Evan Stephens

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For the American television comedy, see Even Stevens.

Evan Stephens (June 28, 1854 – October 27, 1930) was a Latter-day Saint composer and hymn writer. He was also the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 26 years (1890–1916).

Early life and family[edit]

Stephens was born at Pencader, Wales. He moved with his family to Utah Territory when he was twelve. His parents had converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) before his birth. When he was a very small child his mother would take him with her to work in the fields as she raised money to help pay to build the Salt Lake Temple.[1][2]

Stephens never married. He had an attachment to a girl in Willard, Utah, when he was in his early twenties, but she died in a freak accident while in a stage performance.[2] Later, Stephens was engaged to a woman who made a deathbed request at the end of her brief illness that he love her through his music.[3]

After his death, Stephens was sealed by proxy to his great niece, Sarah Daniels. Stephens had intended on marrying her, and arranged for her to come to Utah from the United Kingdom in 1902. Stephens had anticipated that she would convert to the LDS Church on coming to Utah, but when this did not happen, he arranged for her to be his housekeeper. According to interviews of Stephens's relatives conducted in both the 1950s and the 1990s, Stephens stated that Daniels would make a good wife, but he would only marry in the church.[3] After Stephens died, Daniels did join the LDS Church and she was sealed to him by proxy on November 5, 1931 in the Salt Lake Temple, with the ordinance having been approved by LDS Church president Heber J. Grant.[3]

Stephens studied for a time at the University of Deseret.[3]

Teaching music[edit]

From 1885 to 1900 Stephens directed the teaching of music at the University of Utah.[4] Stephens also served as the first public school music supervisor in Utah.[3]

Musical writings[edit]

In 1899 the Missionary Song Book edited by Stephens was distributed in the Southern States Mission.[5]

In the 1927 English LDS Hymnbook there were 84 hymns written by Evan Stephens.[2]

His 19 works in the 1985 English language edition of the Latter-day Saint hymnal are:

  • #11 "What Was Witnessed in the Heavens" (music),
  • #17 "Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake!" (music),
  • #18 "The Voice of God Again is Heard" (words and music),
  • #23 & #312 (Women) "We Ever Pray for Thee" (text and adaptation of music by H. A. Tuckett),
  • #33 "Our Mountain Home So Dear" (music),
  • #35 "For the Strength of the Hills" (music),
  • #55 "Lo, the Mighty God Appearing!" (music),
  • #61 "Raise Your Voices to the Lord'" (words and music),
  • #74 "Praise Ye the Lord" (music),
  • #91 "Father thy Children to Thee Now Raise" (words and music),
  • #118 "Ye Simple Souls who Stray" (music),
  • #120 "Lean on My Ample Arm" (music),
  • #183 "In Remembrance of Thy Suffering" (words and music),
  • #229 "Today, While the Sun Shines (music),
  • #243 "Let Us All Press On" (words and music),
  • #254 "True to the Faith" (words and music),
  • #312 "We Ever Pray for Thee" (words and music),
  • #330 "See The Mighty Angel Flying" (music), and
  • #337 "O Home Beloved" (words).

He wrote several other LDS hymns that do not appear in the 1985 edition of the hymnal.

Included among his works is "Utah, We Love Thee" (also sometimes referred to as "Land of the Mountains High") which became the official State Song of Utah in 1937. In 2003 it was designated the official State Hymn, and a new state song was named.

Directing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir[edit]

Under Evan Stephens' direction the size of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir increased from 125 members to over 300.[6]

Stephens was also the director of the choir who moved it into the field of performing concerts and not just for religious celebrations.[7]

For part of the time that Stephens was director of the Tabernacle Choir he held the title of president with two counselors, in a system of leadership similar to that used in LDS Church wards and stakes.[8]

Stephens was also the first man employed as full-time choir director. This occurred in 1895. Prior to this the director of the choir had been viewed as a part-time office, who although given a stipend for his service was expected to earn his main employ by other methods. At this time the leaders of the church decided to make the position of choir director full-time and doubled Stephens salary.[2]

Alleged homosexuality[edit]

In his book Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth Century Americans, published in 1996, historian D. Michael Quinn expresses his view that Stephens had homosexual relationships and that these were tolerated by the LDS Church hierarchy.[9] Elsewhere, Quinn has theorized that the unmarried Stephens had intimate relationships and shared the same bed with a series of male domestic partners and traveling companions.[10] He claims that some of these relationships were described under a pseudonym in The Children's Friend, a church magazine for children.[11] However, Quinn has admitted that it is possible Stephens never engaged in homosexual conduct.[3]

Several other Latter-day Saint scholars, including George L. Mitton and Rhett S. James, have called Quinn's research on Stephens into question. They argue that Quinn has engaged in an opportunistic distortion of LDS Church history; they deny any acceptance from previous leaders of homosexual behavior, and state the teachings of the current leadership of the church "is entirely consistent with the teachings of past leaders and with the scriptures."[3] Specifically, they disagree with Quinn's theory that Stephens was involved in intimate relationships with other men, or that the article in The Children's Friend was about these relationships. They point to it instead as reflecting normal youthful respect for older males. They also point out that Stephens's relationship with his great niece, Sarah Daniels, undermines Quinn's claims. Specifically, Stephens maintained a large number of students as residents in his household to prevent the image of inpropriety with Daniels, since if he had lived alone with her without other witnesses around, it would have opened him up to accusations of a scandalous relationship. They state that Stephens "is known only as a strictly moral Christian gentleman."[3] Mitton and James also point out that the death of Stephens's fiancee led him to remember her through his music, and that this was a very real and deep-seated emotional connection for him.[3] Ray Bergman—who was in one of Stephens's youth choirs and personally knew him—disputes any claims that Stephens was a homosexual.[3][12]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cornwall, J. Spencer. "The Story of Our Mormon Hymns" Enlarged Fourth Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1975) p. 155.
  2. ^ a b c d Bergman, Ray L. The Children Sang: The Life and Music of Evan Stephens with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (Salt Lake City: Northwest Publishing Inc., 1992).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j George L. Mitton, Rhett S. James A Response to D. Michael Quinn's Homosexual Distortion of Latter-day Saint History Review of Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example by D. Michael Quinn Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 1998. Pp. 141–263.
  4. ^ Wales on Britannia: Facts About Wales & the Welsh
  5. ^ Hicks, Michael. Mormonism and Music. p. 129
  6. ^ LDS Newsroom - Timeline, lds.org, accessed 2008-03-29.
  7. ^ Mark David Porcaro, p. 20 "The Secularization of the Repertoire of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, 1949–1992", Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2006.
  8. ^ Conference Report, April 1904, p. 75
  9. ^ D. Michael Quinn (2001), Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth Century Americans: a Mormon Example, University of Illinois Press.
  10. ^ D. Michael Quinn (1995), "Male-Male Intimacy among Nineteenth-century Mormons—a Case Study", 28(4) Dialogue 105–28.
  11. ^ Anonymous (Oct. 1919), "Evan Bach [Evan Stephens]: A True Story for Little Folk, by a Pioneer," 18 The Children's Friend 386.
  12. ^ Ray Bergman, Logan Herald Journal, 1996-04-10, p. 18

Further reading[edit]

  • Bergman, Ray L. The Children Sang: the Life and Music of Evan Stephens with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. ed. ... by James Van Treese. Salt Lake City, Utah: Northwest Publishing, 1992. ISBN 1-880416-38-7

External links[edit]