Tad Walch: Original 'Poor Wayfaring Man' had different tune
PROVO, Utah — New research has recovered the more upbeat tune John Taylor
used when he sang "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" to Joseph Smith just before
the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was murdered on
June 27, 1844.
sung the song to a different tune, one commissioned by Taylor
himself.A year before President Taylor died in 1887, he sang the song for
composer Ebenezer Beesley the way he sang it at Carthage jail in Illinois before
a mob stormed the jail and shot and killed Smith and his brother Hyrum and
wounded Taylor and Willard Richards.Beesley recorded the tune in his choir book. Then he composed a
different one for the song for a new hymn book commissioned for the church by
Taylor, and Beesley's arrangement is the only one known to generations of
Latter-day Saints.A Taylor descendant recently uncovered the Beesley choir book, and
historian Jeffrey N. Walker presented his arrangement of the song at a church history symposium on Taylor held
Friday at Brigham Young University.
conference. Taylor's tune wouldn't be completely unfamiliar to Latter-day
Saints, but it is more upbeat and some notes have a distinct Irish-Celtic
sound."We heard a hymn that changed us a bit," Walker said after the
performance, "that transported us back to a day in Carthage, amongst the leaders
of the church as they contemplated the role that the church would have through
the world, and while that day (the mob) may have taken two of the greatest who
have ever lived, John was there (as) more than just a recorder, he was there to
capture the essence of the day."The Smiths were in jail on a charge of treason based on the affidavit
of two men whose word, according to Taylor, wasn't worth 5 cents. Taylor and
Richards joined them for support, and on the afternoon the brothers died, Taylor
sang "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief."Hyrum Smith so liked the song that he asked Taylor to sing it a second
time. Taylor tried to decline because of the gloomy mood — he later called it "a
remarkable depression of spirits" — in the second-story room of the jail but
Hyrum Smith insisted, telling Taylor he'd get the spirit of it once he began.
Those facts endear the recovered tune to Walker.
it also that Hyrum liked it."The song began as a poem written by English poet James Montgomery
during two chilly, dreary trips in horse-drawn carriages in England in December
1826. Titled "The Stranger and His Friend," Montgomery didn't expect the poem to
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