Literary Lorenzo Snow #23: Stanzas

December 1, 2013 | 3 comments
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Eliza Dorsey AshworthThere is no shortage of poetry about Joseph Smith, the subject of lesson 23 of the Lorenzo Snow manual. But Snow’s views on Joseph Smith are focused not on his martyrdom or on his role as the initial prophet of this dispensation. Instead, Snow focuses on Joseph Smith’s character—an unusual subject for the early Mormon poetry I’ve collected so far. But the following poem does briefly mention some of Joseph Smith’s character traits:

The author of this poem may be Eliza Dorsey Ashworth, but it is hard to know for sure since I haven’t found any indication that Dorsey Ashworth wrote poetry.  Born in 1821, she married Benjamin Ashworth and they both joined the Church in England sometime prior to emigrating to the U.S. Benjamin traveled first in 1849, stopping in St. Louis to earn money. Eliza followed with their children in 1850. The couple remained there until 1854, burying three of their children while there, as well as welcoming two more to the family there and another en route to Utah. The family settled near Millcreek in the Salt Lake Valley, where the canyon stream claimed two more of her children. Eliza died in 1887.

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Stanzas

by Eliza Ashworth

Here’s in memory of Joseph,
Our prophet and our seer,
Likewise of Brother Hyrum,
Our Patriarch most dear;
Likewise the twelve apostles
That’s with the priesthood cloth’d,
To bring about a mighty work,
The mighty work of God.
Chorus—Here’s in memory, &c.

 

A champion bold was Joseph,
He prov’d himself the man
That was predestinated
To bring about the plan,
The fullness of the Gentiles,
The gathering of the Jews,
And through him every nation
Shall hear the glorious truths.
Here’s in memory, &c.

 

But now our prophet’s martyr’d,
The mobbers shed his blood,
‘Tis now as ’twas anciently,
With all the men of God,
The hireling priests’ began to rage,
When Joseph was so bold,
As to declare the rightful heir
And prophet of the Lord.
Here’s in memory, &c.

 

We’ll have no prophets now they cry
In this enlightened age,
They are no longer needed,
They are all done away;
Believe, and you’ll be saved
For Jesus is the way,
The holy parsons cry aloud,
But ne’er do what He says.
Here’s in memory, &c.

 

Joseph no hireling would be,
But prov’d a shepherd bold,
He never would forsake his flock,
For honour, fear, or gold.
He was a noble-hearted man,
Of noble seed and birth,
And bold he stood for Zion’s cause
While he remained on earth.
Here’s in memory, &c.

 

Although he’s gone, in mem’ry still
We will our prophet hold,
We’ll sing of him—that noble man
Who was so great and bold:
O yes, his name shall be renowned
In ages yet to come,
And by the Lord he will be own’d
As his eternal son.
Here’s in memory, &c.

Millennial Star, v10 n12, 15 June 1848, p. 192

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In terms of character, I find it interesting the differences in the character traits that this poem emphasizes and what Lorenzo Snow emphasizes. Ashworth sees Joseph Smith as “noble-hearted” and as a “champion bold” who has “prov’d himself” and who “never would forsake his flock / For honour, fear or gold.” In contrast, Snow sees a “pure, sincere, honest” man of “high moral character.” He  is “free from hypocrisy” and welcome’s “innocent amusement” while teaching “with the power of God.”

While there is certainly no problem in reconciling these two views, I wonder if they don’t also reflect the needs of their writers. Ashworth and the saints of her day needed an example of the bravery necessary to cross the plains and deal with the still hostile views of others in the U.S., to say nothing of what remained unknown in their future home. Snow, representing a people past the need for the rigors of oxen and wind-driven travel and newly reconciled to the U.S. government, if not their neighbors, needed a Joseph Smith who would help Mormons maintain their ethics and beliefs while living in the world.

All this makes me wonder: what image of Joseph Smith do we need today?

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3 Responses to Literary Lorenzo Snow #23: Stanzas

  1. Louis Gardner on December 3, 2013 at 5:54 am

    Why would we “need” and image of Joseph Smith today? What about the Saviour? It is just my opinion, and only an opinion, that we do not need an image of Joseph Smith or any prophet for that matter; that’s more than accomplished by the very fact we have the scriptures. I’m all for studying history, etc. but to me the Saviour is the only image we need.

  2. jennifer reuben on December 4, 2013 at 1:28 am

    As I understand the closing question the answer should reflect what the current membership needs to understand about the life and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I support the answer that the focus for the saints of all time periods needs to be on Jesus Christ. Those events and traits that reflect Joseph Smith’s own focus on Christ are surely worthy of study and emulation.

  3. Louis Gardner on December 4, 2013 at 4:08 am

    One thought I had after I hastily posted my reply is maybe we, as a body of faith, already see what “image we need of Joseph Smith today” with the publications such as the Joseph Smith Papers project and Rough Stone Rolling, etc. I have a problem with what I term or see as the elevation of Joseph Smith to a mythic status. I personally(opinion!)can relate to a more human Joseph Smith than what’s been put out in the past by the CES (grew up in 70s-80s). Does that make sense?