King Benjamin’s oft-cited dictum that service to our fellow man is service to God is well known among Mormons. And, if surveys like the recent University of Pennsylvania survey are accurate, Mormons do quite well putting the idea in practice. Still, better than others doesn’t mean that we are where we should be or ought to be. And, like all humans, we have our rationales for failure to act. So perhaps a poem that addresses our failures will work well with Book of Mormon lesson #15.
If anything, the idea Kate Thomas expresses in this poem is more timely today than ever. We have both more distractions and more demands on our time than ever, while simultaneously enjoying more labor-saving devices than were available when Thomas wrote this. In my view, this simply makes the point that it isn’t really about time, but about our priorities:
If I Had Time.
by Kate Thomas
If I had time, O minds all dulled with sleeping,
I’d waken you to thoughts and deeds sublime.
I had time , O eyes grown dim with weeping
I’d brighten you—If only I had time!
If I had time, O hearts so worn with grieving,
I’d comfort you with Gods own word sublime.
Spirits dark-stained with sins past all believing,
I’d seek to clear you—If I had the time!
O careless soul, self-shut in narrow prison,
Open thy doors! Indifference is crime!
Over thy heart let Christ reign newly risen,
And for thy Masters’ service make the time!
From: Young Woman’s Journal,
v10 n7 July 1899, p. 314.
Kate Thomas, was a prolific poet and playwright who isn’t well known among Church members today, but who gained national recognition for her poem, Hymn of the Pioneer. She was born in 1871 to Richard Kendall and Caroline Stockdale Thomas. Her father was a choreographer in the Salt Lake Theater and later converted the family barn into a professional theater known as the Barnacle. Kate entered the LDS Business College at age 19, and soon began writing poetry published in college publications. She also attended the University of Deseret (now the University of Utah) and wrote for the University Chronicle (forerunner of today’s Daily Utah Chronicle) as well as the Church’s Young Woman’s Journal and the Relief Society Magazine. She moved to New York City in 1901, where she became an outspoken peace activist, anarchist, supporter of the very controversial League of Nations, and practitioner of Yoga. She continued to write for LDS publications during this time, traveled widely to both coasts and to Europe, and never married. Her younger sister, Blanche Kendall Thomas, became a famous New York actress, and her younger brother, Elbert Duncan Thomas, was Utah’s US Senator from 1933-1951, replacing Reed Smoot.