Eliza R. Snow wrote the lyrics to this popular Nineteenth Century tune to convert it into a Latter-Day Saint hymn, but it began as a quite secular march. George F. Root composed the tune and wrote the original lyrics to a song called, “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! The Boys Are Marching.” Published in 1864, it was one of the most popular songs of the American Civil War. In fact, it was so popular that, though it was written originally to console Union POWs, it was adopted by the Confederacy, with altered lyrics, and was sung by both sides as a marching song.
The tune became so popular that parodies were inevitable. It bears the distinction of being the basis of two different popular children’s hymns, “In Our Lovely Deseret,” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children”.) The Mormon lyrics were written by Eliza R. Snow, acerbic wife of Brigham Young, who never had any children of her own, but did spend much of her life surrounded by “a multitude of children,” who learned to dread their rather strict “Aunt Eliza.”
There are many stories about Eliza Snow’s volatile relationship with her step-children. My favorite is the one that tells how Aunt Eliza spotted some of her step-daughters wearing colorful sashes and took “those worldly things” away from them. It turned out they had been gifts from their father, the prophet, and Eliza had to suffer the embarrassment of being openly chastised by her husband, who told her not to deny his children the gifts he saw fit to give them. Although this was done en famille, the children gleefully repeated it, and it soon became public knowledge.
Eliza fancied herself quite a poet, and no fewer than ten of her works are still found in the current LDS hymnal. “In Our Lovely Deseret” holds the distinction of being the only LDS hymn that specifically mentions the Word of Wisdom.
The tune is meant to be a sprightly march, and should be played quite fast, and with perfect regularity. The only way to learn this is to practice with a metronome, slowly (45 - 70), until you can play it correctly, then try for speed. This will not be easy if you are not used to practicing with a metronome. For this reason, I have classified the tune as Intermediate level, even though there are only four fairly common chords.
Because the tune is a march, I have elected to keep the 4/4 time signature, even though nearly all the notes are eighth-notes. I tried putting “&s” in the count, to show this, but they made the count line so cluttered that it became confusing, so I left them out. If you are not familiar with the song, go to lds.org and listen to it.
There are a few fast transitions involving barre chords. If you are a beginner, you may need to practice them for speed, or you’ll never get the tempo right. Please do not substitute non-barre chords for the barre chords, or you will lose the melody entirely.
There are a few spots where I have called for a chord, but only a single note, or a two-note pinch, is actually played. There’s a reason for this. The following notes can be played quickly and easily if your left hand is already in position. In cases like this, I have tried to put the chord changes for the left hand where you have the most time to make them. This means the changes don’t always fall on the downbeat. Hence, the count line.
In the first (lead-in) measure, fret a normal C chord, adding the F on the D-string in the third space with the pinkie, lifting it quickly for the rest of the measure. Do the pull-off in measure  with the pinkie, too. It’s going to be your “finger-dancing” finger for the rest of the song.
When playing the hammer-on in measure , lift the barring index finger of the F chord, then hammer it back down to make the hammer-on. This works best with high-tension strings. Do the same thing in measures  and .
In measure , the last two notes are musically the same as the first two note of the song, but I have put them in as a slide to ease the transition from the GIII chord back to C. This works best if you use the ring finger to do the slide. Also, the slide adds variety to a musical phrase that is otherwise a simple repeat of the first four measures.
For similar reasons, I have called for some of the chords to be strummed in one part of the song, and pinched in others. If you have trouble keeping the rhythm while switching from pinches to strums, you might try making all the chords pinches, or even leave out all but the melody notes.
Measure  requires some finger dancing. The easy way to hit the fifth note of the measure is to flatten the hand so the pinky frets the G-string at the fifth fret briefly. Just arch the finger so you can play the D note on the B-string. Use the tip of the little finger to fret the G string normally, at the sixth fret, then lift it from the strings to get the D again. Lift the whole hand to play the E-string open, while moving the left hand to First Position for the C chord. Meanwhile, the right hand will have to play the same string with the same finger, twice in succession. There’s no easy way around it.
In Measure , catch the A on the G-string by flattening the middle finger, then releasing the entire hand for the open note that begins . This gives you time to change to the C/G chord. I have written in the chord name with a one beat delay to allow time for the transition. You're actually playing some of the notes of that chord while making the chord change. It's easier than it sounds. The last note of  is fretted by briefly flattening the pinkie again.
The last three measures recap measures , , and  nearly exactly, with only a slight difference in the melody notes in .
I have only included the lyrics for the first verse. The other verses are:
2. That the children may live long
And be beautiful and strong,
Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise,
Drink no liquor, and they eat
But a very little meat;
They are seeking to be great and good and wise.
3. They should be instructed young
How to watch and guard the tongue,
And their tempers train and evil passions bind;
They should always be polite,
And treat ev’rybody right,
And in ev’ry place be affable and kind.
4. They must not forget to pray,
Night and morning ev’ry day,
For the Lord to keep them safe from ev’ry ill,
And assist them to do right,
That with all their mind and might
They may love him and may learn to do his will.
Baptist minister Clare Herbert Woolston wrote a different set of lyrics, calling the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Woolston wrote three verses and a refrain, but the refrain is all that most people know. Even professional music ministers may not know that there are verses, which follow the same music lines as “In Our Lovely Deseret.” You get two songs for the price of one, both in the public domain!
1. Jesus calls the children dear,
“Come to me and never fear,
For I love the little children of the world;
I will take you by the hand,
Lead you to the better land,
For I love the little children of the world.”
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
2. Jesus is the Shepherd true,
And He’ll always stand by you,
For He loves the little children of the world;
He’s a Savior great and strong,
And He’ll shield you from the wrong,
For He loves the little children of the world.
3. I am coming, Lord, to Thee,
And Your soldier I will be,
For You love the little children of the world;
And Your cross I’ll always bear,
And for You I’ll do and dare,
For You love the little children of the world.
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