The Story Behind "I Will Follow God’s Plan”
If you know any songs from the Children’s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then chances are you know one of Vanja Watkins's songs. Among those songs are such gems as “Families Can Be Together Forever,” “I Will Be Valiant,” and “Latter-day Prophets.” Also included is another well-known Primary favorite, “I Will Follow God’s Plan,” a song about a child’s desire to seek God’s light and to adhere to His word. It teaches that life is a precious gift from God and that all of His children come to Earth for a reason.
The Primary general board originally intended the song to be the class song for the Merrie Miss girls and asked Mabel Jones Gabbott to write the words for it. Once the lyrics were done, Gabbott gave the song to Vanja Watkins to compose the music. While she was working on the song, Watkins was asked to write an addition to the last line, which originally said, "Then I can be happy in my home above," Watkins recalled. "The Primary presidency felt that it was important to state that we can also be happy on earth, so I included that in the last line. Sister Gabbott declined taking credit for the words after that, and somehow only my name remained as the originator. But Sister Gabbott is the true author of the words," said Watkins.
Watkins was born in 1938, to musical parents. Her household was always filled with music, and she loved to sing hymns in four-part harmony without accompaniment with her siblings during family night. From an early age she knew she wanted to be a music educator and went on to teach music in schools in Ogden and Salt Lake City and in the BYU School of Music. In addition to the many songs she has in the Children’s Songbook, she also has two hymns included in hymnbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She once said, “The gospel influences everything I do. The doctrines and standards of the Church are always in my mind as I select the music and the words I choose to teach or set to music.”
Watkins recalled a recent story of a young Primary girl who was rehearsing "I Will Follow God's Plan," for a special performance. After the rehearsal, the girl said to her primary music leader, "I know why we should follow God's Plan." When the leader asked why that was, the girl replied, "So we can be happy." Watkins was amazed by these simple but profound words and was reminded of the statement by President David O. McKay, where he said, "happiness is the purpose and design of existence."
“I Will Follow God’s Plan” was recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for an album titled Teach Me to Walk in the Light. The album includes many children’s favorites by various composers and arrangers. In this video, Nathan Hofheins arranged “I Will Follow God’s Plan,” which is the same arrangement that appears on the album.