is a story (apparently true, from limited checking) that the lively “Dixie” was a favorite tune of President Abraham Lincoln. It was so heavily identified with the Confederacy, though, that it was not sung in the North during the Civil War. After the fall of Richmond, Lincoln requested that it be played again at Washington events.

The tune was well known in Mormon Utah, too, and was the tune specified by our old friend William W. Phelps for a song he wrote and presented to Brigham Young 150 years ago. Tell me, who but Phelps would rhyme “Joseph” with “knows of” or “Jesus” with “please us”??

Sing it through once, and I’ll bet you catch yourself sometime later today singing a line or two:

Israel Reigns

By W.W. Phelps
Tune – Dixie.

‘Tiz sweet to know, that the Lord has spoken, –
And a joy to watch the token –
Ev’ry day; ev’ry day; ev’ry day, –
Israel reigns;
‘Tis sweet to see the light of Zion,
And to hear Jehovah’s lion –
Clear the way; clear the way; clear the way. –
Israel reigns.

Chorus. For we love the light of Zion
That light – that light –
That makes us wise, to win the prize:
We love – We love – We love the light of Zion;
We love – We love – We love the land of Zion.

We love the words of the prophet Joseph –
While the gentile only knows of
War and wo; war and wo; war and wo, –
Israel reigns;
Up, up! ye royal priesthood holders, –
Joseph’s robe’s on Brigham’s shoulders, –
Clear the way; clear the way; clear the way, –
Israel reigns.

Chorus. For we love the light of Zion, &c.

Now is the day for the song of Jacob, –
All the mighty ones to wake up, –
Far away; far away; far away, –
Israel reigns;
The truth has come to man and woman, –
Little children – all that’s human, –
Clear the way; clear the way; clear the way, –
Israel reigns.

Chorus. For we love the light of Zion, &c.

The day has come when we look for Jesus, –
With his promis’d ‘rest’ to please us, –
As we pray; as we pray; as we pray, –
Israel reigns.
The earth must teem again as Eden, –
Ev’ry thing in virtue breeding, –
In the day; in the day; in the day, –
Israel reigns.

Chorus. For we love the light of Zion, &c.



  1. “in virtue breeding”

    Oh my. Now there’s a new approach to that YW value.

    Comment by Coffinberry — March 20, 2012 @ 7:22 am

  2. I’m sorry, but I simply must sing it as “breedin'” to rhyme with “Eden.” Or is that, “Ed’n?”

    Comment by Matt — March 20, 2012 @ 8:18 am

  3. This is choice. I’m going to suggest the Church Music committee add this to the new hymnbook edition they’re working on :)

    The Mormon Tabernacle Choir shoud have sung these lyrics to the tune on their classic album. If they can substitute the words to Ave Maria, why not Dixie, too?

    Comment by The Other Clark — March 20, 2012 @ 9:11 am

  4. I second Clark’s motion. : )

    Comment by Amy T — March 20, 2012 @ 9:22 am

  5. No kidding, I had to play “Dixie” as an organ solo (!) at a funeral yesterday. I tamed it down a bit so it sounded a bit more dignified and less “swing-your-partner-round-and-round.” But still . .

    And then this post this morning! Who knew that I was really playing a thoroughly-Mormon tune?!

    Comment by David Y. — March 20, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  6. When it “reigns” it pours!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 20, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  7. My mom would sometimes wake us up in the morning by calling, “Wake up, Jacob” (pronounced jake up). I wonder if Sister Phelps called little Willy that way.

    This is so fun. What a history lesson.

    Comment by Carol — March 20, 2012 @ 11:08 am

  8. I suspect my knowledge of the chorus for “Dixie” must be off, as I can’t get the words to match the tune in my head. At home, I would try singing it, but here at work, in a not so private cubicle, I’m not sure I could explain myself. I guess I ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

    Biscuits and grits, anyone?

    Comment by kevinf — March 20, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  9. kevinf, now that you mention it, I suspect there’s a line missing just before the “we love — we love –” bit. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to check that before tomorrow.

    Sorry, all.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 20, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  10. Rats. I just wrote an amusing comment which was lost in a glitch of the internet.

    But Bro. Phelps’s line about “everything in virtue breeding” reminds me of a Priesthood Session of conference from the 80s when Pres. Benson said “And remember, young men, the importance of proper dating.” My dad leaned over and said, “Did he say ‘propagating’?”

    Comment by Mark B. — March 20, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

  11. Mark B #10, that is choice.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — March 20, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

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