Carol Lynn Pearson’s “I’ll Walk With You”

Carol Lynn Pearson introduces her new children’s picture book, I’ll Walk With You (Gibbs Smith), illustrated by Jane Sanders.

One day back in 1988, I received a phone call. “Sister Pearson, this is Carmen Pingree from the General Board of the Primary, and we have a request of you. We’re about to release a new Children’s Songbook, but we can’t send it to the printer yet because there is one song we don’t have that we absolutely must have before we can let the book go out. We have tried so many things and none of them are right. So—I’m calling to ask if you would write this song for us.”

I told her I was honored at the request. Since the publication of my little book of poems Beginnings in 1967, I had become widely known in church circles.

She continued, “The song has to be about including everyone. We have so many of our precious little Primary children who have special needs, who are different in one way or another, and we have to do a better job of reaching out to them and teaching all the children to love each other as Jesus loves them.”

Two years earlier, in 1986, my book Goodbye, I Love You had been published by Random House, telling the story of my life with my gay husband Gerald, our temple marriage, our four children, our having to come to grips with the fact that the change in his orientation we’d been promised had not happened, our move from Provo to California, our ultimate decision to divorce and to remain good friends, and six years later his death from AIDS in my home where I was taking came of him. That book opened a large conversation within the church, so surely, I thought, as I visited with Sister Pingree, that she would be aware of the fact that some of the little Primary children who are different would be different in their sexual orientation.

I told her that I would be happy to try to write such a lyric, that I would give it my best attention. Which I did. Within a week or so I sent off to her the words for “I’ll Walk With You.”

If you don’t walk as most people do,
Some people walk away from you.
But I won’t! I won’t!

If you don’t talk as most people do,
Some people talk and laugh at you.
But I won’t. I won’t.

I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you.
That’s how I’ll show my love for you.

Jesus walked away from none
He gave his love to everyone.
So I will! I will!

Jesus blessed all he could see,
Then turned and said, “Come follow me,”
And I will! I will!

I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you.
That’s how I’ll show my love for you.

The Primary Board loved it and sent it on to renowned composer Reid Nibley to write the music. In the spring of 1989 I received one of the first copies of the Children’s Songbook along with a letter of appreciation signed by the three members of the Primary Presidency.

That song has since become one of the most popular in the Children’s Songbook, and I am thrilled to know that every Sunday across the world there are many little children singing these important words. Sometimes in my ward I’m asked to come into Primary and tell the children how the song came to be, or I’m asked to lead the song in Relief Society. Twice a former stake president asked me to lead a small chorus of Primary children singing “I’ll Walk With You” in stake conference when we had a visiting general authority.

The song has already developed an interesting history with the LGBTQ community. A Facebook group is called “I’ll Walk With You” and the words were on a poster used in a Salt Lake City Pride Parade. The song was sung in two major “LoveLoud” rock concerts in Utah by Dan Reynolds and Tyler Glenn.

I thought that was the end of it. The little lyric had done more than I’d ever dreamed and I knew it would continue its good work.

And then in 2019 I got an email from my publisher, Suzanne Taylor at Gibbs Smith Publishing in Layton, Utah, a company that publishes to the national market. Would I be interested in taking my little Primary song and expanding it into a picture book for children that addresses other pertinent differences in our society? This had never crossed my mind, but . . . .

I knew that in my contract with the Church I had kept “commercial rights” to the lyrics. And, seeing an opportunity to expand the message of the song into other challenges the very diverse human family meets, I went right to it. Within a couple of weeks I sent Suzanne the manuscript for the short book; she and the staff loved it. Earlier this year the book was published with illustrations by New York artist Jane Sanders.

Here are a few of the added verses:

If you don’t look like some people do
Some people just look down on you.
But I won’t! I won’t!

I will see you’re made perfectly.
That’s how I’ll show my love for you.

If you don’t pray as some people pray
Some people pray you’ll go away.
But I won’t! I won’t!

We’re all, I see, one family.
That’s how I’ll show my love for you.

If you don’t love as some people do
Some people think your love’s not true.
But I won’t! I won’t!

I’ll watch you share, I’ll see you care.
That’s how I’ll show my love for you.

I hope and believe that what I have done with my little Primary song is to “lengthen its stride,” to expand its plea for kindness into widening areas of human relationship, to help move us to that good day when we will all more gracefully walk with one another.

Please visit Carol Lynn at her website:

You can read and watch her 2018 Association for Mormon Letters Lifetime Achievement Award citation here

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