The lyrics to “How Great Thou Art” were written after a preacher was caught in a violent midday thunderstorm.
History Of The Lyrics to Popular Hymn, “How Great Thou Art”
A British minister, Stuart K. Hine, contributed heavily to the version of “How Great Thou Art” that we are familiar with today. However, the original text came from a Swedish preacher, Carl Boberg, who wrote his lyrics after a unique experience on the southeast coast of Sweden. The experience was chronicled in an episode of the Mormon Channel’s, History of Hymns. An excerpt is below:
Boberg’s inspiration for “How Great Thou Art” came from a visit to a beautiful country estate on the southeast coast of Sweden. He got caught in a midday thunderstorm with awe-inspiring moments of flashing violence, followed by a clear brilliant sun. Soon afterwards he heard the calm, sweet songs of the birds in nearby trees.”
The experience prompted Boberg to “fall to his knees in humble adoration of his mighty God.” A nine-stanza poem beginning with the Swedish words “O Store Gud, nar jag den varld beskader” captured his exaltation of how great God is.
Listen to the full history of “How Great Thou Art” in episode 5 of the History of the Hymns from the Mormon Channel. Below, Bryn Terfel joins The Tabernacle Choir in singing followed by an organ solo by Clay Christiansen.