"9/11 | Coming Together" 20th Anniversary Special

The Tabernacle Choir Blog

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Prolific hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote the lyrics for “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” He is credited with writing over 750 hymns in his lifetime and is referred to as the “Father of English Hymnody.”

Watts was born in Southampton, England, in 1674 and was brought up in a Nonconformist home, which was the term used to describe a Protestant Christian who did not conform with the Church of England. After receiving his education from Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington, he spent two years at home, where most of his hymns were written. “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” was published in 1707 in a collection called Hymns and Spiritual Songs. The music that is most often used with this hymn was composed by Lowell Mason.

In the early 1700s, Watts was called as the pastor of an Independent congregation in London. While there, he trained preachers and promoted education and scholarship, even as his health was deteriorating. Watts died in 1748 but left an abundant legacy of hymns, educational essays, and treatises.

The text for nine hymns written by Isaac Watts appear in the hymnbook for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints including:

With All the Power of Heart and Tongue

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

Come, We That Love the Lord

From All That Dwell below the Skies

He Died! The Great Redeemer Died

Great God, Attend While Zion Sings

Sweet Is the Work

Praise Ye the Lord

Joy to the World

Watch this video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is also available on the Choir’s album He Is Risen.