Literary DCGD #24: Prejudice

June 16, 2013 | 2 comments
By

I frequently hear claims that many church members are leaving the Church, that those who have been raised in the Church, or who have converted have become disillusioned. For a variety of reasons  members do leave the Church, and it may be that they are leaving faster now than they did 50 years ago; although we don’t have the data to say for sure. It is clear that this has happened throughout the history of the Church, sometimes in greater numbers than in other times. D&C gospel doctrine lesson #24 addresses this, urging members to “be not deceived.”

This poem discusses one source of this deception: prejudice. Written at one of the points in Church history when, I suspect, members were leaving at a rather high rate, I don’t know anything about the author. Beyond the initials J. B. M., all I know is that two other poems by this author were published less than a month later in the same Mormon newspaper, The Prophet. Could J. B. M. also have left the Church in the chaos that followed the martyrdom, which occurred at about the time his final two poems were published?

.

Prejudice

by J. B. M.

When half disposed to hear not truth’s appeal, thy judgments made,
Thy mind securely fixed, the beauty of her sentiment is lost;
Her battlements however strong, her fire effectual,
The blaze of reason and the gems of thought; behind,
The cloud of prejudice is hid. Thou stubborn foe to all
That’s good and great; as if enclosed within a convict’s cell,
I look upon thy haples state of woe, and fearing thy darkness
Is one life-long night. I do sincerely pity thy estate.
Whence is thy strange deformity of mind, such
Hideous, dark, benighted state for mortal:
Does Afric’s wilds, or Arabs’ desert sands give culture
To thy growth, or, art a weed whose root, no human
Hand hath yet destroyed; or comest thou from distant space,
A visitant from some dark clime, here to gain proselytes
Or chain mankind. Thy power is evil, all who serve
Thee know it; their sad deficiency, the want of other’s thoughts
That urge their use, and show a mortal’s weakness.
When reason reflects, the inward soul of man,
However secret he would strive to keep the much loved
Folly that diseases mind; let reason speak,
Open thine ear as in the days of youth, enlarge thy soul,
And let kind wisdom show the worth of truth,
The future joys Heaven, designed for man.
God’s knowledge, choice, and order so divine,
His perfect harmony, the bliss of God’s elect, seraphs joys how great,
Jehovah’s mind explore, how he high Heaven controls
By perfect principles, which makes felicity the happy lot
Of all who will obey them, who would not learn a plan
So great, so wise, and yet so simple, that
The weakest mind can clearly understand,
A system formed by Heaven to introduce mankind
To all these joys, converse with angels, learn the
Mind of purity from great Perfection’s fount, and finally,
Ascend to Heaven’s King, or reign upon the earth
Thou dost inhabit, when freed from every wrong
That influences the weakly mind of man.
Feed prejudice, corroding evil; and Heaven
And earth, and all that’s great or noble
Will leave thee in the mist of Ignorance.

 

The Prophet, 1 June 1844

.

The dense, complex nature of this poem suggests that the poet was well acquainted with poetry and at least tried to think deeply, although I suspect that he is trying too hard to be sophisticated. This seems especially hard given the often awkward line breaks, which, it seems to me, impede understanding instead of illuminating meaning hidden in the text.

Still, J. B. M. discusses a lot of relevant ideas to the role of prejudice in apostasy or in the failure of the public to listen to the Truth. He sees the close-minded nature of many, and pities them:

Thou stubborn foe to all
That’s good and great; as if enclosed within a convict’s cell,
I look upon thy haples state of woe, and fearing thy darkness
Is one life-long night. I do sincerely pity thy estate.

and later the poet adds that we need to listen to other’s viewpoints:

the want of other’s thoughts
That urge their use, and show a mortal’s weakness.
When reason reflects, the inward soul of man,…

Of course, much depends on what is truth, but his point that openness is crucial is well taken. And J. B. M. urges readers to be more open:

let reason speak,
Open thine ear as in the days of youth, enlarge thy soul,
And let kind wisdom show the worth of truth,…

I like the final warning:

Feed prejudice, corroding evil; and Heaven
And earth, and all that’s great or noble
Will leave thee in the mist of Ignorance.

Tags: , ,

2 Responses to Literary DCGD #24: Prejudice

  1. Cameron N on June 16, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Some wise thoughts, Kent (and JBM). I appreciate the effort and substance that goes into these posts. They are edifying.

  2. James Olsen on June 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    What resonates most with me are the opening lines, conveying the fact that there are beauties of sentiment and gems of thought that are utterly “ineffectual” when we’re not open to them. There are real and worthwhile goods that we can only be acquainted with when we allow ourselves to be open to them, when we participate and are disposed to hear the truth in question. I think Moroni expresses similar thoughts in his famous promise.

WELCOME

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