This coming Sunday we will celebrate Father’s Day. On this special day, we recognize our earthly fathers and grandfathers. In most cases, these are men who have cherished their families, and laboured hard to take care of them. At church, we also often recognize the “father of our ward,” our Bishop. This good man has been chosen to lead our ward – to consider each and every one of us as he directs the activities of our ward and seeks guidance in making callings. Then there is that other Father, the Father of us all, our Heavenly Father. Each one of us has a special place in His heart, since we are all his spirit children. He knows us so well that he numbers the very hairs on our heads!
Luke 12: 6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
And we know God! As President Ezra Taft Benson told us, “Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us.”1
We can be assured of a beautiful, loving relationship with our Father in heaven when we return to live with him. We can work to establish and benefit from that beautiful, loving relationship even while we are still here on earth. One of the things that has helped many members of our church come to know Him and to understand the relationship we have with Him is the Primary song, “I Am a Child of God,” an excellent Father’s Day hymn.
Our Heavenly Heritage
In his talk in the April 2016 General Conference, President Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy listed six times that prophets through the ages have taught us that we are children of a loving and living God:
1. When tempted by Satan, Moses rebuffed him, saying: “Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God.”2
2. Addressing Israel, the Psalmist proclaimed, “All of you are children of the most High.”3
3. Paul taught the Athenians on Mars Hill that they were “offspring of God.”4
4. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received a vision in which they saw the Father and the Son, and a heavenly voice declared that the inhabitants of the worlds “are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”5
5. In 1995, the 15 living apostles and prophets affirmed: “All human beings … are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.”6
6. President Thomas S. Monson testified: “We are sons and daughters of a living God. … We cannot sincerely hold this conviction without experiencing a profound new sense of strength and power.”7
Elder Hailstorm concludes his talk by saying:
“In today’s world, no matter where we live and no matter what our circumstances are, it is essential that our preeminent identity is as a child of God. Knowing that will allow our faith to flourish, will motivate our continual repentance, and will provide the strength to “be steadfast and immovable” throughout our mortal journey.”8
History of “I Am a Child of God”
Few songs are as well loved as “I Am a Child of God.” Written in 1957 by Naomi W. Randall, with music by Mildred T. Pettit, it touches our hearts in a very personal way. From nursery-aged toddlers to senior members of our congregations, it confirms to us that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father who knows and cares about each one of us.
Spencer W. Kimball, after hearing a performance of “I Am a Child of God” several years after it was published, requested that “teach me all that I must know” be changed to “teach me all that I must do.” Changing that word reflected a principle that President Kimball believed in:
“Celestial life may be had by every soul who will fulfil the requirements. To know is not enough. One must do. Righteousness is vital and ordinances are necessary.”9
Sister Randall felt that making the change was a great teaching moment in the Church and was the way Heavenly Father wanted the song to evolve. President Kimball liked to say, “Naomi Randall wrote most of the words, but I wrote one!”
The words for a fourth verse, added later, are included in the Children’s Songbook but not in our hymnal:
I am a child of God
His promises are sure
Celestial glory shall be mine
If I can but endure.
Music of “I Am a Child of God”
Naomi Randall was preparing this song for the Primary conference of 1957. She wrote the words and asked her friend, Mildred Pettit, to write the music for it. Sister Pettit worked hard to prepare the music as the Lord would want it. She knew how the music should go but re-worked the closing phrase several times, having her children sing it over and over, until she was sure it was right. She and Sister Randall worked on the chorus together and had the song done within a week.
Our information does not indicate for sure who wrote the optional descant part, but it does give credit to Darwin K. Wolford, a member of the General Music Committee of the Church, for arranging this song in the Children’s Songbook. We are fairly certain it was Brother Wolford who created the descant which accompanies “I Am a Child of God” in the Children’s Songbook, and this lovely descant is the one that we use in our arrangement of the hymnal version. We have transposed the key of D hymn arrangement into the key of C, as it is in the Children’s Songbook, so that the descant, when used with the hymnbook version, is not too high for most soprano voices. When the accompanists and special performers use our arrangement in the key of C, the congregation members can still use their green hymnbooks. Most of them will probably not even be aware that there is a key change.
Congregation Choir Arrangement
Our Congregation Choir arrangement adds a beautiful, alternate accompaniment to the original one found in the hymnbook. This alternate accompaniment could be used with the organ part for a piano/organ duet accompaniment for the entire congregation or for a large choir. It could also be used alone as a more embellished accompaniment for a solo singer or group, or just to enjoy as a piano solo.
In the music sample below, you will first hear just the organ doing the introduction. The piano joins in on the first verse and then the vocal countermelody joins in for the second demonstration verse.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!
1. Ezra Taft Benson, “Jesus Christ – Gifts and Expectations,” in Speeches of the Year, 1974 (1975), 313.
2. Moses 1:13
3. Psalms 82:6
4. Acts 17:29
5. D&C 76:24
6. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129.
7. “Thomas S. Monson, “Canaries with Gray on Their Wings,” Ensign or Liahona, June 2010, 4.
8. Mosiah 5:15
9. In Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 94; or Improvement Era, June 1964, 496.