1. I heard this song on the radio program “Music & the Spoken Word.” I wholeheartedly agree with you with the power this song has to tap into my deepest feelings and emotions. I’m not the only one who feels this way about a song. I have a prodigal daughter, and I’m always praying for her return.

    I appreciate all the other meanings you found in this song.

  2. Sheldon Cheshire

    I first heard this song when my (at the time) fourteen year-old daughter (my oldest) sang it for a vocal recital nearly two years ago. For some reason, I was already fairly emotional that day. I broke down crying when she sang, “Bind me not to the pasture. Chain me not to the plow. Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow.” I realized that my sweet little girl is growing up so quickly and there is nothing I can do about it but to be there for her as she finds her calling and pray for the time when she is “homeward bound again”. I can’t hear this song without getting a lump in my throat and realizing how much I love my sweet daughter.

  3. Laura

    I had many similar thoughts to the meaning of this song. As I was listening to it one day I thought…what if Christ was saying this to us? What if these were his words to his disciples? Christ needed to complete His mission and his disciples had to let Him go- let Him achieve the greater good. It does not seem to necessarily be what the author/composer had in mind- but it’s lovely that way.

  4. Rachel

    I tend to think of this song in the light of the second coming of the Saviior in this dispensation–and the beginning of it reminds me most of this, because the misty morning is like this last dispensation where the gospel never again will be taken from the earth, and the red sky is one of the revelations we have of that morning. Other than that, I think you covered that part of my thoughts very well. Thanks for this site.

  5. David

    Thanks to those who shared their thoughtful insights. I have a few to add:

    Last month one of our daughters graduated from BYU Hawaii and the choir (of which she was a member) performed Mack’s moving choral arrangement at the graduation. The penny whistle added a haunting longing to the musical texture. A few weeks later our oldest son graduated from BYU Provo and one of his classmates performed a solo version of the same piece…”out if the mouth of two or more musicians…” or something like that. I was moved by both performances and found myself pondering the simple, but rich word images and exquisite music.

    My initial take on the piece was the already noted interpretation of a young person with high hopes in the spring of their life who had left the home he/she loves to find their life, study great thoughts, see the world and experience first hand the adventures that lie beckoning just over the hill and down the road (like Bilbo Baggins setting off on his great adventure – from the known to the unknown). But after a while with a few turns of the earth, a little more life experience and the beginning if wisdom we all reach the point where adventure lost its allure and meaning – and we find ourselves thinking about home and longing to return. Like Dorothy in “The a Wizard of Oz” we find greater meaning and worth in our roots and appreciation for our home and loved ones than we originally imagined possible.

    My second interpretation is a variation on this same youthful desire to see the world, but from the less ennobling experience of The Prodigal Son. His desire to experience what the world offered led to riotous living where he wasted, rather than improved his opportunities. From the viewpoint of a Prodigal (haven’t we all been one to some degree?) the text of Homeward Bound is the morning moment after a bleak night when he realizes that there is greater joy and peace in his Father’s home if he gives up his current life choices and returns to find his calling – a higher calling – as he RE-turns to head home with a providential wind helping to speed him down the road into his Father’s waiting arms.

    Final variation on a theme – a missionary who has served well and is now ready to return home. It is time to turn over the cultivating and harvesting to others and seek the next calling in a life of service – a life lived in crescendo. As one turns from the plow and pasture which had provided great joy and fulfillment, another will take his/her place as they begin their service.

    The music and messages available in this piece have great depth and layers of meaning. It continues to be a joy to ponder. I hope it is the same for others!

  6. Trevon Morris

    I was in a dark place and I heard this song sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I remember wondering to myself we stress day and out over things we can’t change. Yet their is a life and a way to follow that has none of these worries. I began to think of the alternate when we die we have no temporal things to carry or burden us. However we find ourselves in deep regrets and sorrows for our minds are wired to go in two directions. This was the crowning moment of my spiritual journey as I now realized you cannot follow God and seek after the World at the same time. As the tow journeys are way different and as my spiritual energy grew my damaged heart beat with new strength and I was off my medications. I then continued on my journey to even more spiritual enlightenment and found my stress lines removed and my face looking younger. I have no doubt that this song was written from a spiritual place as it’s meaning is multifaceted and extends beyond the veil.

  7. This was sung at my fahters funeral. It was one of his favorite song. He loved and sang music all of his life. Some of my favorite memories of him are of him singing and communicating his tesimony of the Savior thru his wonderful baritone voice. I had never remember hearing this song before his funeral but the song was a perfect match for the life he lived. The images rang perfect especially as he was a farmer/rancher for most of his life. I hear it now and weep for the emotions it opens in my heart. I too love music and sing to praise and express my own testimony. Thank you for your interpretations. Music is truly the language of angels.

  8. Laurie Perkins

    I heard this song in Vocal Point’s recent video, and immediately thought of the baby boy my son and daughter-in-law just lost. They are searching for meaning in such a profound loss, and it gives them some comfort to think that their Liam is doing the work of the Lord while he waits to be reunited with them someday. “Bind me not to the pasture, chain me not to the plow, set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow.” What a wonderful way to know that their son has gone from them for just a small moment in eternity to do great work, but he will return to them someday, and they will have their chance to raise him as their child in the Millenium. Their joy will be greater, the taste sweeter, because of their separation.

    What a beautiful song, and no matter what it speaks to you, revel in the gifts our Heavenly Father gives us to write, sing, arrange, inspire, and teach His Plan.

  9. Tracey Carpenter

    Vocal Point’s recent video of this song is what brought me to this site. I was so moved by it that I had to research the origins, the author, etc.

    For me, this song symbolizes the letting go of my children.

    The first was not under good circumstances. She was rebellious and we had to remove her from our home. I spent many months crying over this situation, but she eventually came around, although not into full fellowship in the gospel, but she does have three beautiful children with one man, within the bonds of matrimony and all is fairly well.

    The second child to leave was a son and while we had a small amount of trouble with him in his teen years, he pulled himself together and went on a mission to Brazil. In the video, when those boys turn around and look back at the path they have just walked, it reminds me of my son at the MTC. As he followed a group of missionaries down a corridor, after subjecting us to highly emotional talk of missionary work and video of missionaries singing Faith in Every Footstep, Called to Serve and some others, his back was toward his Grandfather and I as he walked away, when he turned around and looked at us. It was a look of, “I know I want to do this, I’ve lived two years waiting for this day, but please save me, take me back?” I am standing there sobbing and so is his grandfather, but he turns his back to us again and leaves the pasture, is released from the plow, and is free to find his calling……in Brazil as a servant of the Lord. It was a poignant moment that will stay with me as long as I live.

    For the release of my third child, a daughter, we had decided to home school her, after experiencing the troubles we did with our first two. The son on a mission, begged us to get her out of the school system and after much prayer and fasting, we did take her out and she was confined to the pasture and bound to the plow for 10 years, figuratively speaking. We kept her sheltered from most of the evils of the world, not all, but most. We were highly criticized for this, but we persevered in this endeavor, sure that she would come out of it with a strong testimony of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and she did! Everyone said she would never leave us, that she would be ill prepared to face the world, but they were wrong. She graduated from high school, met and married a fine young man in the temple, endured, with much grace, four long years of infertility and just gave birth to their first child two months ago. Since she has been released from the pasture, unbound from the plow, she has followed her husband across the ocean to the Island of Crete, toured Italy, Austria and Germany, returned to the states of Maryland and New York and is now on her way to San Diego and then Japan in the fall of this year. Yes, at the young age of 19, we set her free to find her calling, and while tears were always shed at parting, she knew, and we, her parents knew she would and will always come back to us, in body or spirit.

    I have several friends and acquaintances in my life who cannot or will not let their children go to find their callings. Some have actually gone to bed in depression and had to rely on drugs to get through it. This song shows me that this is not how it should be. You raise them for some 18 years and then your job is to let them go into the world to find their callings and you have to have the faith to know that they will return again to you……….somehow.

  10. Jenn Kirkland

    I had not thought of any of these interpretations, but I am not a religious woman. Both my 12yo daughter (who is singing this in 7th grade choir) and I think that it is reminiscent of “Colors of the Wind” from the DIsney version of the Pocahontas story.

  11. Maria Carmelita A. Somera

    My aunt died last 2014. I was making a video as a memento for hear and couldn’t find a perfect song for her then I stumbled on this song on youtube. It was sung by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and I was moved by the lyrics. The song typically speaks of my aunt’s life. She was a hardworker and a simple person and in her old age of 80, she was suffering from different pains and she tells me that she prays that she is already asking the Lord to take her. Now she is gone and already “at Home” with the Lord.

  12. Nick Hansen

    I am a member of a mixed-voice choir in Melbourne, Australia, called Maroondah Singers and we have just started learning Homeward Bound for our annual concert later in the year. It is great to get some perspectives on the meaning of what is obviously a lovely song.

  13. Julie Mcdonald

    What beautiful interpretations! Bryn Terfel makes any song that much more meaningful and gorgeous. I found a wonderful piano solo arrangement of this piece, and your interpretation will enable me to put even more expression into every phrase. Thank you!
    (I like best the thoughts about loved ones who have died. My late husband would love this. )

  14. Charity Davis

    This song has always deeply resonated with my soul stirring emotions which left me confused and changed, I appreciate you taking the time to explore the lyrics and history of this song and share it. It really is a mark of true art that reaches a variety of people and leaves them longing and searching for meaning.

  15. Eron

    Think of something you’re afraid of. I think this song somehow speaks to us on that level. Fear. And maybe this brings out an emotional antidote.

  16. Rose Urbanski

    Well, my choir has sang this for almost every single concert (beside Christmas), and it’s always struck me as a promise. I always imagine an young African American man (a slave) is running away from the plantation that he and his mother (also a slave) work on. I think of it as him saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll come back for you.” It’s just a very stiking song.

  17. Chris White

    I have chosen this song as one of those that will be played at my son Aaron’s funeral that just passed away after losing a 7 month struggle with cancer. He was just 37. I have chosen the Mormon Tabernacle Choir version that I purchased from I-tunes. I can not listen without weeping.

  18. Bonnie Wakeman

    Someone sent me this song by the Morman Choir on my 68th birthday, April 23, 2017. I had been feeling melancholic that I missed my mom, who passed away October 2016, and this would be the first year without her. It’s beautiful melody and words made me automatically think of her, and the sign I was looking for that she was safe in the afterlife, and that she was still with me in spirit, and in my heart. Of course I cried, yet I was comforted by its meaning and haunting melody. Since it was my birthday, and I was feeling melancholy about my age and my own mortality this song came to me as a positive influence. Although I know that I will soon leave this world, this life, behind, I should not fear, because we just transition to another realm. Where we end one journey, we begin another. This beautiful music expresses this, and I am comforted that death is not the end, just another journey to a different place without pain, or earthly problems. Bind me not to it, but let me free to seek new pastures of happiness, and one day I will see you again. The return again could be reincarnation. I do believe that’s possible. Nevertheless, I’m glad someone sent me this song as a birthday present of sorts, that being signs from those now gone, and hope for my continual journey now and evermore.

  19. Ms. Parks

    The composer/lyricist was the librarian at the elementary school at which I taught. Most people did not know of her talents. I asked her how the words had come about. She told me the story, which was very surprising as I assumed it would be akin to the Prodigal Son. It is enough to say that the source of the words which have brought me a great deal of solace, would have been a source of acute pain, of long duration and no hope for a happy closure for herself. She took something of great personal pain and turned it into music that has given hope and peace for the rest of us. Thank you Marta.

  20. Rebecca

    I remember the moment I first heard this song. It truly is amazing. I really enjoyed reading your different interpretations.

  21. Karen

    Thanks for all your thoughts about this song. It is a beautiful song both in melody and lyrics. I sing in the Tabernacle Choir and shortly after we recorded the LOVE IS SPOKEN HERE album, there was a tragedy at Utah State University. Some AG students and their professor were on a field trip and had a rollover crash. There were 2 survivors, if I remember correctly, and the other 9 died from injuries of the crash. (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.deseretnews.com/article/615153358/Van-rollover-kills-9-hurts-2-from-USU.amp)
    The choir was asked to perform at a memorial service for the students, staff, and the families of those killed. We sang this song, and it was a perfect fit of the lyrics to the situation. They were all from farming families. I know the song has a literal and deeper spiritual meaning. I know we were assisted that day by heavenly choirs, because I was only able to get half the words out, being overcome with emotion. It was an unforgettable experience and the Spirit was strong and sending comfort to those in attendance.

  22. Lamont Johnson

    I heard this song this morning on the radio. I had to stop and turn up the volume in order to hear the lyrics properly. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and power of this wonderful piece of music. I then had to look up the lyrics online, which led me to your post. Thank you for your insights and thoughts. They reflect my thinking exactly. I have no idea who you are, but as a teacher I love your references to Bilbo and Dorothy. Thank you again.

  23. Danielle

    Wow, such powerful interpretations of the song. I feel called to the mission field but my family and friends are having a hard time letting me go. This song clearly resonates with me at this stage in my life, but I love thinking of all the other beautiful interpretations as well. 🙂

  24. Yenny

    Thank you so much for posting this. My heart is truly touched by this song, yet as I looked at the lyrics, I couldn’t comprehend fully why, which brought me to search for the hidden meanings, and you described it so well and I finally understand why this song touches my heart so deeply. Thank you!

  25. Trudy Parker

    I’ve heard this song may times, but it moved me the most when I heard Jericho Road perform it at Time Out for Women a few years ago. We’ve lost babies in miscarriage and this song helps me have hope that they “will return to [us] somehow.” I believe they will be resurrected and be returned to us to raise in the millennium. “And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.” (Moroni 7:41)

    Thank you for writing this article and sharing your insights! I learned so much and have much to ponder now. I’ve also enjoyed reading the comments. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Aleta G

    I first saw/heard this song on a rebroadcast of the Tabernacle Choir’s tribute to the victims of 9/11. The broadcast included comments by members of the Choir whose loved ones were lost on that fateful day. I sobbed as I listened to the words, music, and emotion of the song, not quite sure what they were all saying. I just knew they touched my heart and soul deeply. It has now been about five years, and the song continues to resonate with me. It evokes emotions of loss, love, yearning, hope… As I watched another Music and the Spoken Word rebroadcast tonight, the sweet strains of Homeward Bound drove me again to my computer to read the lyrics, which is how I came to this site. I have not analyzed the words for specific meanings, as others have. I just know the combination of words and music plays on my heartstrings.
    Imagine my surprise when later in this taped broadcast the choir sang Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends. It speaks of gratitude for all the blessings we have, and pleads “Thy peace be with us, evermore.” This song was also introduced to me by the Choir during the 9/11 tribute broadcast and was a perfect companion piece, moving me to tears then, and again today. Even when I do not understand the emotions that music stirs within me, I rejoice in knowing that there is a power higher than mine that can move me to tears which comfort my heart and water my soul.

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