The oft-described poverty and pride cycle in the Book of Mormon means that the peoples in Zarahemla and elsewhere repeatedly have to repent, generally in response to preaching or adversity. The first few chapters of Alma are no exception. In chapters 5-7, Alma preaches repentance, urging them to experience a “mighty change” of heart, and many Church members respond, reforming their lives.
The following poem, I think, describes a kind of change of heart that we must seek. While perhaps not the “mightly change” or heart that Alma talks of — the change that leads from a life of sin to baptism and repentance, this is still a change of heart that is very relevant to all of us. Even those who have been baptized and have undergone the “mighty change” that Alma describes can sometimes fall into the kind of problem that Lamont describes below.
I’ve found it somewhat difficult to find any biographical information on Ruby Lamont. She was a resident of Richfield, Utah and her poetry appeared on occasion in Utah and Mormon periodicals. She was one of the poets included in the book of poetry prepared as part of Utah’s entry into the Chicago World’s Fair. However, in spite of the fact that her poetry appeared in many Mormon publications, one source I found indicated that she was catholic (perhaps supported by the fact that one of her poems is titled Sonnets on the Virgin Mary).
Still, this poem works just as well for Mormons, and appeared in a Mormon publication:
The Christian’s Temptation and Triumph
by Ruby Lamont
I do not love her for she is my foe;
Her very look is evil; in her heart
She curses and would gladly do me wrong;
Her lips speak evil falsely; every friend
That should be mine she poisons with her tongue
That they may hate and shun me through her lies.
I cannot love her; for my constant good
She gives me evil; for my patience sneers,
For every act of love, for each kind thought,
She hurls but insult and the bolt of hate.
My heart is not of steel; I loved her once
And strove to bear her cross; her good was mine;
Her woes were mind and sank into my heart;
For I remember One who sweetly said:
“My little ones, see that ye each love each
And each bear other’s burdens.” For the love
Of Him I loved her, too, that thus I might
Become His child and by good deeds aspire
To dwell among the mansions of His love.
And this is my reward. Her evil eye,
Of envy born, with base ingratitude,
Would blast my life, it ’twere within her reach.
And that it is not, that she is so weak,
So impotent to do me harm is not
Her fault. And so I say, no more of pearls
Have I for trampling under foot of swine,
To be thus turned upon and rend; and where
I have done good I now will seek revenge,
Obeying thus a natural human law.
But hush, my soul! I hear a deep, still voice—
In pleading tones it bids my passion cease
And brings to my remembrance words of peace
So long forgot. To Him that overcomes,
And through dark tribulation shines supreme
Amid more worldly souls! Ah, joy! ’tis true!
‘Twas for His sake and in His sacred name!
‘Twas not for love of her but love of Him
That I would serve! Was I her servant? Nay!
Thank heaven it was not He, my Savior dear,
Who sank the iron in my heart and laughed!
His words, “Forgive them, Father!” still be mine!
So shall my soul ascend to heights so pure
No earthly hate can reach, no gall so vile
Can ever dim the brightness of my robe,
Or singe with blackness e’en a single hair.
Thank God, I am not weary in His work;
And though a waiting servant, I can wait
With heart as light as morning, with no guide
To weigh ‘gainst her whom once I called my friend
And said, but now, I could not love again!
Ah, yes, but that I can! It was the world,
With all its fall’n idolatry and sin,
That He so loved! I am his child again!
His rain and sun, that fall on all alike,
Have fallen on my heart, and I can feel
That still I love her; that no harm can come
To her from this repentant heart; that still
My prayers can rise to utmost tenderness;
Forgive her, Father, still forgive and bless!
So shall my vengance be complete and pure
The while I dwell secure from darts of hate,
My soul triumphant on its throne of peace.
The Juvenile Instructor, v30 n24,
15 December 1895, pg. 795.
What I like most about this poem is how it follows the thought process — showing us something of what goes on in our own head. Its also the kind of view that is very common, something that all of us can fall into and perhaps not even realize that we need to repent of. How easy is it to see ourselves as the victim of someone else, and then act wrong, develop a hate and act discourteously, and still think that we are in the right to do so.
Regardless of which sect you belong to, that message is an important one and clearly a part of being Christian.
[If anyone has additional biographical information on Ruby Lamont, please either post it in the comments or pass it on to me. I'd love to know more.]