Story behind the Hymn Be Still, My Soul

Written by on July 7, 2024

Added to the hymnal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1985, “Be Still, My Soul” dates back to the 1750’s. The text was originally titled ““Stille, mein Wille, dein Jesus hilft siegen,” and was written by Katharina von Schlegal. Born in Germany, on October 22 1697, much of the background on von Schlegal remains unknown.

Below is an excerpt from The Mormon Channel’s History of Hymns series, which investigates the origins of the hymns of the church:

One fact though is certain: She (von Schlegal) knew her scriptures well, both the Old and the New Testaments. In her hymn, she wove together in a creative and remarkable way a whole series of scriptural themes and references to biblical events.

100 years after its first publication in the German language, “Stille, mein Wille” was translated into English by Jane L. Borthwick in Scotland and published in “Hymns from the Land of Luther, Series 2,” which Jane and her sister Sarah Borthwick Findlater jointly prepared, titled in English, “Be Still, My Soul.” This hymn was originally sung to several other tunes, none of which was a lasting combination. Katharina von Schlegel wrote many verses to her hymn but Jane translated only five, three of which are generally sung today.

The composer of the music, Johann Julius Christian Sibelius, was born in Finland in 1865. He later changed his name to reflect the French form of Johann, and was known thereafter as Jean Sibelius. He was also the composer for many orchestral works, including seven symphonies.

In 2009, a younger David Archuleta visited the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during a rehearsal. He serenaded them with “Be Still, My Soul,” accompanied by Kendra Lowe, who arranged this version. The following year, Archuleta joined the Choir for the Christmas concerts at the Conference Center. Here is the video and lyrics for Archuleta’s impromptu performance for the Choir:


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