Helen Howarth Lemmel, born in England but raised in the United States, taught music at Moody Bible Institute and the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Gifted with words as well as music, she wrote columns for a newspaper and directed choral groups for the Billy Sunday evangelistic campaigns. In 1918 at age 55 she acquired a gospel booklet called “Focussed” written by Lilias Trotter, missionary to Algeria. “Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus,” wrote Trotter, “and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him…”
Trotter’s exhortation forcibly struck the weary Lemmel. She writes, “Suddenly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and, singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody…These verses were written…the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but none the less dictated by the Holy Spirit.” The hymn, initially called “The Heavenly Vision,” appeared in Glad Songs. It was sung at the 1922 Keswick Convention in England and eventually became known by its refrain, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” This familiar hymn is now sung in churches throughout the world. Helen Lemmel died in Seattle, Washington, in 1961.
The Keswick Collection (SC-30), comprising books and pamphlets, the Lilias Trotter Collection (SC-225), comprising illustrated journals, and the Hymnal Collection (SC-15) are housed in the Wheaton College Special Collections.