Literary Lorenzo Snow #1: Provo Sunday School

January 6, 2013 | 4 comments
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HenryMaibenI love the first lesson in the Lorenzo Snow manual. It seems like Snow’s love of learning is second to none among latter-day Prophets. And his statements about learning are wonderful:

“Though we may now neglect to improve our time, to brighten up our intellectual faculties, we shall be obliged to improve them sometime. We have got so much ground to walk over, and if we fail to travel to-day, we shall have so much more to travel to-morrow.”

While learning is certainly not limited to what happens in a school, the following poem captures a part of what Lorenzo Snow is talking about. Its author, Henry Maiben (1819-1883) was an English convert of 1850 who emigrated to Utah in 1853. In Salt Lake Maiben was known as a painter, artist and decorator and was active in the theater there, appearing in the Salt Lake Theater’s opening performance in 1862. Sometime between 1868 and 1870, Maiben moved his family to Provo where he was part owner in a drug store called Pyne and Maiben Drug Company. He was later owner of Maiben Glass and Paint, and was hired to paint the steeple in the original Provo Tabernacle. By the early 1880s he moved back to Salt Lake, where he died unexpectedly in 1883.

In addition to several poems that appeared in Church magazines, Maiben wrote two hymns that were included in LDS hymnals; As children of Zion our voices we’ll raise, and Come, Mormons, All attention pay, but neither has appeared in a hymnal since before 1951.

Given the subject of the following song, it seems likely that Maiben was involved with the Sunday School in Provo, perhaps as its superintendent.

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Provo Sunday School

by Henry Maiben

Our Sunday School in Provo, is a splendid place for youth,
Likewise for those of riper years this might be said, forsooth,
For there we’re taught the Gospel, which embraces every truth;
Then come and join our Sunday School in Provo.
Chorus:
Then come! oh come! respond to this our call,
Then come! oh, come! our school is free to all,
No matter what your age or sex, or whether short or tall,
Oh! come and join our Sunday School in Provo.
We’ve classes for beginners, in their first attempt to read,
Then as the pupils, step by step, in learning’s path proceed
We’ve teachers Who are competent in every grade to lead;
Then come and join our Sunday School in Provo.
Chorus
The Bible, Book of Mormon, and good books of every kind
Wherein are found instructions lit to elevate the mind,
Are read, and then commented on, by those who feel inclined
To come and join our Sunday School in Provo.
Chorus
The principles of language and its grammar we are taught,
Including composition, or connecting word with thought,
That we may know how to express our feelings as we ought,
Then come and join our Sunday School in Provo.
Chorus
We sing the songs of Zion too, and praise the living God,
For He sustains the Priesthood, and controls the “Iron Rod.”
And by His Spirit we discern the path that should be trod,
Then come and join our Sunday School in Provo.
Chorus

Juvenile Instructor, v6 n21, 14 October 1871, p. 168

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Maiben’s ideas do fit with Lorenzo Snow’s teachings. He portrays personal progression when he says “We’ve classes for beginners, in their first attempt to read, / Then as the pupils, step by step, in learning’s path proceed.” He also points out the importance of language, saying:

The principles of language and its grammar we are taught,
Including composition, or connecting word with thought,
That we may know how to express our feelings as we ought,

This point is, I think, not made enough. Where at Mormon culture provides some opportunity for members to speak in public and “express our feelings as we ought,” somehow members aren’t normally very good at it. Opportunities are spread so think that only leaders get enough practice to get comfortable.

But Maiben’s final stanza is the most on message for this lesson, echoing in some ways what Snow says (often years after Maiben said them):

We sing the songs of Zion too, and praise the living God,
For He sustains the Priesthood, and controls the “Iron Rod.”
And by His Spirit we discern the path that should be trod,

Indeed, His Spirit is the necessary addition to learning for us to “discern the path that should be trod,” which seems to me a somewhat hard to find quality today, when it has become so easy to find reasons to doubt.

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4 Responses to Literary Lorenzo Snow #1: Provo Sunday School

  1. Amy T on January 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Wonderful! Henry Maiben was quite a character. He’s been discussed over at Keepapitchinin:

    http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2010/04/06/guest-post-april-6th-at-sea/

    I’m wondering if this poem about the Provo Sunday School shows the influence of British musical theater, with that rhyming structure.

  2. Kent Larsen on January 7, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Given Maiben’s involvement in the theater and music, I don’t doubt it, Amy.

  3. Mark Peterson on January 7, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. Henry seems to have been a prolific songwriter. Along with some of the songs mentioned above, I ran across another that he wrote while searching for more information on Henry Maiben.

    http://kindredspiritpeterson.blogspot.com/2012/09/henry-maiben-song.html

  4. Cathy Ambrose on July 14, 2013 at 12:51 am

    Henry Maiben is my great-great grandpa. I have a collection of clippings and play bills on my board on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/schlumpy/roots-henry-maiben/). I remember my mother telling me that he used to paint the main steeple on the Provo Tabernacle, the one that will be restored on the new Provo City Center Temple. The family joke is that they had to tear it down when he retired from painting because no one else was crazy enough to get up there and do the job (although we all know the real reason was it’s structural unsoundness).

    Thanks for honoring him so kindly.

    Cathy Ambrose