Lit Come Follow Me: D&C Section 1

The first section of the Doctrine and Covenants is meant to be its preface; an outline of both its reason for existing and its purpose. Presented at a conference of the Church in November, 1831, Section 1 was given and composed specifically because the church was compiling the revelations Joseph Smith had received and was trying to publish them. So this section is the revelation the Lord gave to outline the purpose of this volume of scripture.

The Come Follow Me lesson for this first week of the year discusses several main concepts, including the restoration of the gospel, the primary reason why the Doctrine and Covenants exists. So, I’ve found two poems this week which talk about the restoration of the gospel.

The first is by Gustive O. Larson (1898-1978) and was written when he was 24 years old, apparently while he was serving a mission in California. Larson attended the University of Utah, earning a master’s degree in History before joining the seminary program and eventually joining the faculty at BYU in both religion and history. Along the way he did post-masters work at Columbia University, New York University, Brigham Young University, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of California at Berkeley. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Southern Utah State College in 1974. He also served as the president of the Swedish mission from 1936 to 1939.

The scripture references in the poem do make it seem like it was written by a missionary. But otherwise it nicely packs a huge amount of doctrine concerning the apostasy, restoration, and the second coming into a relatively short poem. It really captures a most of what missionaries taught. And, as such, it’s not a bad introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants.

[H.T. to Ardis Parshall’s Keepapitchinin, where I found this poem.]

The Restoration

By Gustive O. Larson (1922)
The time had come. Prophecy fulfilled [Micah 3:6]
Found the earth defiled and in transgression; [Isaiah 24:5]
Apostasy brought famine in the land [Amos 8:11]
Where words of God found no expression. [John 16:2]
Spiritual darkness reigned supreme as night [Micah 3:6]
Till simple Faith again should bring the light. [James 1:5]
The message came. Fulfilling revelation,
An angel from the midst of heaven [Rev. 14:6]
Brought to earth the Gospel of Salvation,
And all the keys whose promise had been given; [Malachi 4:5]
And messengers from God came to restore [Malachi 3:1]
The priesthood, as it was on earth before. [Acts 3:21]
‘Tis drawing near. The Messiah soon [Matthew 24:30]
In all his glory shall again appear: [Luke 21:27]
Who lived his Law shall then come forth, [Matthew 7:21]
For at his coming all his own shall hear. [1 Cor. 15:23]
His Plan shall reach its consummation –
The power of god unto man’s salvation. [Rom. 1:16]
One Plan is given. So great its span
The dead within their graves shall hear it, [1 Peter 3:18]
That they, too, may be judged as mortal man,
But live according to the Lord in spirit. [1 Peter 4:6]
Not endless plans and worldly mysticism, [2 Tim. 4:2-4]
But one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism. [Eph. 4:5]
I haven’t been able to find out much about the author of this second poem. R. H. French may be Richard French, who the Millennial Star indicates was ordained an Elder in 1847. Beyond the publication of two poems in the Millennial Star, I haven’t found any information about him. He doesn’t appear in the church’s missionary database, nor in the database of Mormon immigrants by sea at BYU.
Regardless of who French was or what became of him, his poem presents a grand vision of the gospel and its effect on the world. It reminds me a bit of much of Parley P. Pratt’s poetry, with its triumphal announcement of the restoration.

Restoration of the True Gospel

By R. H. French (1852)
The “light of truth” increases more and more,
And spreads triumphantly from shore to shore.
The heart, in warm and gushing songs of praise,
Must celebrate its birth in latter-days,
And, animated with its potent fire,
Its triumphs tell upon the living lyre.
The time has dawned when truth again should rise,
Borne by a mighty angel from the skies.
That precious thing, th’eternal Gospel plan,
With all its gifts conferred of old on man,
Has been restored; and man exulting sees
The grateful seed, once scattered on the breeze,
Bearing celestial fruit o’er land and sea,
And flourishing, despite the tares that be;
And long and mighty will its power yet wield,
Till error and oppression to it yield.
Dim were the days ere light from heaven did flow
Through God’s own Seer, and dimmer still they grow
As truth unfolds itself unto the mind,
And every fetter breaks that once did bind,
Setting man free; the glorious heavenly light
Dispelling mists of error from his sight.
Hail, dawn of Truth! Hail, age of promise given
To man, the offspring, and the heir of heaven!
Thy power, but now begun, shall onward stream,
And all thy glories, like a morning beam,
Enlarge, and glow, and shine from shore to shore,
To lighten all mankind the wide world o’er;
Whilst inspiration whispers from the west,
That man from sin and sorrow there shall rest;
That earth shall in the coming struggle rise,
And from herself shake human agonies;
No more for tyrants and for wrong a home,
And for God’s Prophets a sad, silent tomb.
Eternal visions, rolling on the sight,
Foretell that truth, in majesty and might,
Shall rise and conquer gloriously at last,
And priestcraft quail before Jehovah’s Must;
Foretell that earth shall be enrobed as fair
As e’er it was, and peace shall blossom there;
That heartfelt rapture, pure celestial joy,
Shall dwell for ever there without alloy.
Songs, speeches, prayers, from hearts in union met,
Are heavenly joys we shall not soon forget.
These pleasures we enjoy this evening here;
They’re but the shadowing of joys more dear,
That to our midst will swiftly, surely come,
And crown our days within our mountain home.
These hallow now our bosoms–those for aye
Will softly linger through the perfect day.

 

2 comments for “Lit Come Follow Me: D&C Section 1

  1. This is going to be a valuable series, Kent, a different way to see how concepts in the Doc & Cov have been considered and embraced and taught by Latter-day Saints. Thank you for the hat-tip, too — when I posted LDS poetry and fiction at Keepa, we usually didn’t get into much discussion; the point was to show the breadth of our culture, even to show that we had a culture beyond the mere living of our history. You’re taking our poetry beyond that point, and I hope it reaches individuals regardless of discussion. Cheers!

  2. Thank you, Ardis! What I’m doing would have been much more difficult without your work in finding and posting so much LDS poetry and fiction. Your contribution to Mormon History is invaluable.

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