The restoration of priesthood keys is a vital part of LDS teachings, something that is emphasized repeatedly in lesson manuals, such as chapter 11 in the current Joseph Fielding Smith manual. It is also one of the most emphasized elements of the lessons taught by LDS missionaries. So it is no surprise to find the restoration of priesthood keys as a central element in the following poem, composed by a young LDS missionary in 1922.
Given how much we talk about Joseph Smith in lessons such as lesson 7 of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith manual used in Priesthood and Relief Society meetings, you might think I would run out of poetry about him. That isn’t likely to happen. Smith is also a common subject of Mormon poetry — but nowhere near as common a subject as Christ. As the prophet who introduced the current dispensation, restoring the gospel to the earth, according to what we teach, Joseph Smith’s role and the restoration he initiated and shepherded is vital to the world today, a foundational element of both Mormon theology and culture. The following poem makes the connection between this event and Mormon culture and history.
Perhaps the most common theme in early Mormon poetry is the restoration. But while the Book of Mormon itself prophesies about the restoration (as it does in the 10th Book of Mormon lesson), it wasn’t until this hymn was published in 1833 that Mormon poetry addressed the subject. Of course, soon after the Restoration became a very common theme in Mormon poetry from many authors. William Wines Phelps, the author of this hymn was also one of the first and most prolific of Mormon poets, although unlike his contemporaries Parley P. Pratt, Eliza R. Snow and John Lyon, Phelps never published a volume of his own poetry. He is also unique because he is likely the author of the only poem, outside of scripture, attributed to Joseph Smith (The Vision, a paraphrase of D&C 76). If I recall correctly, he is still the Mormon author with the most hymns in the current hymnal.
From a literary point of view the second part of Nephi’s vision, his vision of the future, is very like an epic. It covers a broad sweep of human history and mentions the actions of a series of heroes and heroic groups who have an impact on the fate of humanity. Unfortunately, the broad nature of this epic vision is difficult to cover in a short form, like a blog post or something you might share in a Gospel Doctrine lesson.
This talk was given early on in Elder Maxwell’s time as an Apostle and I think it is an excellent example of what I liked about him. “Granted, there is not full correlation among the four Gospels about the events and participants at the empty garden tomb. Yet the important thing is that the tomb was empty, because Jesus had been resurrected! Essence, not tactical detail!”