Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

“More Holiness Give Me” Author, Philip Bliss Led a Life of Music

Philip Paul Bliss was born on July 9, 1838, in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. He developed an early love of music and singing from hearing his father singing hymns. He did not have much formal education but was taught from the Bible by his mother and eventually became a schoolmaster and later a traveling music teacher.

In the Mormon Channel’s History of Hymns series, “More Holiness Give Me” is chronicled, including the details of when Bliss first heard a piano.

When he was 10 years old, while selling vegetables to help support the family, Philip first heard a piano and was unable to resist the temptation that lured him through an open door and into the parlor. Barefoot and ragged, he stood spellbound until the music ceased. Philip, in ecstasy, cried out, “O lady, play some more.” The unthinking young lady, surprised at the unexpected intrusion by the ragged stranger, rudely ordered him out of the house, but he left with sweet memories of the music.

From his early 20s on, Bliss had the good fortune to devote his life’s work to music. From 1864 to 1875, he wrote many of the hymns and songs that have made him a well-known name.

Philip P. Bliss was filled with gratitude for his life in music, as this quote shows: "Thus the overruling Providence has led me by unmistakable evidences to see and recognize His dealing with me all through life's journey. Truly we have much to be thankful for. My dear wife, my greatest earthly treasure, joins in the opinion that we are and ever have been highly favored of Heaven; that we find our greatest enjoyment in each other's society, when striving to make each other happy, and our highest aim is to be useful to ourselves and others, and to 'glorify God that we may enjoy Him forever.'"

 

Bliss and his wife, Lucy, met a tragic end when they lost their lives in a railway crash in Ohio on December 29, 1876, when a bridge gave out. Bliss was last seen alive trying to rescue Lucy from the burning wreckage.

Written in 1873, “More Holiness Give Me” was published in one of his four-song collections called Sunshine for Sunday Schools. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir recorded the hymn for the album Rock of Ages: 30 Great Hymns. Below is a video of the Choir performing “More Holiness Give Me” during Music and the Spoken Word.