Literary Lorenzo Snow #2: For Baptism

January 15, 2013 | 6 comments
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[I am traveling for the 4th annual Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference -- please excuse the delay in posting this.]

From the beginning of Mormonism, Baptism has been a central focus of our preaching. Baptism must be done in the correct manner and by the correct authority, and should be followed by the gift of the Holy Ghost. And this is the focus of the second lesson in the Lorenzo Snow manual used in Priesthood and Relief Society.

Of course, our baptisms have always been accompanied by hymns, and the following hymn appeared in Emma Smith’s first hymnal in 1835 and in subsequent hymnals through 1841, but disappeared thereafter. It was likely sung at baptisms during the first decade of Mormonism (perhaps even the baptism of Lorenzo Snow).

Who wrote this poem is not known. None of the early hymnals indicate an author nor does the Evening and Morning Star. But this hymn also doesn’t turn up in the collections of any other denomination or religious body, so its author could have been Mormon.

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For Baptism

anonymous

Come, ye children of the kingdom,
Sing with me for joy to day;
Gather round, as Christ’s disciples,
Kneel with grateful hearts and pray.
There’s a line contain’d in Matthew
What the Savior said to John1,
And the sacred words from heaven;
This is my beloved Son.
As ’twas said to Nicodemus,
So I must be born again;
‘Tis by water and the Spirit
I the promise may obtain.
So I will obey the Savior,
Keep his law and do his will,
That I may enjoy forever,
Happiness on Zion’s hill.

Evening and Morning Star, April 1833

 

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As poetry this is quite simple and straightforward. Even doctrinally, the poem focuses on baptism to the exclusion of any other doctrines. The message is clear: baptism is a commandment, so be baptized.

Of course, today much more is said about baptism, as anyone who has thought about what should be said in a baptismal talk knows. We describe the symbolism of the ordinance, we talk about the atonement and baptism’s role in our salvation, and we talk about much more. Perhaps the fact that this hymn doesn’t say much more  is why it was dropped from the hymnal.

Still, I suppose there is something to be said for this simple approach. We have been told to be baptized. So we should do so. If you believe in this commandment and those who have the authority to baptize, its really simple enough, isn’t it?

Show 1 footnote

  1. Matthew 3:15

6 Responses to Literary Lorenzo Snow #2: For Baptism

  1. David T on January 15, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Could the author be W.W. Phelps? As editor, he often included his own poetry and songs as well as his prose uncredited in the Star.

  2. Kent Larsen on January 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    It could. Usually his poetry was eventually credited to him at some point in the future. This one never was. But it does kind of sound like his work.

  3. Amy T on January 15, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Other early poetry was assigned to W.W. Phelps by default, but the identification was not always correct. See, for example, the history of My Native Land Farewell.

  4. Kent Larsen on January 15, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Yep. It is sometimes hard for me to understand that assigning credit for things like this just didn’t matter much to most people in the mid 19th century (or at least it seems like it didn’t matter much).

  5. Amber T on January 15, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    I know this is a little off topic (ok way off topic) but our Ward Council has been having a discussion over whether it is against Church policy to have photographs taken during baptisms. I can’t find anywhere that it isn’t (not in the handbook), but it seems like one of those things that’s always been a rule. Does anyone have an idea where I could find an official ruling on this?
    Thanks! You may go back to your discussion now.

  6. Kent Larsen on January 16, 2013 at 6:23 am

    It is off topic, Amber. But I’d try a search on LDS.org first. I assume that your bishop has looked in both volumes of the handbook.

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