Hymn text by Charles W. Penrose, 1832-1925. View the full text of this hymn.

Ebenezer Beesley composed the music for this hymn, but the text is by Charles W. Penrose—an apostle and First Presidency counselor to Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant. The music is tremendously memorable, and the message of this hymn is undoubtedly its equal.

If you can’t recall the tune just from the title, listen here. You may recognize it. There aren’t many hymns with this vigor.

The first two verses are a plea, each ending with the same supplication, punctuated by the chorus:

God of our fathers, we come unto thee,
Children of those whom thy truth has made free.
Grant us the joy of thy presence today;
Never from thee let us stray!

Grateful for all that thy bounty imparts,
Praises we offer with voices and hearts.
Life of our being, and sun of our day,
Never from thee let us stray!

Never! Never!
Never from thee let us stray!
Ever! Ever!
Ever to thee will we pray!

We are all imperfect beings, living here as mortals in a time of probation. We’re constantly making mistakes, and having to ask our Heavenly Father to forgive us (which, mercifully, He does). Having been given reprieve, we ask Him for other things we suppose we need. When He blesses us, we go further into His debt—King Benjamin reminds us that because of this, we will always be unprofitable servants.

The prayer of this hymn goes even further, as it asks the Father to give us the strength to not depart from His ways in the first place. It’s an acknowledgment that we’re here to be tested, but that we lack the ability to pass the test on our own.

It’s akin to the New Testament father whose son was possessed of an evil spirit. The father brings his son to Jesus to be healed, but lacks the faith for it to happen. His plea to the Savior—“help thou my unbelief”—could come from any of us. So often we need our Heavenly Father to help us help ourselves; “Never from thee let us stray” is a pre-emptive prayer, asking for help now so that we can bypass some of the suffering that would come when we eventually do stray later.

But then—there’s a switch. What started as a plea becomes resolve.

Blest with the gifts of the gospel of peace,
Dwelling in Zion, whose light shall increase,
Led by the priesthood along the bright way,
Never from thee will we stray!

Strengthened by thee for the conflict with sin,
Onward we’ll press till life’s battle we’ll win;
Then in thy glory forever we’ll stay;
Never from thee will we stray!

Blessed with the gospel, dwelling in Zion, led by the Priesthood, and strengthened by the Lord, we’re able to give him our word—never will we stray. We are fully committed to staying on the strait and narrow path. Many times we will be like Peter, whose firm resolution of dedication to the Lord was tested and in a time of weakness he felt short and denied the Christ. But like Peter, we will get second chances, and we can be mighty tools in the Lord’s hands.

The onus is on each of us to ask the Father for the strength to do this. Our prayer of “never from thee let us stray” shows the desire to believe that is required to build faith. Once that faith grows, we can take on the resolution of the last two verses of this hymn and tell the Lord that we choose His side. This hymn gives us the words to sing (and pray), that we’ll win life’s battles and stay in the Lord’s glory forever.

And, ever with vigor, it is punctuated by the chorus.

Never! Never!
Never from thee let us stray!
Ever! Ever!
Ever to thee will we pray!

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