Literary OTGD #01: Metamorphosis

December 22, 2013 | no comments
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Hugh_B._BrownFor the coming year, I’ve decided to post poetry for use in Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society classes two weeks ahead of when they would normally be used, instead of a week ahead as I’ve done in previous years. I’m doing this to allow teachers a bit more time to prepare and integrate the poetry into their lesson plans (if they wish to use the poetry), and because, in the case of the Priesthood/Relief Society manual, there are more lessons than can be covered in a year. Working two weeks ahead will give the teacher time to decide which lessons to drop, and still (I hope) have the poetry available on time.

The initial lesson in the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual is about God’s purposes, his “work and glory,” which is nothing less than our salvation and eternal life. In short, he seeks our complete transformation.

The following poem, written by Apostle Hugh B. Brown while he was serving as President of the British Mission in 1939, nearly 20 years before he was called as an apostle:

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Metamorphosis

by Hugh B. Brown

Change alone is permanent, we’re told;
Change is predetermined and God-sent:
Were present and future cast in static mould,
Mortal men could not be heaven-bent.

 

Our lives must change with new environment;
To arrive, to stop, were permanently to die.
To gain experience we to mortal life were sent;
Change develops wings with which to fly.

 

The butterflies emerge from out a lowly state;
Not one of them, once formed, would be a chrysalis again.
Shell-bound forever? — a hapless state;
And yet each timid one a chrysalis would remain.

 

The unborn babe, if it could have its way,
Would remain forever ‘neath its mother’s heart;
Cramped and dependent, it would prefer to stay
Rather than — through birth — a new life start.

 

The beauty of youth, so glorious in its time,
Becomes stale and withered where there is no growth;
The beauty of age adds poetry to rhyme,
And change eternal is an attribute of both.

 

Man’s body like a chrysalis is but a shell;
No maturing soul, if it could have its way,
Would choose forever in this mortal house to dwell:
The night of death is harbinger of day.

 

Eternal increase is the crowning truth we teach;
Stagnation, ennui, death and anti-life
Would be our lot without a “grasp exceeding reach”—
Change adds eternal progress to eternal life.

 

We fear the future and the change it brings
Because we do not understand the plan.
When thoughts have inspiration’s wings
We’ll name “eternal increase” God’s greatest gift to man.
(London: December 14th, 1939)

Millennial Star, v101 n50,
14 December 1939, p. 784
[H.T. Keepapitchinin]

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Brown’s beautiful words make this one of the better matches of poem with lesson in this series. I love his comparison to the butterfly, leading us to consider this life just a stage in our eternal development. But Brown also captures, in the final stanza, the uncertainty that the future leaves with us, as well as the joy we’ll gain when we understand the plan:

We fear the future and the change it brings
Because we do not understand the plan.
When thoughts have inspiration’s wings
We’ll name “eternal increase” God’s greatest gift to man.

Indeed, that is, I think, what we mean by the “immortality and eternal life” that our Heavenly Father is striving to give us. It is, I agree, the greatest gift we can be given.

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