William Clayton’s Anthem: All Is Well

Many of the wonderful stories we have about pioneers were recorded in their personal journals. Because William Clayton kept a journal, we are able to learn more about him, and the history of one of the most beloved pioneer hymns of all time.

William Clayton, LDS pioneer

William Clayton, Mormon pioneer & Musician

William Clayton joined the Church in England in the early 1800s. He was the leader of the first company of Latter-day Saints who journeyed from England to Nauvoo and became a trusted secretary to the Prophet Joseph Smith. On many occasions, he transcribed revelations under the Prophet’s direction. Among his talents, Clayton was a gifted violinist, and he entertained for meetings and parties in the Nauvoo Concert Hall (which he helped construct).

In the fall of 1845, following the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph, the Saints began  preparing to move west. Brigham Young, acting President of the church, asked William Clayton to purchase musical instruments and to organize a brass band to help lift the hearts of the Saints at their evening camps. The band also performed formal concerts at settlements in Iowa in exchange for grain, supplies, or monetary donations for the Saints’ journey. William was forced to leave his beloved wife Diantha behind in Nauvoo during his assigned trek. While camped on the banks of Locust Creek, 103 miles west of  home, William Clayton recorded these historic and heartbreaking events in his journal:

“Last night I got up to watch, there being no guard. The cattle and horses [were] breaking into the tents and wagons. … This morning Ellen Kimball came to me and wishes me much joy. She said Diantha [my wife] has a son. I told her I was afraid it was not so, but she said Brother Pond had received a letter. I went over to Pond’s and he read that she had a fine fat boy on the 30th … , but she was very sick with ague and mumps. Truly I feel to rejoice … but feel sorry to hear of her sickness. … In the evening the band played. … We had a very pleasant time playing and singing until about twelve o’clock. … This morning I composed a new song—‘All is well.’ I feel to thank my heavenly father for my boy and pray that he will spare and preserve his life and that of his mother and so order it that we may soon meet again.”

- William Clayton, Wednesday April 15, 1846

The words of “All Is Well”, set to a popular English melody, gave encouragement to the pioneers. This song became their beloved anthem. A tradition was established that in each wagon train or handcart company when anyone started singing it, everyone would join in.

pioneers-singing-hymns

William Clayton’s hymn, known today as  “Come, Come, Ye Saints”,  has remained a beloved Latter-day Saint anthem for nearly 170 years and counting. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed this song in concerts all over the world. The spirit of William Clayton’s hymn is appreciated by people of every nationality and creed with its beautiful message of hope and perseverance: “All is well! All is well!” - MoSop

Come, Come Ye Saints – Mormon Tabernacle Choir

“All Is Well” / Come Come Ye Saints Hymn Lyrics

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!

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!

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!

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!

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