…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Beneath the Staves

By Eric Chaffey


Like Lambs Shall They Still in My Bosom Be Born

In many hymnals, there are usually up to four verses printed between the staves. Before the modern hymnals that we’ve grown accustomed to, the music for the hymn tune was printed above and all the text was written beneath the staves and there was no text between the staves. It is always my fond yet very seldom realized hope that we sing the entirety of a hymn and not just what’s between the staves when there are more verses. Often times, it becomes an entirely different experience when we look at what is beneath the staves.

One example of this that comes to mind is the hymn, How Firm a Foundation (Hymns 1985 #85). Typically we only sing the three verses that are printed between the staves. But O what a great source of comfort and strength can be found in the other four verses that are often neglected. Here’s an example:

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow.
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee, I only design,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all my people shall prove,
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love.
When silver and snow shall their temples adorn,*
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I cannot desert to his foes.
That soul though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

This hymn has always been a particular favorite of mine. It was one time when going through a severe trial when I had no idea what the end result would be that I was flipping through the hymnal and the fourth verse literally leaped off the page at me. As I read further, it added a new dimension to the hymn that I hadn’t ever really considered before. Admittedly this is a very stately and triumphant hymn. But it also becomes a hymn of comfort and assurance especially when one considers verses three through seven as if the Lord is singing those words to us, his children.

Some hymns tell a story that isn’t complete if all the verses are not sung, such as A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief (Hymns 1985 #29). As the author is speaking this hymn which was so loved by the prophet Joseph Smith, we hear the story of a stranger who crosses paths with him several times. It is only in the final verse that we realize the full impact as the stranger is revealed as the Savior.

Other hymns teach an important lesson that cannot be fully appreciated in three verses such as If You Could Hie to Kolob (Hymns 1985 #284). I don’t know as any congregation sings this one very much, but they should. I’m embarrassed to admit when I was first exposed to the hymn I didn’t think too much of it. I thought it was very deep theology that was hard to put into an emotional context. But being a fan of great English hymn tunes it soon caught my attention. Especially looking at the whole thing in context. There is so much in the last verse that it’s repeated twice.

There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love,
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.
There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love,
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

As with the hymns in the hymnal that have verse printed beneath the staves, often times there is more that can be seen when we look beneath the surface in other facets of life. In my own life, one that I can think of is same sex attraction. On the surface of it, its not something that’s part of the main stream. It’s a difficult path and one that has been full of ups and downs, pains, trials etc. Sometimes the loneliness associated with it can seem overwhelming.

But there are some blessings that have come from it. I have found a wonderful association with friends who also struggle who are striving toward the light of Christ.  Without His help and divine guidance and strength, there would be no way that I could make it through this. I have grown from this experience in some ways. Sometimes I really wish the growth could happen without the pain, but it as the verse in How Firm a Foundation states:

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee, I only design,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

* original text in the LDS hymnal here has “and then when gray hair…” Another source that I came across one time had silver and snow. Silver and snow seemed a little more poetic to me.

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4 Responses to “Beneath the Staves”

  1. Rex Goode said:

    Eric, I love the stuff beneath the staves. Some of my favorites:

    From “Redeemer of Israel”, #6:

    Restore, my dear Savior,
    The light of thy face:
    Thy soul-cheering comfort impart;
    And let the sweet longing
    For thy holy place
    Bring hope to my desolate heart.

    He looks! and ten thousands
    Of angels rejoice,
    And myriads wait for his word;
    He speaks! and eternity,
    Filled with his voice,
    Re-echoes the praise of the Lord.

    Verse 6 of “How Great the Wisdom and the Love”, #195:

    How great, how glorious, how complete,
    Redemption’s grand design,
    Where justice, love, and mercy meet
    In harmony divine!

    And, “God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son”, #187:

    In word and deed he doth require
    My will to his, like son to sire
    Be made to bend, and I, as son,
    Learn conduct from the Holy One.

    This sacrament doth represent
    His blood and body for my spent.
    Partaking now is deed for word
    That I remember him, my Lord.

    Thanks for helping me remember these today.

  2. Eric said:

    Thank you Rex, those are some of my favorites as well.

  3. Jonathan Langford said:

    When I was sacrament meeting chorister, our ward members learned that it was never safe to close the book so long as there were verses unsung!

  4. Rex Goode said:

    Sounds great, Jonathan. One thing that irks me when we do “rest hymns” is that everyone closes their books and sit down at the start of the last line instead of remaining standing until the end.

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