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The Story of "Come unto Him" by Daniel Carter

Updated on February 15, 2016

Come unto Him Performed by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

The Story of How It Came to Be

On a very hot summer July Friday night in 1978, I wrote a song called, Come unto Him. I was living with my long time friend and former high school Spanish teacher, Eric Bjarnson and his family. I was in college, and Eric was a doctoral candidate working out of Indiana University. Eric and I were both employed at a factory, while trying to stay in school.

On this hot night, exhausted from work and school, I read the words from Matthew 11:28–30:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

A few weeks previously, Eric and his wife, Dianne bought a new piano. It was a beautiful five foot upright with an ebony finish. They sacrificed to buy it. The piano was moved to the room I stayed in, not in the living room. I protested, but Dianne was firm about it remaining in my room, so that I would focus on my studies and composing.

Despite the hour being late, and all of us completely worn out, I needed to write this piece. I played as quietly as I could so I wouldn’t wake the others. After working on the piece well into the night, Eric came in the next morning and asked, “Is it finished?” I blurted out apologies for making noise and he stopped me and asked again, “But is it finished?” I said “Yes.” He asked if I would play it for him. Eric has a beautiful tenor voice. Some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard has been sung by Eric and his sister, Anna, a coloratura soprano. I played as Eric sang. There in a little yellow shack where the paint was peeling off, next to a rural road surrounded by green pastures, cattle, flies, and the bleating of goats came the sound of a tired, overworked tenor singing, “Come unto him, all ye who labor...” and we were both rejuvenated.

My First Meeting with a Publisher

The following year I met my publisher, Jerry Jackman. I showed Jerry a tenor solo version of the piece, and he seemed impressed, but didn't choose to publish it. I arranged a choral version of the piece the following year and showed it to Jerry. He liked it, but his only doubt was that it might be "too artistic" and he wasn't sure it would catch on. Initially he was right. It was published for three or four years before a conductor, Ron Staheli of Brigham Young University found it and performed it all over the world. From there, it gained steady recognition and now enjoys a continued life of its own, and is performed frequently throughout the English speaking world. On the 12th of December 1991 (a day after my birthday), I received a call from Donald Ripplinger who was then Associate Conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He told me that the Choir would perform Come unto Him during the Choir's weekly broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word in February of 1992.

Since then, Come unto Him has been performed by numerous choirs and choral groups around the world. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed it several times through the years.

In 2011, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir recorded it, and it was included as the 4th track on their This Is the Christ CD. Within two weeks of its release, the CD climbed to #1 position in Billboard's Top 100, Classical list.

Sheet music for the choral arrangement can be ordered at

Come unto Him is also available in sheet music as a sacred solo (the original version) for voice and piano at

The Painting for the Book Cover, by Dan Freed

In 2003 I commissioned a painting from Dan Freed to use as a cover design of a book of music I published. Lead, Kindly Light is the result of that commission.

Dan Freed is a prolific artist. For more information about his art works, click here.

Come unto Him Is Part of a Large Choral Oratorio

Come unto Him was actually written as a tenor solo for a large 40 piece oratorio called Alpha and Omega. The oratorio was started in 1976 while I was in England serving as a missionary for the Mormon Church. Alpha and Omega is about the second coming of Christ. Most of the pieces are composed in the late 1970s and '80s. The work was never finished for various reasons, although I have considered completing it. Without a performance to look forward to, I seem to lack the drive to finish it at this point. A few other larger choral works I have written are also unfinished for similar reasons.


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      Pattie Moss 3 months ago

      We are performing your work Shine for Me Again Star of Bethlehem as our closing number for our ward Christmas choir program. It is so beautiful I have a hard time not getting emotional singing it. You have GOT to finish your oratorio. I remember singing "The Redeemer" Robert Kundick's work when it was not yet published with the Millenial Arts Choir in Los Angeles directed by Barlow Bradford, a former Mo Tab conductor. It was probably my favorite ever performance of music. You need to do this. The world is waiting for another techtonic shift with music, especially as we look forward to the 2nd coming of J.C. Eat that elephant one bite at a time.

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      Paul Thatcher 3 years ago

      Loved listening to that song and reading the story, Dan. Thanks for sharing!

    • Daniel Carter profile image

      Daniel Carter 3 years ago from Western US

      Thank you, Team Wiseman!

    • Team Wiseman profile image

      Team Wiseman 3 years ago

      Excellent Read! Thumbs up, Interesting, and gonna Share via FB, Twitter, g+, H+ and Pinterest! This article is well deserving to Share!!

    • Daniel Carter profile image

      Daniel Carter 4 years ago from Western US

      Thanks for stopping by, mckerr. There isn't a piano solo version at present, and I wouldn't mind creating a piano solo version, but I've got plenty of other deadlines that will prevent for the foreseeable future. It would be a bit difficult to transcribe it for piano solo. Would most definitely have to be at least a piano duet, or piano and solo instrument. Still, it's a project that would have to come later due to other obligations. But thank you!

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      mckerr 4 years ago

      Dan, the first time I heard this music was years ago, but it still touches me as deeply as it did the first time. I am a pianist and would love to be able to play this beautiful song as a piano solo. Is there a piano solo version of this? If not, would you ever consider arranging one and making it available for purchase? I'd LOVE to be able to play an intermediate level version. Thank you for sharing your beautiful music with all of us!

    • Daniel Carter profile image

      Daniel Carter 5 years ago from Western US

      Thank you, CloudExplorer! I'm so glad that you liked the story and the music! Thank you so much for sharing it with others.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 5 years ago from New York City

      Wow what an awesome story and sweet success to have your very own song become a legendary hit on the music charts for god loving music. Oh my this is a wonderful hub to have located and that I just found of yours Daniel.

      I like the way you've described all the details to the very last letter, life sure does have its twists and turns doesn't it, and your story goes to prove that if you have good intentions in mind all throughout your life, and load yourself with true faith in the Lord up above anything is possible.

      Simply amazing!

      This hub is getting shared like no other, I am blown away by it, wowsers! thanks for sharing this gift if a hub and that of your lovely spiritually healing music, its so healing and soothing to hear indeed.

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      AIDY 7 years ago

      Absolutely beautiful, Daniel. Very refreshing to listen to.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Now I am sure that I was destined to meet you Daniel. I have sung your composition "Come Unto Him" as a soloist in the Mormon Church (when I was an active member). I have also been to conferences where I saw and heard the beautiful "Mormon Tabernacle Choir" perform your song.

      It is one of the most inspiring and beautiful pieces written. I stand in "awe" of you.

    • profile image

      Tess 7 years ago

      Hi Daniel

      Kathy H. just sent this to me as a suggestion for our Stake Easter program. very beautiful.

      Thanks for your music


    • Daniel Carter profile image

      Daniel Carter 7 years ago from Western US

      Thank you, my friend! I wrote this piece so long ago and surprised that it has had such a long life. Thanks for stopping by!

    • SomewayOuttaHere profile image

      SomewayOuttaHere 7 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

      Hey Daniel...good for you...for writing a piece that many sing and have listened to...and good to meet the creator of the piece - You!

    • Daniel Carter profile image

      Daniel Carter 7 years ago from Western US

      Thank you, unBroken1 and Hello, hello for stopping by. Thanks for your nice comments.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      You are great writing such an awe inspiring music and that painting is the best I ever saw. Thank you.

    • unBroken1 profile image

      unBroken1 7 years ago from Florida

      Beautiful song! I really really enjoyed hearing it this morning. Good way to start my day.

      Hmmm...I remember those days of trying, without much luck, to keep the piano quite while people were sleeping. lol

      Thank goodness for headphones and computerized keyboards.