Thomas Cott Griggs

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Thomas Cott Griggs was a hymnwriter and composer. He is perhaps best known for “Gently Raise the Sacred Strain” (#146), which is included in the 1985 Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been used as the opening song for “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcasts of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square for more than three-quarters of a century.

Griggs was born on June 19, 1845, in Dover, Kent, England. His mother was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was young; he was baptized on May 17, 1856 and he and his mother went to Boston with a group of Latter-day Saints. (His father had died in 1854.)

His love for music was nurtured during their five-year stay in Boston and he joined a band his congregation formed. When the Civil War broke out, Griggs followed the counsel of Church leaders and crossed the plains to Utah territory in 1861. His mother died in 1881.

In Utah he became involved with vocal music and conducting. He became a member of choirs and bands. In 1866 he joined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and later became the assistant director of the choir. He was appointed director of the choir while serving a short mission in Britain, but when he returned and saw how well Ebenezer Beesley was doing as interim director, he asked to continue as assistant director and allow Beesley to become the director.

Griggs assisted with the compilation of the Latter-day Saint Psalmody. He also wrote the music for hymn #87 (and #313, a women’s arrangement) “God Is Love.”

He served as ward Sunday School superintendent from 1874 to 1891 and stake superintendent from 1891 to 1901. He became a member of the general board of the Deseret Sunday School Union in 1889, where he served until his death on August 12, 1903, at his Wyoming ranch. He was the Deseret Sunday School Union business manager for the last three years of his life.

He married Jeanette Scott Ure Griggs in 1870 and Mary Ann Ferguson Price Griggs in 1879. As many other men who entered into plural marriage, Griggs was arrested and detained briefly in 1887. He worked for many years in general and cooperative stores such as Walker Brothers Store and Spencer Clawson’s store.