Amazing Grace Lyrics

An elderly lady in our ward died last week. My wife was her visiting teacher. My wife sings quite well, and this sister asked if she would sing the song ‘Amazing Grace’ at her funeral when she died. My wife did this, and did a fine job. In order to get the music and lyrics for this song we had to borrow a protestant hymn book. It made me wonder why this hymn is not in our hymn book.

In 1985 there was new edition of the LDS hymn book. Several songs were added, but not Amazing Grace. Since it is one of the most famous and most beloved Christian hymn in the world, there must have been an obvious reason that this hymn was not added to our hymn book at that time. Unfortunately that obvious reason escapes me at the moment. Any ideas? I wondered if there was anything in the lyrics that makes this hymn doctrinally incorrect. I have included the lyrics in this post below:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares…
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far…
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me…
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be…
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been here a thousand years…
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise…
then when we’ve first begun.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see

What is so wrong with these lyrics? I see that it emphasized the grace aspect of salvation. We know that grace is an aspect of salvation (2 Ne 10:24, 2 Ne 25:23). I suspect the reason this hymn was not added to our hymn book is because it symbolizes the idea of salvation by grace alone even though the lyrics don’t say that obedience to commandments and ordinances are unnecessary. This hymn gets mocked sometimes, but when it is beautifully sung, like my wife did at the funeral yesterday, it is a wonderful hymn.

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22 Responses to “Amazing Grace Lyrics”


  1. 1 Ian February 11, 2006 at 11:44 am

    I have a particular fondness of the song as well. One time on my mission, someone played this song on the bagpipes. Needless to say, they couldn’t play the pipes in the chapel, it would have been too loud. They were played in the hall.

    Anyway, the lyrics do focus on grace without enduring, so that is most likely why we don’t use it. I found a verse to the song one time that did mention enduring, but I can’t find it. I think that a verse could be created or modified to make it more doctrinally correct.

    I’m fine with it not being there though, it’s not like my salvation depends on it. :-)

  2. 2 Eric Nielson February 11, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks Ian. This does fall in the unnecessary catagory. Modifying or adding a verse to round the song out doctrinally seems like a good idea to me.

  3. 3 Mark IV February 11, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    I also love that hymn, and have also wondered why we don’t include it in our hymn book.

    Maybe it is because of our tendency to drag in our congregational singing? No doubt, it sounded wonderful when you wife sang it, but if my ward attempted that song, it would sound like we were playing it at the wrong speed!

  4. 4 Anonymous February 11, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    I thought it was because it’s too difficult for the average person to sing. Also it seems to me that it’s a much better solo than a hymn.

    –harpingheather

  5. 5 Naiah Earhart February 11, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    Is there any chance it’s a copyright issue?

  6. 6 Eric Nielson February 12, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    Mark IV and harping:

    I doubt that the likely tempo or the difficulty level has anything to do with the ommission from the hymnbook, but thanks for your thoughts.

    Naiah:

    I am no copyright law expert, but the hymn was written in the early 1800′s. Would the copywrite not have expired by now? It is sung in many protestant congregations, why would there be more of an issue with copyright for us? Also the well known hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ was included in our hymnbook. I would think ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Amazing Grace’ would be in the same kind of categorie.

    I still think the main reason is that it is a symbol of salvation based on grace alone, even though I don’t see that specifically in the lyrics.

  7. 7 Mary Siever February 12, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    It’s one of my favourite hymns too (and one I enjoy singing to my baby to get her to sleep. She loves it too). I believe (though maybe this is hearsay) that the reason it isn’t in the hymn book (or allowed tro be sung in Sacrament meeting) is because of it’s primary focus on grace. However, I too don’t see that somuch in the song either. I love it.

  8. 8 Guy Murray February 13, 2006 at 9:02 am

    This is a great hymn. I have wondered as well why it’s not included. I had a bagpiper play it at my father’s funeral last month, as we left the chapel. It was extremely moving. Does anyone have any contacts with the department at the Church which compiles the hymns?

  9. 9 Eric Nielson February 13, 2006 at 11:32 am

    Guy:

    There is a man named Darwin Wolford who was a music teacher at Ricks (now BYU Idaho) that I believe had some input on hymns. He was my families home teacher for a while. Perhaps I could try and contact him where ever he is and see if he knows anything.

  10. 10 RCH February 14, 2006 at 1:08 am

    ~5 years ago I took a summer Institute class on Music in the Church. I could be misremembering, but I think the instructor mentioned that “Amazing Grace” *was* included in a 1920s version (or thereabouts) of the LDS hymnal.

    I think the fact that it’s out while others are in has more to do with space constraints and changing tastes over time than anything doctrinal.

    Apparently “How Great Thou Art” caused a bit of a stir the first time it was included in an LDS hymnal (~1950s?) because it used to have the flavor that many now associate with “Amazing Grace” — which is to say, very evangelical Protestant / fundie. It doesn’t feel that way anymore to us simply because we sing it so much. I would love for “Amazing Grace” to get a second chance like that.

    If anybody knows better than my vague years-ago recollections, please feel free to correct me, lol! And the rest of you take my assertions with a bit of salt. ;-)

  11. 11 Eric Nielson February 14, 2006 at 11:35 am

    Thanks RCH. That would be interesting to know if AG really was in an LDS hymnbook once. For now I will consider that a rumor I suppose. But I feel that ‘Rock of Ages’ has the same protestant ‘feel’, is less popular and less loved than AG and of the two songs seems to me a less likely on to be in our hymnbook.

    I am surprised that no one has yet to mention any lyrical objection in the hymn itself.

  12. 12 Steevo February 28, 2007 at 12:05 am

    I wondered why it says When we’ve been there 10,000 years…bright shining like the sun.

    Doesn’t that make it sound like “We” are bright shining like the sun? But it will be the glory of Christ that is bright shining like the sun and there will be no need for a sun in the new earth because of this. email me at mail.hazeusgmail.com with any comments

  13. 14 Dar March 20, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    I believe it is was not published in LDS hymn books because John Newton was against Slavery and early LDS leaders agreed with slavery (curse of ham docterine) which in my view are people trying to rationalize slavery.

  14. 15 Mac March 24, 2007 at 12:34 am

    Dear Dar:

    While there have been many writers in the Church make reference to this so-called doctrine of which there is no scriptural reference as “doctrine,” I love this story of President McKay’s stand on the matter.

    Dr. Sterling M. McMurrin, former United States Commissioner of Education, longtime University of Utah philosophy professor and influential Mormon intellectual had this interview with Arta Johnson , at the August 1993 SLC Sunstone Symposium.

    “President MacKay called me up. I was going for lunch with one of my colleges who was not a member. He called me on the telephone and he said, “Somebody has been calling who says he is David O MacKay. I guess it’s just a joke.”

    And I thought, “This may not be such a joke.” And I had no sooner put up the phone … (He had said, “I gave him your home phone number.”) …. And I had no sooner put up the phone than … I shouldn’t tell these things … but President MacKay said, “I want to come and see you.” And I said, “President MacKay, you can’t come and see me. I’ll come and see you.” He said, “No sir, I’m coming to see you.” Well, he lived on South Temple in those days. Some of you will remember the old Union Building was still the Union Building. And I said to President McKay … I shouldn’t have even used this language, but I said, “Well now, President MacKay. What do you say, we meet on neutral ground.” He thought that was a good idea. So I said, “Well, I will meet you in the Union Building. Give me a little time to get there ahead of you.” I had a key to the Aurbach Room, a very beautiful room there that they usually had locked. And we had a long talk.

    President McKay started by saying, “What is it that a man is not … ” (Sterling interrupts his own story to say to Jack), “These are his exact words.” “…What is it that a man is not allowed to believe? or be asked out of this church? Is it evolution?” Now nothing had been said in connection with my case about evolution, but he brought it up. (Jack murmurs with an understanding nod of the head to Sterling.) He said, “Is it evolution? I hope not, because I believe in evolution.” Then he went to two or three other things. He said, “Is it something else? I hope not, because I believe in that.”

    I said, “Well, I will tell you something, President MacKay.” He was making *me* look so good. I was feeling guilty as the devil, you know. And I still have guilt feelings about this. I said, “President MacKay, I think I caused some trouble in my ward. The teacher was saying that we believe that the negroes…” (This was before the revelation of course.) “…we believe that the negroes are cursed because of the curse of Cain. That is why they can’t hold the preisthood.” And I just said, I told them that I didn’t want to argue the case, but I wanted them to know that I didn’t believe that. And President MacKay said, “Well, I’m glad you said that, because I don’t believe it either.” And he said, “That was never a doctrine of this church. It is not a doctrine of this church and it never will be a doctrine of this church.” He said, all it is, is we believe that there is scriptural precedent, these are his exact words “scriptural precedent”. I knew he was referring to the Pearl of Great Price item that the negroes should not now be given the priesthood. Now he said, “That is a practice and it is a practice that is going to be changed.” Now this was back in 1954. He said, “It is a practice that is going to be changed and it is not a doctrine of the church.” And I said, “Well, now President MacKay, couldn’t you make the statement that you just made to me in conference? Or put it on the front page of the Deseret News with the lines on it, you know, like they used to do sometimes with the statements from the First Presidency?” I said, “There are 1,000′s of people in the church that believe that is a doctrine of the church. Now couldn’t you make that statement in conference?” He sat there and with a kind of a benign smile you know, and I thought, there is such a thing as pushing the prophets a little too far. So I didn’t say anymore. And he was thoughtful. And he said, “Well, all I can do is say that that is not a doctrine of the church, that it is only a practice and that it is going to be changed.”

    It has been found that President McKay asked the Lord about the matter and was told “not now.” President Harold B. Lee also asked the Lord about changing the practice, and was also told “not now and not by you.” However, a few years later, a sincere and humble servant of the Lord once again approached the Lord about the practice and received the direction – “Spencer, now and you are the one to change the practice.”

    Mac

  15. 16 Sean Peterson May 11, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Eric,

    It’s me, the latecomer again. I’m convinced that the only reason this song is omitted from the LDS Hymnbook is because of the second line. The Brethren probably don’t approve of us being referred to as “Wretches”.

  16. 17 Eric Nielson May 11, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Could be. But are we not referred to as being lower than the dust, and as unworthy creatures in the scriptures?

  17. 18 Sean Peterson May 14, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Very true. “Wretch” just sounds a bit more… distasteful. Like something you would do when you have the stomach flu. “la de dah, de dah, We are all WRETCHES!, la la, de dah dah…” (ugh)

  18. 19 tony July 24, 2007 at 1:07 am

    Amazing Grace is not in your hymn book because it was written as an anti-slavery song. All black churches include Amazing Grace as a part of their hymnals. It’s just another example of subtle “polite” racism. Now you have a nice day, sweety!

  19. 20 nija spires July 15, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    i say that none of you are right and you all need to go to h311

  20. 21 leemelone January 30, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I think the letter of the law needs to be evened out with the Spirit of the law.
    I didn’t find anything negative in the lyrics but I also didn’t find any song in our book that had every aspect of our doctrine in it. There are many songs in our song book that sing about God’s grace and the Grace of the Savior. If you write a song to include all our doctrine you will not be able to sing it in under one hour and it would be a song book in and of itself when published.
    True it was an anti-slavery song but what does that have to do with anything.

  21. 22 Eric Nielson January 30, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    excellent points leemelone.


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