Literary DCGD #41: Lines on the Death of Lorenzo D. Barnes

October 27, 2013 | one comment
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The idea that every member is a missionary depends on a certain kind of commitment to the Church. For the Church to make the kind of progress outlined in D&C Gospel Doctrine Lesson 41 missionaries, even member missionaries, must be willing to make the sacrifices necessary. Recently, the level of commitment that some missionaries end up making has been very public — the Church seems to have switched policy and made public information about missionaries who died in the field. At last report the number who have died is up to 12 (probably fewer than the number of currently serving missionaries that would have died had they all stayed at home — but little consolation to relatives).

The subject of this poem was the first missionary to die in the field outside of the United States. Enthusiastic when he left, Barnes wrote a long poem announcing his mission entitled The Bold Pilgrim (which I excerpted for D&C Lesson #11).

The author of this tribute to Barnes, Thomas Ward, was a fascinating early leader. A schoolteacher and baptist preacher before he joined the Church in 1840, Ward soon became an important part of the English mission, assisting with the Millennial Star and serving as its editor for a year after Parley P. Pratt left in 1842.  He continued working on the Star for the various mission presidents until 1846, when he was disgraced for his role in the ill-fated “British and American Commercial Joint Stock Company” scheme. While he tried to redeem himself in the eyes of the mission leaders and the Church, he died from dropsy in March 1847.

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Lines on the Death of Lorenzo D. Barnes

By Thomas Ward

And art thou dead my brother; my brother!
Yes, by the strongest ties that bind the heart,
Thou wert my brother; even by the bond
Of God’s most holy covenant; and, Oh!
I loved thee well, for who that knew thy truth,
Thy virtue, and integrity, but must
Have owned their power, and lov’d thee. But ’tis well;
Thou hast nobly fallen. In duty’s path
Thou wert, and zealous for the cause of truth;
Nor fruitless was thy mission, but again
In fairer scenes thou shalt behold its fruits
Arrayed in glory, and to thee a crown
Of great rejoicing in the day of God.
Thou steepest well. Thou standest chronicl’d
(In these last days of mercy unto man),
The first that in a distant land has left
His ashes to repose, of those who went
At God’s command, to bear the glorious news
Of his unchanging character, and tell
A people lost in error, of the work
The Lord has wrought, and of his high behests
To proclaim a faithful testimony,
And warn the nations that the hour will come,
And shortly, when the judgments of the Lord,
Shall burst upon the people who reject
The gospel of his Son, and turn away
Contemptuous from the terms of peace. And thou
Hast fallen in a land of strangers, where
Thy kindred dwell not; and their hearts will grieve
To hear thy fate, but not as without hope;
They will mourn not for thee as the world mourns,
But look to meet thee in the glorious hour,
When he shall come a kingdom to receive,
Whose right it is to reign! Then, my brother.
Thou shalt hail thy friends in triumph; no more
To be the subject of death’s fatal dart,
But clothed with power, and by thy priesthood called
To reign with Christ, a king and priest. The day,
The great, triumphant day shall come, when be,
Before whose potent arm thou now hast fallen,
Shall be no more; for Christ must reign until
The last of enemies shall be destroyed:
Then amid the pageantry and pomp
Of myriad hosts in light supernal, and all
The thousand joys that minister to bliss,
Still one shall be to meet Lorenzo there.

Millennial Star, January 1843

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The Barnes that Ward describes shows the commitment we expect from missionaries. Ward writes:

Thou hast nobly fallen. In duty’s path
Thou wert, and zealous for the cause of truth;

And he goes on to explain the hope that Barnes’ loved ones should have:

They will mourn not for thee as the world mourns,
But look to meet thee in the glorious hour,

And Ward suggests that Barnes will be rewarded hereafter:

Then, my brother.
Thou shalt hail thy friends in triumph; no more
To be the subject of death’s fatal dart,
But clothed with power, and by thy priesthood called
To reign with Christ, a king and priest.

I don’t know about other cases, but when missionaries die in the field I hope this is true.

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One Response to Literary DCGD #41: Lines on the Death of Lorenzo D. Barnes

  1. WVS on October 27, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Barnes is a study unto himself. Nice to see he name again.

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