Considered the anthem of the Latter-day Saint pioneers, “Come, Come, Ye Saints” was penned by William Clayton on April 15, 1846. He wrote the hymn while toiling, westward-bound, with the pioneers through the mud 103 miles away from Nauvoo, Illinois. Clayton was part of the first pioneer company to enter the Salt Lake Valley.
While camped out near Locust Creek in Iowa, Clayton awaited news of his wife, Diantha, who remained in Nauvoo while expecting their first child. On April 15, William Clayton received the joyous news that his son was born in good health, but he also heard that his wife was suffering from illness.
After hearing this news, Clayton recorded in his journal, “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.”
That was all that Clayton ever wrote about the hymn, but it has been considered one of the most beloved of Latter-day Saint hymns. Clayton wrote it to the tune of the English folk song “All Is Well.”
Carol Madsen described in a presentation, “When Brother Clayton first presented his hymn to the Saints as they gathered around the campfire at the end of a long, arduous day of travel, he undoubtedly had only his manuscript and was thus obliged to teach the song by rote — one line at a time — until they learned it.”
The hymn describes the trek that the pioneers had taken and would continue to take. It concludes with:
“And should we die before our journey’s through
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell —
All is well! All is well!”
As of 2015, the Daily Universe at BYU reported “Come, Come, Ye Saints” had been sung twice in one general conference and was one of the hymns most sung at consecutive conferences. The last time this hymn was sung at general conference was in 2018. The hymn has also appeared in general conference talks and BYU speeches.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen gave a BYU speech by the same name as the hymn in 1995 while he was the school’s provost. When contemplating the sacrament prayer, Elder Hafen described how the words of this hymn came into his mind and he said after thinking about the first verse, “Perhaps this means, come, ye Saints, all ye that are heavy laden, come to the Savior of Mankind.”
This hymn was also a favorite of Latter-day Saint prophet Heber J. Grant. President Grant praised the hymn because he “felt that it was important for Church members to understand the hymn — particularly the fourth verse, with its message of hope regarding those who ‘die before (the) journey’s through’ and those whose lives are ‘spared again to see the Saints their rest obtain.’”
Since then, Latter-day Saint artists like the Bonner family and Nik Day have produced their own renditions of the classic hymn. This hymn might be one of the most played hymns ever— after all, the first two lines are automatically played every hour at BYU’s Centennial Carillon Tower.