Literary BMGD #20: No one doth know

May 14, 2012 | 2 comments
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The principal event in Mosiah 25-28, which is also beautifully and familiarly described in Alma 36, is Alma the Younger’s miraculous conversion. To capture this, I looked for a literary work in the public domain that expressed either the agony that Alma felt or the ecstasy he obtained after his acceptance of the Lord.

The story behind this poem is somewhat unusual. According to the preceding article in the Millennial Star, Parley P. Pratt visited the author, Sarah Smith, on June 15, 1842, when she gave him an account of a vision she received on December 26, 1835. In the vision she is singing hymns in a beautiful garden when Jesus, along with 24 angels, comes and meets her, leads her past hell, tells her that her soul is saved and takes her to heaven, where she sings hymns with them. She concludes:

“The following is one of the hymns which I sung with Jesus and the angels, as we walked in the garden, and which I have ever since retained in my memory, without the slightest alteration in word or syllable:”

No one doth know

by Sarah Smith (as told to Parley P. Pratt)

No one doth know, no tongue can tell,
Whet I’ve gone through since I’ve lain ill;
But Christ has eased me of my pain,
And sanctified my soul in him.
Weep not for me, ’tis all in vain,
Weep for your sins, and then refrain;
For Christ says come, I’ll ease your pain,
If you will come to me again.
O what a happy day ’twill be,
When Christ shall say come reign with me;
When through the pearly gates of heaven,
We’ll sing glad hymns of joy to heaven.
O what a joyful sound to hear
The Saints and angels singing there,
O then, I’ll join in heart, and sing
With Jesus Christ, my heavenly king.
And when I reach that blissful throne,
And have the robes of glory on:
And the bright crown which Christ has given:
Ready prepared for me in heaven.
Oh then I’ll sing, and praise my Lord,
With hymns of joy in one accord;
And angels whispering, all shall say.
Glory unto our Lord most high.

Millennial Star, August 1842

There is no indication in the accompanying text that Sarah Smith was ill in any way, so one possible way to interpret this is that ill is a metaphor for a sinful state.

Given the backstory, as a hymn this has some odd elements. Would Christ really sing a hymn about himself? In addition, while it starts out as a poem about redemption from the illness, by the third stanza it changes into a poem about the celestial life.

Still, the sentiment and ideas of pain and redemption from sin or illness are there, able accompaniment to Alma 36.

2 Responses to Literary BMGD #20: No one doth know

  1. AndrewJDavis on May 15, 2012 at 4:52 am

    I particularly liked the connection between music and being saved. What does she do when she reaches the kingdom and earns her throne? She sings with joy. Kind of makes me wish we could sing with more joy in church instead of the dirges we often make the hymns into.

  2. Kent Larsen on May 15, 2012 at 6:40 am

    I agree, Andrew, although I think a lot depends on your congregation. Our ward here in New York City does quite well — helped by the half dozen professionals among the members. In contrast, when I visit relatives wards in Utah and Arizona, I’m always dismayed at how few people sing and how little effort is put into it.