All is Well
Teachings of President Heber J. Grant
From the teachings of President Heber J. Grant, the son of pioneers, we gain a more in-depth understanding of this “pioneer anthem.” To President Grant, this hymn was very personal.
The remainder of this blog is an excerpt from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, (2011), 129–37.
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
Excerpts from President Grant’s Conference Message of October 1919
“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:
“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.
“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. (President Heber J. Grant: Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, (2011), 129–37).
Listen to our Congregation Choir arrangements of this hymn:
With vocal countermelody. Purchase here.
With flute/violin countermelody. Purchase here.