Text: Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985; LDS)
Music: John Longhurst (b. 1940; LDS)
Tune name: WHITE CITY
Coming straight from the heart of a man who had devoted his life to studying about the Savior and serving him, the text of this hymn is truly a powerful declaration of faith in Jesus Christ, a definitive testimony of His divinity and mission.
The members of the Church first heard the words of this hymn when Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, delivered them as part of his general conference address in April 1972. Elder McConkie's widow, Amelia S. McConkie, said that her husband "loved to express his love for the scriptures and Christ in poetry." The eight verses attracted considerable attention. They were first given an anthem setting by Latter-day Saint composer Rhea B. Allen and were performed by the Tabernacle Choir. The simpler hymn setting, created by John Longhurst for the 1985 hymnal, was introduced to the Church by the Tabernacle Choir at general conference in April 1985. John Longhurst noted, "This was Elder McConkie's last conference—the one in which he left his final testimony in a way that those who heard it shall never forget."
At that conference, Elder McConkie bore a powerful, moving witness of Jesus Christ: "I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
"I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.
"But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God's Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way." (Ensign, May 1985, p. 11.)
The words of this hymn are the words of a servant of the Lord who spent his life speaking and writing about the Savior. The text is a grand and sweeping testimony of Jesus Christ. Doubt and unhappiness disappear as faith in Jesus Christ dominates every thought and feeling.
The powerful musical setting in our hymnbook, as unwavering as the text, emphasizes the uplifting and positive nature of the words. As John Longhurst was working on the music, his first impulse was to cut the number of verses from eight to four, since he felt this length to be about right for current hymn usage. But Elder McConkie, whose health at that time did not permit extensive revision or collaboration with regard to this hymn, wished all eight verses of his testimony to be included. The solution was to create an eight-line hymn instead of a four-line hymn; each hymn verse actually includes two verses of the original poem. The first half of each verse is almost identical musically to the second half.
John Longhurst named the tune WHITE CITY because he began work on the tune while riding the White City bus in Salt Lake City.