Hymn text by William Clayton, 1814-1879. View the full text of this hymn.

Handcart Monument

Come, Come, Ye Saints is one of the most well-known hymns in the modern hymnbook. Penned by William Clayton while crossing the plains, the hymn has become a sort of anthem for the Mormon pioneers—and by proxy, our own pioneer heritage.

The lyrics of this hymn are rooted in faith—a persistent, pervasive faith that was characteristic of those who crossed the plains. Rather than just quote bits and pieces, I want to go through the entire hymn here. I hope you’ll take a moment to consider the words, and not just get swept along by the tune.

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
‘Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell–
All is well! All is well!

Travelling 1,300 miles by covered wagon or handcart was hard work. They sang “Though hard to you this journey may appear” because it was hard. Not only was the journey itself hard, but the circumstance was not pleasant either. Many had already made a long trek from Europe to join the Saints in Nauvoo. Then, only years after arriving, they were forced out by angry mobs, made to leave most of their possessions behind. Their beloved prophet, Joseph Smith, had been martyred. Sickness was common. In short, things were really, really hard for many of the pioneers.

And yet, they pressed forward with faith.

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell–
All is well! All is well!

In face of all these challenges, the pioneers always looked to God. Their struggle was not a futile one; they sought to “earn a great reward.” They truly believed that God had restored his Church, had sent prophets again. Despite everything that had happened, they truly believed: “Our God will never us forsake.”

We’ll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the Saints will be blessed.
We’ll make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we’ll tell–
All is well! All is well!

In light of their history, it’s no surprise that the pioneers looked forward to a place where “none shall come to hurt or make afraid.” Many of them saw their trek west as the final step in a long journey to establish Zion. Free from the persecutions of angry mobs, Zion would be a place where they could worship their God with rejoicing.

In our day, we do not travel across the plains in hopes of establishing Zion. Rather, the stakes of Zion are spread across the world. We have the opportunity to build Zion wherever we are. Do we look forward to Zion with the same hope that the pioneers did?

And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell–
All is well! All is well!

This is perhaps the most touching of all the verses. The pioneers recognized that death was a real possibility. At least 2,000 deaths of pioneers who died in the migration are recorded in the Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument in Nauvoo. The pioneers made this journey knowing that there was a very real possibility that it might be their last.

And yet, they traveled with faith. Even in the face of death, they believed in their cause, and knew it was the right one. If death were to come, they felt prepared for it, knowing they were doing the will of God. And if not—if by the Grace of God they survived the journey, then how much more reason to be grateful.

You and I are not called to abandon our homes and cross the plains in extreme hardship. We are not asked to bear the burdens that the pioneers bore. But we bear that same heritage—the God that would never forsake them is our god too. The great rewards that the pioneers sought are available to us as well, if we will not shun the fight.

Do we seek to make the air ring with praises to our God? Do we seek to obey God rather than men? Do we have the same commitment to our faith that the pioneers demonstrated? Our times are certainly different, but the pervasive faith God seeks to instill in us is not.  I hope that each one of us can still respond to this same call: “Come, Come, Ye Saints; no toil nor labor fear.”

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>