Literary BMGD #34: On Home

August 20, 2012 | 6 comments
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Chapters 6 to 12 of Helaman highlight what Mormons have come to call the “pride cycle” — the cycle from righteousness and prosperity to pride and wickedness to suffering and to humility and repentance, leading back to righteousness and prosperity. Its a fascinating concept, one that I’m afraid we use too often to describe the world and others, and too little to refer to ourselves. I mean, when was the last time you asked yourself where you were in the “pride cycle?”

To explore the cycle a little, I discovered the following poem by E. Henry Webb, which contrasts one part of the pride cycle (Babel’s pride) with the gathering of the Saints.

By the time this poem was written, Webb was a local leader in his native England. Born in Gloucestershire in 1808, he was one of the earliest English converts, joining in March 1840. He serves as a local missionary in his home area and held leadership positions in the local conferences (equivalent to today’s districts). A little more than a year after this poem was published he immigrated to Utah and then went on to California, aligning himself with the RLDS Church in 1861. He was active in that movement in Sacramento and San Francisco until his death in 1883.

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On Home

by E. H. Webb

Can this be home, where day by day,
Oppress’d, I wear the hours away?
Can this be home, where lonely night.
Prepares me for the toils of light?
Does ought this land possess, endear,
Or fond remembrance chain me here?
Midst all thy scenes I lonely sigh;
Brethren, you can answer why,
The home of Saints is home to me;
And home without them cannot be.
I find no home in Babel’s pride,
With wealth so great, and fame so wide,
With scarlet beast, and whore’s attire,
Which kings and courtiers so admire;
Her daughters, who with harlot grace,
Abound so much in every place,
Have lost the charm they had on me,
With saints alone I wish to be;
The joy, the bliss, their presence give,
Is home, in which my heart can live.
Will God observe my anxious sigh,
And answer prayer bye-and-bye?
Will he to me this blessing give,
The home in which I long to live?
Zion is where I sigh to be,
The home of Saints is home to me.
There shall the past and future meet,
Angels shall Saints as brethren greet,
God shall blessings on us shower,
And render blissful every hour;
Yea, resting, spread his guardian shade,
To bless the home that Saints have made.
Zion indeed a home will be,
With plenty, holy, glorious, free.

Millennial Star, 15 January 1847, p. 30-31

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Webb sees England as being in the pride and wickedness portion of the cycle, and describes his homeland as full of Babel’s pride, and With wealth so great, and fame so wide. After painting England in such terms, Webb goes on to present a contrasting picture of life in zion, the kind of description that might come from the righteousness and prosperity part of the cycle. He suggests that in zion “Angels shall Saints as brethren greet,” and that “God shall blessings on us shower.”

Given these high expectations and Webb’s subsequent move to California, perhaps the difficult conditions in Utah didn’t meet his expectations for righteousness and prosperity. I wonder if dashed expectations like that might also be part of the “pride cycle?”

6 Responses to Literary BMGD #34: On Home

  1. themormonbrit on August 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Well, aside from being a little put out at hearing my native country referred to as being full of Babel’s pride, I thought this poem was quite insightful, although the longing for an idealised ‘Zion’ is the subject of so very many early Mormon poems. I do love these kinds of poems, however. I often wonder how many foreign immigrants were unpleasantly surprised by the failure of Deseret to match up to their aspirations for the establishment of Zion – which is a goal that remains close to my heart, despite the many failed attempts to create it in the past.

  2. christine on August 20, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    GOd will not give us an anxiety free home until we are in heaven

  3. Kent Larsen on August 21, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Actually, themormonbrit, I’m fairly sure that this kind of disappointment has been documented.

  4. Aaron on August 21, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Indeed, some of this disappointment has been documented, although I’m not sure it has been quantified. But more than a few pioneers en route west noted wagons heading in the other direction. My great-great grandfather was rather disappointed in Nauvoo when he first arrived. I’m not sure if Zion, wherever it was in the 1800s, ever measured up to the hype. I guess we should just be thankful that things moved along in spite of some peoples’ disappointment.

  5. Kent Larsen on August 21, 2012 at 9:36 am

    FWIW, I’m not sure that it is all that different today. Many converts from the periphery idolize Utah now, and I’m not sure that all of them find it “Zion” when they come to visit or immigrate there.

  6. themormonbrit on August 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I know for a fact that a lot of people outside of the mormon corridor do idolise utah, and I know of many stories of people who have been disappointed when visiting utah on holiday because it wasn’t quite the idyllic paradise they expected. I had one old lady tell me, with horror in both her voice and expression, that she had seen some utah mormons drinking coke after just coming out of the temple! Horror of horrors!

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