History of a Song: October - “How Firm a Foundation”
This is one of the earliest 'hymns' that I remember learning at church. I had the experience (and I think others probably have as well) of growing up in the church and finding over the first several years comfort in the playing of a 'familiar' song in the meetings. Most of the songs that are taught in Primary are not hymns that are regularly sung in any of the other church meetings. So your 'favorites' tend to be the few songs that are especially well liked with your ward chorister or the few songs that are universally popular throughout most of the English speaking Mormon church. I also liked that the song was upbeat- so many hymns are slow and if you do know have a good testimony of the words and a strong background in reading music, you can find yourself mouthing nothingness trying to pick out words and wrapping your brain around the unfamiliar lyrics and rhythm.
This hymn is believed to have been written by a man named Robert Keen and it is believed to have first been brought to the United States by Dr. John Rippon, a Baptist minister from London, England. There is dispute on who wrote it because the only original copy known to exist came with Dr Rippon and it was signed only with a 'K'. The composer of the musical accompaniment is not known but it is thought that the music was written in 1787. It is also believed that this hymn was written based upon the scripture verses found in Isaiah 43:1-7.
One of the reasons that I love this song is that it seems to me to be impossible to not find comfort and encouragement from listening to or singing this hymn. This song is so powerful to me that I have sometimes been unable to sing it and have found myself sitting or standing with my eyes closes listening... just listening... and it feels as if the last few verses are being sung just to me. A personal message from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.... that they care and have all of their thoughts and energies concentrated on me... I don't feel like one of the large number that in reality I am :)
Fear Not, I am with thee; Oh be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand
When through the deep waters I call thee t 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
And I do not think that I am alone in these thoughts. This song is sung in hundreds of Christian churches around the world, in many different denominations and languages. It has been the favorite song of many and has been sung at the funerals of quite a few famous Americans including Robert E. Lee, President Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Andrew Jackson. This song is #85 in the current LDS songbook. It has also been produced by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and other misc Christian artists including Fernando Ortega.
If you have any thoughts, inspiration, or experiences you would like to share from your life that are related to this song, please do so. :)