Joseph Smith the Prophet
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Stories of the Music
Click on a song title below to read its story:

O Give Me Back My Prophet Dear
Hymn to the Prophet
Persecutions
O How Great
Joseph and Emma
The Witnesses
Irene (Your Baby Was Here)
The Spirit of God
Missouri Mobs

Savior, Redeemer of My Soul
My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee
A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
Praise to the Man

O Give Me Back My Prophet Dear

Text by John Taylor
Music by Rob Gardner

John Taylor loved the Prophet Joseph very much. Taylor’s words when speaking of him possess a power and authority that never fail to amaze and inspire me. I originally found his poem, "O Give Me Back My Prophet Dear," in the 1948 edition of the LDS hymnbook. The lyric was incredible, but the tune failed to impress me. So, I wrote a new tune, rather simple and plaintive, that I felt more adequately expressed the feeling of the lyric.

John Taylor had this to say about the Prophet: "I testify that I was acquainted with Joseph Smith for years. I have travelled with him; I have been with him in private and in public; I have associated with him in councils of all kinds; I have listened hundreds of times to his public teachings, and his advice to his friends and associates of a more private nature. I have been at his house and seen his deportment in his family. I have seen him arraigned before the tribunals of his country, and seen him honorably acquitted, and delivered from the pernicious breath of slander, and the machinations and falsehoods of wicked and corrupt men. I was with him living, and with him when he died, when he was murdered in Carthage gaol by a ruthless mob, headed by a Methodist minister, named Williams, with their faces painted. I was there and was myself wounded; I at that time received four balls in my body. I have seen him, then, under these various circumstances, and I testify before God, angels, and men, that he was a good, honorable, virtuous man--that his doctrines were good, scriptural, and wholesome--that his precepts were such as became a man of God--that his private and public character was unimpeachable--and that he lived and died as a man of God and a gentleman. This is my testimony; if it is disputed, bring me a person authorized to receive an affidavit, and I will make one to this effect. . ."

The poem in its entirety as it was originally penned is as follows. It was first printed in the Aug. 1 edition of the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo. The words were modified just a bit for the music.

O give me back my Prophet dear,
And Patriarch, O give them back;
The Saints of latter days to cheer,
And lead them in the gospel track.
But ah! they're gone from my embrace,
From earthly scenes their spirits fled;
Those two, the best of Adam's race,
Now lie entombed among the dead.

Ye men of wisdom tell me why,
When guilt nor crime in them were found,
Why now their blood doth loudly cry,
From prison walls, and Carthage ground
Your tongues are mute, but pray attend,
The secret I will now relate,
Why those whom God to earth did lend,
Have met the suffering martyr's fate.

It is because they strove to gain,
Beyond the grave a heaven of bliss;
Because they made the gospel plain,
And led the Saints in righteousness.
It is because God called them forth,
And led them by his own right hand
Christ's coming to proclaim on earth,
And gather Israel to their land.

It is because the priests of Baal
Were desperate their craft to save;
And when they saw it doomed to fail,
They sent the Prophets to the grave.
Like scenes the ancient Prophets saw,
Like these, the ancient Prophets fell;
And till the resurrection dawn,
Prophet and Patriarch-Fare thee well.

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Hymn to the Prophet

Music by Rob Gardner

When I first decided to write a project on the life and mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, I felt like I needed a theme that was both reverent and majestic. "Hymn to the Prophet" was the first theme I wrote specifically for Joseph Smith the Prophet. This hymn has no words. I felt that words might get in the way of the feeling the music inspired. This theme, delivered by the orchestra and choir, is a tribute to the work of the Prophet and a testimony of the divinity of his call.

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Persecutions

Text and Music by Rob Gardner

John Taylor had this to say about the ministers of the time: "[The persecutions of the Saints] were principally instigated by ministers. These, gentlemen, are the destroying angels if you wish to know about them. Is it difficult for such men to write books, such as we have heard, to cover their infamy and deeds of darkness? Who but depraved men could write such books? And is it difficult to attach the name of Rev.? This gives sanction, of course, to their statements, which are swallowed with avidity, and circulated by their brethren here."

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O How Great

Text and Music by Rob Gardner

Though the early Saints were subjected to vicious persecutions and ridicule, their gratitude for the restored Gospel was unrestrained. The lyric to this song is adapted from 2 Nephi chapter 9. I remember reading this chapter one day while on my mission in France and feeling that it described beautifully how I felt at the time.

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Joseph and Emma

Music by Rob Gardner

Emma met Joseph Smith when he and his father arrived in Harmony to work for an acquaintance of the Hales, Josiah Stowell (sometimes spelled Stoal). During the two years he worked in the area, Joseph twice asked Isaac Hale for permission to marry Emma, but was twice refused, because he was "a stranger." At age twenty-two, Emma Hale married Joseph Smith on January 18, 1827, in South Bainbridge, New York, without her father's permission, and moved to Manchester, New York, to make her home with Joseph's parents. That experience marked the beginning of a warm, supportive, and enduring relationship between Emma and her mother-in-law, Lucy Mack Smith. Returning briefly to Harmony to collect her belongings, Emma and Joseph were told the Hales's door would always be open to them, despite her father's continuing reservations about the man she had chosen to marry.

Joseph loved Emma very much and she loved him in return. They were a great support to each other through the many years of challenge and affliction. In 1842, Joseph was in hiding because his life was in danger. Joseph wrote his feeling about Emma's visit during this period, "With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand, on that night, my beloved Emma—she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart. Many were the reverberations of my mind when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had been called to pass through, the fatigues and the toils, the sorrows and sufferings, and the joys and consolations, from time to time, which had strewed our paths. … Oh what a commingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, again she is here, … undaunted, firm, and unwavering—unchangeable, affectionate Emma!"

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The Witnesses

Text and Music by Rob Gardner

Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were shown the gold plates by the messenger from heaven. Though each one of them apostatized from the Church and turned against the Prophet, they never denied their testimony of the gold plates. When Joseph was given permission by heaven to show them the plates, their testimony so moved Joseph that he said to his parents, "Father, Mother, do you know how happy I am? It rejoices my soul that I am no longer to be entirely alone in the world."

They wrote: Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

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Irene

Text by Ellen Henry Gardner
Music by Rob Gardner

The text of this song is a poem written by my grandmother, Ellen Henry Gardner. Her eighth child, a daughter whom they named Irene Sarah, was stillborn. After my grandmother died, my uncle put together a collection of her poetry (until then, I didn’t even know she had written any). Soon after, I decided to put "Irene" to music as a tribute to my grandma. I was 17 when I wrote the music.

As I wrote and compiled music for Joseph Smith the Prophet I felt that it would not be complete without including a glimpse at the many personal trials the Prophet and his courageous wife endured. Six times they were forced to endure the loss of a little child. Their first-born, Alva died at birth. Their next two children, twins, lived about three hours. Don Carlos, their seventh child, died at the age of fourteen months. The following child, a boy, did not survive past birth. Finally, one of their adopted twins, Joseph Smith Murdock, died a month before his first birthday. Out of eleven children, only five lived to adulthood.

I contemplated whether or not to change the title, and even the female references to the child in the lyric, to fit the situation better. However, I hope you’ll forgive me for my decision to leave it as is for the sake of my grandmother and her baby. This song is dedicated to their memory.

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The Spirit of God

Text by William W. Phelps
Music anonymous, arranged by Rob Gardner

Sunday, March 27, 1836, was the time set apart for the dedication of the Temple. It was a time of rejoicing for all. On the long-expected day, the crowd began to arrive before eight o'clock and thronged the doors, until at nine the "presidents" of the church, who were seating the crowd, were reluctantly compelled to close the doors. It is estimated that over a thousand were present, every seat and aisle filled. The attendance of children on these important occasions in the life of adults is often underestimated.

One of my earliest recollections [says Sylvia Cutler Webb] was the dedication of the Temple. [She was six years old.] "My father took us up on his lap and told us why we were going and what it meant to dedicate a house of God. And although so very young at that time, I clearly remember the occasion.

"I can look back through the lapse of years and see, as I saw then, Joseph the Prophet standing with his hands raised toward heaven, his face ashy pale, the tears running down his cheeks as he spoke on that memorable day. Almost all seemed to be in tears. The house was so crowded the children were mostly sitting on older people's laps; my sister sat on father's, I on mother's lap. I can even remember the dresses we wore. My mind was too young at that time to grasp the full significance of it all, but as time passed, it dawned more and more upon me, and I am very grateful that I was privileged to be there."

It is said that the word was given out that babies in arms were not to be admitted because of possible disturbance, but that one mother concealed her babe under her shawl, and that the child who had not yet spoken shouted, "Hosanna to God!" The long dedicatory was offered by Sidney Rigdon. At the conclusion of the discourse, Sidney Rigdon presented Joseph Smith as their seer, and he was accepted by rising vote, first by the "presidents," then by the quorums in turn, and then by the congregation.

There was a choir under the leadership of M. C. Davis. They sang "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning." Lucy Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery's half-sister, later the wife of Phineas Young, tells in a letter she wrote young Joseph Smith, many years after, of the wonderful experience she had in singing in the choir on this day. No one who took part ever forgot.

Brother George A. Smith arose and began to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place. This continued until the meeting closed at eleven p.m.

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Missouri Mobs

Text and Music by Rob Gardner

John Taylor describes the scenes of mob violence in Missouri:

I was going with my family to Far west, in the State of Missouri, and while staying at a place called DeWitt, on the banks of the Missouri River, a mob of about 150 persons came, led on by two ministers, the one a Presbyterian, the other a Baptist. The name of the one was Sashial Woods, the other Abbot Hancock, they lived in Carrolton, Carrol County, Missouri. They came there with swords by their sides; their object was to drive off men, women, and children, from their own homes that they had purchased and paid for. After menacing the people for some time, they passed resolutions, that if the Latter-day Saints did not leave there in ten days, they would destroy every man, woman, and child, burn their houses, and throw their goods into the Missouri River. These resolutions were drawn up by these ministers of mercy. These and other ministers, one a Methodist, of the name of [Samuel] Bogart, engaged with a mob in driving about 15,000 men, women, and children, from their homes, in the depth of winter, after robbing and killing many in the most barbarous manner.

I have seen hundreds thus driven, with no other covering than a blanket or a sheet stuck upon poles, to screen them from the inclemency of the weather; people that had been in comfortable homes, and good circumstances, rendered houseless and homeless by the inhumanity of these wretches. Many of them died in consequence of their exposure, others were imprisoned, some of their brethren killed, and their flesh brought to them to feed on.

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Savior, Redeemer of My Soul

Text by Orson F. Whitney
Music by Rob Gardner

Though the Saints were called on to endure horrific persecutions without recourse, their faith in their God was firm. The words to this hymn are from a poem by early apostle Orson F. Whitney. It is included in the current LDS hymnbook, but again, I am not fond of the tune. So, I replaced the music with a simple tune that, combined with the amazing text, portrays a humble prayer of gratitude and renewed dedication to the Lord.

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My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee

Text and Music by Rob Gardner

The text of this song comes from several different scriptures. The opening and choruses come from Isaiah chapter 54. My mom claims this as one of her favorite passages of scripture. She asked me over and over again to put it to music. I tried several times, but I could never get past the first part. Finally, with my little brother’s missionary farewell as a deadline, I decided to combine the text of Isaiah with one of my favorite passages of scripture, Doctrine and Covenants Section 122, which is the Lord’s response to Joseph’s humble prayer for deliverance in Liberty Jail. The two fit together perfectly. Whenever possible, I try to stick to the scriptures when writing lyrics to a sacred piece. They have a lot more power in them than any of my own words.

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A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief

Text by James Montgomery
Music by George Coles, arranged by Rob Gardner

There is not much more that needs to be said than the story the narration on the recording tells. The hymn is sacred, for it was sung at the martyrdom of the Prophet of the Restoration. John Taylor was reluctant to sing it, but at the urgings of Joseph and Hyrum, he did so. When he finished singing all seven verses, Hyrum asked him to sing it again, which he did.

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Praise to the Man

Text by William W. Phelps
Scottish folk tune, arranged by Rob Gardner

Like "The Spirit of God," this text was written by William W. Phelps. Estranged from the Prophet and lost to apostate plotting, he was once the cause of Joseph’s arrest and incarceration in Liberty Jail. But, Brother Phelps repented and returned to the Prophet begging his forgiveness. Joseph met him with open arms: "Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, for friends at first, are friends again at last." W. W. Phelps eulogized the Prophet at his funeral. He included his tribute to his friend, "Praise to the Man."

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Joseph Smith the Prophet

composed by Rob Gardner
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