Can you help me a bit more with this topic? . . . Since LDS funeral sermons were given exclusively by men before 1900, they make an interesting comparison with LDS womenâ€™s death poetry of the same time period. When he studied LDS funeral sermons, Davis Bitton researched what he called â€œthe gospel of comfort.â€ While much is the same (ie, finding healing by looking forward in time, imagining the spirit world, and speaking of being â€œrelieved from sufferingâ€), there are some telling differences:
â€¢ Many (even most) female poets did not depict the spirit as going to a â€œspirit worldâ€ or â€œparadiseâ€ before being resurrected. Instead they spoke of a time period of quite literal â€œrestâ€ or â€œsleepâ€ that happens before the judgment bar of God. For example, Emily Hill Woodmansee, survivor of the Willie Handcart company, describes it as â€œblest oblivion.â€ Why would pioneer women (willfully?) overlook the doctrine of the spirit world in favor of â€œblest oblivionâ€?
â€¢ While both male sermon givers and female poets found comfort in the doctrine of eternal relationships, nineteenth-century LDS women found disproportionate comfort in female-and-female and mother-and-child relationships. Out of 67 Exponent death poems during 1872-1882, only eleven are clearly about the deaths of men. Five of those pay homage to high-ranking leaders and four are tributes to for relativesâ€”two for grandfathers, one for a father, and one for a brother. Two poems may be about husbands, but both are so vague that they may be about someone else entirely. While we know this was the time period of â€œseparate spheresâ€ as well as the era of polygamy, I was stunned at the dearth of eternal husbands. Why would these women poets neglect to immortalize/memorialize their husbands? Or, conversely, why did they disproportionately write about children and friends?
â€¢ A few women seem so devastated by the loss of children that they claim the mother-child bond is the source of eternal â€œsealedâ€ relationships (rather than priesthood ordinances). Lu Dalton argues that â€œmother-love is strong / and deep laid as the everlasting hills.â€ In another poem two years later, Dalton asserts that â€œan angel of Godâ€™s perfect day / Is mine, by the passion of motherhood won, / By love and fond memory bound.â€ Mrs. E. B. Browning concurs:
â€œ . . . I appeal
To all who bear babesâ€”in the hour
When the veil of the body we feel
Rent round usâ€”while torments reveal
The motherhoodâ€™s advent in power,
And the babe cries!â€”has each of us known
By apocalypse / . . . the child is our own,
Life of life, love of love, moan of moan,
Through all changes, all times, everywhere.â€
Sorry to drag everyone along on my depressing tangent into death poetry, but I would love to hear speculation on why very faithful nineteenth-century LDS women would write poems that altered doctrine, such as the doctrine of the spirit world and the sealing power of the priesthood, andâ€”oftenâ€”overlook their eternal husbands. Any ideas?