Literary Lorenzo Snow #6: Saturday Evening Thoughts

March 15, 2013 | one comment
By
Eliza R. Snow

Eliza R. Snow

Chapter 6 of the Lorenzo Snow manual discusses President Snow’s teachings about perfection—his encouragement of gradual improvement, diligence and patience and the role of repentance in obtaining perfection. One of the concepts that stands out to me is the requirement for patience and endurance in reaching perfection. These themes can also be found in his sister’s poem that follows.

Mormonism’s best known poet, Eliza R. Snow joined Joseph Smith’s church before her brother. She was later married to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and was the second General President of the Relief Society. She gathered some of her poetry into a two-volume work, Poems, Religious, Historical, and Political, which was published in 1856 and 1877. Ten of her poems are currently in the LDS hymnal, and several others once were in editions of the LDS hymnal, but have since been dropped.

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Saturday Evening Thoughts

by Eliza R. Snow

“My heart is fix’d.” I know in whom I trust.
‘Twas not for wealth—’twas not to gather heaps
Of perishable things—’twas not to twine
Around my brow a transitory wreath,
A garland deck’d with gems of mortal praise,
That I forsook the home of childhood—that
I left the lap of ease—the halo rife
With smiling friendship’s soft and mellow tones—
Affection’s fond caresses, and the cup
O’erflowing with the sweets of social life,
Where high refinement’s richest pearls were strew’d.
Ah, no! A holier purpose fir’d my soul—
A nobler project prompted my pursuit:
Eternal prospects open’d to my view,
And hope’s celestial torch within me burn’d!
God, who commanded Abraham to leave
His native country, and to offer up
On the lone altar, where no eye beheld
But His who never sleeps, an only son,
Is still the same, and thousands who have made
A covenant with him by sacrifice,
Are bearing witness to the sacred truth.

 

Jehovah speaking? Yes, as heretofore,
The proclamation sounded in my ear—
It touch’d my heart. I hearken’d to the sound,
Counted the cost, and laid my earthly all
Upon the altar, and with purpose-fixed
Unalterably, while the spirit of
Elijah’s God, within my bosom reigns;
Embrac’d the “Everlasting Covenant;”
To be a Saint among the faithful ones
Whose race is measured by their life—whose prize
Is everlasting, and whose happiness
Is God’s approval, and to whom ’tis more
Than meat and drink to do his righteous will.

 

It is no trifling thing to be a Saint
In very deed. To stand upright, nor bow,
Nor bend beneath the weighty burthen of
Oppressiveness.—To stand unscath’d amid
The bellowing thunders and the raging storm
Of persecution, when the hostile pow’rs
Of darkness, stimulate the hearts of men
To warfare; to besiege, assault, and with
The heavy thunderbolts of Satan, aim
To overthrow the kingdom God has rear’d.
To stand unmov’d beneath the with’ring rock
Of vile apostacy, when men depart
From the pure principles of righteousness—
Those principles requiring man to live
By every word proceeding from the mouth
Of God.—To stand unwav’ring, undismay’d,
And unseduc’d, when the base hypocrite
Whose deeds take hold on hell, whose face is garb’d
With saintly looks, drawn out by sacrilege
From a profession, but assum’d and thrown
Around him for a mantle to enclose
The black corruption of a putrid heart.
To stand on virtue’s lofty pinnacle
Clad in the heavenly robes of innocence,
Amid that worse than every other blast—
The blast that strikes at moral character,
With floods of falsehood foaming with abuse.—
To stand, with nerve and sinew firmly steel’d,
When in the trying scale of rapid change,
Thrown side by side and face to face with that
Foul-hearted spirit, blacker than the soul
Of midnight’s darkest shade, the traitor,
The vile wretch that feeds his sordid selfishness
Upon the peace and blood of innocence—
The faithless, rotten-hearted wretch, whose tongue
Speaks words of trust and fond fidelity,
While treach’ry, like a viper, coils behind
The smile that dances in his evil eye.
To pass the fiery ordeal, and to have
The heart laid open—all its contents prov’d
Before the bar of strictest scrutiny.
To have the finest heart-strings stretch’d unto
Their utmost length to try the texture—to
Abide, with principle unchang’d, the wreck
Of cruel tort’ring circumstances, which
Ride forth on revolution’s blustering gale.

 

But yet, altho’ to be a Saint, requires
A noble sacrifice—an arduous toil—
A persevering aim; the great reward
Awaiting the grand consummation will
Repay the price however costly; and
The pathway of the Saint, the safest path
Will prove, though perilous; for it is foretold,
All things that can be shaken, God will shake:
Kingdoms, and Institutes, and Governments,
Both civil and religious, must be tried—
Tried to the core and sounded to the depth.

 

Then let me be a saint, and be prepar’d
For the approaching day, which like a snare
Will soon surprise the hypocrite—expose
The rottenness of human schemes—shake off
Oppressive fetters—break the gorgeous reins
Usurpers hold, and lay the pride of man,
And glory of the nations low in dust!

Times and Seasons, 1 January 1843

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While Lorenzo Snow looks at obtaining perfection as gradual improvement, his sister’s poem focuses on endurance and perseverance. She speaks of the “transitory wreath” of mortal cares, which leads me to wonder, aren’t all rewards in this life temporary? Even in the next life, it seems like the ends or purposes of existence are all temporary accomplishments, steps to the next challenge we may face.

Eliza R. Snow also speaks of the idea of “counting the cost” of joining the Church and following the savior, laying “my earthly all upon the altar”—ideas that come from earlier traditions, but still today appear in Mormon sources and resonate with Mormon audiences. In the case of both Eliza and her brother, this was a very literal requirement, as persecution required more of them physically than it usually does for us today. Still, I suspect that laying our “earthly all on the altar” is involved with obtaining perfection.

So, in Eliza R. Snow’s poem above, I think we will learn something about what we need to do to “endure to the end” and reach the perfection that Lorenzo Snow taught.

One Response to Literary Lorenzo Snow #6: Saturday Evening Thoughts

  1. VilmaFeliciiano on March 22, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    enjoyed the poem I’t has helped me to plan my lession

WELCOME

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