Literary DCGD #1: On the Latter-day Dispensation

December 30, 2012 | 2 comments
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JamesHHartThe initial lesson in the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History course of study points out that the revelations found in the text are meant for our time and cover our dispensation, while the history presented is the history of our people, as opposed to those who lived aeons ago. This course should, therefore, be relevant to us today in a way that the other Gospel Doctrine courses can’t hope to accomplish.

The poem below discusses not only a few of the major events that opened our dispensation, but also follows the prediction often made; that our dispensation has a great destiny leading to the coming of our Lord.

The author of this poem, James H. Hart (1825-1906) was a prominent member of what might be called the second generation of Mormonism, and among the first generation of immigrants from outside the U.S. Born in Birmingham, England, Hart joined the Church there in 1847. He served several short missions in the British Isles in the ensuing years before serving a mission to France in the early 1850s. In 1855 he immigrated to the U.S., and served as President of the short-lived original St. Louis Stake until 1857, while managing the Church’s periodical there, the St. Louis Luminary. He lived in Salt Lake from 1857 to 1864, when he moved to Bloomington, Idaho (Bear Lake County), becoming first the postmaster, then a county probate Judge in 1870. He also represented the area in the Idaho State Legislature for six years. For most of the 1880s Hart also served as the Church’s immigration agent in New York City, assisting tens of thousands of immigrants through U.S. immigration procedures and on their way to Utah. Hart was also a frequent contributor of poetry and other material to the Church magazines.

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On the Latter-day Dispensation

by James H. Hart

When Zion’s long appointed time, foretold in sacred pages,
Had come, by faith and promise, as looked for through the ages,
Then came the Eternal Father, in plenitude of power,
And revealed Himself in person, in this the eleventh hour.
His royal Son was present on that eventful day,
And pointing, said, “Behold my Son, hear Him and Him obey.”
Thus spake the great Jehovah, as man would speak to man,
And thus the Church of Jesus Christ in latter-days began.
Not only these great Potentates of everlasting fame,
But Moses and Elijah and other Prophets came.
Thus blending frail humanity, with all the name implies,
With Rulers of the Universe, and Legates of the skies.
Three witnesses were chosen, and unto them was given
To see the great Moroni, a messenger from heaven,
Who showed them the engravings, and plates of golden hue,
And bade them handle, and to bear a record, strange, but true.
As they were so directed, they saw, and felt, and knew,
The records and the messenger were genuine and true.
Nor did they ever waver midst all the scenes of strife,
But testified persistently throughout their checkered life.
The honored Seer was but a boy-had seen but fourteen years-
To whom the future was portrayed through both the hemispheres;
‘Twas shown that ‘mongst the nations he would form a brotherhood,
His name be known in every land for evil and for good.
They told him not to fraternize with any sect or creed,
That all were vague and spurious, and led by selfish greed;
They had neither Faith nor Priesthood, nor Gospel that could save
Themselves and those that slumber in dark and silent grave.
They gave the tyro keys and powers to formulate the scheme
Devised to found a Kingdom and every soul redeem;
E’en every son of Adam who would subjugate his will,
In this or in the spirit world, and righteous laws fulfil.
The record he translated by gift, and power, and grace
Of God, th’ Eternal Father of all the human race.
And those who will may read and learn the history sublime
Of nations on this continent, down from remotest time.
He organized the Church of Christ as ’twas in days of yore,
Its officers and rites complete, no fewer, and no more;
Its faith and gifts and miracles were thus restored again,
And with the Church of latter days forever will remain.
He taught mankind to worship the true and living God,
Who in the form of perfect man the earth again has trod.
He taught the only Gospel the Gods have ever given,
To elevate the sons of men from earth to reign in heaven.
Among our great reformers he stands without a peer,
Combining all the qualities of Prophet, Priest and Seer;
And in the role of statesman prescribed a plan to save
Thousands who now lie mouldering in fratricidal grave.
But every word and prophecy were backed with vital power,
His work has been triumphant in every trying hour;
With this eternal Priesthood there’s no such thing as fail,
For, guided by Omnipotence, they must and will prevail.
They grapple with emergencies and breast the surging wave,
And some o’er death have triumphed, and rest in silent grave;
They’re uncompromising heroes, ‘mid scenes of Gentile strife,
And fight for truth and liberty in jeopardy of life.
No greater revolution on earth was e’er begun;
More splendid victories for truth the Prophets never won.
They’ve gathered ransomed legions from far and distant lands,
Dispelled the fogs of ages, and broke the tyrant bands.
And this is but commencement, a beginning of the plan,
Projected in eternity before the world began,
To found a righteous Kingdom, whose power will never end,
Where every man will meet in peace a brother and a friend.

The Contributor 4 N10, July 1883

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Many lines in this poem stuck out to me for what they say. I like Hart’s claim about the visits from heaven to Joseph Smith:

Thus blending frail humanity, with all the name implies,
With Rulers of the Universe, and Legates of the skies.

 Indeed, one of the fascinating facets of Mormonism is its blending of the divine with the mortal, the shrinking of the distance between heaven and earth.

Another insightful line comes in his description of the three witnesses:

Nor did they ever waver midst all the scenes of strife,
But testified persistently throughout their checkered life.

Indeed, their lives were “checkered” and filled with “strife!”

Hart was not without admiration of those of the first generation, revering them with the lines:

They grapple with emergencies and breast the surging wave,
And some o’er death have triumphed, and rest in silent grave;
They’re uncompromising heroes, ‘mid scenes of Gentile strife,
And fight for truth and liberty in jeopardy of life.

Indeed, he presents an admiration that is common in many current descriptions of the “pioneers,” those who displayed “faith in every footstep.” I can easily imagine this applied to the often hallowed Willie and Martin handcart companies.

I should probably point out that in the first line of the eighth stanza, “They gave the tyro keys and powers…” the word “tyro” is not an error, but is a rarely used word meaning novice or beginner.

But perhaps the most relevant lines in the poem are these:

He taught the only Gospel the Gods have ever given,
To elevate the sons of men from earth to reign in heaven.

Indeed, teaching this is, I think, the point of these lessons.

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2 Responses to Literary DCGD #1: On the Latter-day Dispensation

  1. Paul Roberts on December 30, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Hart interviewed David Whitmer in Missouri in August 1883 and obtained a daguerreotype of Oliver Cowdery from Whitmer. He wrote a poem entitled “Interview With David Whitmer” which was published in the Contributor in October 1883. See “Mormon in Motion,” Edward Hart (1978).

  2. Paul Roberts on December 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    I may have conflated the two events. He interviewed Whitmer and obtained the daguerreotype, but I don’t think he obtained the daguerreotype from Whitmer,

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