The formal organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, subject of Gospel Doctrine lesson #9 this year, was the culmination of many preparatory steps that Joseph Smith and his fellow believers took. When the organization occurred, the group had new scripture, new authority from God and a new prophet at its head. In the ensuing years it added other key elements to its structure, beliefs and practices, some of which are described below in John Hardy’s hymn. In a real sense, at least most of these elements are what we are talking about when we speak of the restoration of “the only true and living church.”
I mentioned a little of Hardy’s biography last week. This poem actually appeared several months before last week’s poem, and just two days after the martyrdom. But it was published in New York City, which would not find out about the tragedy for about another 10 days. It appeared in the Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor the following February, was published in England later in 1845, and by the end of the decade had become a standard hymn in LDS hymnals, where it remained until the 1890s.
By John Hardy
- The God that others worship, is not the God for me,
- He has no parts nor body, and cannot hear nor see,
- But I’ve a God that lives above,
- A God of power and of love,
- A God of revelation, O, that’s the God for me,
- O that’s the God for me, O that’s the God for me.
- A church without Apostles, is not the church for me,
- Its like a ship dismasted, afloat upon the sea,
- But I’ve a church that’s always led
- By the twelve stars around her head.
A church with good foundation, O that’s the &c.
- A church without a Prophet, is not the church for me,
- It has no head to lead it, in it I would not be,
- But I’ve a church not built by man,
- Cut from the mountain without hand,
- A church with gifts and blessings, &c.
- The hope that Gentiles cherish is not the hope for me,
- It has no faith nor knowledge, far from it I would be;
- But I’ve a hope that will not fail,
- Which reaches far within the veil,
- Which hope is like an anchor, &c.
- The heaven of sectarians, is not the heaven for me,
- So doubtful its location, neither on land nor sea;
- But I’ve a heaven on the earth,
- The land and home that gave me birth,
- A heaven of light and knowledge, &c.
- A church without a gathering, is not a church for me,
- The Savior would not own it, wherever it may be;
- But I’ve a church that’s called
- From false traditions, fears and doubt,
- A gathering dispensation, &c.
The Prophet, 29 June 1844
I’m not sure why Hardy chose the subjects he did for each stanza. While they are generally important doctrines for the time (the doctrine of the gathering is no longer emphasized today), I think Hardy probably left out others that, at least today, we would think vitally important. He doesn’t mention, the Book of Mormon, for example, nor continuing revelation. At least they should have been added. [And still could be —the structure of this poem makes adding stanzas seem easy!]
But I can also see why this hymn was eventually taken out of the hymnal — it has a kind of flip feel to it, in my view. I can’t get over the idea that its rhythm seems identical to a sea chanty—a jaunty feel that makes me look around expecting the stereotypical Irishman dancing a jig to the sound of an accordion. Not very hymn-like if you ask me.