Hymn text by Joachim Neander (trans. by Catherine Winkworth), 1650-1680. View the full text of this hymn.

This arrangement is a translation of a German chorale based on Psalms 103 and 150. The text is essentially a list of reasons why God is deserving of our praise. He is our health and salvation. He prospers and defends us. He shows us goodness, mercy, and love. Amen and amen.

As with any translation, some of the author’s intended meaning has probably been lost or altered. What surprised me, though, was to learn that the version we sing isn’t entirely true to Catherine Winkworth’s translation either. Sure, the words are (for the most part) hers, but the text has been shuffled around and several verses are missing entirely from our hymnal. Why was this version of the hymn included in our hymnal and not another?

When I compared the LDS text to another, longer, and seemingly more complete* version, I found three notable differences.

The first is a mention of “psaltery, organ, and song”. This is an obvious throwback to the Psalms of the Old Testament, after which this piece was modeled. Both psalteries and organs can be encountered throughout the Book of Psalms. Mentioning instruments and music helps strengthen that connection.

The second difference I found was a connection not to biblical ideas but to more contemporary ones. The verbiage “his Saints” and “Abraham’s seed” are not in any other rendition of the hymn (as far as my limited research found) which makes me think their inclusion and possible addition was very deliberate. These phrases hint at Zion, an idea which was dear to the hearts of the early Saints. They could have served as a much-needed reminder that the Lord would bless His chosen people, despite their frequent persecution and hardship. Today it recalls sacred duties, covenants, and blessings. If nothing else, this wording insists that we, as Latter-Day Saints and descendants of Abraham, include ourselves among those whom the Lord has blessed and those who should be first in praising Him for it.

Which brings me to the final difference I noted: the word “worship.” While every version of the text that I found included “praise” and “adore”, neither of these carry the same weight that “worship” does. It indicates formality, ceremony, reverence, and holiness, all of which in turn point to the temple. My Sabbath church attendance–especially now that I have small children–rarely feels as sacred and worshipful as a visit to the temple does. Maybe we should worship in the temple more often. Maybe we should bring some of that worship into our Sunday services.

Finally, let’s address the unique perspective from which the hymn was written. We’re singing to ourselves. Many hymns are prayers addressed to God or sermons addressed to fellow saints (or sinners, as the case may be) but the introspection of this piece seems fairly unique. It is a frequently-used construct in Psalms of the Old Testament, but elsewhere? Not so much.

The admonition to remember “how all thou needest hast been / Granted” and to “ponder anew / What the Almighty can do” is a testimony to ourselves of what we know to be true.  At its most basic, this psalm is intended to remind us that we already know how glorious the Creator, Savior, and Almighty King is. We know He lives. We have seen His hand in our lives. We would do well to remember that and praise Him.

*The longest example of this hymn that I could find also appeared to be the most inclusive of other versions. You can read it here for comparison.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>