Literary OTGD #05: Age after age has roll’d away

January 27, 2014 | 4 comments
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David W PattenWhile many teachers will focus their teaching of Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #5 on the story of Cain and Abel, that is only half the lesson. The other half of the lesson is the story of Enoch and his city—perhaps a more positive example for us today as we strive to live the admonition “be ye therefore perfect.”

The following poem is like the story of Enoch, one of the most unusual works in its corpus. As the prefatory paragraph indicates, it came out of an LDS meeting in which Elder David W. Patten (still at least 2 years before he was ordained an Apostle), spoke in tongues.

Who exactly should be credited as the author of this poem is a bit unclear. While Patten is credited in the LDS publications of the time, Sidney Rigdon should at least be credited as the ‘translator’ of Patten’s work. Adding to the confusion is the prefatory paragraph (which only appears on a broadside version of the poem entitled Mysteries of God), which indicates that the poem was “revealed to Enoch.”

Patten grew up in Vermont and New York, and was an enthusiastic convert when he joined the Church in June of 1832. Over his short lifetime he served 12 short missions for the Church. He was selected as one of the original 12 Apostles and was ordained on February 15, 1835. He moved to Far West, Missouri the next year, and became involved in the conflict with neighbors in Missouri. In October 1838 he was killed in the Battle of Crooked River.

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Age after age has roll’d away

by David W. Patten and Sidney Rigdon

[As revealed to Enoch, on the Mount Mehujah, and sung in tongues by Elder D. W. Patton, of the "Church of Latter Day Saints," (who fell a martyr to the cause of Christ, in the Missouri persecution) and interpreted by Elder S. Rigdon.]

Age after age has roll’d away
Since man first dwelt in mortal clay;
And countless millions slept in death,
That once supplied a place on earth:

 

According to the fate of man,
Which God had fix’d in his own plan,
So age must come, and age must go
Till work complete is here below:

 

Which had been seen by saints of old,
And by the prophets were foretold;
Which wondrous things are drawing near:
That Enoch saw, and saints did cheer.

 

Enoch who did converse with God:
Stood on the mount and stretch’d abroad
His soul wide as eternity:
He rent the vail and wonders see.

 

With mighty faith he did expand
O’er earth and heaven, o’er sea and land,
Till things above and things below
He did behold; yea, did them know.

 

His heart he tun’d to notes above,
His soul o’erwhelm’d with boundless love,
He sang a song in heav’nly lays,
While angels’ tongues join’d him in praise.

 

With finger end God touch’d his eyes
That he might gaze within the skies;
His voice he rais’d to God on high,
Who heard his groans and drew him nigh.

 

With joy and wonder, all amaz’d,
Amid the heav’nly throng, he gaz’d!
While heav’nly music charm’d his ear,
And angels’ notes, remov’d all fear.

 

Hosanna, he aloud did cry,
To God who dwells above the sky:
Again, Hosanna did resound,
Among the heav’nly hosts around.

 

His voice he rais’d in higher strains,
Echo’d and re-echo’d again,
Till heaven and earth his voice did hear:
Eternity did record bare.

 

The trump of God around the throne
Proclaim’d the power of God anon,
And sounded loud what should take place,
From age to age, from race to race.

 

Among the heavenly hosts he sang
God’s scheme of life for sinful man,
And for the gospel’s saving grace,
He prais’d the Father face to face.

 

The end of all his labors here,
Were all unfolded to him there:
His city rais’d to dwell on high,
With all the saints above the sky.

 

He saw before him all things past,
From end to end, from first to last;
Yea, things before the world began,
Or dust was fashion’d into man.

 

The place of Adam’s first abode,
While in the presence of his God:
Before the mountains rais’d their heads,
Or the small dust of balance weigh’d.

 

With God he saw his race began,
And from him emanated man,
And with him did in glory dwell,
Before there was an earth or hell.

 

From age to age, whate’er took place,
Was present then before his face;
And to the latest years of man,
Was plain before him, heav’ns’ plan.

 

His eyes with wonder did behold,
Eternal glories yet untold;
And glorious things of latter time,
Which angels have to tell to men.

 

He then did hear, in days of old,
The message that to John was told;
The angel which the news did bring,
He heard him talk and heard him sing.

 

And knew before the days of John,
What glories were on him to dawn,
The message which he did receive,
He heard and saw, and did believe.

 

He knew full well what John should hear,
Concerning times and latter years,
When God again should set his hand,
To gather Israel to their lands.

 

The gospel then from darkest shades,
Should rise and go with rapid strides,
Till nations distant, far and near,
The glorious proclamation hear.

 

The angel that this news proclaims,
Should come and visit earth again,
Commit the gospel, long since lost,
To man, with power, as at the first

Evening and Morning Star, May 1833

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Unfortunately, the poem above doesn’t really have a lot of relevance to the stories of Enoch in the lesson. I suppose the fact that the Enoch in the poem also made choices to follow the Lord might be a way to connect it with the lesson, but that is pretty slim. The real value of the poem is that it tells a different story about Enoch and has such an unusual provenance.

I like what it says about faith, however. The faith that Enoch has in the poem seems on par with that of the brother of Jared and of Moses in the Book of Moses. Like those prophets, Enoch here sees the full history of the world, from the creation to the last judgment. Enoch also does something unusual in the scriptures: he sings his praises of God.

I hope that the unusual nature of this poem makes it useful for those teaching Gospel Doctrine.

4 Responses to Literary OTGD #05: Age after age has roll’d away

  1. Clay Cook on January 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Wasn’t David Patton that supposedly saw and spoke to Cain while on a mission in Tenn or Kentucky? Double coincidence for the lesson I suppose.

  2. Alison Moore Smith on January 28, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks for posting this, Kent. Interesting. My husband teaches GD and I’ll make sure he sees it. I vote for Enoch over more Cain and Abel!

  3. Kent Larsen on January 28, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Clay, yes, that is correct.

    Alison, I should add that, in retrospect, I think this poem fits very well with the story of Enoch told in Moses. I should have mentioned that in the original post.

    I’m now wondering about the timing of this poem (appearing in 1833) and when Joseph was working on the Book of Moses (which, as I understand it, came out of his “translation” of the Bible. Could this text have influenced Joseph? Or did Joseph’s early work on “translating” Genesis influence this poem and its unusual provenance?

  4. Alison Moore Smith on January 28, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Good questions.

    We’re on lesson 5 this Sunday, so still studying Moses this Sunday and a bit more next Sunday. Very good timing for us!

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