Utah woman writes new verse for LDS Cultural Celebration song following deaths of four teens

Credit: Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps
Credit: Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps
Credit: Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps

One day in white I’ll return to His side, Father is waiting for me Home in His care; With loved ones there; Crowned with Celestial Glory! I am ready!

To the nearly 6,000 youth of the Ogden Utah Temple District who performed in the choir for the cultural celebration on Sept. 20, these words from one of their musical selections are familiar, comforting – and in many ways belong only to them.

They know them as “The Fourth Verse.” And they were not heard by the crowds filling the Dee Events Center on the campus of Weber State University for the two performances of the Cultural Celebration held the day before the rededication of the remodeled temple, Sept. 21.

That’s because “the fourth verse” was a gift to them from the original song’s composer in the wake of the tragic deaths of four of their peers from one high school. This heartbreaking news came in the weeks leading up to the rededication events, as the youth practiced side by side perhaps a dozen times in “coordinating councils” throughout the temple district.

Among the several musical numbers the choir sang as part of a cast of more than 16,000 was an original song, “I Am Ready,” written by the celebration’s musical director, Brita Miles.

“This has healed so many people,” Sister Miles, of the Pleasant View (Utah) 14th Ward, said of the inspiration behind and the effects of that fourth verse — one she wrote in one hour on a Sunday morning days after the funeral of one of the youth.

That evening, Aug. 24, she distributed the words at the practices for the two coordinating councils of some 1,400 youth who mainly attend Syracuse High School, where the four young people had attended.

With tears flowing, Sister Miles led those young people in singing the fourth verse.

Her two older children, Brogan, then 8; and Kamree, 6, were at the microphone while everyone sang. (Sister Miles and her husband, Aaron, have another son, Tyce, 3.)

“I don’t know how to describe it,” Sister Miles related. “The veil was thin, and the Spirit was there and we could hardly sing. It was just incredible.”

After singing the fourth verse with youth from Syracuse High School in one coordinating council, Sister Miles headed to a practice with the other coordinating council also including young people from that school.

She asked the youth of the first to get the word out on social media to encourage the others from the second council to come out to sing the fourth verse.

“I drove down to the next practice, and it was incredible. It was full capacity. They were lining the back of the gym. I think there were some family members there [of the youth who had died]. Someone said, ‘I felt like angels were permitted to attend and touch the hearts of the youth there.’ ”

Since that night, “the fourth verse” has been shared through word-of-mouth and social media with others inside and outside the temple district.

And during the final practices before the cultural celebration, Sister Miles passed out more than 5,000 bookmarks with all four verses printed above a photo of the remodeled Ogden temple.

Today, she has a difficult time with her emotions as she describes the responses she received from many youth who have written to her or approached her.

“[One] up and said, ‘I lost my grandmother last week and that verse has brought me comfort.’ The kids lined up by the dozens, and they were sobbing. All they could say was ‘Thank you.’ We wept in each others’ arms.

“A young man lost his father two years ago, and he was just crying. The next week his mother sent her other son to the practice.”

One young woman shared tenderly with Sister Miles that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer.

She told Sister Miles, “That verse has helped me to be spiritually ready for whatever will happen, that it will be OK.”

Sister Miles, who wrote several of the original musical numbers performed at the cultural celebration, said she feels “I Am Ready” was preserved for this event.

She said she wrote it several years ago, and it was once a finalist in the Church’s annual original music submissions.

“When I got called [to direct the music for the celebration,] I knew this song had to be a part of it, just because I have seen the effect it’s had on people.

“We have all been affected by death,” Sister Miles said. “Even though it was written for those four students, it was a verse that has healed many who have experienced loved ones being lost. “It was a gift from Heavenly Father. I truly believe that,” she added. “I told [the youth], ‘I prayed and He gave it to me.’ ”

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