The Original Title of “Praise to the Man” Was Simply “Joseph Smith”
William W. Phelps contributed to several hymns we sing today. Among others, he wrote “Now Let Us Rejoice,” “The Spirit of God,” and “If You Could Hie to Kolob.” He published the first newspaper of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which included the lyrics to “Redeemer of Israel,” and he contributed in many other ways to the early establishment of the Church.
Phelps spoke at the funeral service of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and later as a tribute to the Prophet he wrote the poem that would become “Praise to the Man.” Originally, the poem was titled “Joseph Smith” and was published anonymously in the Church’s newspaper. Eventually music was added to the lyrics, and the hymn was added to the hymnbook. The song was also included in Praise to the Man: Songs Honoring the Prophet Joseph, an album by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Later, Phelps followed Brigham Young to Salt Lake City and served in the Utah territorial legislature as the first territorial speaker of the house. For more information on the history behind this hymn, listen to Episode 4 of the History of Hymns series on The Mormon Channel. Above, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs “Praise to the Man.”