Literary Lorenzo Snow #10: The Temple of God at Nauvoo

May 12, 2013 | 3 comments
By

William Wines PhelpsWe tend to talk about the benefits of the temple more than the obligations. In the temple we may gain knowledge, revelation, be sealed to our families, and give our relatives who have passed on the opportunity to accept necessary earthly ordinances—all important elements described in the Lorenzo Snow manual lesson 10. But these benefits come with some obligations (beyond those required to qualify for a recommend), such as the obligation to attend the temple periodically, support temple work, do genealogical work, and even work in the temple when called.

On a practical level, these obligations are quite different from the expectations experienced by the Saints in Nauvoo and understood by them before the Nauvoo Temple was built, as can be seen by the following poem.

William Wines Phelps, the author of this poem was also one of the first and most prolific of Mormon poets, although unlike his contemporaries Parley P. Pratt, Eliza R. Snow and John Lyon, Phelps never published a volume of his own poetry. He is also unique because he is likely the author of the only poem, outside of scripture, attributed to Joseph Smith (The Vision, a paraphrase of D&C 76). If I recall correctly, he is still the Mormon author with the most hymns in the current hymnal.

.

The Temple of God at Nauvoo

By W. W. Phelps

Ye servants that so many prophets foretold,
Should labor for Zion and not for the gold,
Go into the field ere the sun dries the dew,
And reap for the kingdom of God at Nauvoo.

 

Go carry glad tidings, that all may attend,
While God is unfolding “the time of the end;”
And say to all nations, whatever you do,
Come, build up the Temple of God at Nauvoo.

 

Go say to the Islands that wait for his law,
Prepare for that glory the prophets once saw,
And bring on your gold and your precious things, too,
As tithes for the Temple of God at Nauvoo.

 

Go say to the great men, who boast of a name;
To kings and their nobles, all born unto fame,
Come, bring on your treasures, antiquities, too,
And honor the Temple of God at Nauvoo.

 

Proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
For now we have prophets to bring forth his word,
And reveal to the church what the world never knew,
By faith in the Temple of God at Nauvoo.

 

To spirits in prison the gospel is sent,
For on such a mission the Savior once went;
And we are baptiz’d for the dead—surely, too,
In the font at the Temple of God at Nauvoo.

 

Up; watch! for the strange work of God has begun,
And new things are opening, now, under the sun:
And knowledge on knowledge will burst to our view,
From Seers in the Temple of God at Nauvoo.

Times and Seasons, 15 June 1842

.

What is quite unusual about this, in my view, is Phelps emphasis on missionary work. The temple is a missionary message in this poem, a reason for labor and paying tithing. And, typical of the time, Phelps sees a millenarian urgency in spreading this message and constructing the temple.

Perhaps more interesting is Phelps’ focus on tithing and criticism of wealth. He says his readers “should labor for Zion and not for the gold” and suggests that the missionary message should  also urge listeners to “bring on your gold and your precious things, too, / As tithes for the Temple of God at Nauvoo.” Further, he adds that even the famous, the kings and nobles should “bring on your treasures, antiquities, too, / And honor the Temple of God at Nauvoo.”

But it is not like Phelps to ignore the benefits of the temple entirely He understood that the then-new doctrine of baptism for the dead would happen in the temples:

To spirits in prison the gospel is sent,
For on such a mission the Savior once went;
And we are baptiz’d for the dead—surely, too,
In the font at the Temple of God at Nauvoo.

and also saw that the temple would provide an environment for receiving revelation:

Up; watch! for the strange work of God has begun,
And new things are opening, now, under the sun:
And knowledge on knowledge will burst to our view,
From Seers in the Temple of God at Nauvoo.

Still, the conception of what a Temple is and what benefits it provides were not as well developed or widely understood in 1842 as they were for Lorenzo Snow towards the end of the century.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to Literary Lorenzo Snow #10: The Temple of God at Nauvoo

  1. Ugly Mahana on May 12, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I would add to the list of responsibilities that of covenant-keeping. This is especially on my mind since I will be teaching 10 year-olds about the Law of Consecration today.

  2. Edje Jeter on May 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Interesting. Thanks.

    In the third-to-last stanza, should “For now we have prophets to bring for his word” be instead “…bring forth his word”?

  3. Kent Larsen on May 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Thanks, Edje. I checked the original and you are correct. I’ve fixed the post.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.