Hymn text by Martin Luther (adapted), 1483-1546. View the full text of this hymn.

In our LDS hymnal, the text for A Mighty Fortress is credited “Martin Luther, adapted.” There is undeniably quite a bit of adaptation here. The original German text contains four verses, which are interesting in their own right but not the focus of this analysis. Here, I wish to examine the doctrine taught in the lyrics we have in the LDS hymnal.

God is strong, never failing

A mighty fortress is our God,
A tower of strength ne’er failing.

The Book of Mormon speaks of the “Strength of the Lord,” often referencing increased strength and ability given to the righteous in battle. Other scriptures speak of the word of God as a sword. Yet here, the strength of God is represented not as a dynamic, offensive force but rather a sure and immovable one. Both symbols are instructive, but this one is surely appropriate in our day, when values and morals are changing so rapidly. The truth does not shift or change; true doctrine stands firm and powerful against all attempts to sway it.

God helps us overcome ills and trials

A helper mighty is our God,
O’er ills of life prevailing.

In the middle of a song about the strength and majesty of God, this phrase is unique. It teaches that God uses this great power and stability to help us. His goal is not simply to gain power for the sake of power, but rather to enable and bless all of his children. When the “ills of life” strike, whatever they may be, we can always turn to our God.

God has opened the path for us to return to Him

He overcometh all.
He saveth from the Fall.

“He overcometh all” is an understated phrase with profound implications. Christ has overcome death, sin, sorrow, and separation. All the pains and injustices we observe here on Earth are overcome through Christ, and will be resolved to our complete satisfaction when we return to our eternal home. Of specific note is that Christ has overcome the Fall. Of all the victories of Christ, this one is perhaps the greatest, as it is the one that most directly impacts the work of God. If the Fall had not been overcome, we would all be left without hope of reunification with our Father, and would eventually become spiritually dead.

God is powerful, as evidenced by Creation

His might and pow’r are great.
He all things did create.

The creation of all things gives support to our faith. Our God is not simply one who loves us and encourages us to be nice. He is not simply the God of Friendly Interactions™, though some today would cast Christ in that role. As we examine the vast creations of God, we instead gain a sense that he is far greater and far more powerful. In the book of Moses we read “Worlds without number have I created.” As we step back and view the enormity of God’s creation, we cannot help but be awed by scope of it. And yet, he is not only a god of broad strokes, but also a god of intimate detail. I enjoy examining individual leaves in our garden, or individual blades of grass. Truly, the life all around us testifies of the skill and power of God.  At even finer detail, internal cellular structures and microscopic interactions testify to the intelligence and capacity of God. From the unfathomable to the minuscule, God’s creation draws our minds and our hearts unto him.

God will reign eternally

And he shall reign for evermore.

Ours is not a fleeting God, one to be toppled by the next wind of doctrine or the next discovery of science. He will retain his power and ability forever. He will also retain his love for us, his children, eternally. He is a mighty fortress, never to fall or be swayed.

And we are his children. What a wonderful heritage is ours.

One comment on “Hymn #68: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

    BJ, you are amazing. I enjoy your posts because they go to the deeper levels of each hymn. Your insights are instructive and renew my appreciation for the great resource we have in the music of the hymnal. For example, the comment about the sweeping majesty of God along with his comprehension and absolute mastery of the smallest particles of the universe remind me of His greatness and power. Along with that understanding comes the incomprehensible atoning sacrifice of the Savior, as planned by our Supreme Creator, motivated by his eternal love for us. Truly a hymn that covers the plan of salvation. Thank you for taking the time to write these posts.

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