All Is Well or Woe?

[ 10 ] Comments

by jendoop

Mormons around the world sing the pioneer anthem ‘Come, Come Ye Saints’ (Hymns #30) which includes this last verse:

And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell–
All is well! All is well!

There are several things in this verse that non-believers might find odd (rejoicing at early death?) but what I’m focusing on is the seeming contradiction between these oft sung words and this warning about the latter-days from one of God’s prophets:

“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.” 2 Ne 28:21

These two sources, one being scripture and one from the hymns (which we are told is like a prayer when sung by the righteous), seem to contradict each other. So which is it?

Is all well in Zion or are we being led carefully down to hell?

About jendoop

Jen writes, reads, paints, walks, prays, eats and sleeps. Paul is her co-conspirator in teaching these skills to 4 children.

10 Responses to All Is Well or Woe?

  1. Bonnie says:

    I’ve never been able to find the source, but I clearly remember Pres. Eyring commenting once that the hardest part of being an apostle was that all the wrong people listened when they spoke. I wish I could find that. It’s true for me as a mom and in other areas of authority. You tell one group to step up to the plate, and all the people who are wearing themselves running the bases feel called to repentance, while the ones sitting clueless on the sidelines remain clueless. You tell one group of people to slow down, give themselves a break, and the frantic ones think it must be someone, somewhere, who is more frantic than they, meanwhile the ones sitting clueless on the sidelines feel free to give themselves a further break.

    It seems likely that “all is well” is meant for those who are going through mortal crises that rock their world, and “all is not well” is meant for those who are sitting on the sidelines clueless. Too bad there’s not an easy way to get through to the clueless or the overly stressed.

    • MSKeller says:

      I love that Bonnie. Application. Probably why Apostles don’t care to have their Stake Conference addresses publicized, they are council for THAT stake at THAT time.

      There is a difference in audience certainly. Still, both those quotes Jen gave are for the universal church.

      I think that they are for the same audience, but at different times. When we are feeling ‘all is well’ it may be time for us to dig deeper. When we are feeling that life is really hard and it won’t ever be well again. . . we need to dig a bit deeper (back to when we knew well, or into a faith that one day we shall).

      I’ve been in both places. I’ve benefited from both quotes to the same result. I’ve felt more peaceful and more able.

  2. Lisa says:

    I think the scripture warning might refer to complacency We need to be ever vigilant watching for Satan and his influence so that we aren’t caught unaware in his snare. I like to use the analogy from a personal experience where I was walking along the beach. The sun was warm, the sand felt amazing between my toes and I just felt incredible and happy. When I wasn’t paying attention, a small crab pinched my toe and drew blood. Even when things appear to be “All is well”, we can never let our guard down. I know this isn’t theologically deep, sorry, I’m not deep like that…

  3. Brenda says:

    It’s all about perspective. For those intently focused and moving forward on the journey to Zion all is well no matter the circumstances. It is when we feel like we’ve arrived and let our attention slide to worldly things that we get into trouble. The journey isn’t over till we get back to Father in Heaven but that is easier to remember in times of trouble than peace.

  4. MSKeller says:

    I think we might be asking the wrong question again. It isn’t always ‘which one is right’, but perhaps ‘which one applies to me right now?’

  5. Angie says:

    I was teaching Gospel Doctrine a few years ago and, much to my chagrin, found myself trying to wrest my class back from the clutches of a soon to be married couple who were playing both sides of this argument in front of me. The woman was shrilly proclaiming our evil heartlessness as a community, a church and nation and the man was very nearly quoting the beginning part of the scripture (minus the devil cheating and leading us down to hell part). In the case of my class and frequently in life, I think neither is accurate. All is neither lost nor well. Is there room for improvement which would belie complacency? Absolutely. Is there peace to be found in being clean, if not yet perfect? Also absolutely. I think the psalm of Nephi in 2 Ne 4 outlines that juxtaposition beautifully–v. 19 “my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless I know in whom I have trusted.”

  6. Paul says:

    Angie, love that reference to the Psalm of Nephi. Thanks for that.

    I agree that this in application. Further, the line from the hymn can’t be taken in isolation but must be taken in context. It does not proclaim that all is well *now*, but all will be well when the conditions described are fulfilled, and all will be well, relative to those conditions only. If we die, that’s ok because we know The Plan. If we don’t and we make it thru, that’s all good, too. Both are good because we love the Lord and we are willing to submit to His Plan for us, whatever that may be.

    I appreciate your reference to Elder Eyring, Bonnie. I had not remembered that reference from him, but I like it.

  7. Liz C says:

    When my baby brother was in the process of dying, the hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” was in my head constantly. Here’s that: http://notmolly.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/all-is-well/

    There’s such a big difference in the context of the two statements, I don’t see them as much tied together at all. “All is Well” is a simple statement of re-affirmed faith that there IS a plan, and though we are going through some pretty nasty trials, it’s still going to be okay, because God’s plan is in play, and it will be well with our souls.

    The other “all is well in Zion” smacks of apathy and complacency. It’s not about toiling on with faith through trial; it’s about refusing to admit the reality of problems and trials and sins and pressures, and trying to blythely dismiss them with “Oh, I don’t need to worry about THAT worldly problem! All is WELL in Zion. We don’t have problems with debt and sin and addiction. We’re ZION. We’re gooood. It’s fiiiiine. Now–hold my credit card for me while I cheat on my family and charge some porn and anesthetize myself with prescription drugs.”

    Radically different paradigms.

  8. jendoop says:

    Great comments everyone. For me the answer is both. All is well because we’re moving on the path. All is not well because sometimes we stop moving or wander off the path. All being well is contingent upon this very moment, are we moving forward or are we stuck in sin?

    What Zion means in these two instances makes a difference too. Is Zion here on earth now? Or is Zion some future state that God’s kingdom will acquire? It’s both, which is where some of the confusion comes in. In popular terminology we call places in Utah Zion because it is the place that pioneer forefathers labored to reach and build, it was the promised land of Zion. But in another sense Utah is not Zion, and all is not well because we are far from being the people God wants us to be. Maybe we should start using zion (lowercase) when we mean the pioneer homeland, and Zion when we’re talking about the ultimate Ephraim-like state the kingdom of God will ultimately reach.

  9. Liz says:

    This draws my mind to an idea taught by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: we know which team wins, we just need to decide which side we will be playing for. If we are striving to live our lives righteously, and can say so honestly in our hearts, then either all IS well, or all WILL BE well — for Heavenly Father will turn all things to the good of those who love Him and keep His commandments. If, on the other hand, we are trying to sit on the sidelines and just cheer the team on, or maybe even play for both teams, then we are subject to the woes: losing our blessings because we assume that all will be well for us because all will be well for Zion.

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