Aug 10, 2008

Oh, That I Were an Angel!

by Marsha Ward

During today's Sunday School lesson on Alma, chapter 29, composer Wanda West Palmer told how she came to write her best known song, "Oh, That I Were an Angel," set to Alma's poignant words. Years ago, a speaker referenced the first verse in a meeting where she was the choir director. She turned to her accompanist and asked, "Can't you just hear the melody in those words?"

Looking blank, the accompanist said, "No."

Over the next six months, Wanda struggled to find the right notes, in an effort to capture the melody that ran through her head. Many times in the years since, people have told her that they heard/sang that song in the preexistence. Wanda wondered if she composed the song there.

Today, her son, Rick, accompanied by his wife, Elaine, sang the song, his voice choked with emotion.

I cried because the Spirit was so strong in the room.

At the last ANWA Writers Conference, Tristi Pinkston told us that we were prepared and trained to be writers before we came to earth. What a wonderful gift to know that our urge to write is eternal in nature! Don't forsake the heavenly treasure.


  1. I love that song and hear the melody every time I read the scripture. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I remember how marvelous it felt to hear Wanda tell her story at one of our retreats. I love the song...and I love the woman who wrote that song. I read Alma 29 frequently.

    To have been prepared and trained to write before I came to earth...I so want to believe that! I know we were prepared and trained for many things...but did I pick the right thing? (no pun intended.)

  3. What an amazing concept that we were "foreordained" to be writers. I'm going to have to mull that idea over. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. Wanda was my primary chorister growing up. I have such great memories of being on the LEw King Rangers show and singing Tumbling Tumble Weeds. But even more, were her wonderful songs, my favorite of which is O, That I were AN Angel. I tried to use it in my SS lesson a couple of week ago but the CD player didn't work. It is so wonderful. Thank you for stirring all these memories for me, Marsha.

  5. And yes, there is a familiar feel to this writing, like I considered it eons ago. See Moses 6:61, one of my favorite scriptures.

  6. It's one of those songs that 'grabs'me every time I hear it--even did the first time. I took a copy with me when we went to Australia on a temple mission. At a Christmas devotional (in the middle of the hot summer) I sang it as a solo, and had to keep lifting my eyesight above the congregation, because I couldn't stand to see even the men crying. Afterwards one of the Area Authorities asked me for a copy. I told him it was copyrighted and I couldn't, but I could loan it to him for a day or so and if he wanted to . . . . I got it back witin the next few days (their office was adjacent to the temple) but I never asked him what he did with it.

    My blessing told me I was foreordained to become a mother in Zion. It didn't mention teaching, writing, or composing, but then, why should it? If we were told everything we were foreordained to do, where's the agency?


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