My first opportunity to really become acquainted with “Come, Come, Ye Saints” (Hymns, no. 30) was in a little stone tabernacle in southern Idaho, where I grew up. Inside that little tabernacle built out of lava rock by the local members of the Church back in the late 1880s, there was a stand, a podium similar to what we have today, and then a pipe organ in the back, similar to the beautiful pipe organ we have in the Tabernacle on Temple Square but smaller. In that little tabernacle, when we sang William Clayton’s “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” I felt the spirit and power of the music would raise the roof. You could feel it because of the power, the faith, and the testimony of the members.
William Clayton’s father was a teacher, and William had received a good education. He was a good penman, he was good with figures, and he was good at writing and keeping records. He was taught and baptized by the Heber C. Kimball missionary group in the early days of the Church in England. They understood and accepted him readily because of his education and his penmanship. He was just a bright young fellow, 23 years old. Soon he was being used as a secretary, a scribe, or as a bookkeeper by the little organization of the Church there.
He and his wife wanted to go to Nauvoo, so they sailed for America. In Nauvoo he met the Prophet Joseph Smith and other leaders of the Church. They used him in interesting ways again because he wrote a beautiful hand and he was a good speller. They could use a young man of that kind.
After the Martyrdom of the Prophet, William left with the Brigham Young company. They left in February; it was now April. Slogging through the fields with the wagons and the horses and the teams and the rain and the mud in Iowa, they were discouraged. The going was difficult, people were dying, and babies were born. They were moving slowly, only traveling a few miles a day.
So William Clayton wrote, “Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear.” It was difficult. They were discouraged. “But with joy wend your way. / Though hard to you this journey may appear, / Grace shall be as your day.” He was giving them encouragement to keep going, that the situation would get better.
Then he wrote those wonderful lines, “We’ll find the place which God for us prepared, / Far away in the West.” Even though we’re stuck here in the mud and discouraged, this will all change. If we have the courage and the faith, the Lord will answer our prayers; it will all come about. It gave them hope and encouragement. “We’ll find the place which God for us prepared, / Far away … / Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid”—stirring, inspirational words.
And then the last verse, “And should we die before our journey’s through, / Happy day! All is well!” So if we die, we’ve done our best. We’re going to die sometime, as we all know. So “Happy day! All is well!”
“But if our lives are spared again / To see the Saints their rest obtain.” We’ll see if the wagon wheels will stay on and if the rims will stay on the little handcarts and if we can keep up that courage and the strength through our prayers, and we’ll get there. “If our lives are spared again / To see the Saints their rest obtain.” If we get there, then “All is well! All is well!”—if we get there and if we have the courage to make it work.
In his journal William Clayton wrote, “I’ve composed a new song—‘All is well’” (William Clayton’s Journal , 19). I like that original title, “All is Well! All is Well!” which explains our lives if we live as we should. We have the outline, we have the procedures, we have the information, and if we can get there and if our lives are spared again, then we will be able to sing, “All is well! All is well!” That hymn has become the Church’s “national anthem.”
My grandfather Horton David Haight was 15 when the second company arrived in the valley, the company following the Brigham Young company, so he would have walked across the plains. So when we sing of walking with “Faith in Every Footstep,” I have a grandfather who did that. At 15 you were not riding in the wagon; you were out where the action was, hitting the horses and the oxen and doing whatever would need to be done. And the girl whom he later married, Louisa Leavitt, turned 11 when her family arrived in the valley. So Grandmother would have walked across also.
So with that great heritage, I am saying to all of you what a wonderful future we have for the Church, as has been outlined by our prophet. But all of these things are dependent upon how we live, how we accept the truths that we know about, how we live the principles of the gospel, and what kind of examples we become to those people we work and associate with.
When I was a young boy, about 12 years old, I loved to play baseball. The only piece of athletic equipment that we had around our house was an old baseball mitt. I thought the great moment in my life would be that I would be playing baseball for the New York Yankees. I would be playing for them in the World Series, the games tied 3 and 3. Now in the deciding game, guess who would get up to bat? As I stood at the plate, the pitcher would pitch the ball exactly where I’d want it, I’d knock it out of Yankee Stadium, and I would become the hero of the World Series. I thought that would be the great moment of my life. But I want you to know that that isn’t true.
A number of years ago I sat in the Los Angeles California Temple in a little sealing room with my wife, Ruby. We had our sons there with their wives—they’d been married for just a short time—and our sweet daughter was kneeling at the altar, holding the hand of the young man she was to be sealed to. And as I looked around the room, I then realized that this was the great moment of my life because I had in that room everything that was precious to me—everything. My wife was there, my eternal sweetheart and companion. Our three children were there with their eternal companions. And I thought, “David, in your youth you had things all wrong. You thought some worldly event of some kind might be the great event of your life.” But now, I was witnessing that great event. I was there, I was feeling it, I felt a part of it, and I knew in that little white sealing room—clean, sweet, pure in that room—with all of my family there that this was the great moment of my life.
I leave you my love and my witness that this work is true. As Latter-day Saints we need to be true to the faith that we profess. True to it. True to the stirring testimonies that we have been given. True to Him whose name we have taken and to so live and to declare and to help in the spreading of this work.