The story of Balaam, as discussed in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 16, is about a prophet’s struggle with obedience and the requirements of political leaders. As portrayed in the Bible, Balaam follows the commandments of the Lord, but he attempts to get gain by currying favor with a political leader needed.
I think this issue of obedience is fascinating, something that, if we all think about it, we also face. We all have employers, friends, and others who try to influence us, sometimes against what we know the Lord would have us do. Our response is sometimes to merely appear to be a Saint, as the following poem describes.
The poet in this case is William Gill Mills, author of the text of hymn #40, Arise O Glorious Zion. Mills was born in Ireland in 1822, and moved with his family to the Isle of Man as a youth. He received some education from King Williams’s College and joined the Church there in 1841. While serving a mission in southern England in 1850 he met Louisa Sleater, and the pair eloped and a few years later immigrated to Utah. In 1857 he married Emily Hill, one of the members of the Willie and Martin companies that Mills helped rescue the year before. When Mills was called on a mission to England in 1860 and planned to take Louisa with him, Emily claimed ‘desertion’ and divorced him. [She later married Joseph Woodmansee. She is also a poet and is the author of the hymn As Sisters in Zion.] While still serving in the mission in 1863, Mills was excommunicated for adultery and returned home with Louisa. He subsequently lived in Nevada and in Gilroy California, where he was elected the first mayor of the town. By 1874 he returned with his family to Salt Lake City, although his commitment to the Church seems to have waned. He visited England again in 1893, and died in 1895. He wrote poetry throughout his life (he claimed to have penned hundreds), but never published a volume of poetry.
by W. G. Mills
- ‘Tis not the downcast look, the outward show,
- The placid smile that decks a holy face,
- Nor the distorted visage where we trace
- The mournful aspect of a man of woe;
- Nor clasped baud, nor the uplifted eye,
- Whene’er the name of God in prayer we hear;
- Nor yet the soul that really is sincere,
- (For Error has her vot’ries that would lie
- Subject to death, ere they’d renounce her mode,
- That constitutes the Saint. Ah! no: ‘t is he
- Who cries, “What wilt thou have me do, O Lord!”
- And yields obedience to the heavenly word;
- Receives that Spirit which will make him free,
- And lives by faith and every word of God!
Douglas, Isle of Man.
Millennial Star v12 n16,
15 August 1850, pp. 256.