The Tabernacle Choir Blog

"Nearer, My God, to Thee”: The History and Lyrics

Sarah Flower Adams was a British actress who received praise for her performance in an 1837 production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. After health problems disrupted her plans to continue with theater, she found comfort in writing poems and hymns.

Her most notable hymn, “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” came about in 1841 when Adam’s pastor was looking for a hymn for the following week’s sermon on Genesis 28:11-19, which is referred to by many as “Jacob’s ladder,” or “Jacob’s dream.” Adams offered to write the hymn and completed it within a week to go along with the pastor’s sermon. The hymn was originally set to music written by her sister, Eliza Flower, but another hymn-tune called “BETHANY,” written by Lowell Mason in 1856, has become most widely recognized and is most familiar to listeners today.

In the video above, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performed an Arthur Harris arrangement of "Nearer, My God, to Thee” for their weekly broadcast, Music and the Spoken Word. The performance captures the solemn tone of the hymn while showcasing the beauty and strength of the 360-member Choir.

Since the music and text were paired together, the hymn has been featured in many television shows and movies. Perhaps the most famous is 1997’s Titanic, in a scene that is said to mirror the actual event of the ship's band playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” while the Titanic was sinking.

More recently, Brigham Young University’s a cappella group Vocal Point, who also competed on NBC’s The Sing Off, recorded a new arrangement of “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” providing a new emotion to the cherished hymn. Watch Vocal Point's YouTube video below.

"Nearer, My God, to Thee" - Lyrics to the Choir’s video (above):

Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me.

Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

 

Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

Amen.

 

"Nearer, My God, to Thee" - Complete three verse lyrics as commonly seen in hymnbooks

Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me.

Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

 

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,

Darkness be over me, my rest a stone,

Yet in my dreams I'd be, nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

 

There let the way appear, steps unto heav'n;

All that thou sendest me, in mercy giv'n;

Angels to beckon me, nearer, my God, to thee, 

Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!