Grace shall be, as your day

I was well into my twenties before I finally deciphered one particular line from I Need Thee Every Hour. It was a line that I had certainly sung a hundred times or more: “No tender voice like thine can peace afford.” I had wondered offhand about its meaning several times, typically in mid-hymn. Every time, the question evaporated within minutes and remained unanswered, only to pop up again a few months later.

As I sat during one particularly boring sacrament meeting, immediately after singing the hymn, I set out to decipher that line. By then I was in law school, as I recall, and getting used to unwinding convoluted sentences. And so I analyzed the line, and came up with this:

First, afford is used in the sense of give. Give to someone else. (It’s meaning number four on the list at To furnish or supply, as in, The transaction afforded him a good profit.)

Second, peace and afford are reversed, for rhyming purposes. Untwist those for easier reading, and we get “no tender voice like thine can furnish peace.”

Continuing to unwind the line, we can take the clause “like thine” (which is set in a potentially confusing spot) and move it to the end of the sentence for clarity. Also, note that “like” is used in the sense of “as much as” or “as well as” rather than “similar to.”

And putting together all of those clarifications, we arrive at:

No [other] tender voice furnishes peace [to me] quite as well as yours does. That, as far as I can determine, is the unwound meaning of “no tender voice like thine can peace afford.”

I suspect that other readers wonder from time to time about some of our confusing, convoluted hymn texts. What other hymn texts make you scratch your head every time you sing them? (I recently wondered what on earth “grace shall be as your day” means; so far, no easy explanation seems evident.) If you’ve ever wondered about a particular line, please let us know that line in the comments. And if you’ve got an idea of the answer to another’s question, feel free to suggest an explanation. (If and when we find ourselves completely stumped, we’ll turn to Rosalynde, Kristine, and/or Mark B. (Brooklyn edition) for further enlightenment and clarification.)

48 comments for “Grace shall be, as your day

  1. And a ten-point bonus to the first person to explain verse four of Come Follow Me with its unusual end point. (I think I’ve got it figured out, but I’m curious as to others’ explanations.)

  2. \”I Know that My Redeemer Lives\” is a fave but I do not understand,

    \”He lives to guide me with his eye.\”

  3. Interesting, Kaimi. The switched order of the words to make rhymes work was a big bone of contention among our great 20th century songwriters like Larry Hart and Ira Gershwin. The fact that you had to twist the sentence back around to make any sense was the exact problem these great lyricists were facing: the audiences of shows in the early 1900s just didn’t understand the words.

  4. I worry that answering here is simply a case of taking the bait.

    But, at least one previous printing of the hymnbook–we have a 33rd Printing (1974) of the 1948 hymnbook which we received as a wedding present–makes the question about Come, Follow Me easy. The last line of verse four ends, as it should, with a comma. (I know D. Fletcher has commented elsewhere that songwriters shouldn’t end stanzas mid-sentence, but what should be isn’t the issue here. What is is.

    With that impertinent period removed, the fourth and fifth verses (which must be sung together) read, in pertinent part:

    If with our Lord, we would be heirs,

    We must the onward path pursue
    As wider fields expand to view, . . .

    Some recent copy editor obviously had a problem with the “last” verse within the music ending with a comma, and changed it for a period. If excommunication seems to harsh, perhaps he could be disfellowshipped for a long time.

  5. One added problem with the I Need Thee Every Hour line is that the precise placement of “like thine” makes it look like the phrase means the opposite of the meaning I’ve suggested.

    It’s the difference between:

    No one like Nate can run.
    No one can run like Nate.

    The first suggests that Nate is from some subset of people who can’t run. The second suggests that Nate is uniquely able to run.

    Moving “like thine” to the middle of the line gives the clear impression that God _can’t_ afford peace; as far as I can tell, though, the true meaning is the opposite.

  6. I never could get over the line in “If You Could Hie To Kolob” that goes “There is no end to race.” I still cringe when I hear it, even though somebody speculated that they mean “race” as in “human race”. Since hymn lyrics aren’t doctrine, I don’t have a problem changing them with the times (“yoo-hoo unto Jesus” anyone?)

  7. I disagree about “Come, Follow Me.” The period is correct.

    The language of “Come, Follow Me” is archaic-sounding, and many of the lines have awkward word order such as “then let us in His footsteps tread,” and such.

    But the particular lines in question make perfect sense to me, with the period. The 5th verse is not a continuation of the thought.

    “Not only shall (I might have used ‘should’) we emulate His course while in this earthly state, but [also] when we’re freed from present (read ‘earthly’) cares, if with our Lord we would be heirs.”

    In other words, we must follow not only in this life, but in the next. The same point is made in verses 3 and 4 — the Savior is to be followed, in this life, in the next, and throughout eternity.

    It’s perfectly sensible. The other way, having the last line of verse 4 connect to the idea of verse 5, is not how lyric writers write. This song is definitely a lyric, not a poem, however awkwardly the words sit on the music.

  8. WH,

    That was actually the topic of one of the first T&S posts ever, at . According to Kristine (who knows more than I do), the term was sometimes used at that time to mean something like “clan” or “extended family,” and that’s the likely meaning here. But yes, it’s absolutely ripe for change. Same goes for “Come O Thou King of Kings” which has similar problems with its line about the “chosen race.”

  9. “Race” in Kolob definitely means “human race.” It does not mean what the word has come to mean in the last 50 years.

  10. I had wondered about that, D. Because verse four _does_, as you note, work as a (highly convoluted) stand-alone.

    The last line should be first, then, and the overall meaning:

    If we want to be heirs with God, then we should emulate him not just while in this earthly state, but also when we’re dead (that is, free from present cares).

    It’s convoluted, but it does work as a stand-alone.

    On the other hand, Mark’s suggested reading also works, and is a little less convoluted. However, it has the disadvantage of jumping between verses.

  11. Wacy Hermit #9: Webster’s 1828 entry on race defines race in terms of family and descendants without any hint as to skin color. I’m not sure when this hymn was written, but Phelps died in 1872 so I think Webster’s 1828 makes a pretty good case for a “human race” or “eternal family” type of meaning for this hymn. (Webster’s also gives Kaimi’s definition for “afford” as the first definition….)

  12. The real thing I disagree with is that verse 5 needs or warrants the last line from verse 4. It doesn’t. It is… its own thought. Verse 5 is about sticking to the “straight and narrow.”

    “We must the onward path pursue As wider field expand to view, And follow Him unceasingly, Whate’er our lot or sphere may be.”

    Verse 5 isn’t about becoming “heirs” in the next life. This is what verse 4 (and verse 3) are about.

  13. Regarding “grace shall be as your day,” I’ve always thought this is simply saying grace shall shine and be present like the sun-of-day (in contrast to hidden like the dark of nightness). But perhaps it’s also related to the “day of grace” in Mormon 2:15, meaning the day of repentance—that is, the day of God’s grace has not expired but shines on us currently, or something to that effect….

  14. I swear, that \”grace shall be, as your day\” line is going to bother me for the rest of my life. It makes perfect sense until I THINK ABOUT IT. You\’ve completely ruined that hymn for me now.

  15. Kaimi, # 11 –

    Re: “Come O Thou King of Kingsâ€?, what do you think of the line that says “The heathen nations bow the knee/and every tongue shouts praise to Thee”?

  16. Mark IV, is that confusing? “Bow” means “bend,” in archaic English.

    “The heathens will bow and kneel and praise Thee in every language.”

  17. I think “grace shall be as your day” means grace continues as long as your day continues.

  18. Melanie #3: I think this is a quote of the KJV of Psalm 32:8. The NET footnotes have a good discussion explaining/arguing that “guide me with his eye” means “guide me, with his eye of concern upon me” (very roughly; note the link has other popular translations…).

  19. D., no it isn’t confusing, I understand the meaning. I was just wondering if “heathen nations” sounded odd to anybody else in 2006. The link Kaimi provided shows I’m not the only one.

    I really do like that hymn, and the archaic language is part of the appeal for me.

  20. Not from hymns, but how about:

    Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matt 6:34) switching around to Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof (3 Ne 13:34).

    I used to wonder about the angel’s comment to Alma, the Younger, If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God. (Al 36:9,11) as if it read that if Alma wanted to be destroyed himself, then he should stop seeking to destroy the Church. I later realized the angel meant, “If you want to be destroyed, go ahead with that, but don’t also try to destroy the Church.” I found it interesting to see in the RLDS’s 1966 version of the BoM that it reads, if thou wilt not of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God or something close to it.

    Some ungrammatical favorites are:

    And we did find all manner of bore, both of [1]gold, and of [2]silver, and of [3]copper (1 Ne 18:25)

    all things what [that], ye should do (2 Ne 32:3&5)

    If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things [that thing]. (13th AoF)

  21. I’m sure that the person that wrote “heathen nations” probably meant exactly that: Africans and other non-Western types. There are many hymns in our hymnbook about being “soldiers” for God, starting with one of my favorites “Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to WAR.” Sometimes, one has to forgive our forbears for being slightly less politically-correct. In my reading of the song, “heathens” means “non-believers,” not Muslims or Moors or Mongols or Goths.


  22. D.,

    So it’s not refering to the Goths? It’s not about the black-makeup crowd in the hallways at high school? :)

    Mark, etc.,

    For real fun, look at the older hymnals. Gems like “Stop and tell me, red man.” (See also Amy blogging about this at X2: .) And the older Spanish hymnal, with the classic hymn (I’m not making this up!), “Let’s brush our teeth.” (The old Spanish hymnal was a sort of combined congregational/primary book, and the tooth bugs song was meant for kids, but still . . .)

  23. Very true, D. And it is humbling to consider that the things we write might sound odd to people fifty years from now.

    I think “Grace shall be as your day” means that grace will surround us, like daylight or sunshine.

  24. “Though hard to you, this journey may appear, grace shall be as your day,” means, stick with it, and you’ll find grace an everyday thing. Like falling off a log. Not unusual. Like day or night, sun or rain.

    Another hymn with completely backward phrases. “Tis better far for us to strive our useless cares from us to drive.” Oy.

  25. My dad likes to tell us how they used to sing “Don’t Kill the Little Birds,” but I’m thinking “Let’s Brush Our Teeth” beats that.

    That the children may live long and be beautiful and strong, tea and coffee and tobaco they despise…

  26. Love this topic!

    If those grammatical errors bother you, NEVER listen to Kenneth Cope’s album called “A Prayer Unto Thee”. An old companion of mine would play it all the time.

    Basically Cope converts the lyrics of several Hymns into conversations with the Savior — only with excruciatingly incorrect usages of thee, thine, thou, etc…

    I gavomited (gagged nigh unto vomiting) every time I heard it.

  27. In the face of Kaimi’s and D’s erudite commentary, I have decided to stick with the comma. :-)

    Why? Not only is the text rendered that way in the oldest hymnbook I have, which of course means it’s more authoritative than all subsequent texts, which may have been corrupted by evil and designing men . . .

    but, also, the fifth verse is a natural continuation of the thought begun with the question in the third:

    Is it enough alone to know that we must follow him below, While trav’ling thro’ this vale of tears?

    No, this extends to holier spheres.

    So, the obligation to follow Christ extends beyond this life to holier spheres, a thought that continues into verse four:

    Not only shall we emulate His course while in this earthly state; But when we’re freed from present cares, If, with our Lord we would be heirs, We must the onward path pursue As wider fields expand to view, And follow him unceasingly, Whate’er our lot or sphere may be.

    So, we follow the Lord in this life and, as the wider fields of eternity expand to our view, we continue following him, and that following is necessary if we would be heirs with Christ.

    If this violates the rules of song writing, then so be it. I don’t know the rules, and maybe John Nicholson didn’t either.

  28. It’s not the rules of songwriting that are violated. I think the author followed them perfectly. One doesn’t finish a rhyme of one verse but set the beginning thought of the next verse.

    But, it’s perfectly possible that the music was added to the song at a later date, and the original poem/lyric may not have been broken into verses in the same way (though in the textbook, the music is given an older date of origin).

    If we are to assume that the comma is correct, then the real problem is the setting, because the end of each verse of music is very resolved, but a comma wants unresolved music.

    The reason I disagree about the comma is that the line “when we’re freed from present cares” suggests to me the afterlife, after our death. The following verse starting with “we must the onward path pursue as wider fields expand to view” doesn’t suggest the afterlife to me. It’s a different point he’s making now.

    I guess we’ll never know, eh? This very point has come up in my family, since my grandmother was on the committee for the hymnbook in the 40s.

  29. I looked in the book “Deseret Songs,” from 1909. “Come Follow Me” has five verses. The problem verse is left out.

  30. Maybe we can get someone (Nancy Reagan) to communicate with Bro. Nicholson and get him to tell us what he meant!

  31. >> He lives to guide me with his eye.

    The way I read it, this refers to the pre-scientific notion that the eye generates light/energy as well as detecting it. The Lord’s eye lights up the things He looks at or the direction He looks in, and if we are spiritually attuned, we can be guided by seeing what He lights.

    Contrast with the Evil Eye, the ability to harm something just by looking at it. Or in the Lord of the Rings, (some of) the characters were able to tell when the Eye of Mordor was looking their way.

  32. Here’s one that puzzles me, fomr COme COme Ye Saints:

    It is better far for us to strive

    So, is it better for us, as in, “eat your veggies, it’s good for you”
    or is it universally better if this group of people will strive?

    Does that even make sense? Is it “better for us” or just “better” for us?

  33. “While of These Emblems We Partake” has a sentence continued from one verse to the next. The verse ends with a comma both in the current hymnal and the previous version.

    The law was broken; Jesus died
    That Justice might be satisfied,
    That man might not remain a slave
    Of death, of hell, or of the grave,

    But rise triumphant from the tomb,
    And in eternal splendor bloom,
    Freed from the pow’r of death and pain,
    With Christ, the Lord, to rule and reign.

    I have a copy of “Songs of Zion,” dated 1912. In that edition, verse 4 of “Come, Follow Me” ends with a period.

  34. I always laugh at the command that truth “burst the fetters of the mind / from the millions of mankind” in the hymn “Truth Eternal”. But I may be the only one who thinks that sounds strange.

  35. I think the race-meant-something-different explanation is a bit misleading. Race isn’t about skin color, even today; it’s possible to identify people who many of us would think of as racially “black” (because of traits regarding hair, lips, etc.) whose skin color is lighter in pigment than that of people many of us would identify as racially “white.” Instead, race is a social construct that revolves heavily around what we imagine to be people’s tribes of ancestral origin. People who are “from” Europe in an ancestral sense are racially white; people who are “from” Africa are racially black. (Never mind that we’re all from Africa.)

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there were a range of meanings for “race” in circulation in the first half of the 19th century. Our modern meaning, which assumes ancestral origin on the basis of a cluster of physical features, in fact originated in the last part of the 18th century; the OED reports various usages of the term in this sense before the end of the 19th century. Two other early 19th-century meanings also correlate closely with modern notions of race. These are the following: “a tribe, nation, or people, regarded as of common stock,” and “a group of several tribes or peoples, regarded as forming a distinct ethnical stock.” 19th-century examples of racial usages in these senses include: the British race, the German race, the Egyptian race, the Syro-Arabic race, the Pygmy race, and — of course — the “Negro” race. Thus, for example, J. C. Prichard in his 1842 The Natural History of Man could write, “The Pelagian Negro races have been supposed to reach eastward as far as..the Fejee Islands.”

    In summary, we must accept as possible an interpretation of references to “race” in 19th-century Mormon hymns as involving ethnic-national conceptions analogous to modern ideas of race. By the late 19th century and through most of the 20th century, of course, racial discourse was so thoroughly embedded in Mormonism that most singers must have interpreted these terms as involving skin color and some kind of African/other distinction.

  36. An interesting note, RT. The OED references, of course, do not tell us what WW Phelps or P.P. Pratt were thinking as they looked for rhymes for “space” and “peace”. (Wait a second–since when does race rhyme with peace?) Though there were people using race to denote color or other physical or geographic or social constructs back in the mid 19th century, there’s no way of knowing what Brothers Phelps or Pratt meant, short of asking them. (Of course, the fact that both those hymns were written before there was any clear teaching about the Priesthood ban, and since there were decidedly liberal (for those days) views on the status of the American Indians and other non-Caucasian peoples, I believe it’s ahistorical to suggest that either of those hymns had anything to do with 20th century concepts of race.)

    Your “most singers must have interpreted” in the last sentence of your comment is completely without basis. I don’t ever remember thinking that, and can’t imagine anybody I know thinking that either of those lines had to do with race. (On the other hand, the 1948 hymnbook had only the first two verses of Come, O Thou King of Kings within the staffs, so nobody ever went on to verse 4, and If You Could Hie to Kolob was buried in the choir section, set to an unsingable tune by Joseph J. Daynes, and it was never sung by any congregation I was in.)

  37. Mark, of course you’re right. Phelps and Pratt may have been thinking of any possible meaning, or none at all. However, it is certainly ahistorical–even if correct–to suggest that the hymns didn’t incorporate 19th-century meanings of race. And, as my comment shows, there is a direct linkage between 19th-century meanings and 20th-century ones. The only alternative that was still available — the version relating to reproduction having passed out of usage more than a century earlier — means species. But that usage doesn’t seem to fit the hymns. Race, of course, was a central theme in Mormon thought long before the priesthood ban came into place. Mormonism, from at least the time of the Book of Mormon, has taught that people from different lineage groups have different destinies. So the timing of the priesthood ban has nothing to do with whether “race” meant “race” in those hymns.

    Of course, “race” did have almost exactly a 20th-century meaning by the mid-19th century in America. Singers (if any — you suggest the hymns may never have been sung, which is possible) would have been forced to choose between interpreting that word as it was used in the language they spoke or doing something else. My comment assumes that they read the word as meaning what it meant in the society where they lived. I might, certainly, be wrong. But to claim that the idea is “completely without basis” is both incorrect and offensive.

  38. Reply/Perspective on \”Grace shall be as your day\”
    I was doing some morning research and found your website and this comment blog/field

    I was quite suprised that given 47 comments posted to this area — there seems to be no one in your collection of entrants/commentators that discussed the action verbs and definitions inherent in this phrase.

    Grace is a kind of love that the members of the Godhead (let\’s exclude God\’s other angelic helpers in this definition). We are commanded to practice \”Charity:- which is one in the same with \”Christ-like love\”. The pure love that is celestial in its goal and in its characteristics– which if practiced makes us one with God/Godhead and more to the vernacular use one with Jesus Christ– meaning connected to the true vine; and worthy of \”the blessing\” designed with fulfilling that specific commandment to have Charity. All the other loves apart from Apapy / Charity are the brotherly love and passion love.

    BUT Grace is the love of a Celestial Being (or those working with God) who has full access to the knowledge of each of us/our lives/character/actions/faith Which We Lived as Children begotten unto God during the time prior to the Council in Heaven and This Temporal Existence.

    Given that Grace is a love specific to God i.e., Elohim/Jehovah Jesus Christ/Holy Ghost THEN when God loves a man — Has Grace towards him or her– He has the feelings which mix the love of the person who chose to follow Christ from Pre-Existence to this life. He loves who we were and loves us from our committment to come to earth and that we stood against Lucifer and those who chose him.

    ON earth God (as defined w/those having such knowledge & keys) are the only ones
    that practice Grace. Then this is the reason God cuts us slack/ the probationary time to sin and have consequences. Or to later repent and seek to comply with the terms and conditions of the Atonement and the Gospel of Jesus Christ sufficient to merit Forgiveness and obedience (Faith / Repentance / Holy Works) meet to obtain Eternal Life.

    IF then God is the only one who exercises A conditional love with aspects that lets him love us beyond our earthly actions/sins/worthiness— God then has a really, really, good reason to
    let people sin and still be able to have compassion and Long-suffering.

    The day of Grace is the period of time for each man based on each man\’s life known by God who factors the character/pre-existence with the earthly/character of man. So for me it may be from Dec23 54 to the date x-xx-year when i am fully ripe in inquity. Then the scriptures from Mormon Moroni and Ether about this kick-in/are in force. When our day of grace ends the Spriit \”withdraws\”/\”is grieved\” and the person is given over to Satan and his destruction is made sure.

    God only has grace till we show him that we choose evil rather than Light. When that time comes that God with his powers to know our heart and in light of Grace AND the knowledge of the Pre-Existence — He then ACTS/Judges/Commits to us the Curse that ends his efforts to Save us/Gather us as a chicken gathers her young– and releases us to our fate of evil that
    we chose with our Free Agency

    AS in the clause \”Grace Shall Be AS Your Day\”
    is a relational term. It is a term of Ratio. The volume/quantity of one thing effects the volume and quantity of another thing. In this it is the value and measure of Grace is provided by God in direct Ratio to the Value / Character of your actions/life. If you are seeking Righteousness and bring forth Faith/ carry out the conditions of true Repentance that qualifies us for the Atonement/ and perform acts that God sees as \”holy works\” then Our DAY is of greater worth/value.

    we receive more of the kind of God\’s Love which is GRACE to the measure of
    our righteousness.

    IT is in fact very beautiful and in harmony with the Justice of God
    Justice is not diminished or Robbed by Mercy (or in the world by the false Mercy in False Doctrine of Unconditional Love or Unconditional Forgiveness– which abounds Outside and Inside the Kingdom of God)

    Love you little site–

    Your brother and friend in the Faith

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