We at Roots 2 Blossoms are so excited to have a guest posting a family history story about her 3rd Great Grandfather. Thank you Staci Nay so much for this amazing story. Music is such an important part of my life and I love this song, so reading it gave me chills. 


Growing up as a dancer, music has always played a large role in my life.  Music can evoke long lost memories, poignant times in life: whether good or not.  It can also bring the Spirit into a meeting quicker and more effectively than any prayer or talk can do.  So, imagine my delight when after singing the first few strains:  "High on a mountain top, a banner is unfurled" finding out that I'm related to the author of this hymn.  He is the brother of my 3rd Great Grandfather.  According to Bernard A Johnson, Joel H Johnson's grandson, the story of this hymn is as follows:
Joel H. Johnson established a sawmill in Mill Creek Canyon soon after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley. Sawing lumber for the "Building up of Zion" was Joel's church calling. This meant that he spent his time sawing prime lumber and delivering it to the tithing office. In lieu of wages, he would go to the storehouse and get what was needed for him and his family.
As he made his wagon trips up and down the steep canyon, he often thought about the flag that had been planted on Ensign Peak. He knew he had safely made it down the mountain with his load when he turned north and headed for the tithing office. He always breathed easier when he could look up at that peak and see Old Glory waving.
In the early spring of 1850, Joel loaded up a load of prime lumber and headed for the tithing office. As he headed into the lot that housed this office, he noticed that there were several other wagon loads of tithing offerings ahead of him. He stopped his team, unhitched the horses and turned them into "Brother Brigham's" pasture, and sat down to wait his turn to unload.
Being a warm spring day, Joel sought the shady side of his wagon, leaned back against the wheel and waited. As was his habit, he pulled out a piece of paper and prepared to write. He found himself thinking about the breeze and how it must be making 'Old Glory' ripple. In his mind he pictured how it must look there on the top of the peak under the clear blue sky as it waved and fluttered in the breeze. His mind painted such a wonderful picture.
Almost as if written by unseen hands, words began to appear on the paper:
"High on the mountain top,
  A banner is unfurled.
  Ye nations now look up;
It waves to all the world."
In Deseret's sweet, peaceful land-
On Zion's mount behold it stand!

For God remembers still
  His promise made of old
  That He on Zion's hill
  Truth's standard would unfold!
Her light should there attract the gaze
Of all the world in latter days.

His house shall there be reared
  His glory to display
  And people shall be heard
  In distant lands to say
We'll now go up and serve the Lord,
Obey His truth, and learn His word.

For there we shall be taught
  The law that will go forth,
  With truth and wisdom fraught
  To govern all the earth;
Forever there His ways we'll tread
And save ourselves and all our dead.

Then hail to Deseret!
  A refuge for the good,
  And safety for the great,
  If they but understood.
That God with plagues will shake the world
Till all its thrones shall down be hurled.

In Deseret doth truth
  Rear up its royal head;
  Though nations may oppose,
  Still wider it shall spread;
Yes, truth and justice, love and grace,
In Deseret find ample place,

He originally titled his poem "DESERET". It was later changed to HIGH ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP.
Joel finished his poem, folded up the paper, put it in his pocket, and went about the task of getting his lumber measured and recorded. Much later in the day, he went home.
Sometime later he showed his poem to John Taylor, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. President Taylor liked the poem so much, he asked if he could keep it. In those days, words only were written down and then sung to familiar folk tunes. In just a short time it became one of the favorite songs where ever the Saints gathered
This poem was only one of hundreds that Joel H. wrote. But it became one of his most recognized ones. His poetry centered around four themes: His love and devotion to the gospel, his love of the Prophet Joseph Smith, his love of his family, and his desire to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for himself and all other human beings.


I get so excited whenever I see that this hymn is part of that week's services.  It makes me feel that much closer to this incredible man and to feel of his testimony of Jesus Christ and his love for his country.  I am blessed to be able to share these stories with my own children so that they have an appreciation for their ancestors that sacrificed so much on their behalf, and laid the stones on the pathway that they walk everyday.

What a beautiful story behind this song. Thanks again Staci for sharing. How does music effect you in your life?