(To be entered into today’s giveaway & FREE tour drawing, Comment & Share your thoughts of story below on Facebook or our blog.)
Joy to the World
Text: Isaac Watts (1674 -1748); altered by William W. Phelps (1792-1872; LDS) Music: George F. Handel (1685-1759); arranged by Lowell Mason (1792-1872) Tune name: ANTIOCH
Ever since Emma Smith included it in her hymnal of 1835, this energetic and dignified hymn has been a favorite among Latter-day Saints. Today we follow the practice of the rest of the Christian world in using it mainly as a Christmas carol.
But this hymn has also served a second purpose: it is clear that William W. Phelps’s intention was to adapt it as a millennial hymn. The early Saints loved to sing of the millennium, and with some changes in verb tense—such as “The Lord will come” (rather than is come)—and a few other alterations, William W. Phelps made it suitable for that purpose. It is interesting that Isaac Watts’s original title for the hymn suggests this millennial spirit: “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom.”
The 1985 hymnal returned to the traditional verb tense in the opening line—”the Lord is come”—preserving the more common Christmas message. Other changes made by William W. Phelps have been retained, however, such as the line popular among members of the Church: “And Saints and angels sing” (rather than “heaven and nature”).
George F. Handel and Lowell Mason share credit for the remarkable melody. (Note how the first phrase is nothing more than a descending major scale!) How Lowell Mason arrived at the tune is not perfectly clear, but it is possible that he brought together two melodic suggestions from Handel’s Messiah. First was the opening of “Lift Up Your Heads”.
Lowell Mason himself gave principal credit to George F. Handel; when he published “Joy to the World” in Occasional Psalms (1836), he marked it “Arr. from Handel.” We do not know for sure why he named the tune ANTIOCH; he took Bible names almost at random for his tunes.
Taken from: Karen Lynn Davidson, Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 214.