Hymn text by William W. Phelps, 1792-1872. View the full text of this hymn.

Come, all ye Saints of Zion,
And let us praise the Lord;
His ransomed are returning,
According to his word.
In sacred song and gladness
They walk the narrow way
And thank the Lord who brought them
To see the latter day.

Given that it was written by none other than W. W. Phelps–printer of the Book of Commandments (the earliest edition of the Doctrine & Covenants) and author of 25 other LDS hymns–it’s not surprising that the topic of this hymn would be the gathering of Israel. It was an idea dear to the hearts of the early Saints. They clung to the hope that someday they would reach Zion, a beautiful place where they could worship God in safety, prosperity, and peace. Despite all the hardships they faced, people continued to join their ever-growing ranks. They sang happy songs, praising the Lord and thanking Him for restoring the gospel. They rejoiced to see the final dispensation ushered in during the latter days.

Come, ye dispersed of Judah,
Join in the theme and sing
With harmony unceasing
The praises of our King,
Whose arm is now extended,
On which the world may gaze,
To gather up the righteous
In these the latter days.

In 1841–only a few years after this hymn was written–Orson Hyde journeyed to Jerusalem to dedicate it for the return of the Jewish people. That return soon began in earnest, as Jews everywhere began to flock to the Middle East. The idea of observing Passover in the Holy Land became a reality for many throughout the world. With the establishment of the modern nation of Israel, there was no denying that the “dispersed of Judah” were being gathered again in the latter days.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel,
And let your joys abound!
The voice of God shall reach you
Wherever you are found
And call you back from bondage,
That you may sing his praise
In Zion and Jerusalem,
In these the latter days.

One of the scripture references for this hymn is Isaiah 52:7:

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”

Usually this verse (and any other that talks about the feet of people on mountains) is taken to be a reference to temple ordinances performed by proxy for the dead. In that context, this verse could be referring to those who have died without knowledge of the gospel. As family names are found and taken to temples all over the world, the voice of God is reaching even those beyond the veil. The dead are given the opportunity to accept the saving ordinances performed on their behalf and be released from their spiritual bondage. They, too, can join in singing praises for the blessings made available in these latter days.

Then gather up for Zion,
Ye Saints thruout the land,
And clear the way before you,
As God shall give command.
Tho wicked men and devils
Exert their pow’r, ’tis vain,
Since He who is eternal
Has said you shall obtain.

The early saints congregating in Ohio and Illinois and eventually Utah, the Jewish people thronging to the Middle East, the countless souls in spirit prison waiting for saving ordinances–none of these gatherings have been without conflict and controversy.  Bringing so many people together is hard! And let’s not forget that the ever-elusive Zion is still not a specific physical location.

Yet still we come. We purify our hearts and covenant to follow Christ and create Zion in our stakes, wards, and homes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints now has over fifteen million members throughout the world and is growing rapidly. In spite of “wicked men and devils” God’s work will be accomplished.

So let’s continue to gather up! Share the gospel, go to the temple, and clear a space for our brothers and sisters to join us in Zion, wherever we may be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>