This is a simple arrangement. I intentionally did it that way. Many times I wanted to go off the deep end and really build this thing up. But I kept coming back to this simple version of it.
I think it’s because this hymn is closely related to people’s testimony of Joseph Smith. And my testimony of him is a simple one. I know he was a prophet.
Rather than try to recount all the details around how the original tune was rediscovered, or why it sounds a little more celtic/folksy, I’m just going to link you to all the resources I found while researching this hymn this last month.
Deseret News: Tad Walch: Original ‘Poor Wayfaring Man’ had different tune
BYU Religious Studies Center: John Taylor: Beyond “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”
Church News: A diligent servant
Most of the resources I found seemed to link to the same PDF of the sheet music. But it looks like that link might have changed, so links to that file from those previous resources are all dead links. So the links to copies of the PDF of the original music, or other people’s arrangements of it, that I came across can be found here and here. And here’s a recording on YouTube of someone singing it in church.
Now, back to the arrangement.
This version of A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief, the version that Joseph loved, was not the exact melody that I thought it was. And that’s OK. (After playing it so much this month, I might even like it better.)
I think a lot of things in the early church didn’t happen or look the same way we have romanticized them. And that’s OK too.
I found it very interesting/coincidental to have been working on this arrangement while all of the recent discussion on Joseph Smith and polygamy was happening this last month. I generally try to stay away from participating in online discussion around sensitive topics like that, primarily because I don’t write as well as I wish I did. I know that anything I said would have been easily misinterpreted.
It’s also been my experience that it’s easier for the spirit of contention to enter into online discussions than it is when those discussions are face to face. I think that’s simply because when you are face to face, it’s a spirit of love. You realize that what the other person is trying to say is that they love you, not that they judge you. (And that goes both ways. You either feel that you’re being judged for leaving the church or that you’re being judged for staying).
I’ve had lots of those face to face discussions over the last six months and each one has been uplifting for me.
So if you ever want to discuss anything in more depth with me, stop me in the hallway at church or wherever we might run into each other. I love talking about the gospel. It’s not always easy talking about it, but I always feel better afterwards.
And like this simple arrangement, I’ll tell you in person that I know that Joseph was a prophet. I’ll also tell you that I don’t know how I know it. I just feel it. And feeling something is not a belief, it’s knowledge. I never had a distinct conversion moment where I knew. It was lots of little conversion moments. And while I could try to reason my way out of it and find some other explanation for those moments, the simple truth is that I know I felt it. And I know that God knows that I felt it.
I’m not a scriptorian. I’m not a historian. I honestly don’t know that much about a lot of things. But what I do know, is the gospel makes me happy.
And I like that feeling.
Kirk HaseldenPosted at 16:45h, 01 December
Well said Ben. Thanks for your testimony and your music. It’s a wonderful journey to travel with you. I only wish I could learn your music as fast as you can produce it!
David FrancisPosted at 19:19h, 01 December
I love your sincerity in both word and song. Thanks for your talent, dedication and willingness to share.
Kirsten PalmerPosted at 20:28h, 01 December
This is one of my favorite hymns. I weep at the simplicity that the guitar brings to the hymn. It allows the spirit of God to move ones soul. I am in awe of the talent. May God continue to bless you and your talent. Thank you for sharing.
Michele DuncanPosted at 23:11h, 01 December
I love the simplicity of this arrangement. This song appeared in the Promised Land pageant and it was always the scene that affected me the most each year. Our family once had the opportunity to visit the Carthage Jail. An experience hard to put into words.
Brad HunterPosted at 23:51h, 01 December
Great job, as always! Growing up in the Chicagoland area, I was able to make many trips to Nauvoo. Great to reflect back on those experiences and feelings as this song plays in the background.
BradPosted at 00:17h, 02 December
Simply brilliant! Thank you for this and the history. I wasn’t aware of the tune change.
Jake RauPosted at 00:39h, 02 December
Superb, Ben. Miss you brother.
Dan RasbandPosted at 10:55h, 04 December
This is one of my favorite hymns, for many of the same reasons you mention above. I love your arrangement. It’s (relatively) simple and beautiful, and lets the message really shine through. Listening to the the song while reading your thoughts certainly brought the spirit into my life this morning. I like that feeling, too. Thanks, Ben!
(As soon as I’m done with the Christmas song I’m working on, I’ll look forward to a live tab link to start learning this one! ;-)
Isaac brownPosted at 13:03h, 09 December
Thanks Ben. My family is planning a trip to Carthage jail this next year and I’m going to try to learn this song and play it there. Thanks for your help in learning some awesome hymns!
Ben HowingtonPosted at 01:07h, 10 December
My absolute pleasure! Thanks.
TiarePosted at 10:33h, 27 January
Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring talent! We love looping your music in our home, especially when we need to invite the Spirit into our home. My children and I have also learned to play a few of your renditions and it’s been a sweet bonding experience. Much thanks again!
Ben HowingtonPosted at 10:22h, 29 January
That’s awesome! Doing the arrangements has been a sweet bonding experience with my children as well, since they picked most of the hymns. Your comment makes me very happy. Thanks!
TiarePosted at 10:34h, 27 January
This is also one of my fave hymns as well as your take on “I Am A Child of God” which was a hit with my YW!
kPosted at 01:04h, 10 February
Thank you for your testimony. Thank you for this beautiful rendition. I say AMEN to both and so appreciate all your efforts to help us feel the spirit of God in our world today.
Anne FlindersPosted at 20:50h, 14 May
I found this website while researching medieval cycle plays, oddly enough. There was a play written in roughly the 15th century in which Christ appears to the souls in spirit prison and tells them they will be redeemed because “When I was hungry, me ye fed. When I was weak and weariest, ye harboured me so heartfully.” Of course I thought of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” and wanted to know more about the author. And researching James Montgomery brought me here. Thank you for being here, and doing this.
Ben HowingtonPosted at 16:03h, 17 May
That’s an amazing way to get here. Thanks for sharing!
Whitney SimmsPosted at 09:35h, 15 October
Before church this morning I was preparing the last few details of my primary lesson to the now 12 year olds. I was looking for music for “A Poor Wayfairing Man.” I found the churches music only version. Then I played it and thought I may read the account of what happened in Carthage with the music in the background. As I was listening to it I knew Brother Howington surly has a version of this song. And you did not let me down. Thanks for saving my starch for my kid’s white shirts as I ironed. Tears certainly were flowing as I listened to this sweet tribute to a man that gave so much! Thanks for sharing your talents with us!
Will ReederPosted at 19:16h, 20 October
This is so cool! Thank you so so much!!