Character not only matters, Lorenzo Snow seems to indicate in the material included in lesson 8 of the Lorenzo Snow manual, it is how we are judged, how the Lord “knows our heart.” This prioritizes, of course, character development, which is, in the end, the focus of this lesson.
While I don’t have a Mormon poem that discusses character development itself, I have found several that do discuss what character traits are important, including this one.
Its author, Richard Alldridge (1815-1896), is known today for his hymns, including “Lord Accept Our True Devotion” and “We’ll Sing All Hail To Jesus’ Name,” both of which are in the hymnal used by the Church today. Born in Northampton, England, he married Ann Blunt before they both joined the Church between 1837 and 1840. Five of his hymns were included in the 1840 Manchester hymnal. By 1857, Richard was called to preside over the Warwickshire Conference in England, and with their two children, Alldridge and his wife emigrated to the U.S. in 1861, eventually settling in Cedar City, Utah.
By Richard Aldridge
- This world has gold and influence,
- With votaries at her shrine,
- Who bow down at the throne of might,
- However stained with crime.
- They’ll grasp the blood-stained hand, if rich,
- As of a friend and brother,
- And spurn the man whom truth receives,
- Whose noble heart and bosom heaves
- In friendship for another.
- It is not gold nor influence
- Reveal man’s native worth,
- Nor high-flown claims of pedigree
- To royal rank or birth;
- But chastity, adorned with love,
- Faith, hope and charity,
- Will give to him a nobler name,
- And wreathe his brow with brighter fame.
- Through all eternity.
- All monuments and tabulars
- Are things of minor worth;
- All glittering ores and sparkling gems
- Arc fragments of the earth;
- And like all things of earthly note,
- Will pass into decay;
- But virtue, truth and honesty
- Are attributes that never die,
- Or ever fade away.
- So with the noble hearted soul,
- Who feels too proud to live
- On others’ toil, or ask a boon
- He would not freely give.
- However lowly his estate,
- A helping hand I’d lend,
- And ask no pomp or pageant might;
- If he’d but battle for the right,
- I’d hail him as a friend.
- Give me a body hale and strong,
- A spirit meek in pride;
- A bosom friend to share my lot,
- In whom I can confide.
- I’d ask no lordling for his gold,
- Or wealth to render aid;
- But Heaven to bless me as I try
- To toil through life, and so enjoy
- The wealth these hands have made.
- The only monument I wish
- To Crown this life’s retreat,
- Is a plain inscription of my name,
- Placed at my head or feet.
- This Epitaph I fain would have
- When life hath closed her span;
- That those who view me as I lay,
- In truth may be constrained to say;
- “There lies an honest man.”
The Contributor, August 1881, p. 345.
While perhaps a bit obvious, this poem makes clear what kind of character we need to pursue, focusing on how we will be perceived once we are gone from this life (although I personally don’t think this is the most effiective way to measure). I particularly like that Alldrige draws a line between the values of “the world” and the values found in the gospel, rejecting things like “gold and influence” and “pedigree” and “rank” for honesty, generosity and lending a helping hand.