Hymn text by Richard Alldridge, 1815-1896. View the full text of this hymn.

This stately sacrament hymn has been a favorite of mine for years. It starts off with this exclamation of praise to Jesus Christ:

We’ll sing all hail to Jesus’ name,
And praise and honor give
To him who bled on Calvary’s hill
And died that we might live.

In 2 Nephi 9: 10-12, Jacob is explaining almost jubilantly the depth of God’s goodness in delivering His children, by preparing “a way for our escape from the grasp of…that monster, death and hell…” What God has offered us is an escape from spiritual death, a chance to repent from sin and shake off our past selves. As Jacob says in verse 12, “Hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to another, and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.”

The concept of being able to shake off death, not just spiritual death but death death, is one of the most beautiful doctrines of our gospel. Our family was divided by death when I was 12 years old and my dad succumbed to a stroke with almost no warning. I clung to this belief that we would put Dad in a grave, we’d have to wait for a few years, (maybe a lot of years) but then Jesus would come back to the Earth and  because He was resurrected, he would help resurrect all our beloved dead.

The second verse of this hymn, to me, paints a portrait of Christ, the Risen Lord, calling the dead and soul-sick to Him with a song that is too beautiful to be resisted.

He passed the portals of the grave;
Salvation was his song;
He called upon the sin-bound soul
To join the heav’nly throng.

That verse makes me think of the end of the book Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, where one of the main characters passes into what he calls “the next country,” the plains that await us after death:

“The pulse of the country worked through my body until I recognized it as music. As language. And the language ran everywhere inside me, like blood…Like a rhyme learned in antiquity a verse blazed to mind: O be quick, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet! And sure enough my soul leapt dancing inside my chest and my feet sprang up and sped me forward, and the sense came to me of undergoing creation…And the pulse of the country came around me, as of voices lifted at great distance, and moved through me as I ran until the words became clear, and I sang with them…” (Enger, p. 302)

I first read those words in 2007, standing up in a crowded subway car in New York. I occasionally had to let go of the pole so I could wipe fresh tears off my face. Mr. Enger’s description of paradise was one that spoke to me because of this concept of a song of salvation, one so joyful and blood-stirring we cannot help but run to Him, singing it ourselves.
This triumphant Lord in verse 3 of the hymn is no longer pleading, but now He is commanding, bruising the serpent’s head (another beautiful bit of doctrine, this concept of eternal emnity between Satan and us), throwing open the prisons and commanding us to come out and join Him.
And in verse 4, our instructions: Keep His commandments. Stay faithful. Remember Him, and when that day comes, He assuredly will not forget us.

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