History of a Song: May - “I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go”

This song was really interesting to research. I really like the song which gave me the motivation to get started, but the idea that this song has disputed authors was fascinating. I haven't run into that phenomenon yet until this particular hymn. So anyway, here it goes... : )

The words to this song were possibly written by Mary Brown. (And most sources that I found listed her as the sole author or the author of just the first stanza). She was born in 1856 in Canada and died in 1918 due to the influenza epidemic. It is believed that she wrote this song in 1899. The second and third stanzas are attributed to Charles Edwin Prior (1856-1927). The other possible author is Charles Hutchinson Gabriel. He was born in August 1856 in Iowa on a farm. He showed a talent for music early on and while he didn't have any formal training in music, he began to travel and lead his own singing schools in various areas. He eventually served as a music director at an episcopal church in California. Mr Gabriel was married twice in his lifetime and had two children. He died in September 1932 in Hollywood, California.
Car­rie E. Roun­se­fell wrote the music for this particular hymn. She was born in 1861 in Merrimack, New Hampshire. She grew up in Manchester, NH and it was here that she met and married her husband William Rounsefell. She was known by many to be a singing evangelist and she would travel throughout New England and parts of New York with her small auto-harp to sing and preach. She died on Sep­tem­ber 18, 1930, in Dur­ham, Maine.

This particular hymn was originally titled “Go Stand and Speak” and listed under its current name and is #270 in the current LDS hymnbook. It has been performed by many different groups which include the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Arizona Drones. It has also been performed and published in several different arrangements- one LDS favorite is an album called “Let Us Go Forth” produced by Greg Hansen.

This hymn really focuses on a really important theme in the LDS and most Christian religions. The idea that sometimes (and probably more often than we actually do) we should put aside our wants and desires and use our energy and strength to do as Heavenly Father wishes us to do instead. Many scriptures discuss this idea – a few are John 20:21, 1 Nephi 3:7, and Isaiah 6:8. To go and do what the Father asks us to do has been the motivation for so many prophets; it is the reason that Noah built the ark, the reason that Lehi took his family and left Jerusalem, the motivation for Ruth to follow her mother in law to a foreign place. It should be our motivation and true desire to do the same. May we take the time to pay attention to what we are spending our time on and try and listen so that we know what the Lord would have us do. It might help us to reach the desires that we had in the first place, but if not... it might open doors we never dreamed were even available.


  1. "Put aside our wants and desires and use our energy and strength to do as Heavenly Father wishes us to do instead." = I think the first verse by Mary Brown was saying God's will MIGHT NOT be a call to a far-off mission field or to something glamorous, but "to paths that I do not know," even as a reliable Witness near at home. = Then I think C.E. Prior shifted the emphasis to the distant or glamorous, emphasizing "on the mountain top, or over the stormy sea, ... at the battle front," where Mary had said our call MIGHT NOT BE. I think the later verses ruin the message of the first (more humble) verse. The later verses are OK and have provided lots of inspiration to lots of people, but I prefer Mary's theme: DO GOD'S WILL WHEREVER YOU ARE, even at home.

  2. (More by same Anonymous:) Mary's first verse is along the same lines as the story of Christopher Wren who visited St Paul's Cathedral in London (which he designed) while it was under construction and asked three bricklayers, "What are you doing?" The first answered "I'm laying bricks;" and the second answered, "I'm earning two shillings a day to feed my family," but the third replied, "I am building a cathedral."
    Even in our daily pursuits we need to keep in mind that we are serving God - building a cathedral "in our own back yard."

  3. Hello. I'm glad I happened across this interesting post, and your blog. Very inspiring!

    The hymn, "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" has particular meaning to my family; let me share the "continuing history" - how it came to be in the LDS Hymnbook. (This is "family lore," but I believe it to be factually correct.)

    My great grandfather was called to serve in the Northern States Mission, in the late 1800s. He loved music, and is said to have possessed a wonderful baritone voice. Prior to his mission, he graduated from, and taught music at Brigham Young College.

    One day as he and his missionary companion walked down the road, they heard a lovely song eminating from a church along the way. "I'll go where you want me to go, Dear Lord... I'll be what you want me to be." He was drawn to the song - he loved the music and the message - and "collected" it.

    A number of years later he (Melvin J. Ballard) served as an apostle, and traveled far and wide in his duty as an "especial witness." Oft-times, he'd preach to the gathered congregation, and then sing a vocal solo. Imagine that - "The Singing Apostle!" A favorite of his, and his audience, was "I'll Go..."

    Because of his love and knowledge of music, he was appointed chairman of the Church Music Committee, and it was his duty and opportunity to compile and publish a new hymnal. This would've been in the 1930s. Obviously, his favorite song was included, and has been in LDS hymn books ever since.

  4. some of my earliest memories include singing this him. I grew up out in the middle of nowhere on a lovely tropical paradise island called the Philippines. My parents were linguists and labored hard translating local languages allowing them to read and write and delivering into their hands the Scriptures. while I may have mistaken their service as far greater than staying home where comfort and family are near, I later grew to realize even through this song that what Jesus Christ calls us to is a life of loving him. It's very tempting for me to look at my life and compare it to the mighty servants of God that I grew up watching but the Lord is teaching me that every act done in love for him is mighty in his eyes. the greatest longing and desire of my heart as I grow older and maybe a little bit wiser is too express my love for him no matter what I'm doing.

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  6. My knowledge of this song has come to me as songs of devotion. Throughout my life I awaken with lines of song I am singing,I have never heard of I am singing in full measure, I immediately go to the web, and find the lyrics as well as vocal music, my God has given me my clarity in songs,I love all I have read and heard about this devotion it is now a part of my walk.

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