The other Heavenly Mother hymn

February 26, 2007 | 8 comments
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Common knowledge holds that Eliza’s poetic lines in O My Father are the only spot that the Heavenly Mother doctrine broke through into mainstream Mormon discourse; that the radical doctrine, taught by Joseph Smith, was preserved only through the valiant efforts of the poetess; that no one else really thought it necessary to celebrate the concept.

Common knowledge is wrong.

In December of 1844, a conference was held to celebrate the dedication of a new Seventies Hall, and William W. Phelps composed a hymn for the occasion. The event is recorded in the History of the Church, Volume 7, Chapter XXVI. Phelps’ new hymn, bearing the title “A Voice From the Prophet: Come to Me,” went as follows:

Come to me, will ye come to the saints that have died — To the next better world, where the righteous reside; Where the angels and spirits in harmony be. In the joys of a vast Paradise? Come to me.

Come to me where the truth and the virtues prevail; Where the union is one, and the years never fail; Where the heart can’t conceive, nor the natural eye see, What the Lord has prepar’d for the just: Come to me.

Come to me where there is no destruction or war; Neither tyrants, nor mobbers, or nations ajar; Where the system is perfect, and happiness free, And the life is eternal with God: Come to me.

Come to me, will ye come to the mansions above Where the bliss and the knowledge, the light, and the love, And the glory of God, do eternally be? Death, the wages of sin, is not here: Come to me.

Come to me, here are Adam and Eve at the head Of a multitude quicken’d and rais’d from the dead: Here’s the knowledge that was, or that is, or will be— In the gen’ral assembly of worlds: Come to me.

Come to me; here’s the myst’ry that man hath not seen; Here’s our Father in heaven, and Mother, the Queen, Here are worlds that have been, and the worlds yet to be, Here’s eternity,—endless; amen: Come to me.

Come to me all ye faithful and blest of Nauvoo: Come ye Twelve, and ye High Priests, and Seventies, too; Come ye Elders, and all of the great company;— When you’ve finish’d your work on the earth: Come to me,

Come to me; here’s the future, the present and past: Here is Alpha, Omega, the first and the last; Here’s the fountain, the ‘river of life’, and the Tree; Here’s your Prophet and Seer, Joseph Smith: Come to me.

(emphasis added)

Interestingly, Phelps’ lines proclaiming a Heavenly Mother appears to in fact predate Eliza’s. Phelps’ hymn was composed for the December 1844 dedication, and was publicly performed at that dedication. The hymn is further mentioned in the Times and Seasons of February 4, 1845, although the text is not printed in that edition.

Meanwhile, O My Father was first published in the Times and Seasons of November 15, 1845. She gives the poem a date of October 1845. If the October 1845 date is correct, then Phelps’ reference predates hers.

(It is possible that Eliza’s poem was written earlier, but not actually published until 1845. This possibility is suggested by Linda Wilcox. However, it is rejected by both Jill Mulvay Derr (1996) (36 BYU Studies at 100) and Charles Harrell (1988).)

In any event, Phelps’ hymn was placed in the hymnal for normal congregational usage. It was last seen, as far as I can tell, on page 157 of the 1927 hymnal, where it resided under the unwieldy first-line title “Come to me, will ye Come to the Saints that have Died.” Verse 6, the Heavenly Mother line, remained intact. Thus, any congregation singing page 157 — and venturing to the sixth verse — would be singing about Heavenly Mother.

Come to Me was one of many hymns to fall out in the 1948 revisions. Since that time, O My Father has held the line, as the source of Heavenly Mother hymnody in the LDS tradition.

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8 Responses to The other Heavenly Mother hymn

  1. Ardis Parshall on February 26, 2007 at 11:41 am

    What a great find, Kaimi! I’m unfamiliar with this hymn, but I’m going to photocopy the music today and work on learning to sing it (to myself, alone, in the shower, far from any listening ears. Relax, all).

  2. Mark N. on February 26, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Well, fortunately, we still have our Adam-God hymn in the hymnbook (#51, “Sons of Michael, He Approaches”), where the doctrine of Adam in his “Ancient of Days” role still holds sway. Some would claim that the reference to Eve as “Mother” in the third verse would qualify as the other other Heavenly Mother hymn reference.

  3. lief on February 26, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    What, doesn’t “Oh What Songs of the Heart” (#286) count?

    Because of its catchy tune, this hymn is often sung by the Japanese saints; however, I have never heard an electric organ sound its rousing chorus on this side of the Pacific.

    Admittedly, the English text says “heavenly parents” which may be a little vague. The official Japanese translation, though, in need of more syllables, renders it “heavenly father, mother.”

  4. Matt W. on February 26, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Is the music for this in the PD? I’d love to see this if a link can be provided?

  5. EmilyCC on February 27, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    This is really interesting, Kaimi. I love reading about old hymns. When I was in school taking a hymnody class, I found 5 or 6 Mormon hymns from the 19th century referring to Heavenly Mother or Heavenly Mothers.

    The one I liked best was published in 1882 by Joel H. Johnson:
    verse 1: To Kolob now my thoughts repair,
    Where God, my Father reigns above
    Where Heav\’nly Mother, too, is there, and many kindred whom I love.

    verse 3: Oh, let me, then, return again
    To see my parents, whom I love.
    And with my children live and reign,
    In worlds where I once lived above

    What a fun post. Thanks!

  6. EmilyCC on February 27, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    This is really interesting, Kaimi. I love reading about old hymns. When I was in school taking a hymnody class, I found 5 or 6 Mormon hymns from the 19th century referring to Heavenly Mother or Heavenly Mothers.

    The one I liked best was published in 1882 by Joel H. Johnson:
    verse 1: To Kolob now my thoughts repair,
    Where God, my Father reigns above
    Where Heav’nly Mother, too, is there, and many kindred whom I love.

    verse 3: Oh, let me, then, return again
    To see my parents, whom I love.
    And with my children live and reign,
    In worlds where I once lived above

    What a fun post. Thanks!

  7. Kaimi Wenger on February 28, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Ardis,

    _You_ telling _me_ that something is a great find? I’m going to have to print this page up and frame it.

    Mark and Lief,

    Thanks for the pointers for additional Heavenly Mother hymns. I hadn’t caught either of those references previously.

    Matt,

    My copy of the music is pretty badly mangled. I’m not sure there’s a copy online, but there may be somewhere.

    Emily,

    Thanks for another really cool find — that’s a fun one.

  8. Mark on April 5, 2007 at 1:06 am

    Don\’t forget \”O What Songs of the Heart\”: it mentions \’heavenly parents\’. This is in the current, 1985, hymnal (#286).