First published in LDS hymnals in 1871, O Ye Mountains High is written in the context of the Mormon Pioneers and their travels to the Salt Lake Valley. Like a number of LDS hymns from the time, it references imagery from Isaiah 2, placing Zion “in the tops of the mountains.” At a time when the Saints were often driven from their homes and disowned by their families, the image of a strong Zion established in the Rocky Mountains was undoubtedly poignant.
O ye mountains high, where the clear blue sky
Arches over the vales of the free,
Where the pure breezes blow and the clear streamlets flow,
How I’ve longed to your bosom to flee!
O Zion! dear Zion! land of the free,
Now my own mountain home, unto thee I have come;
All my fond hopes are centered in thee.
Times have changed. Today, a large majority of Latter-Day Saints live far from the Rocky Mountains. They may not live near any mountains at all. Is “O Ye Mountains High” relevant to the saints at large? Or does it only persist as a memorial to our pioneer heritage?
In April 2008 General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk entitled “Faith of Our Fathers“:
The faith of our fathers—I love that phrase.
For many members of the Church, these words bring to mind valiant pioneers who abandoned the comfort of their homes and traveled by wagon and on foot until they reached the valley of the Great Salt Lake. I love and honor the faith and courage of those early pioneers of the Church. My own ancestors were living an ocean away at the time. None were among those who lived in Nauvoo or Winter Quarters, and none made the journey across the plains. But as a member of the Church, I claim with gratitude and pride this pioneer legacy as my own.
With the same joy, I claim the legacies of today’s modern-day Church pioneers who live in every nation and whose own stories of perseverance, faith, and sacrifice add glorious new verses to the great chorus of the latter-day anthem of the kingdom of God.
We may not live in the mountains high—we may not even have clear streamlets or pure breezes!—but Zion is not stuck in the mountains. Zion has spread forth throughout the world. The hymn speaks of Zion as a place of freedom and strength, of temples and triumph. And indeed, eventually the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the lord. Eventually, the peace of Zion will prevail everywhere, not just in the mountains. Some day, Christ himself will personally reign upon the earth, and Zion will fill the whole earth.
Until that time, we can still establish Zion in our own homes. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that Zion is the home of the pure in heart. Is your home a place where the pure in heart dwell, where the Lord is welcome?
Just as the pioneer saints had hope in their new mountain home as a place of peace and worship, so too can we hope for our homes, wherever they may be, as a place peace and worship, refuge and rest. We can build our home in spiritual ”mountains high”, and we can build an environment of pure spiritual breezes and clear spiritual streamlets. As bearers of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, revelation and inspiration can be part of our daily lives.
You can bring Zion to you.