The LDS hymn Where Can I Turn for Peace is beloved for its honest supplication and all too real portrayal of difficult times. But do you know the inspiring story behind its creation?
With text by Emma Lou Thayne and music by Joleen G. Meredith, the hymn was actually created as part of their mutual calling as members of the Young Women’s General Board. The year was 1971 and there was to be a special Young Women’s Conference. Whatever song Thayne and Meredith created would be performed as the closing number.
Little did anyone realize that the assignment would be a release for Thayne, who was going through a difficult time. As she related in a broadcast:
“The words to the hymn came for me out of a troubled time for our family. We had one daughter ill, I was facing a spinal fusion and interruption of teaching mid-quarter at the University of Utah. My husband was about to become bishop of a student ward, and 4 daughters were under the age of 17 with busy lives. ‘Pray at night, plan in the morning’ had been the byword of our family. Now it became ‘Pray all the time.’”
The illness her daughter had? A mental illness, which pianist Meredith was also facing. Once Thayne had written down some words, she called up Meredith, who began playing the piano. By the end of their telephone conversation, the basic hymn was done.
“We determined this was a mental illness hymn,” Meredith would go on to say when telling the story behind the hymn. “Emma…was struggling with the mental illness of a one of her daughters at the time this was written, and I was struggling myself personally with mental illness. And so we lovingly call it “The Mental Illness Hymn.””
Where Can I Turn for Peace was officially added to the LDS hymnal in 1985 and continues to be a beacon of hope for all who hear it. If you’ve never heard the hymn or are just dying to listen to it now, we’ve compiled some of the most moving arrangements available.
BYU Women’s Chorus (in honor of Army Spc. John Pelham)
The BYU University Chorale + Visitors