Chapter 14: “Come, Come, Ye Saints”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, (2011), 129–37


The hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” inspires gratitude to the early Latter-day Saint pioneers and leads to increased faith and courage.

From the Life of Heber J. Grant

President Heber J. Grant’s favorite hymn was “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” an anthem of hope that inspired the early Latter-day Saint pioneers who journeyed to the Salt Lake Valley (see Hymns, no. 30). He felt that it was important for Church members to understand the hymn—particularly the fourth verse, with its message of hope regarding those who “die before [the] journey’s through” and those whose lives are “spared again to see the Saints their rest obtain.”

The hymn reminded President Grant of his pioneer heritage. He said: “I have never heard and never expect to hear, to the day of my death, my favorite hymn, ‘Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear, But with joy wend your way,’ [without thinking] of the death and the burial of my little baby sister and the wolves digging up her body on the plains. I think of the death of my father’s first wife and the bringing of her body here for burial.”1 This story of Jedediah Grant, his wife Caroline, and their daughter Margaret exemplifies the hymn’s repeated message: “All is well!”

In 1847 Jedediah Grant led a company of Latter-day Saint pioneers from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Salt Lake Valley. Not long before the company arrived in the valley, his six-month-old daughter, Margaret, contracted cholera and died. Her body was buried close to the trail, protected only by a mound of freshly dug clay. Soon after that, Jedediah’s first wife, Caroline, died from the effects of cholera and severe fever. She whispered her final words to her husband: “All is well! All is well! Please take me to the valley—Jeddy. Get Margaret—bring her—to me!” Her husband replied: “Yes, yes, Caroline. I’ll do my best. I’ll do my best.”

The company reached the valley three days later. Funeral services were held that evening for Caroline Grant. After a few days of rest, Jedediah set out to retrieve Margaret’s body. He was accompanied by his friend Bates Noble and by Brother Noble’s adopted daughter, Susan. One night as they camped, Jedediah expressed his trust in God’s will:

“Bates, God has made it plain. The joy of Paradise where my wife and baby are together, seems to be upon me tonight. For some wise purpose they have been released from the earth struggles into which you and I are plunged. They are many, many times happier than we can possibly be here. This camping ground should be the saddest of all sad places to me, but this night it seems to be close under heaven.”

The three travelers reached the grave site the next morning. Susan recalled: “A few paces from the little grave we stopped hesitatingly, set down our things and stood with eyes fixed before us. Neither tried to speak. An ugly hole replaced the small mound; and so recently had the wolves departed that every sign was fresh before us. I dared not raise my eyes to look at Jedediah. From the way I felt, I could but guess his feelings. Like statues of the wilderness we stood, grown to the spot, each fully realizing that nothing more could be done. After several minutes of silent tears, we quietly withdrew, carrying away again only that which we had brought.”2

About nine years later, funeral services were held for President Jedediah Grant, who had served as Second Counselor to President Brigham Young. President Heber C. Kimball, First Counselor in the First Presidency, addressed the congregation, telling of a vision that his friend Jedediah had received:

“He saw the righteous gathered together in the spirit world, and there were no wicked spirits among them. He saw his wife; she was the first person that came to him. He saw many that he knew, but did not have conversation with any except his wife Caroline. She came to him, and he said that she looked beautifully and had their little child, that died on the plains, in her arms, and said, ‘… Here is little Margaret; you know that the wolves ate her up, but it did not hurt her; here she is all right.’”3

Teachings of Heber J. Grant

“But with joy wend your way”

I believe that William Clayton was inspired of the Lord when he wrote this hymn. … It was a wonderful trip the Pioneers were about to make. … I have admiration for the courage, the faith, and the will power of our fathers and our mothers who started out in the wilderness, not knowing where they were going, but singing:

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear,
But with joy wend your way.

I have talked with hundreds of those who crossed the plains and they had real joy and happiness in wending their way to this country.

Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.

Certainly God did give them grace as their day.

’Tis better far for us to strive,
Our useless cares from us to drive,
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell—
All is well! all is well!

And not only was that good advice to people traveling across the plains, but it is good advice to each and to all of us every day of our lives. A cheerful, happy spirit of serenity is pleasing to our heavenly Father. The capacity and the ability to believe and accept the scripture that teaches us to acknowledge the hand of God in all things [see D&C 59:21] is pleasing to our heavenly Father.

“Gird up your loins, fresh courage take”

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
’Tis not so; all is right!
Why should we think to earn a great reward,
If we now shun the fight?

The trouble with a great many people is, they are not willing to pay the price; they are not willing to make the fight for success in the battle of life. They are much like the people of whom I read in Brother N. L. Nelson’s book on preaching—which I happened to open one day, and I read about people taking literally the instructions to take no thought of what one should say; and Brother Nelson [a professor at Brigham Young Academy] wrote that many of those who took no thought at all never said much, as they were going contrary to the teaching that we were to prepare ourselves; and he says, regarding the people who take no thought, that when they speak they … say, “Oh, Lord, here I am. I have a mouth and a pair of lungs that I will loan thee for a brief season; fill me with wisdom that I may edify the people,” which he seldom does. [See Preaching and Public Speaking: A Manual for the Use of Preachers of the Gospel and Public Speakers in General (1898), 3–7.]

Why should we think to earn a great reward,
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins, fresh courage take,
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell—
All is well! all is well!

This magnificent audience here [in general conference], our beautiful temple, our Church [administration] building, and the temples from Canada to Southern Utah, and in the Hawaiian Islands, bear witness to all the world that God has never forsaken his people.

“We’ll find the place which God for us prepared”

We’ll find the place which God for us prepared
Far away in the West;
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the Saints will be blest.

I believe there is no true Latter-day Saint who does not believe that God did prepare this land for his people. Brigham Young … , looking over this valley, said: “This is the place.” God had shown him this place in vision, before he ever came here. Men tried to persuade him to go to California to that rich country, but this was the place which God had prepared, and we stopped here, and no mistake was made.

We’ll make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we’ll tell—
All is well! All is well!4

“And should we die before our journey’s through …”

And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! all is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow too;
With the just we shall dwell.

Do we feel that, if we die, all is well? Are we living so that if the summons should come to us, that we are worthy to go back to our Heavenly Father, when we leave this earth, and be welcomed there? Are we so living that we are worthy of the blessings we have received? I ask myself the question, Am I doing all I possibly can for the uplifting not only of myself but of my fellows, am I in very deed a shining light to the people, by reason of the example I set before them?5

What sublime faith—that all is well! even should you die in the wilderness, and be buried in an unknown grave, so to speak; and yet that was their faith; and they could sing these words, night after night, with their hearts in what they sang. They were verily praying to the Lord. They had full faith in the revelation given to the wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith, wherein it is written: “The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” Also: “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart.” [D&C 25:12.]

And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow too,
With the just we shall dwell.
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain
O how we’ll make this chorus swell—
All is well, all is well!

I remember upon one occasion, and I have often spoken of it, … that my father-in-law, the late Oscar Winters, said: “Heber, I believe that the young people of Zion do not thoroughly appreciate what Brother Clayton’s hymn meant to us, as we sang it, night after night, crossing the plains. … I want to tell you an incident that happened as I was coming to the valley. One of our company was delayed in coming to camp. We got some volunteers, and were about to go back and see if anything had happened, … when we saw him coming in the distance. When he arrived, we unyoked his cattle and helped him to get his supper. He had been quite sick and had to lie down by the road, a time or two. After supper he sat down on a large rock, by the camp fire, and sang the hymn, ‘Come, come, ye Saints.’ It was the rule in the camp that whenever anybody started to sing that hymn, we would all join with him; but for some reason, no one joined with this brother. His voice was quite weak and feeble; and when he had finished, I glanced around, and I don’t believe there were any of the people sitting there whose eyes were tearless. He sang the hymn very beautifully, but with a weak and plaintive voice, and yet with the spirit and inspiration of the hymn. The next morning we discovered that he was not hitching up his oxen; we went to his wagon, and we found that he had died during the night! We dug a shallow grave and laid his body in it. We then thought of the stone on which he had been sitting the night before when he sang:

“And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow too,
With the just we shall dwell.

“We then rolled that stone over in place as a headstone for his grave.”

I noticed tears in Brother Winters’ eyes. He started, as if he was about to tell me something more, but he hesitated and did not. I subsequently learned that after he had been in the valley for some time he came from his home in the country to Salt Lake to meet his mother, only to learn that she, too, had died before her journey was through.

Some years ago, as the Burlington Railroad was building through Nebraska and Wyoming, the engineers found a piece of wagon tire sticking in the ground, on which was chiseled the word, “Winters.” They wrote to Salt Lake City, telling of this discovery, and they returned several miles and kindly changed the line of the road so as to miss that spot, knowing that it was the grave of some Utah pioneer. We have since erected, there, a little monument to the memory of Grandma Winters; and, on one side of that little monument, built of temple granite, we have had chiseled the words in the last verse of, “Come, come, ye Saints.”

Never can I hear this song, never can I read it, but my heart goes out in gratitude to my father and to my mother, and to thousands of those noble men and women who journeyed over the plains. Many of them, time and time again, crossed the plains to help others, enduring the hardships cheerfully, carrying out, in very deed, the teachings of this inspired hymn! I can never think of them but I am full of admiration and gratitude, and utter a prayer to the Lord to help me, as one of the descendants of that noble band, to be loyal, to be true, to be faithful as they were! In very deed, they were a band of men and women who, as the years come and go, will command greater and greater admiration and respect from the people of the world.6

Suggestions for Study and Discussion

  • What does this hymn mean to you? What lessons can we learn from this hymn?

  • In what ways are we pioneers today? How can we honor the heritage we receive from other Latter-day Saint pioneers?

  • How can we develop a “cheerful, happy spirit of serenity” despite adversity?

  • Ponder the following questions from President Grant: “Do we feel that, if we die, all is well? Are we living so that if the summons should come to us, that we are worthy to go back to our Heavenly Father, when we leave this earth, and be welcomed there? Are we so living that we are worthy of the blessings we have received. … Am I doing all I possibly can for the uplifting not only of myself but of my fellows, am I in very deed a shining light to the people, by reason of the example I set before them?”

  • Why is it helpful to regularly ponder the course of our lives? What can we do to prepare “to go back to our Heavenly Father”?

  • What can we do to uplift ourselves and others?

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 342.

  2.   2.

    See Carter E. Grant, “Robbed by Wolves: A True Story,” Relief Society Magazine, July 1928, 358–64.

  3.   3.

    Deseret News Weekly, 10 Dec. 1856, 317.

  4.   4.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1919, 4–5.

  5.   5.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1909, 111.

  6.   6.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1919, 6–7; paragraphing altered.