Literary DCGD #29: Farewell to Nauvoo

July 28, 2013 | 3 comments
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I’ve long thought that Nauvoo was a kind of Mormon Camelot, a shining, hopeful city built on consistent, righteous principles that fell apart amid internal dissension. While I wouldn’t push the analogy too far, I think it kind of works on the surface, especially given the standard portrayal of Nauvoo in lessons like Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 29 and in the following poem.

The author of this poem was given as L. S. when the poem was published in early 1844, without any indication of exactly who that might be. One source suggests that L. S. was Lorenzo Snow who had returned from a mission to England the year before and would soon leave for Ohio to campaign for Joseph Smith’s bid for President; and that fact may explain why this poem was written. However, as far as I can tell, Snow didn’t write poetry during this time of his life. In fact, the only poem Snow wrote that I’m aware of was written nearly 50 years later, in 1892.

A better candidate for author is Luman Shurtliff, who did write poetry during the Nauvoo period. He was in or had recently left Nauvoo when two other poems signed L. S. were published in 1842 in the Nauvoo Wasp and returned, like Snow, in early to mid 1843. But unlike Snow, he didn’t have a clear motive for writing this poem, unless it was written in late 1842 as he was leaving for his mission.

Unfortunately, none of the above is definitive, and whether L. S. was Snow or Shurtliff or someone else, man or woman, I haven’t been able to determine. But, regardless of the author, this poem does provide a wonderful look at how Church members of the time felt about Nauvoo.

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Farewell to Nauvoo

by L. S.

Fair city of the Saints! my heart to thee
Will often turn with sadness and regret,
When far away my dwelling place shall be,
For there are scenes I never can forget,
Connected with the memory of Nauvoo—
Scenes which my heart will often dwell upon.
And memory to her station ever true
Will bring them back to me when I am gone.
These scenes with mournful pleasure recollected
In memory’s glass will often be reflected.

 

Though the obliterating hand of time,
Has from the mind a thousand tilings effaced,
Yet principles eternal and sublime,
When once imprinted cannot be erased.
These principles have now become to me
Part of myself—a portion of my mind,
And I must lose my own identity
Before such principles can be resigned.
When once received, in spite of all resistance,
They form the essence of the soul’s existence.

 

Fair city of the Saints! I love thee well;
To me thy memory will be ever dear.
I would to God I could for ever dwell
Amidst the pleasant scenes where I could hear
The words of inspiration every day,
And hourly treasure up within my heart
Wisdom and knowledge that will not decay;
Light and intelligence that will impart
New glory to the beauties of creation,
Filling the mind with wondering admiration.

 

O! I have listened with suspended breath,
To hear the words of wisdom as they fell
From lips inspired, and felt that life nor death,
Nor all the powers combined of earth and hell
Could never force my heart to turn aside
From principles so holy and sublime.
Truth be my only creed, and God my guide,
And I shall safely pass tho storms of time,
And gain at last a high and holy station,
Among the ransom’d in the new creation.

 

Farewell, Nauvoo! I must again return
Back to my Gentile bondage as before,
But oftentimes my heart will sadly yearn
To hold communion with the Saints once more.
How shall I long the prophet’s voice to hear—
The words of wisdom flowing from his tongue-
Truths most sublime are made so plain and clear
That oftentimes enchanted I have hung
Upon his words, which forced the exclamation—
These surely are the words of inspiration?

Nauvoo Neighbor, v1 n42, 14 February 1844, p. 1

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While the lesson discusses Nauvoo’s role as a place of refuge,  a place of organization and as a headquarters for the Church, this poem focus on the intellectual and emotional climate in Nauvoo–how Church members felt about it. For L. S. it was the place where eternal principles were taught that:

… have now become to me
Part of myself—a portion of my mind,
And I must lose my own identity
Before such principles can be resigned.

This climate of learning and exploration fit what the author desired:

I would to God I could for ever dwell
Amidst the pleasant scenes where I could hear
The words of inspiration every day,
And hourly treasure up within my heart
Wisdom and knowledge that will not decay;
Light and intelligence that will impart
New glory to the beauties of creation,
Filling the mind with wondering admiration.

But it wasn’t just the intellectual climate that made the difference. The author also found there a community that fed his soul:

But oftentimes my heart will sadly yearn
To hold communion with the Saints once more

To be honest, that sounds like the kind of place I would love to live in also.

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3 Responses to Literary DCGD #29: Farewell to Nauvoo

  1. Amy T on July 28, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Nice. I wish I felt that way about the town where I live.

    I’m surprised that Lorenzo Snow wouldn’t have dabbled in poetry, but I guess it isn’t necessarily a trait that runs in a family.

  2. Kent Larsen on July 28, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Amy, I wish my town had the kind of unity that they had in Nauvoo — although I do have extremely positive views of my town, perhaps as strong as those of L.S.

    I should also say that I’m not completely sure that Lorenzo Snow didn’t write poetry before the 1890s. I simply haven’t found any that I am sure were written by him. I can’t yet claim that I’ve done a comprehensive search or anything close to it. Perhaps in a few more years I’ll be able to say that I have…

  3. Christopher Baloloy on August 12, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Nauvoo is Kolob on Earth, a resting place for the saints. I always have an emotional attachement to this enchanting place, I’ll visit it someday.. top of my list after SLC..