Question of the Week: Who’s on the Lord’s Side?

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Last Sunday we sang the Hymn 260, “Who’s on the Lord’s Side?” We don’t sing it very often, and I’m sure some people aren’t even familiar with it. I enjoyed singing the hymn, and thought that was the end of it. I was wrong. For the next several days, my EC had it stuck in her head and did all she could to infect me by talking about it, singing it, humming it, etc. I resisted, but it was tough.

I have always figured the title should be “Who’s on the Lord’s Side? Who?” Something about that extra “Who?” makes it instantly recognizable.

I shared my wife’s earworm ordeal with the world on Facebook, and the replies were hilarious. Little did I know that I was also spreading it. Two days later, this popped up on my feed:

A pirate song? Yeah, I can hear it. So, being me, I decided to dig in and find out more.  Here is the story behind the song:

First, it isn’t a pirate song, but close: It is actually an old Navy song called “A Life on the Ocean Wave.”

Back in 1838, a poet named Epes Sargent was walking along The Battery in New York City watching the ships enter the harbor. This scene inspired Sargent to write a poem, which Henry Russell later put to music. The song soon became popular in both the United Kingdom and the United States military. (source)

Here is the guy behind the lyrics:

Epes Sargent

And here are the original lyrics:

A life on the ocean wave! A home on the rolling deep!
Where the scattered waters rave, and the winds their revels keep!
A life on the ocean wave! A home on the rolling deep!
Where the scattered waters rave, and the winds their revels keep!
Like an eagle caged I pine, on this dull unchanging shore.

Oh give me the flashing brine! The spray and the tempest roar!
A life on the ocean wave! A home on the rolling deep!
Where the scattered waters rave, and the winds their revels keep!
The winds, the winds, the winds their revels keep!
The winds, the winds, the winds their revels keep!

The land is no longer in view, the clouds have begun to frown
But with a stout vessel and crew we’ll say let the storm come down!
The land is no longer in view, the clouds have begun to frown
But with a stout vessel and crew we’ll say let the storm come down!
And the song of our hearts shall be, while the winds and waters rave.
A life on the heaving sea! A home on the bounding wave!
A life on the ocean wave! A home on the rolling deep!
Where the scattered waters rave, and the winds their revels keep!
The winds, the winds, the winds their revels keep!
The winds, the winds, the winds their revels keep!

And here is the guy that wrote the music:

Henry Russell

Obviously, Henry wins the funky hair contest, but their collaboration has been played all around the world in military circles.

Here is a short sample from a British Marine band.

1909: Enter Hannah Cornaby.

Hannah was baptized as a convert in England in 1852, and it wasn’t a peaceful event:

“In February 1852, a young woman by the name of Hannah Last Cornaby was baptized in Yarmouth, England. It was not the quiet, reverent experience most have but was described by her in these words: “We found the house surrounded by a mob, through which we with difficulty made our way. . . . Before we reached the water’s edge, the whole horde was upon us; and my husband baptized me amid a shower of stones, and shouts . . . and, although the stones whizzed around us thick as hail, not one touched us, and we reached home in safety, thanking God for our miraculous deliverance.” (link)

It didn’t get much easier. She emigrated to the US and crossed the plains to reach Zion. Here is a link to her autobiography. She also wrote poetry, including a poem about her conversion story. (link) She died in 1905, but sometime before that day, she wrote new lyrics for the traditional song, “A Life on the Ocean Wave,” and called it “Who’s on the Lord’s Side?”

Eventually it made it into an LDS hymnal in 1909, and it has stuck around ever since. Here are the lyrics, and the music:

Did you look at those lyrics? They matter.  It is still a “fight song,” but rather that in a naval conflict, it represents the war being waged for the souls of men. Here, I’ll include the first two verses and the chorus:

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
We wage no common war,
Cope with no common foe.
The enemy’s awake;
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
 We serve the living God,
And want his foes to know
That, if but few, we’re great;
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
We’re going on to win;
No fear must blanch the brow.
The Lord of Hosts is ours;
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?  (link)

 

And THAT, my friends, is an excellent question. How would you answer it?

“Although these are the words of a song we do not sing very often, it has become one of my favorite hymns because of the commitment to truth and right. In fact, it is a question that should be in the mind of each young man and each young woman the world over: “Who’s on the Lord’s side?” And our resounding answer should be, “I am!”  Charles Dahlquist.

“Each day we decide the degree of our discipleship. Each day we answer the question, “Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?”Elder Neal A. Maxwell.

Each day.

Especially last night and next week. What we are doing during General Conference is an excellent indicator as to where we stand. Elder David A. Bednar commented on the importance of heeding the prophets:

“These teachings from modern and ancient prophets about latter-day tests and trials are sobering and solemn. But they should not be discouraging, and we should not be afraid. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, spiritual warnings lead to increasingly vigilant watching. You and I live in “a day of warning” (D&C 63:58). And because we have been and will be warned, we need to be, as the Apostle Paul admonished, “watching … with all perseverance” (Ephesians 6:18). As we watch and prepare, truly we have no need to fear (see D&C 38:30).

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Now is the time to show that we have minds and hearts that accept and will be responsive to these inspired warnings. Now is the time to show that we are watching and preparing to withstand the latter-day trials of prosperity and pride, of affluence and ease, and of hard hearts and forgetting the Lord our God. Now is the time to show that we will be true at all times in whatsoever things we are entrusted by our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son—and that we will keep the commandments of God and walk uprightly before Him.”  (Link)

Sure, it sounds a little like a pirate song, but the question it asks should help focus our lives.

Here s a late addition from the original soundtrack of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  Thanks Matthew Watkins!

7 COMMENTS

  1. This hymn has always been a favorite of mine for many reasons, including that Hannah Cornaby was the first to join the church in one of my family lines. Her conversion and life story has been a strength to my siblings and me as my mother repeated it to our family many times. I have been able to share it with others while teaching Relief Society lessons. I hope to live my life with her courage and conviction.

  2. As my father bounced grandchildren on his knee singing the following, I never connected the tune with “Who’s on the Lord’s Side?” Until today, that is.
    “A life on the ocean wave
    Sailing the rolling deep.
    There the pollywog wiggles his tail
    Till the tears roll down his cheek.”
    There is more, but I can’t remember the rest.

  3. That’s Popeye the Sailor Man!! Or Over the Bounding Main!! The hymn that really makes us laugh is Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing that is sung to the tune of Go Tell Aunt Rhody (the old gray goose is dead. She died in the mill pond while standing on her head!!) Yeah, ’tis true. We try to laugh reverently…and there’s another one that sounds like it needs to be lead by Ward Bond sitting around the Wagon Train campfire. Yup.

  4. Maybe it is a regional or unit thing but I hear that a lot in our area (the south). It is one of the most popular songs at youth conference every year and believe me the youth can get that song rockin’!

  5. One of my favorite hymns! In fact just yesterday I used it in talking to my husband about improving our fasts. So fun to know the history of it. Thanks for sharing.

  6. That essentially was the theme of the Women’s Conference talks on Sat. Night. Get out there are live up to your potential and spread the Gospel.

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