Williamite Hymns

Following up on my previous post on Strangite Hymns, I thought I’d offer a selection of Williamite hymns.

After 1844, William the Unloved was the last surviving son of Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith Sr. Although sharing many qualities with his older brother Joseph Jr. — charisma, confidence, stature, zeal — their mixture in William never quite worked. William was one of the original apostles (his ordination had come at Joseph’s insistence) and he later was acknowledged as Presiding Patriarch of both Brigham Young’s and James Strang’s church organizations, albeit not simultaneously. After breaking with Young and Strang in 1845 and 1847, respectively, William decided to organize his own faction of Mormonism, with himself at its head. According to a pamphlet published by William, his title was “the First President, Prophet, Seer, Revelator, Translator, and Patriarch over the whole Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”[1]

William was based in the hamlet of Palestine Grove in Lee County, Illinois, and his efforts had some initial success. Early conferences brought together former Strangites in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, along with Lyman Wight’s group in Texas and Isaac Sheen’s group in the Cincinnati area. Unfortunately for William, this combination was totally unstable. By the 1850s, contention over plural marriage was becoming the core conflict among the Saints who had not gone west. William had continued to practice and advocate plural marriage in private, while publicly denying the practice. Meanwhile, Lyman Wight’s group was more or less openly polygamous, but Isaac Sheen, the many Strangites-turned-Williamite, and William’s own followers in Palestine Grove were all virulently anti-polygamy. By 1853, William’s balancing act on polygamy failed catastrophically and his organization atomized.

In the meantime, however, the Williamites wrote and published a number of catchy hymns[2] — no doubt a testimony to William’s own skill as a rhymer. These are interesting for their general Mormon character, and for their uniquely Williamite slant.

As with the Strangite hymns, some of these are long, but I again guarantee that they are worth the read. First up is J. W. Crippen’s hymn, in which he assures us that despite the “scoff and frown” of the wicked, the Saints will endure — because the “Prophet William is the Man”!

A SONG OF ZION by J. W. Crippen

1. Come ye Saints with me rejoice,
Who have made the Lord your choice,
Who have bid this world farewell,
Determined with the Saints to dwell,
Then when the Savior comes again,
With Saints we’ll rise, with him we’ll reign.

2. Let the wicked scoff and frown,
In God’s name we’ll still go on,
Till our persecutors all
Beneath His wrath and judgements fall;
Then when the Savior comes again,
With Saints we’ll rise, with him we’ll reign.

3. Then let us all united be,
In time and in eternity,
A band of Brothers — Sisters too,
The righteous way we will pursue;
Then when the Savior comes again,
With Saints we’ll rise, with him we’ll reign.

4. Faithful be a few more years,
Bid sorrow flee, dry up your tears,
Zion will arise and shine,
In majesty and truth divine;
Then when the Savior comes again,
With Saints we’ll rise, with him we’ll reign.

5. Prophet William is the man,
The Elijah of the Gospel plan,
Like as Joseph who was slain,
The faith of Saints remains the same
Then when the Savior comes again,
With Saints we’ll rise, with him we’ll reign.

6. With our Prophets we will meet,
And our joys will be complete;
When the earth shall be restored,
We’ll reign with martyrs of our Lord;
Then when the Prophet comes again,
With Saints we’ll rise, with him we’ll reign.

Building on the idea that William is “the Elijah of the Gospel plan,” is a Williamite hymn penned by William himself, modestly entitled, “The Elijah.” In it we see that William is Elijah to Joseph’s Elias.

THE ELIJAH by William Smith

1. The Prophet Elijah at last has appeared,
With gifts, and with blessings, which Saints have rever’d,
His plan of redemption in fulness is given,
With power to save both the dead and the living.

2. The mystery of God begins now to unfold,
As declar’d by the Prophets and Apostles of old;
While ’rapt in the vision of glory they see,
The prison doors open, the captives go free.

3. With the keys of this ministry, Elias was sent,
On a mission of mercy, that all might repent,
Endow’d with the same spirit the Prophet has come.

Baptising for the fathers that all may be one.

4. Glad tidings of great joy, a great revelation,
To preach’d to the kindred of every nation,
For the sick, the poor, the aged, and despis’d,
This plan of redemption, our Savior devis’d.

5. The gifts of the gospel, God’s order and plan,
Will now be restor’d to His church again;
For such is the power, the keys are revealing,
That the doom of this world, Elijah is sealing.

Next is a hymn penned by Ira J. Patten, a younger brother of Apostle David W. Patten who died in the 1838 Battle of Crooked River. I particularly like Ira’s imagery about the Pre-Existence. Ira also brings up the idea that underlay all William’s claims: priesthood is transmitted by lineal descent. To top it off, he correctly used the word “refulgently”.

[A FAREWELL HYMN] by Apostle Ira J. Patten

1. Farewell Brother William,
Farewell for a while,
We part with reluctance,
We’ll meet with a smile.
May Jehovah protect you,
Wherever you go,
Preserve you from evil,
From sorrow and woe!

2. With your Priesthood from Heaven,
From God it was sent,
Through the loins of your father,
By lineal descent,
’Tis the great link connecting,
The Earth with the Heaven;

Given great joy and gladness,
To dead and the living!

3. In the great war in Heaven,
’Tis plain to my mind,
Your father, six brothers,
All straight in a line;
In defense of King Jesus,
All valiantly stood,

Your watchword was order,
Through the Priesthood of God.

4. For the last dispensation,
In the fulness of times,
When the glory of Jesus,
Refulgently shines.
This Priesthood is given,
The war is began,
King Jesus will conquer,
We believe it. Amen.

Last is a hymn that is almost a patriarchal blessing given to the whole priesthood structure of William’s church, office by office from president down to deacon. Although anonymous, its character as a blessing and its rhyme scheme implies to me that it might also have been penned by William himself.

A SONG OF ZION (anonymously authored)

1. Oh may, I always serve my God,
Walk in His holy way,
Revere His name, do what is good,
Live for Him day by day.
Jesus, my Lord, always the same,
Thy grace is all my boast,
Preserve, O Lord, my soul from shame,
Nor let my hopes be lost.

2. Thy servant, Lord, endow with power,
To speak Thy truth and love;
Oh! give him grace for every hour,
To tell of things above;
Oh! spread Thy kingdom here below,
Let Zion quickly shine,
Thy Holy Spirit now bestow
For truly we are Thine.

3. Hast Thou not promised good to us?
Oh! keep us by Thy grace,
The arm of flesh we cannot trust;
But seek Thy glorious face.
Thy Seer,[3] O Lord, preserve his life,
To lead Thy church aright,
From wicked men, with malice rife,
Walking in Sin’s dark night.

4. His Counselors, O Lord, keep clean,
With wisdom fill their mind,
Such light on earth was never seen,
Let glory through them shine.
Uphold Thy Spokesman[4] through Thy love,
To expound Thy word aright,
With power Divine, sent from above,
Fill him with Heavenly light.

5. The Twelve Apostles[5] make a flame,
As minist’ring spirits are,
To bear abroad Thy Holy name,
Thy sacred truths declare.
Make them Lions in Thy cause,
Like thunder bolts in power,
To demonstrate Thy Holy Laws,
The glories of this hour.

6. The High Priesthood, fill with holy love,
Help them preside in grace.
Holy Ghost, sent from above,
Fill them with power and peace,
Help them defend Elijah’s God,
Them grace and wisdom show,
Keep Thou them safe in all that’s good,
As they the trumpet blow.

7. The Bishops, Lord, they are Thy own,
To execute Thy will.
God’s seed in them, Thyself hast sewn,
They cannot now be still.
Fill them with power and grace divine,
Love, peace, devotion too,
O, may they rise, in glory shine,
They’ve bid this world adieu.

8. The Seventies are Thy chosen bands,
To travel o’er the earth;
To preach the truth in distant lands,
And call the world from mirth.
Inspire them with the Holy Ghost,
Fill them with holy zeal.
Let not their works in Thee by lost,
Thou are their only weal.

9. The Elders, Priests, and Teachers, too,
And Deacons, are Thy own;
O! may their members not be few,
The Truth in them is sewn.
Grace, truth, and peace, be their regard,
The Spirit to them is given,
And crowns celestial their reward,
When they arrive in Heaven.

10. Thy Church, Thy Zion, Oh, my God,
The Savior of my race,
Show them the path the fathers trod,
And save them by Thy grace.
Thou art the God in whom we trust,
Like Abraham of yore,
Thou art our Christ, and Thee we must,
And Thee we will adore.

11. The Seer, William, God doth call,
His brothers to succeed,
He welcomes home good Mormons all,
He’s of the promised seed.

Come Zion’s children, come away,
The Spirit bids you come.
And live for Jesus day by day,
Say, will you longer roam?

12. Glory to God, e’en Joseph’s God,
And Jesus Christ His Son;
We’ll praise them while on earth we plod,
The Spirit three in one,
Let praises sound from every tongue
[Forever] may they ring,
[Let’s] complete the work He has begun,
[Then] should not Zion sing!

That William was a rhymer. More to the point: “he’s of the promised seed!” What more do you need to hear folks? Will you longer roam?

[1] Joseph Wood, Epistle of the Twelve (Milwaukee: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [Williamite], 1851). See Kyle R. Walker, “William Smith’s Quest for Ecclesiastical Station: A Schismatic Odyssey, 1844-93,” in Newell G. Bringhurst and John C. Hamer, eds., Scattering of the Saints: Schism within Mormonism (Independence, Missouri: John Whitmer Books, 2007), 107. This title combined Joseph’s “Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and Translator” title, emphasized by Strang (“Translator” has been dropped in the LDS tradition), along with William’s preferred title for the Presiding Patriarch “Patriarch over the Church.” In the LDS tradition the title of the Presiding Patriarch was rendered “Patriarch to the Church” before the position was ultimately eliminated.
[2] Wood, 24-26.
[3] I.e., William, cf. verse 11.
[4] William’s organization included the important role of “Spokesman,” seemingly a more formalized position for the role held by Sidney Rigdon in the early church. The “Spokesman” in William’s organization was Joseph Wood (Wood, 1).


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    How fun. These early groups were quite fascinating.

  2. William the Unloved

    I seem to remember listening to a presentation by Bates or Anderson or somebody where they said that the Reorganites used to call him “Crazy Uncle William,” or something like that…or I could just be hallucinating.

    This is a fascinating group of hymns, John. I definitely appreciate your informing all of us.

  3. No, you’re absolutely right, J (#2), William has not found any more love in the Reorganization than he has in the LDS tradition.

    Paul Edwards, a great-great-great nephew of William Smith, gives the basic Community of Christ take on William in the title of his article: “William B. Smith: ‘A Wart on the Ecclesiastical Tree,’” in Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher, eds., Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History, 140-157.

    William ultimately joined the RLDS Church in 1879, but the church recognized neither his apostleship nor his patriarchate (despite William’s vigorous lobbying efforts).

    My own take on William is sympathetic, which in a relative sense makes me a lone booster.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    Simply outstanding. You really get a flavor for their mindset through hymns, perhaps more than we would through their own writings.

  5. Why was he unloved? Can you expound more on this point?

  6. Tatiana (#5): William was brash. Like Joseph, he had a sharp wit and a quick temper, but unlike Joseph, people didn’t find him endearing afterward. Richard Bushman tells us that Joseph was a “Rough Stone Rolling” with lots of powerful traits, positive and negative. He was wonderful…and horrible. William got it the other way around.

    There were six sons and three daughters who lived to adulthood in the Smith family: Alvin, Hyrum, Sophronia, Joseph, Samuel, William, Catherine, Don Carlos, and Lucy. Of the sons, I think that Alvin, Joseph, and William had the dominant personalities; and then Hyrum, Samuel, and Don Carlos had the supportive personalities. I think that William (like Alvin) had more in common with Joseph than his other brothers. But they were also rivals, unlike the more supportive three. Joseph only emerged the way he did because Alvin died. William then lived in his brother’s shadow. So the irony is that William was more like Joseph, but being more like Joseph he was less loved by Mormons.

    In addition, William has been unloved by historians because he lost. There are no Williamites today. LDS/Brighamite and RLDS/Josephite memories are hostile.

  7. A quibble: shouldn’t you say “LDS/Brighamite and RLDS/Joseph-the-third-ite” rather than “LDS/Brighamite and RLDS/Josephite” to make a more accurate comparison? The way you phrase it (I know it is phraseology not of your framing, but still) makes it sound like the LDS do not revere/follow Joseph Smith by virtue of having sustained Brigham Young as leader of the Church after Joseph Smith’s assassination. It also makes it sound like the RLDS church is the church founded by Joseph Smith and not the LDS Church. Sure, members of the RLDS church might see it that way, but I think Mormons (LDS) would care very strongly to differ on any attempt to imply that the LDS church is not the church founded by Joseph Smith.

  8. John F. (#7): The “-ite” terms date to the mid-19th century; they are contemporary with the schisms. “Brighamite” and “Josephite” have mostly died out because we commonly say “LDS Church” and “Community of Christ.” Because I work so much with all the branches of the Restoration, I use all the “-ite” terms for clairity, convenience, inclusiveness, and fairness.

    “The Church of Jesus Christ” (with Headquarters in Monongahela, Pennsylvania) which was organized by Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830 (and was reorganized by William Bickerton in 1861) absolutely rejects their nickname “Bickertonites.” But if I had to say “The Church of Jesus Christ (with Headquarters in Monongahela, Pennsylvania)” — and then clarify who that refers to without using the word “Bickertonite” — every single time I need to identify them with a noun or an adjective — I would not get very far. So, instead I say to my friends who are members of that church that I use all the “-ite” names with equal fairness. I say “Bickertonite” and I say “Strangite,” but I also say “Josephite” and I say “Brighamite.”

    I also say “Josephite” and “Brighamite” for inclusiveness. I know many Josephites who are not member of the Community of Christ (e.g., RLDS fundamentalists / Restorationists) and I know many Brighamites who are not members of the LDS Church (e.g., fundamentalist Mormons).

    As to the word “Josephite” in particular: this absolutely refers to followers of Joseph Smith III, not Joseph Smith Jr. Every church in the Restoration looks to Joseph Smith Jr. as their founder — everyone is a Juniorite. But “Juniorite” and “Thirdite” (or your proposed, unwieldy “Joseph-the-third-ite”) are not contemporary terms, they’re neologisms. “Josephite” dates to the 19th century and it’s the accepted term for all churches that descend from Joseph III. Lots of contemporary non-Josephites from David Whitmer to Wilford Woodruff used it to refer to the RLDS Church and its members.

    Those are my reasons for using these terms, despite the fact that most everyone objects to being called an “-ite” themselves.

  9. Shane Chism says:

    Mr. Hamer, awesome stuff. Thank you for your post.

  10. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    Good stuff. Thanks John.

  11. John, excellent stuff. Thanks. Has anyone else researched comparative hymnology with the Latter Day Saint movement? It seems like it would make for a fun article (at the least) and probably an excellent book.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    I had always assumed “Josephite” was referring to Junior; I had no idea it was meant to refer to III. Thanks for the clarification in what was meant by this terminology.

  13. This really is wonderful, John. I appreciate you letting us know all this stuff.

    So Calvin Maker in Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series must be loosely based on William. Have you read the series? Alvin in the series is based on Joseph.

    It’s interesting to think that if the real Alvin had lived, Joseph might have been to Alvin the way William was to Joseph. Do you think? I mean of course it’s all speculative, but could the restoration have come through anyone else besides Joseph? And if it did, what would have been the difference in its character?

  14. Thanks, all — I’m glad folks find this stuff as fascinating as I do.

    Tatiana (#13): I’m afraid I haven’t read the series, but I presume you’re right. I do think that if Alvin had lived, Joseph would have had a very different life. As you say, it’s idle speculation to imagine what might have happened, but the origin of the Restoration is certainly wrapped up in Joseph’s family life. How would it have been if Alvin had been there? Would they still have lost the farm? Would Alvin have accepted the Book of Mormon and been baptized? (Might he even have been one of the scribes? How would the book be different, might the 116 pages have not been lost?) Unlike supportive Hyrum, Alvin was used to being leader. If he accepted Mormonism, how would he and Joseph have navigated their roles? If he hadn’t, how would a divided Smith family have changed things? I think there are too many variables to speculate because Alvin’s death comes so early in the story.

    Christopher (#11): Although these Williamite hymns aren’t making it into our hymn festival next weekend at JWHA, hymns from a lot of other traditions are.

    From the 1835 Hymnal, we’re doing “Adam-ondi-Ahman” and “The Spirit of God.” From the Strangites we’re doing “The City of Voree,” “The Prophet J. J. Strang,” and “A Church without a Prophet.” From the Cutlerites we’re doing “Hymn to Be Sung at My Funeral.” From the Remnant Church we’re doing “There’s a Tree by a Clear Running Stream,” and “All Praise Be to Our Father.” From the Community of Christ we’re doing “Tenderly, Tenderly, Lead Thou Me On,” and “The Old, Old Path.” And from the LDS Church we’re doing “I Believe in Christ,” “My Redeemer Lives,” and “I Stand All Amazed.”

    Brian Hales is putting all those together in a little hymnal which got me to thinking how fun it might be to have a larger hymnal with a couple selections from an even wider number of Restoration traditions. The Bickertonites, for example, have an incredibly interesting and unique hymn tradition. They have an entire hymnal that has been revealed since 1976. They have the sound and feeling to me of contemporary folk music, but they are filled with Restoration content. Just one example is a hymn entitled, “The Latter Day Theme”:

    1. The better part of a lifetime,
    in defense of a dream,
    List’ning very intently,
    to the Latter Day Theme.
    Watchin ev’ry horizon,
    certain one day to see,
    All the beauty of Zion,
    there unfolding to me.

    2. Call ev’ry north country,
    ev’ry isle of the sea,
    To return all God’s people,
    to the land of the free,
    Sing the fair Songs of Zion,
    hear the message they bring,
    Introducing the pleasure,
    the blest Latter Day Theme.

    Anyway, I like the idea of a Restoration tradition hymnal. We probably need to think more on that.

  15. Oooooh! Can I be on the committee?

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