2010/10/08

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. :)

6 comments:

  1. I share similar feelings as you. How firm is your foundation is a powerful hymn that inspires my confidence in God and encourages you to hold on very tight to God. Thanks

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  2. I find "How Firm a Foundation" to be so moving that it is impossible for me to sing the entire song as tears get in the way. Like the blogger I usually hear the words speaking directly to my heart as from the heart of God The Father. My favourite hymn.

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  3. Thank you both for your comments. I appreciate them very much! :)

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  4. Our four boys were in middle and junior high school and we had taken on a paper route in addition to Joel’s full time job and part time law school. You can imagine the burden that made on a family with 6 children. I usually got up and did the route and let Joel sleep to prepare for work and I would come home and sneak in a nap. In addition we had a very austere boss that we were somewhat afraid of. We had an especially hard night and we were sick and tired consequently could not get me up and was under the weather himself. He eventually left for the warehouse fearing what would happen if we didn’t get on it right away, knowing at the same time it was hopeless. After he left I was sick with fear and worry and compassion and knew Joel could not get them out on time by himself but I couldn’t move. In great faith I turned to Heavenly Father. No sooner had I done so when I heard singing. I realized it was from the other side of the veil so I started listening to the message “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,Upheld by... omnipotent hand.” As I listened I felt strength and health flow into my body and I miraculously got straight up and was off. I met Joel at the warehouse and he breathed a huge sigh of relief and nearly cried. We made it with a lot of help from the Lord.

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  5. That was a beautiful and uplifting memory. Thank you so much for sharing it! :)

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  6. My mother and father found out that they both had cancer within a week of each other. My mother with breast cancer and my father with terminal cancer of the aorta. One particularly difficult day I was talking with a co-worker about my family situation and later found a simple note from her on my desk with these words: “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,Upheld by... omnipotent hand.” I then knew that we were not alone, and that God would help each one of us through this situation in the ways we needed. I have had a special place in my heart for this hymn ever since, and now frequently share it in a simple note when others I know are struggling.

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