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You Have Been Listening to the Sunday Evening Broadcast: Early Hymns of the Restoration, 1933

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 13, 2012

Radio Program, Sunday, September 24, 1933
Directed by Elder George D. Pyper and The Church Music Committee

(Choir hums one verse of “Redeemer of Israel” and fades out with KSL announcement.)

Announcement: This broadcast comes over the combined facilities of KSL, Salt Lake City and KLO, Ogden, bringing to you, by remote control, from the Tabernacle at Ogden, Utah, the Sunday evening service of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the second of a series in which will be presented and occasionally dramatized some of the popular hymns of the Church. The next half hour will be devoted to some of the songs popular with the early “Mormon” converts and will feature two of the six sung at the dedication of the first “Mormon” temple. Mr. Floyd Farr, who will tell you the story.

Narrator (Mr. Farr): Near the shores of Lake Erie in the town of Kirtland, Ohio, in March, 1836, was dedicated the first public building erected by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At first it was called the House of the Lord, but later it became known as the temple.

This House of the Lord was used not only as a house of worship, but also as a place of learning where those holding the priesthood were taught the principles of the spiritual life, with such auxiliary subjects as history, grammar, Hebrew and Greek.

The Saints had been commanded by the Lord to build this edifice. Costing seventy-five thousand dollars, a very large sum, indeed, for those days and the small membership of the Church, its construction entailed great sacrifices on the part of the members of the organization. Nevertheless, these sacrifices were cheerfully made, and contributed largely to the growing anticipation on their part of the time when they should receive the predicted blessings therein. Never was a building erected, the completion of which was more anxiously awaited.

On the occasion when the temple was dedicated, two services were held. One of these continued from 8 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon; the other, which began in the early evening, did not end till 1 o’clock.

The promised blessings consisted in an unusual outpouring of the Spirit of God, partly in some open visions to the prophet and Oliver Cowdery, in which the “keys” of the gathering of Israel and of salvation for the dead were restored, by the ancient apostles, Moses and Elijah, the latter in fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy: “Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Most of the early hymns and all of those rendered on the occasion of the dedication were written by poets within the organization. These were composed to fit some tunes already known to the Saints. It is noteworthy that there were in the Church at this time men and women who could put into verse the spirit of the new movement, which was so different from the spirit of the churches they had renounced in order to embrace the new religion.

Among the most eminent of these poets were William W. Phelps and Parley P. Pratt, whose hymns are to be featured this evening. Concerning Mr. Pratt’s life and work something was said last Sunday evening. Mr. Phelps was a New Yorker, who joined the Church in Ohio. He had been the editor of a political paper in the Empire state, and was sufficiently prominent politically to have been seriously considered for the office of lieutenant-governor. For many years he was secretary to Joseph Smith.

One of the best hymns by Parley P. Pratt, sung frequently in those days, and still popular with the Saints is “Come, O thou King of Kings.” Like many other early Mormon hymns, its theme centers in the second coming of Christ. In the first stanza is introduced the general idea of Christ’s coming, for which there has been long, patient waiting; in the second, the king is importuned to “make an end to sin”; in the third the joy of the Saints on that appearance is described; and in the fourth we are told of the principal event following the second coming – universal recognition of Christ. I will read the complete hymn.

(Reads:)

Come, O thou King of Kings –
We’ve waited long for thee –
With healing in thy wings
To set thy people free.
Come,, thou desire of nations, come,
Let Israel now be gathered home.

Come, make an end to sin,
And cleanse the earth by fire,
And righteousness bring in,
That saints may tune the lyre
With songs of joy, a happier strain,
To welcome in thy peaceful reign.

Hosannas now shall sound
From all the ransomed throng,
And glory echo round
A new triumphal song;
The wide expanse of heaven fill
With anthems sweet from Zion’s hill.

Hail! Prince of Life and Peace!
Thrice welcome to thy throne!
While all the chosen race
Their Lord and Savior own.
The heathen nations bow the knee
And ev’ry tongue sounds praise to thee.

(Choir sings, “Come, O thou King of Kings.”)

Narrator: One of the hymns sung at the dedicatory services by William W. Phelps bears the title, “Now Let us Rejoice in the Day of Salvation.”

Its theme is redemption. It tells of the promises made to the Saints; of the conditions under which those promises will be fulfilled; and of the power by which redemption will be wrought out. Often in the congregations of the Saints we hear this song.

(Reads:)

Now let us rejoice in the day of salvation,
No longer as strangers on earth need we roam;
Good tidings are sounding to us and each nation,
And shortly the hour of redemption will come,

When all that was promised the Saints will be given,
And none will molest them from morn until ev’n,
And earth will appear as the garden of Eden,
And Jesus will say to all Israel, “Come home!”

We’ll love one another, and never dissemble,
But cease to do evil, and ever be one;
And when the ungodly are fearing and tremble,
We’ll watch for the day when the Savior will come.

When all that was promised the Saints will be given,
And none will molest them from morn until ev’n,
And earth will appear as the garden of Eden,
And Jesus will say to all Israel, “Come home!”

In faith we’ll rely on the arm of Jehovah
To guide thro’ these last days of trouble and gloom,
And after the scourges and harvest are over,
We’ll rise with the just when the Savior doth come.

Then all that was promised the Saints will be given,
And they will be crown’d with the angels in heav’n.
And earth will appear as the garden of Eden,
And Christ and his people will ever be one.

(Choir sings.)

Narrator: A recent visitor to Kirtland was asked if he had noticed the sparkles in the walls of the temple. Upon answering in the affirmative he was informed that when the building was erected the women brought their colored glass jewels and these were ground into the mortar and glisten in the walls today. While not entirely authenticated the sparklers bear some evidence of the truthfulness of the story.

“Redeemer of Israel,” another hymn by Mr. Phelps though not rendered at the dedication of the Kirtland temple, was sung at many other temple gatherings and is one of the best of the Mormon hymns – truly devotional in spirit and poetic in form. It is characteristically Mormon in tone. Its four stanzas center in the idea of group redemption. The first is in praise of the Redeemer, “Our King, our Deliverer, our all.” The second expresses the feeling that Jesus the Christ is to come to redeem his people. In the third are suggested the sufferings of the Saints in the desert, amid enemy rejoicings. It closes with expressions of joy at the “good tidings” of deliverance.

(Reads:)

Redeemer of Israel, our only delight,
On whom for a blessing we call,
Our shadow by day, and our pillar by night,
Our King, our Deliverer, our all!

We know he is coming to gather his sheep,
And lead them to Zion in love;
For why in the valley of death should we weep,
Or in the lone wilderness rove?

How long we have wandered as strangers in sin,
And cried in the desert for thee!
Our foes have rejoiced when our sorrows they’ve seen,
But Israel will shortly be free.

As children of Zion, good tidings for us,
The tokens already appear.
Fear not, and be just, for the Kingdom is ours;
The hour of redemption is near.

(Choir repeats song.)

Narrator: During the dedicatory services Sidney Rigdon of the First Presidency spoke of the toils, privations and anxieties of those who had labored upon the walls of the house; there were some who had wet them with their tears in the silent shades of night while praying to God in heaven to protect them and stay the hands of the ruthless spoilers, who had uttered a prophecy, when the foundations were laid, that the walls would never be reared.

After the unanimous vote of those assembled, sustaining the authorities of the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith offered the marvelous dedicatory prayer, recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. Here are a few quotations:

“Thanks be to thy name, O Lord God of Israel, who keepest covenant and showest mercy unto thy servants who walk uprightly before thee, with all their hearts –

“Thou who has commanded thy servants to build a house to thy name in this place.

“And now thou beholdest, O Lord, that thy servants have done according to thy commandment.

“And now we ask thee, Holy Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of thy bosom, in whose name alone salvation can be administered to the children of men, we ask thee, O Lord, to accept of this house, the workmanship of the hands of us, thy servants, which thou didst command us to build.

“For thou knowest that we have done this work through great tribulation; and out of our poverty we have given of our substance to build a house to thy name, that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people.”

By way of admonition to the Saints and a plea for mercy for the nations the prayer continues:

“Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;

“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.

“Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.

“Remember the kings, the princes, the nobles, and the great ones of the earth, and all people and the churches, all the poor, the needy, and afflicted ones of the earth;

“O Lord God almighty, hear us in these our petitions, and accept the dedication of this house unto thee, the work of our hands, which we have built unto thy name.”

(Pause with music swell.)

The services were climaxed by the singing of “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning,” another hymn written by William W. Phelps.

After more than ninety years it is a favorite hymn among the Latter-day Saints. This is because it expresses in a vigorous way the great theme of Restoration.

As originally written, this hymn contained six stanzas, with a chorus, which is given after each stanza. The recent hymn books contain but four. The first stanza is general and tells of the restoration of the “blessings of old”; the second speaks of the resulting growth in “understanding and power”; the third urges the promulgation of these blessings and this knowledge of the “visions and glories”; the fourth suggests the blessedness of the day when “the lamb and the lion shall lie down together without any ire.”

The spirit of God like a fire is burning!
The latter-day glory begins to come forth;
The visions and blessings of old are returning,
And angels are coming to visit the earth.

We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven.
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever. Amen, and amen!

The Lord is extending the Saints’ understanding,
Restoring their judges and all as at first.
The knowledge and power of God are expanding,
The veil o’er the earth is beginning to burst.

We’ll call in our solemn assemblies in spirit,
To spread forth the kingdom of heaven abroad,
That we, through our faith, may begin to inherit
The visions and blessings and glories of God.

How blessed the day when the lamb and the lion
Shall lie down together without any ire,
And Ephraim be crowned with his blessings in Zion,
As Jesus descends with his chariot of fire!

(Choir sings entire song.)

Narrator: Fervent testimonies were borne. Brigham Young spoke in an ancient tongue and the dedicatory services of the first Temple built by the Latter-day Saints nearly a hundred years ago were brought to a close.

And now in contemplation of that great spiritual feast and in quiet meditation we listen to the choir rendering Watts’ beautiful hymn set to music by Joseph J. Daynes, the first organist of the Mormon tabernacle, Salt Lake City.

(Reads:)

Great God attend while Zion sings
The joy that from thy presence brings
To spend one day with Thee on earth
Is worth a thousand days of mirth.

Might I enjoy the meanest place
Within Thy house, O god of Grace;
Not tents of ease, nor thrones of power
Should tempt my feet to leave thy door.

(Choir sings two verses, then resolves into humming “Redeemer of Israel” to end of broadcast.)

The program tonight has been presented under the supervision of George D. Pyper, for the music committee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has come through Radio KSL, Salt Lake City, and KLO, Ogden, by remote control, from the Mormon Tabernacle at Ogden, Utah. the music has been rendered by the Ogden Tabernacle choir, Lester Hinchcliffs, conductor, with Sam F. Whittaker at the organ. The narrative is by John Henry Evans; the narrator, Floyd Farr.;

Next Sunday night, at eight-thirty, will be presented a dramatization of the circumstances immediately surrounding the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, in which will be featured James Montgomery’s hymn, “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.”



9 Comments »

  1. Minor typo: that’s Watts (as in Isaac Watts) who wrote that last hymn.

    But I have a question: has anybody ever heard that song in a church meeting in the past 50 years? (I can suggest a few that we should skip in favor of this!)

    Comment by Mark B. — April 13, 2012 @ 8:34 am

  2. I enjoyed this. An interesting thing about all of these hymns is the 1985 hymnal still uses the same tunes as from the 1889 Psalmody. (Though “Great God, Attend While Zion Sings” in the Psalmody had the altos, tenors, and basses sing a different rhythm than the sopranos.)

    Two typos:
    * “Great God, Attend” is by Isaac Watts
    * The second line of the first verse ends with ‘springs’.

    Comment by Jay Anderson — April 13, 2012 @ 8:52 am

  3. Ardis, did you transcribe this or was a transcript published?

    Comment by KLC — April 13, 2012 @ 9:11 am

  4. H’okay, I’ve proofread this now as I didn’t do last night — no guarantees that I’ve caught everything, but I did fix 20 typos, one for each hour I worked yesterday immediately before programming this post.

    Jay, I acknowledge that the word should properly be “springs,” but I’m leaving it “brings” in this instance because that is the word used in my source. Whether it was an inadvertent error there, or whether the Choir consciously changed the word for some reason, as they occasionally did/do, I do not know — but I do acknowledge your correction, thanks.

    KLC, the script was published soon after the broadcast; I’ve merely typed it up to share here.

    If readers like radio plays like this, I remind you that you can find a handful of others by going to the Topical Guide (link in upper left-hand corner of this page) and searching for the category “You have been listening …”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 13, 2012 @ 9:25 am

  5. These transcripts are a fascinating read. I love radio and am a big fan of today’s podcasts which offer the possibility of resuscitating this gorgeous medium of sound and imagination. “From within the shadows of the everlasting hills” is a phrase which has dominated my memory all my life and still evokes rich and complicated feelings…

    Comment by Mina — April 13, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  6. “Great God, Attend While Zion Sings”

    I’ve never heard it sung. I have used it as prelude music for sacrament meeting, which would technically provide an affirmative answer to Mark’s question in comment 1.

    It would be difficult for a small, untrained congregation to sing, and perhaps even a larger congregation, and it is very much in the style of the Psalms, which don’t seem to be used much in our culture. (Unfortunately. We read through all of them for our family scripture study last year. We’re also singing through each of the hymns in the hymnbook for Family Home Evening, so that my children will have sung each of them at least once in their life, no matter whether they’ll ever hear any given hymn again. Sight reading hymns can be a useful skill.)

    By the way, I wish “Come, O Thou King of Kings” was used more. I like it — it is one of the grandest of the millennial hymns.

    Comment by Amy T — April 13, 2012 @ 11:26 am

  7. Well, Amy, there are a few in there that I’d suggest you not bother singing, in hopes that you or your children will never have to suffer through them being sung at church. : )

    Besides, when I’m the boss, they’re coming out!

    Comment by Mark B. — April 13, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

  8. There’s a spirit of Milleniallism throughout the commentary and all the cosen hymns that seems absent from today’s brand of Mormonism.

    I didn’t know Brigham Young spoke in tongues at the temple dedication (who knew it was an ancient language?)

    I was familiar with the fine-china-in the wall-plaster story, but thought that had been debunked. Sounds like it was already recognized as a dubious claim in 1933…

    Comment by The Other Clark — April 13, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  9. Yeah, that surprised me. If it was already recognized as at least questionable in the early ’30s, why was it still being taught in seminary in the early ’70s? (and no doubt later, but I mean when I was in seminary — I know I heard it then if not before.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 13, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

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