Early on in the Church’s history, members endured trials that are difficult to imagine today. The persecution they faced made even everyday life seem dangerous, and those who crossed the plains were put through physical challenges that took several lives. In spite of all this, their faith was strong. They were humble and knew where to look for the comfort and strength. Even at times when it seemed that all was lost, they remembered the Lord’s promises to His children, like the one given in a vision to William W. Phelps in Doctrine and Covenants 61:36-37:
36 And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you;
37 And inasmuch as you have humbled yourselves before me, the blessings of the kingdom are yours.
With the knowledge that they would never be left alone, they found the courage to live through things that would seem impossible otherwise. The early Saints knew that they could survive anything, and they knew that it was only with the Savior’s help that this was true.
The writer of this hymn, Ellis Reynolds Shipp, certainly knew the trials and faith needed in these circumstances. After crossing the plains as a young child, many of her family members died and she faced much adversity as she worked to become one of the first female doctors in Utah. This hymn is a strong example of the faith that she had. In it, she acknowledges that her strength comes from the Lord and that He can ease our burdens and bless us and those we pray for. She also acknowledges that sometimes life doesn’t seem fair, but that our faith can help to “Let us know [His] ways are just.”
I’m grateful that I have never been faced with the trials of the early Saints, but I know that I can also entreat my Heavenly Father to bless me and “cheer my soul” when life is hard.