Insights to “Come, Come, Ye Saints” from the Journal of the Man Who Wrote the Lyrics
Carol C. Madsen, daughter of J. Spencer Cornwall, former conductor of the Tabernacle Choir, wrote a presentation, designed for a chorus with narration, titled "Our Heritage of Hymns." The presentation gives the details behind many favorite hymns and gives insight to the history of music in the Church.
One hymn discussed in the presentation is “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” This hymn was written by William Clayton in April 1846 as he was fleeing Nauvoo after persecutions sent him and other Saints away from their Illinois homes. The excerpts below come from "Our Heritage of Hymns" and include parts of Clayton’s journal that were written at the time he wrote the lyrics to the hymn.
“Last night I got up to watch, there being no guard. This morning Ellen Kimball came to me and wished me much joy. She said Diantha [William Clayton’s wife who had not yet left Nauvoo] has a son. I told her I was afraid it was not so, but she said Brother Pond had received a letter. I went over to Pond’s and he read that she had a fine boy on the 30th. Truly I feel to rejoice at this intelligence. Spent the day chiefly reading. In the afternoon President Young came over and found some fault about our wagons. In the evening the band played, and after we dismissed we retired to my tent to have a social christening. We had a very pleasant time playing and singing until about 12:00 and drank health to my new son. We named him William Adriel Benoni Clayton.”
And then, without a comment of any kind, Clayton next records:
“This morning I composed a new song, ‘All Is Well.’ I feel to thank my Heavenly Father for my boy. I hope that my wife will soon be well.” That is all that William Clayton ever wrote about his hymn.
When Brother Clayton first presented his hymn to the Saints as they gathered around the campfire at the end of a long, arduous day of travel, he undoubtedly had only his manuscript and was thus obliged to teach the song by rote—one line at a time—until they learned it.
Not only did William Clayton write the lyrics to “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” but he also invented an early version of the odometer.