As Alma talks with his son Corianton in Alma 40-42, he realizes that Corianton does not understand some basic elements of the Plan of Salvation. From what Alma teaches him, we can surmise that Corianton doesn’t understand that all will be resurrected, that each person will be resurrected according to their words in this life (the righteous to happiness and the wicked to misery), and the roles that justice and mercy play in the great plan of happiness. From the context, it is clear that all these teachings were in response to Corianton’s misdeeds while serving a mission, a similar situation to that described in this week’s poem.
The author of this poem, Lula Greene Richards, was a grandaughter of John P. Greene and grandniece of Brigham Young. Born in Kanesville, Iowa in 1849, she grew up in Salt Lake City and in Smithfield, Utah (near Logan). In 1871, while attending the University of Deseret, she submitted a poem to the Salt Lake Daily Herald in order to earn fare to return home when a family member unexpectedly became ill. The Herald’s owner, impressed with Richards, offered her the position of editor of a new women’s publication, the Women’s Exponent. When she accepted, Richards became, at age 23, the first woman periodical editor in Utah and among Mormons. She resigned in 1877, but later became an editor at the Juvenile Instructor. She continued to write poetry which was published in all of the major Mormon periodicals of her day, up until her death in 1944 at age 95.
The Saddest Death
By Lula Greene Richards
Last autumn, when the frosty winds swept by,
I gazed upon my flowers with moistened eye;
My darling flowers! why should the rude, rough blast,
Touch them so harshly, as it hurried past?
Why should the pure and inoffensive find,
Misusage from the wayward and unkind?
Thus evil wars, and wrong exerts its powers,
‘Gainst good in man, as here among my flowers.
And then, I said, with half repentant breath,
Why weep? For this is not the saddest death!
When last December, in its chill embrace
Had wrap’d the earth, we sought a resting place
For a dear heart, too weary to remain,
Still to be racked by cruel, torturing pain.
How like my flowers, touched by the early frost,
Slept this ‘loved friend, gone home to rest, not lost!
And like a bud that opes for one brief day,
A tiny infant close beside her lay.
And yet, hope on, nor weep, the spirit saith;
For even this, is not the saddest death!
But while I mused, a scene pass’d o’er my view,
Too sorrowful to contemplate, yet true!
A man, in God’s own image formed, and one
Bearing the Priesthood of the Eternal Son,
Thus clothed upon by Heavenly light and power
Yields to the tempter in an evil hour;
Sins and is lost! goes not to rest and peace,
But into torment that will never cease.
Weep now, my soul, unchecked thy tears may fall;
This is the Saddest, Darkest Death of all!
The Contributor, v7 n8, May 1886
While quite melodramatic, like poetry of the romantic period, this poem does make clear Mormon doctrine concerning the plan of salvation and our role in it. Ultimately, without repentance and the grace of Christ, those who die in sin, like the priesthood holder in the poem, are resurrected and restored to their misery, while those who die in righteousness, like the mother and her infant, are resurrected to happiness.