The Powerful Stories Behind "I Am a Child of God," "I Need Thee Every Hour" + 3 Other Beloved Hymns

Come, Come, Ye Saints

In the minds of many members of the Church, “Come, Come, Ye Saints” is the hymn that more than any other connotes the heritage and spirit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints. The unforgettable words of this hymn allow us to pay tribute to the unflinching courage of the early Saints and to relate that commitment to our own lives.

William Clayton was a member of the first company of Mormon pioneers to face the westward trek to Utah. Forced to leave Nauvoo before the spring thaw, Clayton and his fellow exiles faced cold, mud, sickness, and hunger. News from loved ones left behind in Nauvoo was slow in coming. For two months William Clayton worried about his wife Diantha, who was still in Nauvoo, pregnant and unable to travel. On April 15, 1846, when word finally reached him of the birth of their son, he was ecstatic. “Truly I feel to rejoice at this intelligence,” he wrote in his journal, “but feel sorry to hear of her [Diantha’s] sickness.” (She was soon to recover.) He then added, “This morning I composed a new song—’All is well’” (William Clayton’s Journal [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1921], 19).

William Clayton had actually written new words to an already-existing hymn, popular in his day. Also titled “All Is Well,” the first known publication of the text was in 1836. 

The new hymn, known today as “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” quickly became a favorite among the Saints traveling west. A story became popular at a later time that Brigham Young had requested William Clayton to write the hymn, but William Clayton made no note of such a request in his journal, and we have no evidence that this story is true.

Oscar Winters, father- in- law of Heber J. Grant, related an incident that illustrates the significance of this hymn among the pioneers:

“One night, as we were making camp, we noticed one of our brethren had not arrived, and a volunteer party was immediately organized to return and see if anything had happened to him. Just as we were about to start, we saw the missing brother coming in the distance. When he arrived, he said he had been quite sick; so some of us unyoked his oxen and attended to his part of the camp duties. After supper, he sat down before the campfire on a large rock, and sang in a very faint but plaintive and sweet voice, the hymn ‘Come, Come, Ye Saints.’ It was a rule of the camp that whenever anybody started this hymn all in the camp should join, but for some reason this evening nobody joined him; he sang the hymn alone. When he had finished, I doubt if there was a single dry eye in the camp. The next morning we noticed that he was not yoking up his cattle. We went to his wagon and found that he had died during the night. We dug a shallow grave, and after we had covered his body with the earth we rolled the large stone to the head of the grave to mark it, 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!’” (Improvement Era, June 1914, 781–83).

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