Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #01: O My Mother

December 22, 2013 | 7 comments
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WmChaseHarrisonThe new Joseph Fielding Smith manual for the Relief Society/Priesthood lessons presents a minor logistical problem—it has 26 lessons, which may mean teachers will have to drop two of the lessons (since two lessons each month are taught from the manual). Because of this I will post poems for the next few weeks so that teachers can choose from at least 4 of the lessons each week.

The first lesson focuses on God, his attributes and nature, and our relationship with him. But while we have poems and hymns that discuss this, I though the following poem would be a different way of introducing and thinking about this subject.

I don’t know much about its author, William Chase Harrison. Born in 1852, his family immigrated to Utah in 1862 when he was 9. He married Mary Elizabeth Forsyth in 1876 and eventually settled in Payson, Utah, where they raised 10 children. He died in 1936. The following poem was published in 1892.

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Companion Poem to Eliza R. Snow’s ‘Invocation.’

by William Chase Harrison

O My Mother, thou that dwellest,
In thy mansions up on high,
Oft methinks I still remember
When you bade your child good bye.
How you clasped me to your bosom,
Bade me a true son to be,
Ere I left my Father’s mansion,
To dwell in mortality.

 

How you gave me words of counsel,
To guide aright my straying feet;
How you taught by true example
All of Father’s laws to keep.
While I strive in this probation,
How to learn the gospel truth,
May I merit your approval
As I did in early youth.

 

‘Tis recorded in your journal
How you stood by Father’s side,
When by powers that are eternal
Thou wast sealed his goddess bride;
How by love and truth and virtue
E’en in time thou did’st become
Through your high, exalted station
Mother of the souls of men.

 

When of evil I’ve repented,
And my work on earth is done,
Kindest Father, loving mother,
Pray forgive your erring son.
When my pilgrimage is ended,
And the victor’s wreath I’ve won,
Dearest Mother, to your bosom,
Will you welcome home your son?

Juvenile Instructor, 1 March 1892
[H.T. Keepapitchinin]

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Unfortunately, while Harrison has meant this as a companion to Eliza R. Snow’s poem (known popularly as O My Father), this  one isn’t as good. Still, the poem was somewhat popular, although often mistakenly attributed to others.

However, I do think that it echoes many of the important concepts from this lesson. Here we learn that our Heavenly Parents love and care for us, that they have a purpose for our coming to this earth, and have attributes that we should emulate. What more can we say than that?

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7 Responses to Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #01: O My Mother

  1. ji on December 22, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Well, we really don’t learn anything at all — we share one person’s imaginings and hopes as he imagines the heavenly world to be like our ow mortal world. We learn from our scripture and prophets that God loves and cares for us, that has a purpose for our coming to this earth, and has attributes that we should emulate. When we get into the particulars of heavenly domestic arrangements, we’re in the dimension of hoping and supposing and speculating.

  2. Kent Larsen on December 24, 2013 at 12:04 am

    I don’t quite agree, ji.

    Perhaps I can refer you to the following from Elder Orson F. Whitney about what poetry is:

    http://www.motleyvision.org/2013/sunday-lit-crit-sermon-81-orson-f-whitney-on-the-essence-of-poetry/

  3. Jared Bernotski on December 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    I’ve come to believe that teaching about our Mother in Heaven should be attempted with care. However, I think that this text adds tender feeling as a companion to Snow’s “Invocation.” In this text’s version as presented, I’m especially dissatisfied with the third stanza.

    I noticed in the keepapitchin post (http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2010/05/04/oh-whose-mother) that this poem has been through several versions. Therefore, I’ve attempted to continue that tradition, rewriting the third stanza while trying to enhance other lines:

    Companion Poem to Eliza R. Snow’s ‘Invocation.’
    by William Chase Harrison and Jared Bernotski

    O my Mother, thou that dwellest,
    In hidden glories up on high,
    Oft I’ve wished I could remember
    How you bade your child good bye.
    Did you clasp me to your bosom,
    Charge me a true son to be,
    Ere I left my Father’s mansion,
    To dwell in mortality?

    Your words a compass giving me counsel,
    Guiding aright else straying feet;
    As you taught by true example
    All of Father’s laws to keep.
    While I strive in this probation,
    To obey each gospel truth,
    May I merit your approval
    As I did in early youth.

    Behind the scenes of ev’ry scripture
    I trust you’ve stood by Father’s side,
    Faithful life giver, constant supporter
    Father’s helpmeet and goddess bride;
    Yes, Holy Spirit whispers, “In heaven
    Families forever were formed to endure
    Through holy priesthood that is given
    In temple rites and doctrine pure.”

    When of evil I’ve repented,
    And my work on earth is done,
    Kindest Father, loving Mother,
    Pray forgive your erring son.
    When my pilgrimage is ended,
    And the victor’s wreath I’ve won,
    Dearest Mother, to your bosom,
    Will you welcome home your son?

    Well, it still doesn’t flow as well as I’d like from the third to fourth stanzas, but I like it better than the previous version about Mother’s journal. As a rhetorical question: What does such a record, being inaccessible, teach us?

    Ultimately, I wanted to make the poem more open-ended, serving as a seeker of truth who doesn’t know the answers but finds these doctrines simultaneously uplifting and challenging. I thank you for sharing this text and inspiring me to grapple with it and find new meaning and feeling as I prepare for Joseph Fielding Smith’s Lesson #1.

  4. Jared Bernotski on December 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Sorry, I don’t think it will let me edit my comment, but I made a couple more minor changes:

    Companion Poem to Eliza R. Snow’s “Invocation”
    by William Chase Harrison and Jared Bernotski

    O my Mother, thou that dwellest
    In hidden glories up on high,
    Oft I’ve wished I could remember
    How you bade your child goodbye.
    Did you clasp me to your bosom,
    Charge me a true son to be
    Ere I left my Father’s mansion
    To dwell in mortality?

    Your words a compass giving me counsel,
    Guiding aright else straying feet;
    As you taught by true example
    All of Father’s laws to keep.
    While I strive in this probation,
    To obey each gospel truth,
    May I merit your approval
    As I did in early youth.

    Behind the scenes of ev’ry scripture
    I trust you’ve stood by Father’s side,
    Faithful life giver, constant supporter
    Father’s helpmeet and goddess bride;
    Yes, Holy Spirit whispers, “In heaven
    Families forever were formed to endure
    Through holy priesthood that is given
    In temple rites and doctrine pure.”

    When of evil I’ve repented,
    And my work on earth is done,
    Kindest Father, loving Mother,
    Pray forgive your erring son.
    When my pilgrimage is ended,
    And the victor’s wreath I’ve won,
    Dearest Mother, to your bosom,
    Will you welcome home your son?

  5. ji on December 27, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    And so we go along, re-creating God and wholly creating his better half (?) in our own image, according to our own hopes and suppositions.

  6. Jared Bernotski on December 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Well, I should have qualified that I wouldn’t claim my revision to this poem as revealed doctrine. However, as Eliza R. Snow noted, it is a reasonable supposition, and her poem essentially has been accepted as doctrine. I made the poem less assertive in terms of claiming a sure knowledge and tied it to temple.

    On s personal level, I found it comforting to contemplate, but I wouldn’t want my reverent speculation to shake anyone’s spiritual moorings.

  7. Kent Larsen on December 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    ji, please re-read the link in #2