Newel K. Brown
Newel Kay Brown is the composer and lyricist of the well-known Primary hymn “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission.” In 1969, the general music committee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assigned him the topic of missionary work and asked him to create a new song for the new children’s songbook, which became Sing with Me. “The greatest reward I could ever imagine is to know that Primary children around the world are singing it, and that some are motivated to actually serve missions because of it,” said Brown.
The song turned 50 years old in 2019. He was interviewed with Lone Star Latter-day Saint Voices Podcast. The podcast includes two different adaptations of this song.
In 2011, the Deseret News published an article about Brown and his song that included some stories about the song:
- Years later, Brown's own missionary son sent him a tape of children singing the song in Korea. A niece did the same from Japan. When he returned to one of the places in Germany where he served as a missionary, he was asked to say a few words about his song. Then the bishop invited the Primary to come up and sing it.
- One mother wrote to Brown that her daughter learned the wrong lyrics in Primary. Instead of the line, “I hope by then I will be ready,” she sang, “I hope my dinner will be ready.” She was still singing those wrong words obliviously at age 14, her mother said. “I guess when you invite the missionaries over to eat dinner all the time, her version of the song made perfect sense,” wrote Kelly Bluth.
- A young man was still awaiting his mission call in 1988 when he was killed by a drunk driver. The prophet, then President Ezra Taft Benson, called the victim’s parents the next day to say he had received his mission call to a place where the Lord definitely needed him. Instead of singing “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” at his farewell, young family members sang it at his funeral.
Brown was born on February 29, 1932, in Salt Lake City. He holds a doctorate degree from the Eastman School of Music and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Utah. He taught at colleges in New Jersey, Arkansas, and Texas. He retired from the University of North Texas.
He is a former member of the Tabernacle Choir. He wrote numerous sacred songs, choruses, sonatas, and other works. He is the author of “With Songs of Praise” (#71) that is in the 1985 Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.