Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Contest: “Angels of Glory Shout the Refrain”—Writing a Hymn

Contest: “Angels of Glory Shout the Refrain”—Writing a Hymn

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - November 19, 2013

And, now the promised poetry contest for our German history and culture week at Keepapitchinin…

“Hark, All Ye Nations” is a familiar Mormon hymn, first found in the English hymnbook in 1985, but used regularly now in General Conference and other church meetings and missionary conferences.

The original German text had eight verses, whereas there are only three in our English hymnbook. With all those extra verses just begging to be translated, Keepapitchinin is running a contest for the best translation.

After a brief history of the hymn and its author, you will find the original German text, but you don’t need to know German to participate, since you can use the Google Translate version below, which has been lightly edited so it generally makes sense.

Rewrite or translate a verse or two, or do them all, however the muse strikes you. A panel of judges will award prizes as appropriate for most singable verses.

First place will receive his or her choice of:

(A) A copy of the latest publication from the Joseph Smith Papers Project, or
(B) Five hours of research assistance in United States or certain Northern European sources.1

Second place will receive the remaining prize.

So, rev up your hard drives, pull out your rhyming dictionaries, and prepare to translate a hymn.

Submit your entries to amyancestorfiles at gmail dot com by Monday, November 25, 2013. Winners will be announced and published about a week later.

A Brief History of Louis Mönch and His Hymn2

Shortly after the death of his mother in 1856, ten-year-old Louis Friedrich Mönch emigrated to America with his brothers and sisters to join his father in New York. Louis graduated from college in Chicago and then headed west, probably to find work as a teacher. His family tells the story that he and a companion were trying to avoid traveling through Salt Lake City so they would not encounter the dreaded Mormons, but as they skirted the city, a fire burned the contents of their camp, and they were forced to go into the city.

Instead of finding the dangerous characters they were expecting, they were welcomed into the homes of the people, and Louis was so impressed by the hospitality and faith he found there that he joined the Church and spent most of the rest of his life in Utah. He became the first principal of Weber Stake Academy, now Weber State University.

Called on a mission to Germany in 1884, he left his families behind and used his considerable talents to run the mission publication, Der Stern. Most issues of Der Stern contained poetry, some written by Saints in Europe, some written by Saints living in Utah. After Louis was assigned to the mission office, he contributed a number of poems and songs written in his distinctive folk style. He set his fourth song, “Sehet ihr Völker,” to music by George Root, the composer of the tune we use for “In Our Lovely Deseret.”


From its humble beginnings “Sehet ihr Völker” has become one of the great Mormon German hymns, and in its English translation as “Hark, All Ye Nations,” it has become one of the beloved missionary anthems of the restored gospel.

The current German hymnbook uses three of the original verses, updated somewhat in language, plus one additional verse not found in the first version of the hymn.

The English version is, as it says in the hymnbook, based on the German text, but the identity of the translator is not noted. The English chorus is fairly faithful to the original German, whereas the other verses tend to be looser translations.

The Original German Text

Sehet ihr Völker.

1. Sehet, ihr Völker! Licht bricht heran!
O, hört! Ein Engel bringt euch den Plan!
Hell wie die Sonne, leuchtet die Bahn
Himmel gen himmelan!

O wie herrlich von des Himmels Thron,
Strömt das Licht der Wahrheit nun hervor!—
Höret die Stimme, hell wie zuvor,
heute am Welten Thor!

2. Wieder ertönet von seinem Mund
Zu aller Welt die göttliche Kund’.
Engel frohlochen, Satan verstummt
Ueber den neuen Bund.
Chor: O wie herrlich u. s. w.

3. Sehet, er schreibt an die Pforte heut,
Neu das Gesetz der Gerechtigkeit.
O kommt und lest! Wer in ihm verbliebt,
Lebt in der Ewigkeit:
Chor: O wie herrlich u. s. w.

4. “Buße allein ist die rechte Saat;
Jeder muß bitten wer Gott sich naht:
Eng’ ist die Pforte, schmal ist der Pfad!”
Steht an der heil’gen Stadt.
Chor: O wie herrlich u. s. w.

5. “Keiner kommt je in das Königreich,
Ohne die Taufe, wie Jesus gleich;
Wasser und Blut mit dem Geist bezeugt,
Einzig das Recht zum Reich.”
Chor: O wie herrlich u. s. w.

6. “Halte getreu das größte Gebot:
Liebe den Herrn den Schöpfer und Gott.
Weih’ ihm dein Herz in Freude und Noth”,
Glänzt von der ew’gen Pfort.
Chor: O wie herrlich u. s. w.

7. “Lieb’ deinen Nächsten”, tönt auch hervor,
Herrlich und lieblich vom Engelchor!
“Einzig durch diese öffnet sich’s Thor
Dir zum Himmel empor.”
Chor: O wie herrlich u. s. w.

8. Diener des Herrn verkünden das Wort.
O weiset nicht verblendet es fort!
Suchet und bittet, der Herr eu’r Hort,
Hört nicht vergebens dort.
Chor: O wie herrlich u. s. w.

L. F. Mönch.

The Slightly Corrected Computer Translation

1 Take heed, you peoples! Light breaks on!
O, hear! An angel brings you the plan!
Bright as the sun lights up the web [way]
Heaven towards heavenward!

O how glorious, from the throne of heaven
Flows the light of truth is now out!
Hear the voice bright as before,
today the worlds door!

2 Now sounds from of his mouth
To the world the divine knowledge.
Angel happy punching [Angels rejoice], Satan falls silent
About the new covenant.

3 Behold, he writes at the door today,
The new law of justice.
O come and read! Who remains with him,
Lives in eternity:

4 “Repentance alone is the right seed;
Everyone who approaches God must ask:
Strait is the gate, narrow is the path!”
Stands at the holy city.

5 “No one ever comes to the kingdom,
Without baptism, as Jesus the same;
Water and blood testifies to the spirit,
Only the right to the kingdom.”

6 “Keep true to the greatest commandment:
Love the Lord the Creator and God.
Consecrate your heart to him in joy and misery,”
Shines the eternal gateway.

7 “Love your neighbor,” also sounds out,
Gorgeous and lovely choir of angels!
“Only through this is the door opening
You up to heaven.”

8 Servants of the Lord proclaim the Word.
O deny not proceed along!
Seek and asks the Lord yourselves of shelter,
Does not stop there in vain.


  1. This will be in the form of sourcing and standardizing your existing FamilySearch Family Tree, using Family Tree’s “Helper” feature, and using professional standards of genealogical proof. I will generate a report of the corrections and additions and send it to you, along with notes on where family genealogical efforts would best be concentrated. Note: no adoption/detective/microfilm/onsite research. []
  2. Louis’s descendants now use the spelling “Moench,” and a pronunciation of the name sounds somewhat like “mensch.” []


  1. This is not easy!

    But since I’m ineligible for a prize, I’m going to have fun with it, publicly. Be gentle with my efforts …

    My attempt at verse 5:

    Born of the water, taught how to pray,
    Blessed by the Spirit’s witness each day,
    Following Him who showed us the way,
    Brought through the gates of heav’n.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2013 @ 6:41 am

  2. Nice, Ardis.

    As my husband was walking out the door, he said, “You should call the contest ‘Hark, All Ye Poets.'”

    I replied, “Oh no! It just posted! I can’t change it now!”

    But perhaps a Facebook notice could use that language. : )

    Comment by Amy T — November 19, 2013 @ 6:51 am

  3. That was one of my favorite hymns on my mission. Can’t wait to see the translations. Maybe when the English hymnal is updated it will reflect the new translated verses.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 19, 2013 @ 7:23 am

  4. Poets … doggerelmeisters … come, one and all …

    Trying even one verse like this gives me a greater appreciation for translators of poetry. I mean, I knew there was more to it than merely translating the literal words, as your Google translation shows. They have to find words that express approximately the same thoughts in English. You’ll notice I introduced an idea that wasn’t even hinted at in the German (prayer) because I had extra beats to fill up, and omitted another idea that *was* present in the German (being saved by Christ’s blood) because, at least in English, we just don’t talk much about Christ’s blood apart from the specifically sacramental — it sounded too Protestant to write the first line as “Born of the water, saved by His blood,” although the meter fit.

    Anyway, I’m tackling some of the other verses, too, and hope other readers will try, too.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2013 @ 7:29 am

  5. Yeah, taking a look at the Google Translate versions, I agree that it seems like tough work to come up with an acceptable poetic translation. But I may give it a try — those prizes are tantalizing!

    Comment by David Y. — November 19, 2013 @ 9:55 am

  6. One of the many things I like about this hymn is how it came about. It was a German Mormon hymn that was translated into English rather than an English hymn translated into German.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 19, 2013 @ 10:25 am

  7. Here’s another attempt, loosely based on verse 7:

    “Who is my brother?” Christ makes it plain,
    We are one family and ever remain
    Bound to each other, our ties to sustain
    Thro’ time and eternity.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2013 @ 10:27 am

  8. Amy, a wonderful idea. I’m going to steal it, of course!!

    Portuguese needs more Mormon poetry translated. Couldn’t hurt to try to crowdsource a few more hymns and other poetry.

    Comment by Kent Larsen — November 19, 2013 @ 11:31 am

  9. In concentrating on the poem — and I can’t get the tune out of my head! — I neglected to say that I enjoyed hearing about Louis Mönch. I know the Saints have adopted hymns from other traditions, and that a few favorite local hymns are included in other-than-English hymn books. But it seems especially noteworthy that, as Steve C. says above, this is a German Mormon hymn translated into English, and not only a German hymn from another tradition that was adopted by German Mormons and then translated. (If that makes sense … I’m rushed at the moment, sorry.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2013 @ 11:41 am

  10. It’s been fun reading the comments and Ardis’s preliminary verses.

    As Steve mentioned, this tends to be a favorite of missionaries to Germany, and it’s certainly been a favorite of the Saints in Germany since it was written. (What are some that get sung a lot in German that aren’t used much in English? “Der Zeiten Fülle nun begann”? “Irgendwo scheint die Sonne”?)

    Here is the version that would be more familiar to a modern audience. Verse three is the one that is not in the original version, and so of course it could also be translated into English for the contest.

    1. Sehet, ihr Völker, Licht bricht heran!
    O hört, ein Engel bringt euch den Plan!
    Hell wie die Sonne leuchtet die Bahn
    jedem nun himmelan!

    Chor: O wie herrlich von des Himmels Thron
    strömt das Licht der Wahrheit nun hervor!
    Höret die Stimme, hell wie zuvor,
    heute am Weltentor!

    2. Wieder ertönet von seinem Mund
    zu aller Welt die göttliche Kund.
    Engel frohlokken, Satan verstummt,
    höret den neuen Bund!

    3. Ehret den wahren, ewigen Gott,
    Buße und Tauf verlanget sein Wort.
    Weiht ihm das Herz, und durch seinen Sohn
    wird euch ein ewger Lohn!

    4. Diener des Herrn verkünden das Wort.
    O weiset nicht verblendet es fort!
    Suchet und bittet, ja klopfet an,
    so wird euch aufgetan!

    Comment by Amy T — November 19, 2013 @ 11:49 am

  11. Ardis, the reason that line sounds so Protestant is that something very much like it has been used already in a fairly popular hymn, “Blessed Assurance.”

    Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
    Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
    Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
    Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

    It sounded very familiar when I read it, but it took me a few minutes to track it down in my memory.

    Comment by LauraN — November 19, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

  12. Amy,

    Anyone who served in Paderborn will remember the vigor with which Bruder Walther Christiansen directed/sang all the hymns, but my favorite was to hear him belt “Die Sach’ ist dein Herr Jesus Christ.” Josef M. Haydn’s melody is quite nice, and there’s a decent English translation

    I’ve never heard it sung in English.

    Comment by Mike Stanger — November 19, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

  13. That’s it, LauraN! Thanks.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

  14. Fun. I’ve always thought it took a special talent to not only translate the meaning and spirit of a hymn into a different language, but matching the meter and the rhyme makes the task seemingly insurmountable with my language skills.

    Comment by The Other Clark — November 19, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

  15. Ah, Paderborn. I didn’t serve in that lovely city, but some of my favorite missionaries did, the Janosches, a lovely Canadian couple.

    And if you like words, go ahead and give it a try, Clark, and anyone else who’s wavering. It’ll give you a new appreciation for poets and lyricists and translators, and that’s worth something by itself.

    Comment by Amy T — November 19, 2013 @ 4:04 pm