Category: Poetry

Literary Worship: Eve

Two of the most inspiring parts of life to me are seeing new places and learning new things. So it’s no surprise that I’ve long been fascinated with the story of Eve, the woman who lived in Paradise and gave it up to see and experience things she could never have imagined, and learn things that would change her forever. The traditional religious line has been to condemn Eve for her fateful choice and blame her for the evils of our fallen world. But as Mormons, we think differently. As Orson F. Whitney described it, the Fall was a fall forward as well as a fall downward. It was a difficult choice, but a good one, and to Eve we owe the gift of our own ability to discern and choose between good and evil. Imagine her in Paradise, surrounded by every beautiful and needful thing, happy and contented in her perfect life. And yet wanting more. I think I’ve felt a similar sensation walking into the streets of a new city in a foreign land, or when the wind changes in autumn, or standing on the rim of the endless ocean–the feeling that there is something more, and the urge to know it, to experience it, to become it. In this poem, I tried to capture that moment of decision, and the sudden thrill of stepping into the unknown with only her inner voice to tell her it was…

Literary Worship: The Lost Sheep

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Middle East, where in many places shepherds still live with their sheep, sleeping with them at night and following them around all day to keep them out of trouble. It’s a common enough sight to see a weather-beaten man walking among a dozen or more sheep and goats as they range through wadis and small valleys, nibbling at the sparse vegetation and scampering from hilltop to hilltop. The whole scenario always strikes me as timeless and exotic; it’s something I never imagined in my American world of fences and orderly pastures. Often, the sheep block the road completely as they cross it, and one learns to simply wait until they are finished crossing, participating for a moment in the eternal patience of the shepherd. It is hard for me to picture what it would be like to spend all day every day following sheep around. Exhausting, I think. And mind-numbing. How could you dedicate your whole life to that? Watching those shepherds has given me a new appreciation for the Biblical Good Shepherd. From the way I’ve seen those sheep behave, I figure that the real-life lost lamb story must be repeated on a fairly regular basis. It’s a story that I never really related to well. I never went through a teenage rebellious stage. I didn’t stay out late, I didn’t try any illicit substances, and I certainly didn’t ever…

Literary Worship: Sacrament Prayers

Sometimes I have a hard time concentrating during the Sacrament. Theoretically, it shouldn’t be difficult. My squirmy, distracting babies and toddlers have grown up; in fact, I play the organ, so my husband sits with the children on Sundays. I sit on the stand by myself, and try to keep my thoughts where they belong–focused on the sacred ordinance in which I am participating. Sometimes it’s difficult. Especially lately. I’ve been going though something of a spiritual desert. The feeling of comfort and safety and familiarity that I’ve long associated with church has been partially converted into doubts and questions and discomfort. I keep coming, because the Church is my spiritual home, and I still believe, and I have hope that somewhere in the desert there is an elusive oasis of peace. But the static of problematic gender roles, historical discrepancies, and damaging cultural practices sometimes hums so loudly in my ears that I have to strain to hear the gentle, soothing message of grace, redemption and spiritual community. I don’t always want to listen to my own thoughts as the bread and water come my way, and I’m tired of hearing myself pray in my head. I long for something to quiet the chatter of my mind–something that transcends the desperately attempted reverence of my thoughts. As I was listening to the Sacrament prayers one week–prayers that are blissfully, restfully identical every time–I remembered that I’d written my own…

A Mother Here – New Art and Poetry Contest

A Mother Here

There have been LDS art contests in the past, either sponsored by LDS church institutions or by private organizations, but none have yet focused on Heavenly Mother as their theme. That changed this month with the newly announced A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest. Aiming to stimulate the visual and poetic expression of Heavenly Mother, as well as highlight the nascent divinity that resides in women as well as men, monetary prizes in excess of $2200 will be awarded to the best entries. The contest accepts two-dimensional art submissions to be considered in its visual arts awards, and all forms of poetry for the poetry awards. The contest will accept submissions until March 4, 2014, after which award-winning entries will be chosen by prestigious judges Susan Elizabeth Howe (esteemed poet, playwright, and professor) and Herman Du Toit (former head of the Durban Art School and former head of museum research at BYU’s Museum of Art). Winning entries will be announced on May 11, 2014 (Mother’s Day) and they, with other merit-worthy entries, will be collected in an online gallery and a printed booklet for all to enjoy. With the kick off of the contest’s website, amotherhere.com, an impressive collection of historical Mormon literature and music addressing Heavenly Mother has been hosted online. It contains works from early Mormon history, beginning with the work of William W. Phelps, up until the present. In addition, the site provides some historical analysis of the portrayals of Heavenly Mother…

Literary DCGD #2: Praise ye the Lord

The second Doctrine and Covenants lesson makes the point that this modern scripture talks and teaches of Christ. That focus was easy to find in many Mormon poems and hymns, but the following poem has the advantage of talking about the Lord for what He has done for the Latter-day Church. Eliza R. Snow probably needs no introduction for most members, as her poetry still appears frequently in our hymnals. And in this poem her combination of praise for the Lord with references to the latter-day work makes this a good match for the lesson.

Literary Lorenzo Snow #1: Provo Sunday School

I love the first lesson in the Lorenzo Snow manual. It seems like Snow’s love of learning is second to none among latter-day Prophets. And his statements about learning are wonderful: “Though we may now neglect to improve our time, to brighten up our intellectual faculties, we shall be obliged to improve them sometime. We have got so much ground to walk over, and if we fail to travel to-day, we shall have so much more to travel to-morrow.”