Hymn Stories: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Helen Lemmel was a gift singer and musician, a gift her parents recognized while she was still young. She was born on November 14, 1864, in Wardle, England to a Methodist minister and his wife.
When she was twelve years old, her family moved to the United States and settled in Wisconsin.
She later said, “Suddenly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus of the hymn with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but none the less dictated by the Holy Spirit.”
The song, originally titled The Heavenly Vision, was first published in a pamphlet in 1918, before being published in the 1922 songbook Glad Songs and the 1924 Gospel Truth in Song.
Her song was often sung and popular for the Billy Sunday Crusades.
In 1904, she moved to Seattle, Washington, where she became a music critic for the Seattle-Post Intelligencer. She then moved to Germany to study music for four years before returning to the United States, teaching at the Moody Bible Institute and performing her own concerts around the country.
Reports say the Helen Lemmel began to go blind and her husband was unable to cope with her abandoned her, to cope on her own. She continued to write her music, picking out notes on a keyboard and asking friends to record them for her.
When asked “How are you?” her frequent reply was, “I am fine in the things that count.”
She died on November 1, 1961, at the age of ninety-seven, writing until the end of her life.
Of the more than five hundred hymns written by Lemmel, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus remains the most popular and well known of her hymns.