The really neat thing about this hymn (included in the first hymnbook of 1835) is that it was written while Joseph Smith was still alive. William W. Phelps (1792-1872), writer of the text, was recording everyday happenings, and paying tribute to a man yet living. In fact, the second half of verse two was originally written in the present tense – of course – since Joseph was alive and well, living and working among the people he loved – and the people who loved him:
Even Joseph he inspires:
Yea, his heart he truly fires,
With the light that he desires
For the work of righteousness.
These lines in our hymnbook today are in the past tense.
There is much optimism in this hymn and an expectation that Joseph would live much longer to continue his work. He did live nine more years after the writing of this hymn and accomplished more in those nine years than most men would in a lifetime. The original version of the fourth verse contains the phrases “Precious are his years to come,” and “He will triumph o’er his foes.” Today these lines read “Precious are the years to come,” and “They will triumph o’er their foes.” Ultimately, these lines are true in both cases. The years since that time have indeed been precious, filled with great success for the Church. Joseph did triumph o’er his foes.
Originally, this hymn text was eight short verses. Today it has been combined to create four longer verses. Brother Phelps used a somewhat unusual rhyming scheme for this text… unusual but really cool. Hymns generally have an ABAB rhyming scheme, but this one has an AAABCCCD pattern for each of the four verses. In the original, of course, this would have been AAAB for each of the eight verses. Because the 4th and 8th lines of each verse do not rhyme with anything else in the verse, they really stand out and the message is starkly emphasized.
We continue to sing and contemplate our history as we consider the music of this hymn. It was written by Joseph J. Daynes (1851-1920), the first organist in the Salt Lake Tabernacle and the first accompanist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He served in that position for thirty years. The really amazing part of this story is that Brigham Young selected Joseph Daynes to be the organist when Joseph was only eleven years old.
Several years prior to this time, President Young had begun work on the Salt Lake Tabernacle and he wanted to install a huge organ there – one of the largest ever built. Remember – we’re talking about an outcast community of Mormon pioneers who had come to live in the deserts of Utah – Indian country – the middle of nowhere. How were they going to build such an organ? Fortunately, the Lord does provide. Among the converts of the Church was Joseph H. Ridges, a man born in England who later moved to Australia where he became proficient as an organ builder. President Young delegated Brother Ridges to build the organ and three or four men were selected as assistants. As the organ was being built, people frequently asked President Young who was going to play it? His standard reply was that the Lord would provide an organist. And the Lord did.
Young Joseph J. Daynes was an English convert to the church who travelled across the plains with his family, arriving in Salt Lake City in 1862. Joseph and his father, John, were dedicated musicians – so much so that John had brought with him – across the plains no less – several musical instruments, including a folding Harmonium and a “Melodeon,” a small one-rank pump organ. Each night on the plains after the company had settled, John would lead some singing while Joseph played the pump organ. What a blessing for that company.
The night they arrived in Salt Lake City was no different in that way. They had their usual evening singing. This time, however, Brigham Young was there to hear them. He had come to welcome the company, as he did with all the newly-arrived companies of pioneers. He was very impressed with the young man playing the small pump organ and said, “There is our organist for the great Tabernacle organ.” While the Tabernacle and organ were being built, the young musician was sent to New York for a course of study. He returned in time for the formal debut of the organ in the newly-completed tabernacle and was the official organist (from the age of 16) for the next thirty years. During that time, he composed anthems, marches and numerous hymns, five of which are still included in our hymnbook.
Joseph J. Daynes’ music for NOW WE’LL SING WITH ONE ACCORD complements William W. Phelp’s text very nicely. The final non-rhyming phrase in each verse is accentuated further by a driving melody. The first and third phrases in each verse are sung in unison by all four parts to emphasize the fact that we are all singing “with one accord.”
Congregation Choir Arrangements
Our Congregation Choir arrangements add a beautiful, alternate piano accompaniment to the original SATB found in the hymnbook. This alternate piano accompaniment could be used with the organ SATB as 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.
Listen to this sample. You will hear an organ introduction, followed by organ and piano for one verse – and organ, piano and voices for the second sample verse. PURCHASE THIS MUSIC HERE.
Listen to this sample. You will hear an organ introduction, followed by organ and piano for one verse – and organ, piano and flute for the second sample verse. PURCHASE THIS MUSIC HERE.
Although at times antagonistic to Joseph Smith and the Church, William W. Phelps was mostly an ardent supporter and close friend. His inspired writings have provided us with some of our most beloved hymns, fifteen of which are included in our current hymnbook.
It is also thanks to Joseph’s ability to forgive that we have these hymns. William W. Phelps was one of the dissenters who gave evidence against Joseph Smith, resulting in Joseph being sent to Liberty Jail. Being a great man, Joseph was capable of great forgiveness. When Phelps asked for his forgiveness, Joseph freely and completely gave it. Because of this generosity of spirit, Phelps was able to resume working for the Church rather than against it. His poems were made into hymns which bless the lives of millions of members to this day. “The Spirit of God,” another hymn by W.W. Phelps, is sung at every temple dedication.
We are fortunate to have such a wealth of hymns that take us back to those early years. We are truly singing the testimony of William W. Phelps who lived and worked so closely with Joseph Smith as the Church was being organized. We are also singing the testimony of Joseph J. Daynes who crossed the plains as a young boy, and lived and worked with Brigham Young. We are singing our history.