Literary DCGD #25: Awake! Ye Royal Sons!

July 5, 2013 | no comments
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What should the priesthood mean to us? How should it influence who we are and how we act? These questions are part of nearly every Mormon lesson on the priesthood these days, and lesson 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine manual is no exception. And I think the following poem fits this basic topic well.

I don’t know much about its author, Gerald W. Dale. The source for this poem indicates that in 1941 he was the president of the South Indianapolis Branch. A brief search of genealogical records shows that he had a son, Gerald Jr., in Indianapolis in 1939 and LDS Church records show that a George Dale (perhaps another son?) was a Bishop in the Indianapolis area in the 1960s, which makes me think that the family may have put down roots in the Indianapolis area. I suspect more information will have to come from historical information about the Church in Indianapolis.

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Awake! Ye Royal Sons!

By Gerald W. Dale

Awake! ye royal sons of God,
Clothed with the Priesthood’s power.
Arise and grasp the iron rod
In this millennial hour.
Shake off the guilty fears of life;
Like men shun not the fight;
Be heroes in the battle’s strife;
Be led by heaven’s light.
Thy Priesthood shall thy mantle be,
A shield against the foe;
God’s spirit shall o’ershadow thee
Wherever thou shalt go.
Pray oft in secret to thy God
To keep thee clean and pure;
In the Priesthood’s armor shod,
Thy path to God is sure.
Let virtue garnish then thy thought
Thy confidence to strengthen.
And when life’s battles you have fought,
The Lord thy days will lengthen.
Seek not the treasures of the earth –
In Heaven thy treasures lie;
Seek jewels of eternal worth;
Work while ‘tis yet today.
Be kind; be right; be loyal, true;
Be Christlike in life’s span.
Make covenant with God anew –
Be Godlike. Be a man!

 

Improvement Era, v44 n2. February, 1941.

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The structure of this poem makes me wonder if it wasn’t intended to be a hymn, although I haven’t found any indication that it was published as such. Like many poems, this one apparently awaits the attention of a composer.

But Dale’s exhortations to priesthood holders in favor of certain behavior likely won’t draw any objections, although I think some of them are at least worded unusually, and therefore may lead to fruitful thought or discussion. For example, I wonder about his exhortation to:

Shake off the guilty fears of life;

At first this seemed to me like an unusual statement for 1941, but in it I hear what may be an echo to Roosevelt’s first inaugural address (1933), The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. But, of course, that doesn’t cover the whole line. Today the line seems perhaps normal, as we are used to the idea that guilt sometimes gets in the way of life, but I’m not sure the idea was nearly as widespread in 1941.

Next I wonder about Dale’s statement:

Thy Priesthood shall thy mantle be,
A shield against the foe;

mainly because a mantle is a cloak and can’t itself provide much protection. We talk of the “mantle of the priesthood” because a cloak worn to symbolize the position or authority of the wearer was called a mantle, and therefore priesthood holders take on a figurative “mantle of the priesthood” when they are ordained.

But does that mean that the priesthood doesn’t protect the priesthood holder? I suppose the respect shown to a position or office might ward off attacks to some degree (or perhaps attract attacks in other cases). Perhaps what makes sense of this is the oft-discussed point that priesthood is only useful in serving others. In this sense, the priesthood can’t be much of a shield, but instead an offensive tool against evil. But, if “the best defense is a good offense,” then perhaps using the priesthood to help others is, in fact, a shield.

I like Dale’s suggestion that priesthood holders should not “seek… the treasures of the earth.” While we might assume that “treasures” refers to wealth, I suspect we should expand this to include other “worldly” aspects of life: fame, honor, pleasures and other “things of this world.”

But the most telling line of the poem, perhaps unintentionally so, is the final line:

Be Godlike. Be a man!

Certainly the priesthood should lead us to act in a Godlike manner. But in this line Dale is apparently also equating “Godlike” with true or ideal manhood, which easily leads to the conclusion that any ungodlike action is not true manhood. Would God be violent? Then violence is not an aspect of true manhood. If only most men today used this logic.

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