The second hymn in our current hymnal, “The Spirit of God” is perhaps the most powerful, tear-producing, and beloved hymns we as a Latter-day Saint people possess. Written by William W. Phelps, it invites all who hear it to sing and shout with the armies of Heaven, and indeed, as you sing it, you feel as though legions of angels have joined you in song.
The first line reads, “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning. The latter-day glory begins to come forth.”
Oftentimes, when someone receives a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, they feel the Spirit to such an extent, it feels like a fire burning within them. Speaking of his own experiences, Robert D. Hales said: “Since that time (of the organization of the Church) 116 temples have been dedicated. I have attended a number of these sacred meetings. Dedicatory prayers have been offered. The Holy Ghost has been present in abundance. During these times, among many others, I have felt the undeniable witness of the Spirit of God, like a fire burning in my heart, that the restored gospel is true.”
The Spirit speaks to us in many ways, but one of the most powerful manifestations is indeed a brightly burning, warm feeling in our hearts and a strong feeling of hope and peace accompanying it.
As the Kirtland Temple, the first the early Saints were to have, was dedicated, those in attendance joined in singing this hymn. People in the town of Kirtland reported seeing angels walking on the roof of the temple, and those inside described the experience as a rushing of wind. The Spirit was so strong, many in the congregation rose and began to speak in tongues.
There are two verses that were part of Emma Smith’s original compilation that we no longer sing. Our current version contains four verses.
Today, the hymn is regarded as being so sacred, it is recommended that it be used for the most special of occasions such as temple dedications, stake conferences and the like.
I have had the chance to sing this hymn while visiting some of the church history sites, and I can testify that not only is there power in this hymn, but that the spirit is truly a beacon of light, a marvelous testifier, a comforter, and a sure way that we may know for ourselves the truth of all things.