Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Story Behind Faith in Every Footstep

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with K. Newell Dayley in the Provo temple. Members of the church may recognize his name as he wrote the music for the hymn Lord, I Would Follow Thee and the words and music for I Feel My Savior's Love along with several other children's songs and hymns not found in the hymn book. More recently he is known for writing the words and music to the hymn Faith in Every Footstep.

When we were working together in the temple we would have a little time to sit and talk about things and one day in between sessions I asked him about the song Faith in Every Footstep and the story behind his writing it. He was more than happy to tell me the story.

It was at a time when one of his sons was preparing to go on a mission and he was looking for a way to "get into the missionary spirit" with his son. To do this both he and his son agreed to work on memorizing a scripture every day until his son left on his mission. This went on for approximately two weeks with Brother Dayley memorizing a scripture every day (his son "kind of fell behind and didn't quite get a scripture every day"). Because this exercise was supposed to help get the missionary spirit he had been focusing on missionary scriptures.

It was in this situation of focusing on missionary work and memorizing scriptures related to missionary work that he said that he woke up on a Saturday morning and after reading the scripture for the day the words of the song started coming and he quickly sat down and started writing. When he had reached seven verses he realized that this song would need a chorus. So he set about writing a chorus for the song. He also started to write down a tune for the song and over the next while (he didn't say how long it took him to get to the final piece, but I gathered that it took several weeks), but he said that the main body of the song and all its verses and chorus were written that morning.

Brother Dayley especially pointed out that the whole song grew out of the missionary spirit and the scriptures associated with missionary work. As he put it, "The song grew out of the missionary spirit." He also pointed out how it was necessary that he spend several weeks preparing and getting into the missionary spirit before he could write the song. It was only after two weeks of memorizing scriptures and thinking about missionary work that he was inspired to write the song, but when he did write the song it came very quickly and it came nearly complete. His lesson from that experience that he wanted to instill in me was that it takes time to be prepared for spiritual experiences but when they come they come fast and with great force. That is the story behind the hymn Faith in Every Footstep.

[Author's note (7/23/12): I know that when most members think of the song they immediately associate it with pioneers and the 24th of July, which is when I get most of my visits to this post. But if you read the words to the song, keeping in mind the story of how it was written, you will see that it has more to do with missionary work than anything else.]

1. A marvelous work has begun to come forth among all the children of men.
O ye that embark in the service of God, give heart, mind, and strength unto him;
For prophets have spoken and angels have come to lift the world from sin,
That Christ may reign over all the earth and bless his gathered kin.

Chorus
With faith in ev’ry footstep, we follow Christ, the Lord;
And filled with hope through his pure love, we sing with one accord.

2. Those marvelous Saints who embraced this great work and shared it in lands far and near;
Who gave all their heart, mind, and strength to the Lord with wisdom and vision so clear;
Now stand as examples of virtue and faith, of souls prepared to hear,
Of knowledge sure, born of humble heart, and love that banished fear.

3. If we now desire to assist in this work and thrust in our sickles with might,
If we will embark in the service of God to harvest in fields that are white;
Our souls may receive the salvation of God—the fulness of his light,
That we may stand, free of sin and blame, God’s glory in our sight.

10 comments:

Kristi said...

Hi Ryan,

I just did a google search looking for scriptures related to faith in every footstep, and this post came up right at the top! What a fun coincidence. Thanks for sharing this story, I think I'll work it in to our pioneer FHE lesson tonight.

-Kristi :)

FIEF said...

I too found your post after doing a google search to find out about the origins of this song. Thanks for your efforts to record and share this. On this day before Pioneer Day, (2012) I was thinking of it in connection with that--and your post about its roots in missionary work has expanded my feeling about this song. Thanks.

Quantumleap42 said...

FIEF,

Thanks for your comment. When I heard this story from him I reread the words to the song and they immediately took on so much more meaning. I liked the song before, but it has become much more meaningful after I found out how it was written and why.

Michaela Stephens said...

"He also pointed out how it was necessary that he spend several weeks preparing and getting into the missionary spirit before he could write the song. It was only after two weeks of memorizing scriptures and thinking about missionary work that he was inspired to write the song, but when he did write the song it came very quickly and it came nearly complete. His lesson from that experience that he wanted to instill in me was that it takes time to be prepared for spiritual experiences but when the come they come fast and with great force."

Great insights on this important spiritual principle. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Sister Jackie Hudson Miller said...

We sang this song for our devotional in the West Indies Mission office this morning. We are the "supporters" of the brave young army of faithful full-time missionaries here. Our little group in the office - 2 senior couples, my 20 yr. old local companion and I, a widowed grandma from Canada, sounded, well, not too bad? ;-) and then we discussed the "pioneer" meaning. I am now hand- transposing the music down a little (sorry Brother Dayley, I know it will mess with the bass! but we have to be able to sing the soprano!) and we're going to sing it at our senior's conference this week. THANK YOU SO MUCH for adding this missionary info to our knowledge!

Quantumleap42 said...

Thanks for the comment Sister Miller. I'm glad you enjoyed my post. Good luck on your mission!

Peggy said...

Thank you so much for posting this story. I am a Ward Choir Dir. And it helps to know, "The rest of the story". we all sing better when we better understand the intent of the author/composer. I will share with the choir today.

Quantumleap42 said...

Thanks for stopping by Peggy. I'm glad I was able to help.

Darrel Watt said...

Great story from a few years back, now. Just saw it for the first time. But now you have me wondering - what ever became of the other verses?

Quantumleap42 said...

Hi Darrel. Sorry I don't know what happened to the other verses. I was going to ask him that but immediately after he told me the story we had to go to the veil so there wasn't time for more questions. I forgot to ask him about the other verses later.