Literary DCGD #16: Sabbath School Opening Hymn

RobertBBairdWhen we discuss the Sabbath in lessons, we can either focus on the things that we should not do to keep the day holy or we can focus on the things we can and should do. The 16th Gospel Doctrine lesson for the Doctrine and Covenants focuses more on the latter than on the former, discussing attending Sunday meetings and taking the sacrament first before moving on to the concept of a day of rest and keeping the day holy. And I think for most Mormons today the focus is on what we do on the Sabbath—go to Church.

Occasionally the founding story of the Sunday School is remembered, usually by talking about Richard Ballantyne and his 1849 children’s Sunday school. What isn’t discussed is the institutionalization of the Sunday School in 1867 as the Deseret Sunday School Union and the subsequent efforts to publicize and promote its meetings. Much of that promotion came through music, such as the following song.

Its author, Robert B. Baird, was born in Scotland in 1855 and immigrated to Utah in 1863 with his parents. Settling in Willard, Utah, after he married in 1876, Baird became involved in the Sunday School there, as well as in local music and dramatic efforts. He apparently studied organ with Evan Stephens and even wrote a play that was performed locally. And he wrote songs, including three that are in the current LDS Hymnal: Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning, Improve the Shining Moments and Thanks for the Sabbath School. Baird worked as a section foreman on the Utah Northern Railroad until shortly before his death in 1916.


Sabbath School Opening Hymn

by R. B. Baird

With cheerful hearts and voices sweet

Well sing a cheerful lay,
To welcome in the dawning of

another Sabbath day.


Oh, gently sing a sacred hymn,

a sweet and tender lay,
To welcome in the dawning of

Another Sabbath day.


Again we meet in Sunday school

To learn the laws of God,
That we may follow in the path

Our blessed Savior trod.


We eat and drink the sacrament

In memory of our Lord,
Who died that we might be redeemed,

According to His word.


O God, our Father, let Thy grace
Be shed around, we pray;
And grant that we may treasure up

The good we hear to-day.


To Him who gave this day for rest

Our thanks we freely give,
And all our errors through the week

We ask Him to forgive.

Juvenile Instructor v15 n13, July 1, 1880, p. 156


If there is a consistent theme in Baird’s poetry, it is Sunday School. And in this case he covers all the bases in the lesson. In addition to expressing joy at attending Sunday School, he talks about taking the sacrament (part of Sunday School services until LDS Sunday meetings were consolidated into the “block” schedule) and about resting from our labors on the Sabbath.

It seems like the only thing he doesn’t cover is whether or not we should watch sports on Sunday!