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.
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.