History of the Church Series | BYU Studies

History of the Church Series

Eliza R. Snow
August 30, 2017
History of the Church Series
The Significance of "O My Father" in the Personal Journey of Eliza R. Snow
Author Jill Mulvay Derr,

This daily feature is an introduction to a full article by Jill Mulvay Derr. Each Wednesday we focus on an aspect of church history, beginning in New York in the early 19th century and progressing throughout the year to Utah in the 20th century. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

'O My Father' is primarily a hymn of orientation. It speaks of place, habitation, sphere, wandering, residing, and dwelling. Eliza R. Snow's first-person declaration of her relationship to God through primeval past, earthly present, and eternal future becomes the personal affirmation of each one who sings the hymn. Thus, the invocation sung by the sisters confirmed their place not only within the Bishop's Building, but also within the cosmos. For the past 150 years, prophets and Saints have prized the simple eloquence with which 'O My Father' captures some of the most profound truths of the eternal gospel. Eliza R. Snow's journey to a personal integration of those truths led to her writing of the hymn and later to her discovery that those truths could be drawn upon to lift up herself and her sisters. Written in 1845, at the virtual midpoint of her eighty-three-year lifetime, 'O My Father' marks a critical confluence in Eliza's life. Her faith and reason, her Nauvoo experience, and Joseph Smith's most expansive teachings fused with a new and profound spiritual witness of her connectedness to God. The poem represents the deep sense of harmony and wholeness that became Eliza's wellspring.