Literary BMGD #47: While of these emblems we partake

November 26, 2012 | no comments
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Including the sacrament prayers in Moroni 4, and indeed all the instructions in Moroni 2 through 6, seem almost like an afterthought to the Book of Mormon—kind of like “Oh, yeah, you’ll need to know this stuff too.” And these instructions only make sense if they are written for us today, for Moroni himself is apparently the only surviving follower of Christ at his time and place. Evidently the peoples of the Book of Mormon had this information recorded elsewhere and Mormon didn’t include it where it was given (presumably at the time of Christ’s visit). Of course, the basic ideas and symbolism in the ordinance is described elsewhere in the Book of Mormon and the rest of our scriptures, and there it is clear how central the ordinance and its symbolism is to the gospel.

Mormon literature hasn’t neglected this symbolism or the ordinance itself, addressing it, among other places, in poetry. And many of these poems are intimately familiar to most Latter-day Saints, because we sing at least one each Sunday as the sacrament hymn. You might say that the sacrament hymn is the only obligatory poetic recitation in Mormonism. If nothing else, a sacrament meeting has a sacrament hymn and the administration of the sacrament itself.

So, to go with this Gospel Doctrine lesson, I’ve selected a familiar LDS Hymn, usually known as “While of these emblems we partake,” because the published version of the hymn that I found has an additional verse that is not in the current hymnal.

The author of the hymn, John Nicholson (1839-1909) was an editor at the Deseret News. He seems served an LDS mission to England in the late 1870s, returning in 1880. He also wrote the hymns Come, Follow Me and The Lord is My Light and was the author of several books and pamphlets. He later served as the recorder in the Salt Lake Temple and gave a number of discourses found in the Journal of Discourses.

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Sacramental Hymn

by John Nicholson

While of these emblems we partake,
In Jesus’ name and for His sake,
Let us remember, and be sure
Our hearts and hands are clean and pure.
For us the blood of Christ was shed,
For us on Calvary’s cross He bled,
And thus dispelled to awful gloom,
That else were this creation’s doom,
Man broke the law of His estate,
And Jesus came to expiate,
Atone and rescue fallen man,
According to Jehovah’s plan.
The law was broken, Jesus died
That justice might be satisfied,
That man might not remain the slave
Of death, of hell, or of the grave,
But rise triumphant from the tomb,
And in eternal splendor bloom;
Freed from the power of death and pain,
With Christ, the Lord, to rule and reign.

Juvenile Instructor v15 n11, June 1880

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The verse that is not in the current hymnal is the 3rd above, Man broke the law of His estate… Why that verse was eliminated from the hymn as we have it now I do not know. While I wouldn’t consider it the strongest verse in the hymn, there is certaily nothing wrong with it doctrinally as far as I can see. And, the verse plays a needed role, placing the atonement in the plan of salvation, which none of the other verses do.

Perhaps it was just enough of an outlier that some editor along the way decided it could be left out without consequence. After all, it seems like Mormon custom is that hymns have no more than four verses, so anything after the fourth verse is either eliminated from the hymnal or consigned to be printed after the musical staffs. Had the missing third verse been included, we wouldn’t sing the final verse, But rise triumphant from the tomb…, whose sentiment completes the ideas in the poem.

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