Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Photo by Sherly Tay

The Story Behind "Softly and Tenderly (Jesus Is Calling)"

“Softly and Tenderly,” which was originally known as “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling,” is a classic invitation hymn from the 19th century.  It was written by Will Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909) who was a composer of gospel, secular, and patriotic songs.  

Due to his earlier songs being rejected, Thompson formed his own music publishing company and “Softly and Tenderly” was first published in a collection titled Sparkling Gems, Nos. 1 and 2. It quickly became a popular hymn and was incorporated into many church hymnals.

Thompson was inspired to devote himself to writing while attending a meeting by popular evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899). When Moody was dying in the hospital he told Thompson, “Will, I would rather have written ‘Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling’ than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.”

“Softly and Tenderly” has been recorded by artists such as Amy Grant, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Kelly Clarkson, Johnny Cash, and Alan Jackson. The hymn was also used during the memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr. on April 8, 1968. 

Softly and Tenderly Lyrics (as performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
Ye who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Come home, come home,
Ye who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

O for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
Ye who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home, come home, come home,

Come home!