I was a student at BYU from 1999-2007. During that time, I often remember walking across campus and hearing the Carillon Bell Tower toll it’s hourly chime to the tune of “Come, Come Ye Saints.” Of course, the lyrics always came swiftly to mind – “All is Well! All is Well!” Sometimes, if I was going to take a tough test, such a thought brought comfort. At other times, it would unsettle me to think we didn’t do more in “happy valley.”
This foundational church hymn conveys the hope that no matter the trouble we may run into, all will be well in the end. In fact, the original title to the hymn was “All is Well,” penned by William Clayton on April 15, 1846, as he sat near his campsite in Locus Creek, Iowa, on a Mormon pioneer caravan. He had just received word of the birth of his baby boy back in Nauvoo. The hymn became a symbol of the Mormon migration west, sung by the pioneers as they made the arduous journey, burying loved ones by the wayside.
But I have also wondered at what has been said in opposition to the “all is well” attitude. The Book of Mormon contains this strong warning:
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell…
Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!
Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! (2 Ne. 28:21, 24–25)
Just this morning I was reading some notes about a talk Elder Ballard gave at BYU-Idaho on Saturday:
Ballard concluded his remarks by urging students not to have an “all is well in Zion,” attitude.
He told students to fortify their testimonies of the restoration of the gospel.
“You must be prepared to stand for that — and in loving, kind, gentle terms, be able to defend it and teach it. That’s what the Lord expects of you and what he expects of me.”
Clearly, there are times when an “all is well” attitude is appropriate, and others when it is not, and can do us damage. Perhaps it is not only the times, but the situations and the subject matters which come into play when evaluating our “all is well” attitudes.
I come from a background of someone who has read a lot of Hugh Nibley, and tend to agree with him generally that the Saints have a lot of work to do. He seemed to have advocated a “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” mentality, rather than a complacent “All is Well,” which tends to not motivate us to change for the better. If all is well, then what work is there to do?
But I want to know your thoughts. In what ways do we mean “all is well” when we sing our hymn? In what ways might having that attitude become our detriment rather than our hope?