Hymn comforted brethren

"APoor Wayfaring Man of Grief" (Hymns, No. 29) will be forever associated in the minds of Latter-day Saints with the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.

Karen Lynn Davidson, in her book Our Latter-day Hymns, comments that it is a narrative hymn, with text by James Montgomery, that answers the question posed in Matt. 25:37-39: "Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered and fed thee? or thirsty and gave thee drink?"When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

"Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison and came unto thee?"

Sister Davidson further writes:

"The poem, originally titled `The Stranger,' first appeared in an anthology of verse in 1834.

"This hymn is especially loved among Latter-day Saints because of the role it played in the last hours before the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. On June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith was in jail in Carthage, Illinois, with his brother Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards.

"Hostility was growing, mobs threatened violence, and the prisoners knew their lives were in danger.

"John Taylor told of the scene in the jail cell: All of us felt unusually . . . languid, with a remarkable depression of spirits. In consonance with those feelings I sang a song, that had lately been introduced into Nauvoo, entitled,A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.' . . . After a lapse of some time, Brother Hyrum requested me again to sing that song. I replied, "Brother Hyrum, I do not feel like singing"; when he remarked, "Oh never mind; commence singing, and you will get the spirit of it." At his request I did so.' (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7:101-2.)

"Not long after Elder Taylor sang the song the second time, the mob attacked the jail murdering the Prophet and his brother.

"The tune name DUANE STREET is taken from the Duane Street Church in New York City where, in 1839, the composer, the Reverend George Coles, preached a famous sermon in honor of the centennial of the Methodist Church. Our present tune is actually a rather elaborate variation of DUANE STREET."

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