Hark The Herald Angels Sing: A Story and Song

The Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” was written in 1739 by prolific Methodist hymn composer Charles Wesley (1707-1788). It was later set to a melody from the cantata Fest­ge­sang an die Künstler by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847), which was originally written to honor the 400th anniversary of the invention of printing. Religious liturgical scholars regard “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as one of the finest in the English canon. The hymn invites all people to join with the angels in their joyous song: “Glory to the newborn King!”, for because of the Savior, all people will have a “second birth”!

In October 1987, President Thomas S. Monson shared a story that referenced this hymn:

Marvelous Melissa, now in her nineties, lived in a nursing facility in the northwest part of Salt Lake City. Just before Christmas I determined to visit my beloved Primary president. Over the car radio, I heard the song, “Hark! the herald angels sing; Glory to the newborn King!” (Hymns, no. 209.) I reflected on the visit made by wise men those long years ago. They brought gifts of gold, of frankincense, and of myrrh. I brought only the gift of love and a desire to say thank you.

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I found Melissa in the lunchroom. She was staring at her plate of food, teasing it with the fork she held in her aged hand. Not a bite did she eat. As I spoke to her, my words were met by a benign but blank stare. I took the fork in hand and began to feed Melissa, talking all the time I did so about her service to boys and girls as a Primary worker. There wasn’t so much as a glimmer of recognition, far less a spoken word. Two other residents of the nursing home gazed at me with puzzled expressions. At last they spoke, saying, “Don’t talk to her. She doesn’t know anyone—even her own family. She hasn’t said a word in all the years she’s been here.”

Luncheon ended. My one-sided conversation wound down. I stood to leave. I held her frail hand in mine, gazed into her wrinkled but beautiful countenance, and said, “God bless you, Melissa. Merry Christmas.”

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Without warning, she spoke the words, “I know you. You’re Tommy Monson, my Primary boy. How I love you.” She pressed my hand to her lips and bestowed on it the kiss of love. Tears coursed down her cheeks and bathed our clasped hands. Those hands, that day, were hallowed by heaven and graced by God. The herald angels did sing. The words of the Master seemed to have a personal meaning never before fully felt: “Woman, behold thy son!” And to his disciple, “Behold thy mother!” (seeJohn 19:26–27).

Thomas S. Monson, excerpt from A Doorway Called Love

Enjoy this lovely performance by the BYU Singers under the direction of Ronald Stahli, singing an arrangement by Steven Landau. – MoSop

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Wishing every happiness to my sweet mother today, who is serving alongside dad as a full–time missionary in California.

I love you, Mother! ❤

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