Yes, My Native Land I Love Thee

by Katlyn Linville

In the deserts let me labor,

On the mountains let me tell,

How he died—the blessed Savior—

To redeem a world from hell

Let me hasten,

Far in distant lands to dwell.1

In a handwritten hymnbook from 1835, we find a song which Wilford called the “New Missionary Hymn.” More commonly known as “Yes, My Native Land I Love Thee,” the hymn expresses the sentiment of leaving home—a place familiar, beautiful, and loved—to travel to distant lands with the purpose of preaching the gospel of Christ. The first verse of this song, as transcribed in Wilford’s hymnbook, reads, 

Yes, my Native land I love thee,

All thy scenes I love them well

Friends, Connections, happy, Country,

Can I bid you all farewell?

Can I leave you

Far in heathen lands to dwell?2

For Wilford Woodruff, the answer to this question was yes. And so, on August 8, 1839, Wilford bid farewell to his home, his friends, and his family to depart on one of six total missions that he served in his lifetime. Though “sick and feeble,” Wilford started on his journey like the apostles of old “without purse or scrip,”3 leaving behind not only his native land, but also his beloved wife, Phebe. In a journal entry from that day, he wrote: “Early on this important morning I took my departure from the embraces of my companion to go on my mission. She parted with me with that fortitude that becometh a saint, realizing the call and responsibility of her companion. Phebe, farewell. Be of good cheer. Remember me in your prayers especially as the sun sets in the western horizon. I leave these pages for your careful perusal while I am gone. I shall see thy face again in the flesh. I am gone to obey the command of Jesus Christ.”4

In the Come, Follow Me lesson for this week, we read about similar sacrifices made by the Apostles of Christ, leaving their native lands behind, to follow Christ’s instructions to “preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”5

Over 54,000 full-time missionaries are currently serving in the Church.6 Like the Apostles in the New Testament and the missionaries in the early Church, each and every one of these missionaries chose to “bid their native lands farewell” and put their lives on hold so they could bring the gospel of Christ to their spiritual brothers and sisters in distant lands. I, too, hope someday soon to join in the ranks of missionaries—both from Jesus’s day and from Wilford Woodruff’s—and raise my voice in singing the final verse of Wilford’s beloved “New Missionary Hymn”:

Bear me on, thou restless ocean,

Let the winds my Canvas swell

Heave my heart with warm emotion

While I go far land to dwell

Glad I bid thee

Native land Farewell Farewell.

Katlyn Linville is an aspiring author and is currently majoring in English at Brigham Young University-Idaho. After gaining a fondness for church history on a senior trip to Nauvoo, it was only natural that she jumped at the chance to work with the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation as an Editorial Assistant. She has happily filled that position since September 2022. Katlyn recently submitted her mission papers and is anxiously awaiting her call to serve.

Some original text has been edited for clarity and readability.

[1] “Collection of Sacred Hymns, 1835,” p. 68, The Joseph Smith Papers,

[2] Wilford Woodruff’s Hymnbook, circa 1835, pp. 19–21.

[3] “Autobiography 1858 Deseret News,” p. 4, The Wilford Woodruff Papers,

[4] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, August 8, 1839, p. 106, The Wilford Woodruff Papers,

[5] Matthew 10:7–8,

[6] “Facts and Statistics,” Global Newsroom,