All Creatures of Our God and King
The beloved hymn, All Creatures of our God and King was adapted by a poem written by St. Francis of Assisi in 1225. Understanding the man and story that inspired the text can help add depth and power to the song as we sing it.
Francis of Assisi had a privileged childhood and a was a rebellious young adult. But when God came to him in a dream and told him he was in the wrong, Francis forsook everything and turned his life over to God.
In his quest to find God, Francis was visiting a church when he heard Christ speak to him saying, “Francis, repair my church.”
Francis thought he was speaking of the church he was praying in, so he used his father’s supplies to help restore the building. When his father found out, he saw it as theft and brought Francis before the Bishop, demanding he pay the money back.
Francis did, but at that meeting, stripped himself of the clothes his father had given him and denounced his inheritance.
Wearing nothing but second-hand rags, Francis walked into the cold woods alone and –singing. Later, when robbers attacked him, took his clothes and beat him, he climbed out of the hole they left him in and continued on his way, singing.
Francis devoted his life to God and spent his days living among the poor and homeless. He found joy in serving others and considered all people his brothers and sisters. It was his belief that all God’s creations were his brothers and sisters, including Brother Wind, Sister Water, Sister Moon and Brother Fire.
He loved the animals and the elements and he was known to speak to them as he walked among them. According to stories, they obeyed him because they loved him too.
One story says that hundreds of birds stood still as Francis taught them to be thankful to God for their beautiful clothing, for their freedom, and for God’s loving care. It was said that the birds stood still until Francis said they could leave, and then happily flew away.
Another story of Francis is about a carnivorous wolf who was eating townspeople. The town wanted to kill the wolf, but before they could, Francis stepped in and spoke to the wolf, and persuaded him to never kill again. The wolf then became a beloved pet to the people, who made sure that he never went hungry.
Another story, and the most compelling, came near the end of his life when poverty and homelessness was causing illness. The pope ordered an operation for Francis’ eyes when he started to lose his sight.
This required his face to be cauterized with a scalding hot iron. Francis spoke to his “Brother Fire” and made a request of him, “Brother Fire, the Most High has made you strong and beautiful and useful. Be courteous to me now in this hour, for I have always loved you, and temper your heat so that I can endure it.” After his surgery, Francis said that his Brother Fire had been kind to him and that he felt nothing at all throughout the procedure.
Sr. Francis Assisi was a man like few others.
Here is what we can learn from his life and his song.
1. We have dominion over all things. Adam was given dominion over all things in the Garden of Eden. We are Adam’s direct descendents, and heirs to all his blessings. We need to believe that we can command the elements and they will obey us. The Savior Himself told us we had this power. The elements obeyed the Savior, elements both on land and the sea, both within the body, and without. To His disciples Christ said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works which I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go now unto my Father.” (–John 14:12) Not only do we have the ability to walk on water and raise the dead, but the Lord said we would do greater things than were witnessed of Him because He had to descend to heaven.
2. All God’s creations have intelligence, and they obey his voice. In Doctrine and Covenants 93:36, we are told, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” According to lds.org regarding the Light of Christ it states, “The light of Christ is the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives light to all things.” Doctrine and Covenants 88:13 says, Christ is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed.” This means that the light of Christ is truly in all things and that it gives light to all things. If we are true children of light, then we will embrace all intelligence that God has placed on this Earth, “For intelligence cleaveth to intelligence.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:40). Francis recognized the intelligence in all God’s creations and they obeyed him.
3. Love is how we make things happen. Francis loved “Brother Fire” and he told him so. He did not command the fire to temper its heat, he simply asked and expressed his love, and according to the stories, “Brother Fire” did what Francis asked because his love was returned. The Light of Christ is the law by which all things are governed and love is the fulfillment of that law. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10) Francis understood that his neighbor included all those living things around him and, as he told “Brother Fire”, he always loved them. If we desire to command the elements, we must first learn to love them.
4. All God’s creations know how to sing praises to their creator. Francis knew God’s creations intimately. He spoke to them and they listened. His song is a call to all of God’s creations to sing together in one glorious song of praise. Doctrine and Covenants 128:23 says, “Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!” We are all commanded to sing praises together.
5. Singing praises together will unite us and eventually help to bring about our exaltation. Psalms 148 is very similar to the above verse in the Doctrine and Covenants. The chapter heading states, “Let all things praise the Lord: men and angels, the heavenly bodies, the elements and the earth, and all things thereon.” This chapter, however, adds why we should all sing together. Verse 14 says, “He exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints”. As we sing these praises, we are being exalted by the Lord. Sacred music is light and as we sing together, we are flowing light into the world. The more voices who join the song, the greater the amount of light in the world. The greater the light, the less the influence of darkness. Through singing, we lift ourselves to a spiritual plain where darkness cannot abide.
6. Music gives us the power to overcome hard things. Francis was able to endure both ridicule and torture through singing praises to God. It was even said that this song of praise was sung while he was on his death bed. In the original poem, Francis even spoke of “Sister Death” and wrote the lines about her just hours before he passed away. Music was comforting to him and he sang as he walked. In the First Presidency Preface to the Hymns, it states, “Hymns can help us withstand the temptations of the adversary.” It was Francis’ singing that allowed him to overcome all that was given him.
All Creatures of our God and King is a beautiful tribute from Francis Assisi to the God he loved. It wonderfully expresses the joy that flows from all intelligences as we join together in song. It comes as the result of a lifetime of love and service to God and His creations. Francis spent his life singing praises to the Lord, and as we sing this sacred hymn, it is an invitation for all God’s creations to join him.