I've never seen questions like this here, and I'm wondering if this is something that the community would feel is on-topic, so long as it remains constructive and objectively answerable. If not, no hard feelings, but here goes...

Many of the hymns sung in our Churches are filled with deep theological meaning and doctrinal statements in and of themselves. For example, take "Amazing Grace". It includes:

  • The doctrine of undeserved Grace, given to a wretch "like me"
  • A hint of what repentance looks like (understanding myself to be a wretch, which I certainly am.)
  • Spiritual blindness and how Grace opens our eyes to see spiritual truth
  • God's Grace is necessary before we can even see our lost state - How Grace teaches us that we are lost sinners and convicts us
  • And of course, how Grace, once we have been given it, means that we are now found
  • The message that life in Heaven is eternal - after ten thousand years of singing God's praise, we'll still have no less days to look to in the future.

And on and on, in that one song alone.

With the wide variety of denominations, teachings, doctrines, heresies, and truths out there, how much more could we be learning from each other just by analyzing the hymns we sing. Certainly there are hymns that are more common in protestant denominations than in Catholicism, and my memory is completely failing me on this one, but I'd bet the LDS Church has unique hymns that can help illuminate doctrine that most of us just take for granted when singing the hymns.

So would a question like "What doctrines are taught in the Hymn Amazing Grace" be on-topic?

It certainly could be answered objectively, and certainly could be a new field of questions that can enrich us beyond mere academic analysis. Bringing song and culture into the mix could be, IMO, a good thing, if we don't allow it to balloon into the non-constructive and silly.

2 Answers 2


Yes, I think these sort of questions hold promise as good constructive questions. Even if many of the answers will need to delve into the subjective realm of interpreting somebody elses writings, I think if the questions are carefully constructed and include a historical tie, they can fall into the good-subjective category.

I would suggest the easiest way to keep them constructive is to tie them directly to the author and time they were written so that some historic knowledge and hermeneutic skill is required for a quality answer. I would like to see us avoid "I feel X when I hear this hymn" in favor of "the line about X in this hymn is a reference to Y theology which was an important factor in the life of the author / time in the church because Z".


I started thinking along similar lines when we attended a Methodist church. Just by reading the thematic index in their hymnal, you get a VERY good idea as to what doctrines they emphasize.

Then I went back to our Community church, and compared the two. The differences were more or less doctrinal differences -- nuanced to be sure, but I think the songs your church sings are a good indicator of what your church believes.

So I went online and checked out the index to a Mormon hymnal. Sure enough, you'll get a reasonable picture of what their important doctrines are. And you'll see how Mormon beliefs stack up against, say, a Catholic or a Baptist or a Methodist set... you might start to feel like drawing up a Venn diagram or a chart like Ross Perot... How much overlap does my church have with X church? And so on.

A corollary to this is that learning hymns is a great way to get "catechized" in your church, without any need of a catechism. Plus it's typically more enjoyable.

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