One often forgotten feature of the Doctrine and Covenants is the very personal nature of many of its revelations. This week’s Come Follow Me lesson includes several sections of these revelations, including the unusual compilation of revelations found in section 23, which was given serially to Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith, Joseph Smith, Sr., and Joseph Knight, Sr. Two other sections of this group are given to Oliver Cowdery: the first along with Joseph Smith, Jr. and the second in conjunction with John Whitmer. And the final section was given to Emma Smith and is best known as her call to select the hymns for the Church’s first hymnal.
Looking on the Bright Side
Let’s start with section 24, given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in response to some of the earliest persecution any church members experienced. It was far from the last. And persecution is a frequent subject of poetry during this time. The following poem is one of the most optimistic responses. Published in England in the Millennial Star, it wasn’t attributed to anyone in the publication. It may have been written by the Star’s editor at the time, Thomas Ward, who wrote many other poems that found their way into the pages of the Star. Ward was replaced as the editor of the Star in 1846, in the midst of the controversy over a failed company formed to help members immigrate. He passed away from illness in 1847. The positive, optimistic tone of these words may have helped him through difficult times:
There’s a Bow in the Cloud
- Children of earth, who in darkness and sorrow
- Are pining the last of existence away,
- Without e’en a flower for the tomb of to-morrow,
- Or blessings to cheer you while yet it is day,
- Oh, stedfastly turn to yon beautiful heaven,
- Where stars, round the throne of the Deity crowd,
- And learn that, though trial and anguish are given,
- For those who will trust there’s a bow in the cloud.
- The fond and the faithful, in death are they sleeping,
- Do cherished ones leave you, and friendships decay,
- Are the waves of adversity over you sweeping,
- And the dew-drops of hope all dissolving away?
- Too often the heart-breaking pang of affliction
- Subdues e’en the spirit most prone to be proud;
- Yet why should it stifle the rooted conviction—
- Which tells us there still is a bow in the cloud.
- Whatever the evils in life that betide yon,
- The thunder may roll, and the tempest may rave,
- There’s a power in all seasons to govern and guide you,
- A hand to protect, and an ark that can save I
- No matter the country, the clime, or the feature,
- In palace exalted, or slavery bow’d,
- The glory of God, and the joy of the creature,
- Is, when at the worst, there’s a bow in the cloud.
A New Yorker’s Respect for Emma Smith
Section 25, given to Emma Smith, calls her an ‘Elect Lady’ along with a call to write, to expound the scriptures, and to select hymns. This respect for Emma is found in many poems before the martyrdom. The following poem is unusual because it is written by a friendly New Yorker, James Arlington Bennet. Already quite influential when he became acquainted with the church, Bennet was a newspaper publisher and the author of an early and widely-used bookkeeping textbook. Baptized in 1843, he kept the Church at arms length, although he clearly admired it, and never left his Brooklyn home, called ‘Arlington House’, to gather to Nauvoo. He wrote quite a few poems that were published in church periodicals under the pen name “Cincinnatus”, including the following, published in the New York Herald in 1842, before he joined the Church.
An Acrostic on Mrs. Emma Smith
- The rose that blooms on yonder tree,
- Opening to the sun;
- Must ever tempt the busy bee,
- Returning to the task, like thee;
- Since duty must be done.
- Eternal wisdom made a man,
- Made trees and mountains, too,
- Made flowers and fruits and all that can
- Adorn and beautify his plan,
- So perfect and so true.
- Man loved to roam among the flowers,
- In sprangling dew drops seen—
- To cheer his lonely morning hours,
- His heart improve, enlarge his powers,
- God spread the charming scene.
- Unholy thoughts did not arise,
- All come from heaven above;
- Religion—daughter of the skies—
- Descends—with meek and warning eyes,
- In search of one to love.
- Adam adores the angel bright,
- Now standing by his side;
- And cries, My Eve, my love, my light,
- Now take me as thy wedded right,
- God gave thee as my bride.
- Eve saluteshim with a kiss,
- (Long may such love remain,)
- Oh! Adam, dear, take this and this—
- For in the centers all my bliss,
- ‘Tis sure a holy flame.
- How blest were they within that bower,
- Enjoying honey moon!
- Green trees, with fruits, and every hour,
- Regaled with odors from each flower,
- Even in beautious bloom.
- And is it not through woman dear,
- That our religion springs?
- My soul her virtue must revere;
- On her rely, and love her here—
- Religion binds her wings!
- May light most holy from above,
- On woman’s path still shine;
- Never blest, but as a dove,
- Pouring forth her notes of love—
- Redeeming love divine.
- Oh! may thy influence still inspire,
- Prophets and holy men;
- Heaven’s chosen prophets, who with fire,
- Enkindled from above, desire,
- To spread the flame again.
- Arlington House, May 1, 1842.
This is a gem describing eve descending from heaven to Adam, as an angel in the shape of religion.—Ed. Herald.
[The acrostic reads: To Mrs. Emma Smith, Guardian Angel of the Great Mormon Prophet.]
How We Agree
The final section of this week’s lesson, section 26, teaches the principle of common consent in the Church, which has since become a significant feature of the way that our congregations operate. While dissent seems rare, it is not unheard of, and many of us have seen votes against consent at times.
Illustrating this, someone from Provo compared common consent to the strife sometimes seen in democratic elections—something much more common in the 19th Century, but that we have seen increasing in recent years. I’m afraid I don’t know who S. S. J. is, although it should be possible to identify him or her, given the number of people in Provo at that time. I hope that using this poem might yield productive discussions in your sunday school classes.
The United Uplift of the Hand
- By S. S. J., Provo (1867)
- A Gentile election! What strife marks the scene!
- What turbulent questions abound!
- Hate, envy and malice are palpably seen;
- How harsh and discordant the sound!
- Power-loving aspirants here seek to outvie
- In their quota of votes at the pool,
- To succeed they will slander, coerce, yea, will lie,
- Regardless of honor or soul.
- Debased, God forsaken, corrupt is the plan
- By which men their candidates find;’
- If eloquent, wealthy, why, straight is the man,
- No matter how narrow the mind.
- But in Utah’s fair vales we’ve a mode of franchise
- Which is primitive, simple, yet grand.
- Its adoption has oft fill’d the world with surprise,
- The United Uplift of the Hand.
- When the servants of God to our judgments appeal,
- We hail the glad truths with delight;
- Each true hearted Saint the pure influence feels
- That bears its assurance of right.
- With what pure emotion our spirits are fired,
- As they call for our votes from the Stand;
- With a flood of good feeling our hearts are inspired
- As we raise to High Heaven our hand.
- Whom the people of God undertake to sustain,
- ‘Tis an evident sign of success;
- Religious, political, whate’er the aim,
- If but right, their Great Leader will bless.
- Let proud hearted despots in riches presume,
- And tyrants by force hold command.
- This simple maneuver foreshadows their doom,
- The United Uplift of the Hand.
[H. T., Ardis Parshall, in Keepapitchinin]
I recall reading an account of a candidate for bishop being sustained in one of the large wards in SLC during the early 1900s. I think the ward overwhelmingly voted against the sustaining, angering the presiding general authority. Nevertheless, the man was not sustained. We may too hesitant now days foe such action, but in these times, maybe not.