"My Redeemer Lives": A Hymn by Gordon B. Hinckley and Lifelong Friend G. Homer Durham
In 1995, Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), became the 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Under his leadership, the Church doubled its number of existing temples to beyond 100. At the time of his passing in 2008, President Hinckley had dedicated more temples than all of the other Church leaders of this dispensation combined. Church membership grew from 9 million to more than 15 million during his presidency.
During his lifetime, President Hinckley wrote books, manuals, pamphlets, and even poetry. His poem titled “What Is This Thing That Men Call Death?” was put to music and given his seal of approval just days before his death, and it was performed at his funeral by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Another poem President Hinckley wrote became the lyrics for “My Redeemer Lives.” The text is his straightforward, poetic testimony of Jesus Christ. The poem made its first appearance to general Church membership in April 1983, when it was published in the New Era magazine. In preparation for the 1985 hymnbook, several composers submitted music to be paired with the text. President Hinckley admitted he wanted a simple setting for the music that he “could easily sing to the cows while milking them.”
Eventually “My Redeemer Lives” was set to music by G. Homer Durham, who was also a General Authority of the Church. According to the book Our Latter-day Hymns by Karen Lynn Davidson, “When President Hinckley first heard Elder G. Homer Durham’s hymn tune, without knowing the name of the composer, he felt it was just the kind of direct, simple tune he had hoped for. When he learned the composer’s identity, he was even more pleased. The two men had been lifelong friends, from grade school through college and mission days and beyond.” The hymn was published in the latest version of the LDS hymnbook as hymn number 135.
Elder Durham wrote the music while traveling on assignment to a stake conference in 1983. When he left, he took a copy of the New Era magazine containing President Hinckley’s poem and had the hymn tune written by the time he returned home. After turning in the hymn to the Church Music Department, the hymn was chosen to be included in the new hymnbook.
Also included in Davidson’s book is a humorous passage about the title of “My Redeemer Lives.” Considering that there was already an existing well-known hymn “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” it was suggested that the name of the hymn be changed to avoid confusion. The passage reads:
After receiving a list of other suggested titles, Elder Durham wrote in bold, blue ink:
1st choice—“My Redeemer Lives”
2nd choice—“My Redeemer Lives”
3rd choice—“My Redeemer Lives”
My Redeemer Lives (Lyrics)
I know that my Redeemer lives,
Triumphant Savior, Son of God,
Victorious over pain and death,
My King, my Leader, and my Lord.
He lives, my one sure rock of faith,
The one bright hope of men on earth,
The beacon to a better way,
The light beyond the veil of death.
Oh, give me thy sweet Spirit still,
The peace that comes alone from thee,
The faith to walk the lonely road
That leads to thine eternity.