The five sections covered by this week’s Come Follow Me lesson concern several events, mainly in December 1831 and January 1832. Chief among the concerns Church leaders faced was the apostasy of Ezra Booth and his subsequent criticism of the Church. In response, section 71 told Church leaders to preach instead of fight the criticism.
Meanwhile, section 72 covers the calling of the first Bishop, Newel K. Whitney, and the responsibilities of that office, especially the stewardship he held as members tried to live some form of consecration. And then in sections 73 and 75, the elders of the Church are urged to proclaim the gospel, and are told that the Church should take care of their families while they are away.
Responding to Criticism
Today, our society struggles with responding to criticism, even though we have thousands of years of teachings on how to respond, coming from the scriptures, from Christ and, more recently, from Ghandi and from Martin Luther King Jr. Unfortunately, we seem fixated on using violence and force to make others do what we want, often in response to criticism. In addition to the response in section 71, LDS poet John Lyon summarized Christ’s teachings on how to respond to criticism and violence in one of my favorite LDS poems.
A Scottish convert, Lyon might be seen as the poetical sparring partner to Eliza R. Snow, for they wrote poetry to each other, and both produced a substantial body of work. His poetry is often lighter and more approachable, covering subjects like currency and the death of a canary.
Born in 1803, Lyon was largely self-taught, only learning to read at the age of 25. But he nevertheless soon became an active literary participant, working for seven different newspapers in his native Scotland and assisting in the production of several anthologies of the work of other poets. He joined the LDS Church in 1844 and published his first LDS poem, “Man,” in the Millennial Star in 1845. By 1849, British Mission President Orson Spencer lauded his work as “genius” and as providing “unmistakable melody and power.” Lyon served an LDS mission in England, published a volume of poems, The Harp of Zion, and then immigrated to Utah, where he was made a patriarch in 1872. His Utah poems were published posthumously in the volume Songs of a Pioneer (1923).
- When Jesus appeared as the Saviour of men!
- His back to the smiters, for truth gave he then:
- That redemption and mercy to sinners might flow;
- Ah! then all his work was,—a kiss for a blow.
- And onward his followers shared the same fate,
- While the Spirit of truth stemm’d a world of hate:
- Just so was it then, and will ever be so,
- While falsehood can utter,—a kiss for a blow.
- But when he returns in his glory to reign!
- No more shall he suffer the scoffer’s disdain:
- Then the black-hearted hypocrite sinners shall know,
- There’s no longer for them—a kiss for a blow.
- Hark! a voice from on high, saying, “O Lord, how long,”
- And on earth a loud cry of wailing and wrong;
- For the land’s full of robbery, violence, and woe,
- And the causers cry on, give—a kiss for a blow.
- Yet, there is a day when in wrath he’ll devour,
- And thrash them to dust with the rod of his power:
- Who now cry “Lord, Lord!” in tones mournfully low,
- And cheat, lie, and preach, give—a kiss for a blow.
- If slander and falsehood were axioms of bliss,
- And a growl for a scowl, and a kick for a kiss;
- Then Sin, in its pure native colours would glow,
- And we’d laugh when ’twas said, give—a kiss for a blow.
- But alas for the motto—”put evil for good,”
- To say well, and do ill, is now understood;
- With words sweet and oily, and hearts cold as snow,
- The wicked can trump forth—a kiss for a blow.
Section 72 makes clear that the calling of Bishop is over both spiritual and temporal matters, and as the first Bishop Whitney faced difficult problems as the saints attempted to live the law of consecration, giving up their worldly goods for the benefit of others. Later Bishops still faced the difficulties that arise from poverty, and oversaw the distribution of tithing and offerings to provide relief. The following poem tells of these efforts.
Poet Augusta Joyce Crocheron is one of the most highly regarded of Mormon poets, as well as one of the most travelled. Born in 1844, she traveled with her parents on the ship Brooklyn in 1846 from New York City to what is now San Francisco, California by way of Tierra del Fuego, Juan Fernandes Island and Hawaii, a journey of about 20,000 miles. In 1867 her family settled in Utah and three years later she became a plural wife of George W. Crocheron. Crocheron published her poetry in LDS and Utah periodicals and in a book, Wild Flowers of Deseret (1881). She later compiled the book of biographies, Representative Women of Deseret (1884), and a book of children’s stories, The Children’s Book (1890).
The Christmas Tithing
By Augusta Joyce Crocheron (1885)
- ‘Twas near the happy Christmas time,
- And all the country roads,
- Were strung along with teams that drew
- Full, high and plenteous loads;
- The “Mormon” farmers bringing in
- Their tithing for the year;
- O, ’twas a sight to cheer the eyes,
- A pleasant sound to hear.
- With willing hands they brought to Him
- The tenth of what was given,
- And knew His blessing would again
- Unloose the stores of heaven.
- The sacks of wheat and flour by which
- The “temple hands” were fed,
- The sweet dried fruits and honey comb
- And apples, gold and red,
- The barrels filled with syrups pure,
- Butter and creamy cheese,
- Fluttering poultry—what poor men
- Were ever served like these?
- Yet not alone for “temple hands,”
- These tithings all were brought,
- In ev’ry Ward (ignoring creeds)
- The poor and sad are sought,
- Their names are learned and ev’ry one
- On Bishop’s list enrolled,
- For each are gen’rous baskets filled
- And, measured wood and coal;
- And busy men step in and out,
- As the tithing wagons go
- Out through the gate to every Ward
- Their portion to bestow.
- O, once I went to many homes,
- And happy scenes were they,
- There busy worked the wives to get
- All done for Christmas day;
- For romping boys, were newly made
- Full suits of Provo goods,
- For little girls, light wollen plaids,
- And pretty home-made hoods.
- I saw the laborer’s sickly child
- With dainty food was fed,
- As fresh and pure as e’er before
- The epicure was spread.
- No happier driver takes a load,
- Wher’er the things may go,
- Than he who carries to the poor
- On Christmas eve—through snow.
- For well he knows, how eyes that closed
- Expecting naught, shall wake,
- And find a joyous Christmas gift,
- And bless him for its sake.
- The many blessings tithing brings,
- Not you or I can count,
- The little tenth from each one swells
- To rich and large amount.
- O, blessings on the heart that gives
- The duty that it owes,
- And praise His love who made the law,
- That like a river flows.
- Through all our mountains and our vales,
- Relieving first, the poor;
- And writes the giver’s name in lines
- Forever shall endure.
Proclaim the Gospel
Perhaps the most overlooked portion of the sections for this week’s lesson is section 75:23-36, which establishes a duty of the Church to care for the families of missionaries in the field. Today it might seem like these families don’t need support, and it’s certainly not the same today as it was when missionaries were called from the chief breadwinners of families, as was true when section 75 was given. But even today there are some families who need support, and we can’t deny the sadness families feel at being far from their loved ones.
The following poem, written by Margaret Thompson Smoot, addresses that sense of loss. Margaret married to her first husband, Charles Adkinson, before she joined the Church in 1834 and they moved together to Far West, Missouri. Widowed during the middle of the Missouri war, Margaret married Abraham Smoot that same year before the newlyweds moved to Nauvoo. One of the earliest members of the Relief Society in Nauvoo, Margaret served as the president of the 20th Ward Relief Society in Salt Lake City until the Smoots moved to Provo in 1872. There she was president of the Utah Stake Young Ladies’ MIA (predecessor of the Young Women) and later as president of the Utah Stake relief Society until her death in 1884. As far as I can tell, this is the only extant poem she wrote.
Go Forth Ye Herald and Proclaim
- The following lines of poetry were composed by Sister Margaret T. Smoot, on taking leave of Elder A. O. Smoot, her husband. (1842)
- Go forth ye herald and proclaim
- The Gospel of our Lord,
- Hold forth the truth in Jesus’ name—
- Supported by his word
- To all who will obey his word
- His promises are sure,
- That Christ will be with them and stay,
- If to the end endure.
- Since God hath spoken from above,
- And called you to depart,
- May fears nor temptations move
- You from the truth to part.
- The sacrifice to me is great,
- To part with one so kind,
- But God gave thee to me for mate,
- I’ll be to his will resigned.
- I pray the Lord—keep thee from harm,
- And guide thee with thy all,
- And save thee in his mighty arm,
- That thou will never fall.
- Now farewell—kindest of hearts
- To thee I bid farewell a while,
- For Jesus’ sake we got to part,
- And on us, O! let him smile.
- Well, now O! Lord I give to thee,
- The treasure once thou gavest me,
- I ask thee Father, (not in vain),
- To let me have him back again.
- When his mission he will perform
- O! will return him safely home
- And thy name shall have the praise,
- Through out the remnant of my days.
This is wonderful. Much of modern society’s rancor is fostered by an unwillingness to listen to criticism. In fact, the modern view is to not even permit criticism of any kind.