The LDS hymnal is full of uplifting music and poetry from a host of different sources, but they all share one commonality—they inspire and lift our minds toward heaven. Just as powerful as many of the words in these hymns are the stories behind them. Here are just a few.
Lead, Kindly Light
In 1833, John Henry Newman had been traveling in Europe for his health. But he became ill in Sicily because of heat and poor living conditions. He recorded, “I sat sometimes by the bedside crying bitterly, and all I could say was that I was sure God had some work for me to do in England” (John Henry Cardinal Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua [New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1968], 40). He decided to sail for England, thinking that his chances of recovery would be better at home. But as he embarked on the first leg of his voyage, from Palermo to Marseilles, the breezes dropped, the fog closed in, and the ship was becalmed for a week. He was homesick and seasick, frustrated at the delay. And to make matters worse, he was seized by an attack of malaria.
These were the events that brought forth “Lead, Kindly Light.” During this miserable week, his longing for England became associated in his mind with longing for heavenly light and comfort. In the past, pride and self-regard had destroyed his simple faith in divine guidance, but his hopes now rested in the Light, his secure protection until “the night is gone” (see Robert Guy McCutchan, Our Hymnody: A Manual of the Methodist Hymnal [New York: Abingdon Press, 1937], 495).
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