On this day, November 19, 1885 Haldor Lillenas was born on the island Stord, near Bergen, Norway. Like most Scandinavians, he grew up in the Lutheran church. As a child, his parents brought him to the United States and he was confirmed at the age of fifteen.
Something was lacking in his spiritual life, however, and that something was not remedied until he was converted to personal faith in Jesus Christ at age 21. Almost immediately, the young man felt called to preach. He entered Deets Pacific Bible College in Los Angeles (later known as Pasadena College). Meanwhile, he began to acquire musical knowledge through self study and correspondence courses. It is as a hymnwriter that he is best remembered.
Haldor married Bertha Mae Wilson who was also a song writer. They traveled as evangelists for many years. Both became elders in the Church of the Nazarene. Together they furnished words and music for over 4,000 hymns and Gospel songs. Rich in spirit, they were poor in possessions. When they were finally able to afford a home, Haldor looked about for an instrument on which he could compose. A neighbor sold him an organ for just five dollars. It was on that organ that Haldor composed his best-known hymn: "Wonderful Grace of Jesus."
Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus.
Praise His Name!
Coincidentally, the sale of Haldor's hymn brought him just five dollars--the amount he had paid for the organ.
After leaving evangelistic work, Haldor pastored churches from 1914 through 1924. In 1924, he founded a music company which later became the Nazarene Publishing Company. He worked as an editor there for 20 years.
- Aigner, Jonathan A. "Wonderful Grace of Jesus." http://www.joyfulsoundchoir.com/Hymns/ WonderfulGraceOfJesus.html
- "Haldor Lillenas." http://www.Cyberhymnal.org
- Holden, David. Select Seed from the Granary. Private publication.
- Ward, Keith W. "Wonderful Grace of Jesus." http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1997i/Ward.html
Last updated June, 2007