Literary OTGD #06: Gleanings from Scripture

January 31, 2014 | one comment
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Lesson 6 of the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual seems like a difficult lesson to me. It covers both the story of Noah and the flood as well as the story of the tower of Babel. The lesson combines these disparate stories under the very general topic of worthiness and avoiding the evils of the world, which may not give most teachers much to work with. While I can’t really tell teachers where to go with this, I did find a poem that also addresses these stories (and a few more) in a very general way.

I have no idea who the author of this poem is, exactly. Whoever it is was a fairly prolific poet, since many other poems also appear in the pages of the Juvenile Instructor. It is possible, since the Juvenile Instructor was owned by George Q. Cannon and was a family business, that J.C. is one of his sons (perhaps John Q. Cannon, who is best known as the long-time editor of the Deseret News).

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Gleanings from Scripture

by J. C.

O, what a chapter strange we read, since time with us began,
Since God o’er all created things dominion gave to man.
No wonder it repented Him that man He ever made,
And drowned the earth in Noah’s day to prove what He had said.

 

This lesson, fraught with meaning to the heedless sons of men,
Seemed only for a little while to serve the purpose, when
On Sodom’s plains we see the Lord again provoked to ire,
Consuming all, save Lot and his, with brimstone, smoke and fire.

 

And then how strange the plan conceived when Babel’s sons had striven
To build a tower of mountain strength to reach from earth to heaven,
Till God confounds their language, and they stammer, every one,
And proves by His avenging power the thing could not be done.

 

We read that Moses on the mount had dwelt but forty days
Ere Israel gave their jewels all a golden calf to raise;
And faithless Aaron, left to guide, the thing forbidden found,
Which made his brother wroth and dash the tables on the ground.

 

And next the prophet Daniel in the lion’s den we see,
Because he dared to pray to God against the king’s decree.
And Jeremiah’s life was sought because he prophesied
That God would lay Jerus’lem waste and humble Judah’s pride.

 

Thus, step by step we travel down through hist’ry’s sacred page
To see man’s blind and stubborn will crop out from age to age
Despising ev’ry means of grace the Father would devise
While Satan stood with smiling face to blind their foolish eyes.

 

They stoned the prophets God had sent to raise them into power,
Preferring oft, as we ourselves the customs of the hour;
Accepting scourges dread without, for blessings glad within
Receiving plagues, in horrid forms, as wages for their sin.

 

We leave the prophets next to see, the Savior pure and wise
Nailed to the cross between two thieves, a bleeding sacrifice,
Rejected, smitten, spit upon, His mission laughed to scorn
And on His head, by demon’s thrust a platted crown of thorn.

 

And the apostles whom He called, were scourged, and driven forth
Oft like Himself, without a place to lay their head on earth;
Hunted, and put to death, in turn, in many a torturous way,
Because they chided priestly rule, for leading souls astray.

 

And after this, for ages long, of error dark and drear
Man tossed on time’s wild surging stream without a helm to steer.
What awful misery was wrought by sin’s unbridled pow’r
Will ne’er be thought, nor half revealed, until the judgment hour.

 

And e’en when Joseph Smith appeared, the gospel to restore
The same unchanging fate was his as prophets was before;
Again was Satan’s imps let loose, crazed with infernal lust
To lay his royal mission and his manhood in the dust.

 

How far these fiends succeeded then, let history reveal
We leave the dismal, horrid page with God above to deal
Where all shall have a great reward, according to their day
While murd’rers shall be put to shame, and smitten with dismay.

 

O, martyred truth, how hard thy fate, so oft to dare and die;
Left wounded, bleeding on the field—no tear of pity nigh,
Lift up thy head, and brave the worst, set sin’s bound captives free
And give earth’s sufferers from the first, a gladsome jubilee.

Juvenile Instructor v24 n07,
1 April 1889, pp. 151.

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The message here is, I think, similar to the purpose stated in the lesson manual, but the poem focuses on the effect of the evils of the world on the righteous. In some ways this message fits better the old testament, reflecting the image of God as “provoked to ire.”

I especially like the final stanza, with its appeal to overcome dis-animation. There we find the hope that Truth will, in the end, set us free and bring us “a gladsome jubilee.”

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One Response to Literary OTGD #06: Gleanings from Scripture

  1. Nancy B. on February 1, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Great poem but the whle thing brings to mind how much of those Old Testament stories were real or figurative. Many scholars believe, for instance that the flood was merely local rather than global. Certainly some of these stories were hyperbole to some degree to make a point or to provide a teaching moment. I just can’t equate a loving God with that kind of wrath and vengence on his own children.