In 1989, I wrote the following poem and composed a one-note-line melody, doing both in a very short period of time—much less than a day. The words I took primarily from the 4th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. The song was written in honor of the first preaching of the restored gospel in the State of Alabama, accomplished by a missionary whose name at the time was unknown to me and others. We only had a local history book which mentioned an 1839 newspaper account about an unnamed Mormon missionary, “one of Joe Smiths fanatics,” as the book described him. The itinerant missionary had visited Montgomery, Alabama, and spoken at its new courthouse in October of 1839, one hundred and fifty years previous to my composition.
I later learned through my historical research that the unnamed missionary was Lysander Mason Davis, a native of Vermont. He was traveling alone and preaching by the way as he made his way to his assigned area of service, South Carolina. He had been sent from Nauvoo, Illinois, the new church headquarters. He holds the distinction of being the first missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to preach in the states of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. He was successful enough in South Carolina to get himself arrested and jailed. He married a young woman in South Carolina and later moved to Pine Hill, Alabama, where he became an attorney and lived out his days generally isolated from the organized church to which he remained faithful.
The hymn was first performed by a stake choir during a stake conference weekend wherein the 14-year-old Montgomery Alabama Stake celebrated 150 years of local church history. 57-year-old visiting Seventy, Elder John R. Lasater (1931-2017), a retired Air Force brigadier general and former F-4 fighter pilot, presided over the conference that weekend. His daughter Carolyn was a member of the Wetumpka Branch and her husband Jeff Kwallek served a term as branch president.
After producing the hymn, and prior to the stake conference, I sent the words and melody line to my musically talented friend Marietta Fossom who chose the key (D major) and composed the four-part harmony. Marietta and I later gratuitously conveyed the copyright for the hymn to the Church.
The hymn was performed instrumentally by the BYU Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Clynn Barrus during a southern tour of the United States, which included a short stop and performance in Wetumpka, Alabama. The hymn has also been performed by various Church choirs throughout the United States.