Nine Facts about “Come, Come, Ye Saints” and Its Composer That Might Surprise You

Contributed By Alexa Reimschussel, Church News staff writer

  • 25 July 2019

Covered Wagon Pioneers, Madonna at Dawn, by Minerva K. Teichert.

The hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” has long been a favorite pioneer song in the Church. But what’s the origin of the song, and how has it impacted listeners since it was first written over 170 years ago?

Here are a few fun facts you might not know about it.

  • According to The Tabernacle Choirs blog, “Come, Come, Ye Saints” was a favorite among the Saints—so much so that “it was a rule that when anybody started singing the hymn, everyone in the camp should join in.”

Pioneers Arriving, by Minerva K. Teichert.

  • Concerned about his wife, Diantha, who had remained in Nauvoo because she was expecting her first child, William Clayton, a musician in the first pioneer company to enter the Salt Lake Valley, wrote the words to “Come, Come, Ye Saints” after finally receiving news of the birth of his healthy baby boy on April 15, 1846. Although his wife was suffering from illness, he wrote soon afterwards: “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 so that we may soon meet again.”
  • William Clayton

    William Clayton first wrote the hymn 103 miles from Nauvoo, at Locust Creek on the plains of Iowa. At this same location, the prophet Brigham Young redirected the company to travel northwest so that they might “leave behind the trail-wise and unscrupulous traders he felt were taking advantage of the company,” according to history.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
  • William Clayton was an English convert. Fittingly, his song was set to a popular English folk tune of the time.
  • “Come, Come, Ye Saints” isn't just a popular hymn among Latter–day Saints. According to history.ChurchofJesusChrist.org, it is also loved among other religions—modified versions appear in several Christian denominations’ hymnals today, including the hymnal for the Seventh-day Adventists.
  • The hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” is in the current hymnbook twice—as a traditional hymn and as a men’s arrangement.
  • At Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, the Centennial Carillon Tower automatically plays the first two lines of the hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” on the hour.

The Centennial Carillon Tower at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah.

  • Most hymnals in the 19th century had only words and did not include music. Hymns would be sung to familiar tunes of the day and could be sung to different tunes at any time. The first large collection of Latter-day Saint hymns to include musical settings with the text—called the Psalmody—wasn’t published until 1889 in Salt Lake City.

The Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody, published in 1889, was the first hymnbook to include both music and text.

  • William Clayton also invented an early version of the odometer, an instrument used for measuring distance.

An odometer used by pioneers to track their distance across the plains.