Community of Christ

Heritage Ideas

Hymns and Heritage

Celebrating the Bicentennial of the Birth of Joseph Smith Jr. and Central Tenets of His Message

Created by Richard Clothier

This service is recommended as an alternate service for use on Heritage Day. Additional information and worship services may be found at www.historicsitesfoundation.org.

Prelude

Welcome and Statement of Purpose

The founding prophet of our church, Joseph Smith Jr., was born 200 years ago this year, on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont, U.S.A. In observing this anniversary, it is our desire to celebrate not so much the man, but rather the revealment of God’s purposes through him, which has enriched the lives of untold millions throughout the world.

Our worship will be centered on six key concepts lifted up by the founding prophet that continue to guide and bless our faith journey today. The words read are from Joseph Smith, taken primarily from sections of the Doctrine and Covenants given through him. The hymns we sing will be hymns from his time and ours that express guiding principles that were central to the life of the early church members and which are equally important to us today.

In 1838, Joseph Smith, writing in Far West, Missouri, published answers to several questions he often encountered in his travels. One of these queries is particularly significant to the message of this service. He was asked, "What are the fundamental principles of your religion?" His answer was: "The fundamental principles of our religion [are found in] the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, ‘that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;’ and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion" (Elders’ Journal Vol. 3, No. 1 [July 1838]: 44). The centrality of Jesus, the essence of the gospel message, is at the heart of all we believe and is the heart of this experience of worship together.

Invitation to Worship

Reader 1:    Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all . . . yea, verily I say, Hearken ye people from afar, and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together; for verily the voice of the Lord is unto all . . . and there is none to escape, and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.

Reader 2:    Wherefore I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jr., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments, and also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets . . . that man should not counsel his fellowman, neither trust in the arm of flesh, but that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; that faith also might increase in the earth; that mine everlasting covenant might be established; that the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed. . . unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers. Behold, I am God, and [I] have spoken it.
—Doctrine and Covenants 1:1a–b; 4a–e; 5a

The Story of Our Opening Hymn

Parley P. Pratt was one of the pioneers of the early Restoration. At the age of nineteen, this self-educated, rugged outdoorsman traveled from New York to Ohio to clear land west of Cleveland and built a log cabin for himself and his wife. After reading a copy of the Book of Mormon, he became converted to the church. It was his conversion of his friend, Sidney Rigdon, along with Rigdon’s Disciples of Christ followers that began the work of the church in the Kirtland area. The enthusiastic expression of Parley Pratt’s secure and confident faith in the power of the Restoration story is proclaimed in the strong affirmation of his hymn, "When Earth in Bondage Long Hath Lain."

Hymn: "When Earth in Bondage Long Hath Lain" Stanzas 1, 3, and 4    The Hymnal (1956) 288

1.  When earth in bondage long had lain, /And darkness o’er the nations reigned,
And all man’s precepts proved in vain, /A perfect system to obtain—

Refrain
A voice commissioned from on high! /Hark, Hark! It is the angel’s cry,
Descending from the throne of light, /His garments shining clear and white!

3.  Lo, from Cumorah’s lonely hill /There comes a record of God’s will,
Translated by the power of God; /His voice bears record to his word.

Refrain

4.  And now commissioned from on high, /God’s servants faith, repentance cry,
Baptizing as in days of old /Into one Shepherd and one fold.

Refrain

OR "We Thank You, O God, for Our Prophets”  CCS 180 (This hymn could be substituted if The Hymnal [1956] is unavailable.)

Comments on HS 307: The author of this hymn, William Fowler, was born in Australia in 1830, the son of a British soldier and his wife. Within a few years of the family’s return to England, both his parents died, leaving William an orphan at the age of fourteen. In the winter of 1848, he became dissatisfied with his parents’ Methodist religion and accepted the invitation of a friend to attend the Latter Day Saint church in Sheffield, England. The next summer he was baptized. He was ordained a priest the following year and an elder in 1851. Although we do not know the exact circumstances of the writing of this hymn, it was probably written before 1863, when Fowler and his family sailed for America. He died only two years later, having left to the Latter Day Saint movement a grand hymn, traditionally sung to express appreciation for prophetic leadership in our day.

Prayer of Invocation

Response

The Ongoing Search for Truth

Reading: A Teenager’s Search for Truth through Scripture and Prayer (see below)

Hymn Story

We sing next a hymn that celebrates the search for the revealment of God’s truth throughout the ages and relates this search specifically to the birth of our movement. The hymn was written for a "Quest for Christ" series of meetings held at the Stone Church in 1953. Roy Cheville, legendary professor of religion and campus pastor at Graceland College, was to lead the singing, a role he, and those who sang, relished enthusiastically. He wanted a hymn that caught up the theme of the series—that the ever living Christ is available to all. As so often happened when he was unable to find a hymn that exactly caught up the theme as he understood it, he penned this text himself. The first stanza of "Afar in Old Judea" speaks of the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River and the subsequent confirmation of the Holy Spirit. The second stanza tells of the visit of Christ to ancient America as recorded in the Book of Mormon. The third stanza refers to the vision of Joseph Smith in the grove, and the last stanza affirms that the Christ of the ages still lives and is available to us today.

Hymn: "Afar in Old Judea"  CCS 63

The Vision of Zion

Reading

Reader 1: Surely Zion is the city of our God; and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there, and he hath sworn by the power of his might to be her salvation, and her high tower; therefore verily thus saith the Lord, Let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion, THE PURE IN HEART.

Reader 2:Now, as you have asked, behold, I say unto you, Keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion: seek not for riches but for wisdom; and, behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.
Reader 1:    And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. —Doctrine and Covenants 94:5b–c, 6:3, 36:2h–i

Hymn Story

When the Latter Day Saint movement was little more than a year old, William Wines Phelps read the Book of Mormon and moved his family to Kirtland to learn more about this new church. In a revelation dated June 1831, he was told that he should be baptized and ordained an elder. Phelps’ background in political affairs and journalism would be put to good use by the movement. In June 1832, when the first issue of The Evening and the Morning Star came off the press Phelps had set up in Independence, the back page contained six hymns: two by Phelps, one by Parley P. Pratt, and three hymns borrowed from other denominations and revised by Phelps to better express Latter Day Saint theology. The most popular themes included Zion and the imminent Second Coming of Christ.

In one of these hymns, Phelps was able to catch in a particularly moving way both the excitement and the struggles of the new movement. He had experienced firsthand the trials of the early church members and likened them, in these verses, to the travail of the children of Israel. The pursuit of the dream of Zion was an integral element of this message. In his writing, Phelps was inspired by an existing hymn written by Joseph Swain, which began, "O Thou in whose presence my soul takes delight." Phelps’s hymn, "Redeemer of Israel," is one of the important musical expressions of the young Restoration movement.

*Hymn: "Redeemer of Israel"  CCS 388

Missionary Zeal and the Worldwide Fellowship

Reading

Reader 1: Verily, thus saith the Lord . . . Go ye, go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature . . . declare the things which ye have heard and verily believe, and know to be true. Behold, this is the will of him who hath called you, your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ.

Reader 2: And again, the Lord shall utter his voice out of heaven, saying: Hearken, O ye nations of the earth, and hear the words of that God who made you. O, ye nations of the earth, how often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not?

Reader 1: Verily I say unto you again, The time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you . .  gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Send forth the elders of my church unto the nations which are afar off; unto the islands of the sea; send forth unto foreign lands; call upon all nations . . . yea, let the cry go forth among all people: Awake and arise . . . Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord. —Doctrine and Covenants 79:1; 43:6a–b; 108:2c, 3a, c–d

Hymn Story

As Emma Smith worked in Nauvoo to expand her second hymnal to more than three times the size of the Kirtland hymnal, she must have been pleased to find texts written for other denominations that also caught the spirit of the new Latter Day Saint movement. Our next hymn is one of these existing hymns that must have appealed to early church members.

"Yes, We Trust the Day Is Breaking," was written in 1809 by an Irishman. Thomas Kelley was the son of an Irish judge and attended Trinity College in Dublin with the intention of becoming a member of the bar. While there, he experienced a conversion to evangelical religion and was ordained into the Episcopal Church of Ireland. He was a magnetic preacher, a friend to the poor and oppressed, and a prolific hymn writer. The early church members appreciated, as should we, the strong testimony of this hymn—that a new day is dawning for the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is preached abroad, in lands far and wide, through the power of God.

Hymn: "Yes, We Trust the Day Is Breaking" stanzas 1, 2, and 4    The Hymnal (1956) 441 (Tune: HS 231)

1. Yes, we trust the day is breaking; /Joyful times are near at hand;
God, the mighty God is speaking /By his word in every land;
When he chooses, When he chooses, /Darkness flies at his command.

2. While the foe becomes more daring, /While he enters like a flood,
Christ, the Savior, is preparing /Means to spread his truth abroad;
Every language, Every language /Soon shall tell the love of God.

4. God of Jacob, high and glorious, /Let thy people see thy hand;
Let the gospel be victorious /Through the world, in every land;
Then shall idols, Then shall idols, /Perish, Lord, at thy command.

OR if The Hymnal is not available “Your Cause Be Mine”  CCS 639

Stewardship and the Sacredness of All Things

Reading

Reader 1: Wherefore, verily I say unto you, that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal . . . for my commandments are spiritual.

Reader 2: And again, a commandment I give unto you concerning your stewardship which I have appointed unto you: behold, all these properties are mine . . . and if the properties are mine then ye are stewards, otherwise ye are no stewards. But verily, I say unto you, I have appointed unto you to be stewards . . . indeed.

Reader 1: Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive . . . He says: "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find" . . . no good thing will I withhold from them who walk uprightly before me, and do my will in all things.

—Doctrine and Covenants 28:9a, c; 101:10a–c;Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, B.H. Roberts, editor (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company,1960),5:136.

Blessing and Offering of Mission Tithes

The Genius of Shared Ministry

Reading

Reader 1: Therefore, let every [person] stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet, for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand? Also, the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.

Reader 2: Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work, for, behold, the field is white already to harvest, and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perish not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;

Reader 1: And faith, hope, charity, and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualifies him for the work.
—Doctrine and Covenants 83:21; 4:1c–e

Hymn Story

One of the most talented hymn writers of our own time is Geoffrey Spencer, former president of the Council of Twelve Apostles. His eleven hymns in Hymns of the Saints are admirable in the beautiful and profound way in which they express key elements of our faith today. This hymn is no exception, as the author catches up in a few verses what he feels is the essence of Restoration theology. Brother Spencer has explained how the hymn came into being:

Frequently in my contacts in the field, I would encounter the question, in one form or another, "What does the church believe today?" What I attempted to do here was to incorporate into the text what I believed to be foundational beliefs of the Restoration. With this in mind, I referred briefly to the concepts of: (1) restoration; (2) the living presence of divine power for the task; (3) the sacredness of all things; (4) the unity of spirit and element; (5) the ongoing search for truth; (6) men and women together in ministry; (7) the role of the church as sin-bearer; (8) the power of our heritage; and (9) the experience of the God who calls us into the future. In the course of working up the text, I found other ideas pressing for inclusion, or so it seemed, but resisted the temptation to add other stanzas.

—Richard Clothier, "398 Let Us Give Praise to the God of Creation," A Heritage of Hymns (Independence: Herald House, 1996), 144.

These nine concepts, including the unique concept of shared ministry, were incorporated masterfully into the five stanzas of the hymn, "Let Us Give Praise to the God of Creation."

Hymn: "Let Us Give Praise to the God of Creation"  CCS 607

The Witness of the Gospel

A short testimony [five to six minutes in length] of a blessing that has resulted from one of the elements of the gospel message lifted up in this service
OR a brief message on a related topic such as "The Gospel—Then and Now."

The Continuing Revelation of God

Reading

Reader 1: Verily, verily I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy, and then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which is pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.

Reader 2: A person may profit by noticing the first intimations of the Spirit of Revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing unto you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of Revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.

—Doctrine and Covenants 10:7a–b
Joseph Smith, Millennial Star 17, 279

The Story of Our Closing Hymn

It is fitting that we bring our service to a close with a hymn that is dear to the heart of every Latter Day Saint—a hymn that grew out of the Pentecostal experiences in Kirtland, Ohio, prior to the completion and dedication of the temple. Tongues, visions, and prophecies were enjoyed on several occasions; in one particular quorum session, those attending reported "a great flow of the Holy Spirit… like fire in their bones, so that they could not hold their peace, but were constrained to cry hosanna to God and the Lamb" [The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Independence: Herald House, 1896), 2:23–24]. With his poetic gifts, W. W. Phelps formulated the words of a hymn that caught up the powerful spirit of this remarkable period. "The Spirit of God" was printed as the last entry in Emma’s hymnal, which actually came off the presses only a few weeks before the temple dedication in March, and the hymn was sung at the dedication service by a large choir seated in the pews at all four corners of the temple. Surely it was a memorable moment for all who attended, for it is recorded that the benedictory prayer by Sidney Rigdon was "ended with loud acclamations of Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna to God and the Lamb, Amen, Amen, and Amen" (Clothier, 81).

Hymn: "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning"  CCS 384

Prayer of Benediction

Sending Forth Statement

The message of this hour is beautifully summed up in a prophetic statement made by Joseph Smith Jr., writing in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo, May 2, 1842. He said at that time, "Generations yet unborn will dwell with peculiar delight upon the scenes that we have passed through, the privations that we have endured; the untiring zeal that we have manifested; the insurmountable difficulties that we have overcome in laying the foundation of a work that brought about the glory and blessings which they will realize." The truth of this prophecy will be born out in the lives of each one of us.

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of [Jesus Christ], this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him, that he lives. Amen. —Doctrine and Covenants 76:3g

Postlude

Note that the two hymns from The Hymnal refer to the 1956 (gray) hymnal. Words should be printed for the congregation if sufficient copies of this hymnal are not available.


A Teenager’s Search for Truth through Scripture and Prayer

Excerpted from The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
(Independence: Herald House, 1896), 1:7–11.

As the following is read at a microphone, the suggested actions could be dramatized on stage by a male teenager following the notations in italics, or these notations could be ignored and the text could simply be presented as a reading.

The Restoration movement began with the search of a teenager for religious truth. In one of several accounts of his first encounter with the Divine, Joseph describes his experience in the following words: (Actor enters and sits, reading Bible.)

There was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion . . . So great was the confusion and strife among the different denominations that it was impossible for a person young as I was . . . [I was at this time in my fifteenth year] . . . to come to any certain conclusion who was right, and who was wrong . . . While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

(Actor looks up, in deep thought.) Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine . . . I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God I did . . . At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs; that is, ask of God . . . (Actor stands and moves to another spot on stage.) So, in accordance with this my determination, to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally. (Actor kneels and looks up in prayer.)

. . . Having looked around me and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so when immediately (Actor buries head in hands, in anguish.) I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. (Actor looks up again in prayer.) But exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me . . . just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun; which descended gradually until it fell upon me. (Actor continues to look up, in great awe.)

. . . When the light rested upon me I saw two personages (whose brightness and glory defy all description) standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said (pointing to the other), "This is my beloved Son, hear him." . . . No sooner . . . did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right . . . and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them . . . Many other things did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven . . . I had seen a vision; I knew it . . . and I could not deny it . . . [I would] continue as I was until further directed; I had found the testimony of James to be true. (Actor reverently leaves stage.)

Bless God's Name

Prelude

Introit: "Draw the Circle Wide”  CCS 273
OR "All Are Welcome”  CCS 276

Welcome and Announcements

Today we will use music, scriptures, and testimony to offer praise to God and renew our commitment to witness of God’s love for each one.

We Gather to Praise God

Call to Worship: "As We Gather"  CCS 73
OR "Lord Prepare Me”  CCS 280

Invocation: "Come, Holy Spirit, Come"  CCS 154 solo

Scripture Reading: Psalm 100, 105:1–2, The Inclusive Psalms

Reader 1: Acclaim Our God with joy,
all the earth
Serve Our God with gladness!
Enter into God’s presence with a joyful song!
Know that Adonai is God!
Our God made us, and we belong to the Creator;
we are God’s people
and the sheep of God’s pasture.

Reader 2: Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving
and the courts with praise!
Give thanks to God!
Bless God’s Name!
For Our God is good;
God’s steadfast love endures forever,
and God’s faithfulness
to all generations.

Reader 3: Alleluia!
Give thanks to Our God,
and call on God’s Name;
proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples!
Sing to God, sing praise,
and tell of all God’s marvels!

Hymn of Praise: “When, in Awe of God’s Creation”  CCS 283

Confession and Forgiveness

Song of Confession: "Gentle God, When We Are Driven"  CCS 222
OR "Lord, Lead Me by Your Spirit"  CCS 209

God’s Assurance of Forgiveness: "God Forgave My Sin in Jesus’ Name"  CCS 627

Disciples Generous Response: "God of Creation"  CCS 147
OR “Great and Marvelous Are Thy Works”  CCS 118

During the receiving of mission tithes, have a soloist or a small group sing.

"Creation Flows Unceasingly”  CCS 107
OR "Let Us Give Praise to the God of Creation”  CCS 607

Proclamation

"Christ is Alive!"  CCS 473

"Lord Jesus, of You I Will Sing"  CCS 556
OR "I Love to Tell the Story"  CCS 370

Sharing Activity

Invite the congregation to gather in groups of three and share with one another a brief statement of Christ working in their life to bring new hope and saving love.

Hymn": For Everyone Born”  CCS 285

Commitment

Scripture Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 161:1b, 3a; Romans 12:1–2; 1 John 3:11, 16–18

Reader 1: Walk proudly and with a quickened step . . . Laugh and play and sing, embodying the hope and freedom of the gospel. Open your hearts and feel the yearnings of your brothers and sisters who are lonely, despised, fearful, neglected, unloved. Reach out in understanding, clasp their hands, and invite all to share in the blessings of community created in the name of the One who suffered on behalf of all.

Reader 2: I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Reader 3: For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Hymn: "Friend of the Streetwalker”  CCS 289

Solo: "When the Poor Ones”  CCS 290
OR "Your Cause Be Mine, Great Lord Divine”  CCS 639

Closing Prayer: "Santo, Santo, Santo"  CCS 159
OR "Sing to God as Sings the Ocean”  CCS 104

Sending Forth: "I, the Lord of Sea and Sky”  CCS 640
OR "Send Me Forth”  CCS 651

Instrumental Response

Postlude

PrintFriendly