Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Helaman’s Sons

Helaman’s Sons

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 28, 2012

The Book of Mormon story of the “stripling warriors” has apparently been a favorite of our people for a long, long time. Here it is in musical form, as published in 1887:



And for the sake of search engines:

Helaman’s Sons.

Words by Joseph L.Townsend.
Music by Edwin F. Parry.

Called from their firesides and dearly loved homes
Nobly responding, they march to the fray,
Out to the land where the Lamanite comes,
By Antipus held at bay.

Noble two thousand yet in their youth,
Fighting for liberty, home and the truth;
Faithful in prayer, battling a-main,
Not one of their number is slain.

Taught from their infancy faith in the Lord,
Early instructed by mothers most dear,
Faithfully, prayerfully, hearts in accord,
Their counsels they now revere.

Charging their enemies, routing their bands,
Onward to victory ever they go,
Asking for strength as their labor demands,
As often they meet the foe.

Many a veteran, old in the war,
Falls by the foe in the desperate fight,
While the recruits never sword drew before,
Yet number none less each night.

O! what examples of faith for the young!
O! what encouragement mothers for you!
Think of their valor when foes you’re among,
As Helaman’s sons be true!



  1. I’m not real great at sight reading, but the melody on this looks to be high for everyone but sopranos and tenors, with the lowest melody note being b-flat, and going up from there. Plus five verses. With as slow as we sing in church, that’s a deal breaker all by itself.

    Comment by kevinf — September 28, 2012 @ 11:04 am

  2. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t caught on even after 125 years …

    Interesting Mormon artifact, though. We’ve got “home literature” telling prose tales based loosely on scripture, and some poetry. I like to see the Saints turn to our scripture and history for subjects for all kinds of art. It’s the execution that we’re still struggling with.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 28, 2012 @ 11:12 am

  3. Let’s see. Who’s Edwin Parry? Hail to the Brightness of Zion’s Glad Morning. Oh, Holy Words of Truth and Love. Okay.

    And now for the tune. Very high, very definitely Welsh. Is Parry a Welsh name? Yes. Edwin Parry was the son of John Parry, the first director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and they were very definitely died-in-the-wool, leek-eating Welsh.

    (Oh my. I hope that’s not racist.)

    I’ve always loved the stories of the Welsh beginnings of the Tabernacle Choir. Have any of those ever been told on Keepa?

    Comment by Amy T — September 28, 2012 @ 11:14 am


    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 28, 2012 @ 11:26 am

  5. Amy, inquiring minds want to know more, I’d love to hear that story. Are all Welsh singers naturally tenors and sopranos?

    Comment by kevinf — September 28, 2012 @ 11:35 am

  6. Ah, the Welsh heritage of our church music, part-singing and all. Sounds like a topic for another day. : )

    Comment by Amy T — September 28, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

  7. I dunno, Kevin. I seem to remember some serious bass voices in the “Welsh” choir in “How Green Was My Valley.”

    But the women’s parts are both extremely high by today’s standards–90% of the women in the church couldn’t sing the alto line, much less the soprano. (And 95% could sing the alto line if it were an octave lower, but that’s a different issue.)

    The men’s parts, by contrast are well within the range of any semi-talented tenor or bass. Except for all those low F’s–there aren’t enough real basses that can hit that note, unless they have a cold.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 28, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  8. I’ve noticed that a lot of hymn arrangements in the 1948 edition were shifted to lower keys in the 1985 version. Maybe voices were naturally higher then?

    I recognized Townsend’s name instead of Parry’s, as he’s listed in Nibley’s “Stalwarts of Mormonism.” He’s one of the most prolific contributions to the current hymnbook including favorites like:
    Hope of Israel, To Nephi Seer of Olden Time, Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each Other, and Reverently and Meekly Now.

    Comment by The Other Clark — September 28, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  9. Evan Stephens, who was born in Wales, has the most hymns in the current hymn book. He also was director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir longer than any other director before or since.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — September 28, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

  10. Hmmmmm…..not a well known fact, but a couple of months before my back made church impossible, I was called as ward music director.

    The bishop asked me to choose three months of hymns and special musical numbers. (Our ward has not had a choir for years, and I had intended to make myself choir director until they called someone else. The best laid plans.) I started with the three months, but couldn’t get my head around it. I would try to lay out the songs and groups to sing, and literally couldn’t make sense if it.

    After a lot of prayer and frustration, I decided to lay out the whole year instead. I went through the hymn book and marked every page that I felt inspired to include with a sticky note. After I had them all picked, I wrote the number and name on each sticky note, and then started plugging songs in. I got sacrament hymns finished, and then opening and closing hymns. One rest hymn a month also went pretty quickly. As I started plugging things in, some Sundays I knew that a particular group should sing a particular song. Other I just put the organization, and TBA.

    I turned in the whole year at once, and it was approved. I have copies of the schedule to the organists (we have rotating young women who play once a month) and then sent the assignments to the different organizations. The next week was my last week at a full sacrament meeting. I have asked a few times why I haven’t been released.

    It has been almost six months since I was there for more than sacrament. I was feeling really guilty about not having the choir up and going, and tried to resign so that someone else could do it. The response was that the music program was running better than anyone could remember it running. Having the assignments far ahead mean that the priesthood have actually learned their songs, by singing them over and over during their opening exercises. With 3-6 months to learn them, the hymns are being sung by more than three members. The Young Women and Primary love choosing their own songs, the priesthood and Relief Society enjoy having them assigned. The organists have the list for the entire year, and have been talking groups of members into singing the songs that the choir was supposed to sing. I guess Heavenly Father really needed an absent music director for our ward. Apparently I am most effective not being there.

    So, where does this song come in? I am getting started on next year’s music, and one request is to have some older hymns be sung be some groups. Since one if the High Councilors from our ward has helped adjust music for our ward, I am sending this to him to see if he can help make it in range for the men. They sing Elders of Israel the Sunday after conference, so they can start getting ready to sing this in January. 🙂

    Comment by Julia — September 29, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

  11. (Regarding all the comments about this piece being so high: it’s written for male voices (not mixed voices). The range is actually right-on for a men’s quartet.)

    Comment by David Y. — October 1, 2012 @ 9:42 am

  12. Oh, duh!

    Thanks David–I guess I should learn to read. But that 1st Tenor line–all those G’s–is still a bit high for the typical men’s chorus in the church these days.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 1, 2012 @ 9:55 am

  13. Maybe that stake president in Bountiful can put together a group to sing it at next year’s 24th of July parade!

    Comment by The Other Clark — October 1, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  14. Fat chance. Just cause he can find 2,000 boys willing to march in drag down Main Street in Bountiful doesn’t mean he can get ’em to sing.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 1, 2012 @ 10:42 am