The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning

The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning

"The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning" (also "The Spirit of God" or "Hosanna to God and the Lamb") is a hymn of the Latter Day Saint movement. It was written by W. W. Phelps, one of the most prolific hymnwriters of early Mormonism.

The hymn was sung for the dedication of Kirtland Temple, 27 March 1836. The song continues to be sung throughout the various Latter Day Saint traditions, including sacrament meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is sung with a special arrangement including a hymn known as the Hosanna Anthem for the dedication of all LDS temples.


Early printings of the hymn contain text only, although tune names were given twice in the church newspaper, the "Messenger and Advocate". The January 1836 issue of the "Messenger and Advocate" specifies the tune "American Star".ref|Messenger-Jan1836 On the other hand, the March 1836 issue specifies the tune "Hosanna" when it was sung for the dedication service of the Kirtland Temple.ref|Messenger-Mar1836 At least four tunes were associated with the hymn since it was written. While these tunes were likely familiar to many of the members of the church at the time, there is some ambiguity today as to how these tunes were sung.

J. C. Little and G. B. Gardner published an unofficial hymnal 1844 in Bellows Falls, Vermont, which is the first Latter Day Saint hymnal to include any music. "The Spirit of God," is included as the very first hymn and it is set to the tune "Hosanna", which is the same tune used today—although the modern edition has changes in the notes of the chorus, and contains all four parts instead of merely the soprano and bass parts found in the 1844 hymnal.

Lyrics and commentary

The hymn was a last minute addition to the first church hymnal, "Collection of Sacred Hymns" published in Kirtland, Ohio, 1835 or 1836.ref|hymnal-info It appears as the last song (hymn 90) and in a different typeset than the rest of the hymnal. This original version had six stanzas.ref|Kirtland-hymnal In some cases the lyrics borrow from the words of its original tune, "The American Star."ref|PoeticBorrowing

tanza one

The Spirit of God like a fire is burning; The latter day glory begins to come ; The visions and blessings of old are returning; The angels are coming to visit the earth.

The words of the first stanza capture the millennialist spirit of the early Latter Day Saint movement. Phelps supposedly wrote the words following a meeting during which the leaders of the church were overcome by the Spirit. Joseph Smith, Jr. speaks of the meeting in his diary, 17 January 1836:

"The Lord poured out his spirit upon us and the brethren began to confess their faults one to the other. The congregation was soon overwhelmed in tears and some of our hearts were too big for utterance. [Glossolalia|The gift of [tongues] come upon us also like the rushing of a mighty wind and my soul was filled with the glory of God."ref|JosephDiary-17Jan1836

The first words come from "The American Star" which begins, "The spirits of Washington, Warren, Montgomery" and "then goes on to praise these heroes of the Revolution who yet watch over nineteenth-century patriots."ref|PoeticBorrowing-firstLine


We'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven: Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb! Let glory to them in the highest be given, and forever: amen and amen!

The chorus is sung as above after each stanza. However the first line becomes "We'll sing and we'll shout with "His" armies of heaven" for the last chorus in the original printing.

The use of the phrase "armies of heaven" in first line is used to mean a "great multitude of angels," but also reflects the imagery of the original song, "The American Star." Musicologist, Michael Hicks, points out, "The choruses to both use military images. One speaks of the U.S. militia ('let millions invade us, we'll meet them undaunted'), the other of heaven ('we'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven')."ref|PoeticBorrowing-chorus

More recently, Andrew Bolton and Randall Pratt authored a revised or alternative version of "The Spirit of God" in 2003. This version, sometimes used in Community of Christ, offers the less militaristic wording, "angels of heaven," over "armies of heaven."

tanza two

The Lord is extending the saints' understanding— Restoring their judges and all as at first; The knowledge and power of God are expanding The vail the earth is beginning to burst.

The word "vail" is the (now archaic) spelling of "veil" as found in the original 1830 hymnal. The King James Version of the Bible uses both spellings of the word interchangeably.

tanza three

We call in our solemn assemblies, in spirit, To spread forth the kingdom of heaven abroad, That we through our faith may begin to inherit The visions, and blessings, and glories of God.

Further parallels between patriotic "American Star" and "The Spirit of God" are found in stanza three.

:The patriotic song declares that "to us the high has been granted." Phelps elaborates on this: "We...begin to inherit the visions and blessings and glories of God." "The American Star" urges all "to spread the glad tidings of liberty far." Phelps urges the Saints "to spread forth the kingdom of heaven abroad."ref|PoeticBorrowing-stanza3

tanza four

We’ll wash and be wash’d, and with oil be anointed not omitting the washing of feet: For he that receiveth his PENNY appointed, Must surely be clean at the harvest of wheat.

This stanza is rarely sung today as most hymnals have omitted stanzas four and five.

The first two lines of this stanza refer to ordinances of washing and anointing (which continues today in LDS temple ordinances), and the washing of feet.

The phrase "PENNY appointed" is a reference to the parable of the laborer in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16). In this parable, laborers who start working during the eleventh hour receive the same reward of a penny as do the laborers who have been working from the very beginning.

tanza five

Old Israel that fled from the world for his freedom, Must come with the cloud and the pillar, : A Moses, and Aaron, and Joshua lead him, And feed him on manna from heaven again.

This stanza is rarely sung today as most hymnals have omitted stanzas four and five.

tanza six

How blessed the day when the lamb and the lion Shall lie down together without any ; And Ephraim be crown'd with his blessing in Zion, As Jesus descends with his chariots of fire!

Stanzas 1,2,3, and 6 appear in the LDS Church's hymnal as hymn verses 1 to 4. However, "Hymns of the Saints", the main Community of Christ hymnal, does not include the sixth stanza. A recent supplemental hymnal of the Community of Christ uses the Bolton–Pratt revision, which includes an adapted version of the sixth stanza.

The first two lines are a reference to Isaiah 11:6, "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." (KJV)

Ephraim is one of the tribes of Israel. He is the second son of Joseph (Gen. 41:52; 46:20).

The last line is a millennial reference to the second coming of Christ.

ee also

*Hosanna Shout


#Note|Messenger-Jan1836 "Messenger and Advocate" 2 (January 1836): 256. [ Online version at]
#Note|Messenger-Mar1836 "Messenger and Advocate" 2 (March 1836): 280. [ Online version at]
#Note|hymnal-info [ "Emma's 1835 Hymnal"]
#Note|Kirtland-hymnal "Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints" (Kirtland, Ohio: F. G. Williams & co., 1835; reprint, Independence, Missouri: Herald Heritage, 1973), hymn 90.
#Note|PoeticBorrowing Michael Hicks, "Poetic Borrowing in Early Mormonism," "" 18 (Spring 1985): 134-135.
#Note|JosephDiary-17Jan1836 "Sketch Book for the use of Joseph Smith, Jr." (22 September to 3 April 1836), 126; Scott H. Faulring, ed., "An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith" (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1989), 111-112. [ Joseph's diary account]
#Note|PoeticBorrowing-firstLine Hicks, "Poetic Borrowing," 134.
#Note|PoeticBorrowing-chorus Ibid., 135.
#Note|PoeticBorrowing-stanza3 Ibid., 135.

External links

* Account of Kirtland temple dedication in March issue of church newspaper, "Messenger and Advocate". "The Spirit of God" is the final hymn and directly follows the dedicatory prayer

* [ "The Spirit of God" - First printing with music and words] Music from 1844 Bellow Falls unofficial hymnal. Similar to tune used today. Hosted by Mutopia project.

* [ "The American Star" - four stanzas] The third stanza of this printing that starts "The spirits of Washington, Warren, Montgomery..." It appears to be the most popular stanza, often by itself in other printings.

* [ The Spirit of God] current words and music from LDS hymnal and [,18331,4768-1,00.html?reportStart=60&reportEnd=60&searchPhrase=T MP3 download]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Spirit of God — *For the Spirit of God of Native Americans, see Great Spirit. *For the Spirit of God in Judaism, see Ruah. *For the Spirit of God in Christianity, see Holy Spirit or Paraclete. *Spirit of God may refer to The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning …   Wikipedia

  • Burning Man — is an annual event held in the Black Rock Desert, in Northern Nevada. The event starts on the Monday before, and ends on the day of, the American Labor Day holiday. It takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy on Saturday… …   Wikipedia

  • The Incoherence of the Philosophers — ( Tahāfut al Falāsifaʰ ) in Arabic (تهافت الفلاسفة) is the title of a landmark 11th century polemic in Islamic philosophy by the Sufi sympathetic Imam al Ghazali of the Asharite school against Avicennism. cite encyclopedia|last= |first= |… …   Wikipedia

  • The Belgariad — is a five book fantasy epic written by David Eddings. The series tells the story of the recovery of the Orb of Aldur and coming of age of Garion, an orphaned farmboy. Garion is accompanied by his aunt Polgara and grandfather Belgarath as they try …   Wikipedia

  • The Battle Hymn of the Republic — is an American abolitionist song written by Julia Ward Howe in November 1861 and first published in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1, 1862 that was made popular during the American Civil War. HistoryThe tune was written around 1855 by William… …   Wikipedia

  • The Young and the Restless minor characters — The following are characters from the American soap opera The Young and the Restless who are notable for their actions or relationships, but who do not warrant their own articles. Contents 1 Current Characters 1.1 Genevieve …   Wikipedia

  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll — is an unordered list of 500 songs, created by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that they believe have been most influential in shaping the course of rock and roll, though some of them belong to different styles even after the consolidation of rock …   Wikipedia

  • The Residents — Pays d’origine  États Unis Genre musical Avant garde Post punk musique expérimentale An …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fire (classical element) — Fire has been an important part of many cultures and religions, from pre history to modern day, and was vital to the development of civilization. It has been regarded in many different fashions throughout history.Greek and Roman Tradition Fire is …   Wikipedia

  • The Darkness (comics) — The Darkness The Darkness. Art by Marc Silvestri Publication information Publisher Image Comics …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”