Lit Come Follow Me: D&C 58-59: Timing of Blessings, Sabbath Day

Plat of the “City of Zion”

The end is always a new beginning.

The arrival of the first Latter-day Saints in Independence, Missouri was both an end and a beginning. They accomplished the goal of gathering to Zion, but then realized that now they had to actually build Zion—a process that has, in a variety of ways, continued ever since. For the Saints at that time, the revelations contained in D&C 58 and 59 show the process of realizing that the new beginning of Zion contained a new set of struggles, and struggles that were very different from what they expected. For us today, these sections point out, symbolically, at least, that we are also facing struggles in our process of building Zion.

And in these sections we find two different messages about the blessings we often expect. First, we learn that blessings don’t come automatically—God is not a vending machine. Instead, blessings come according to God’s timing. And second, we learn that by keeping the Sabbath, we will receive both temporal and spiritual blessings.

 

The Timing of Blessings

The Saints who lived when the bulk of the Doctrine and Covenants were written faced a lot of struggle and suffering. These trials were often seen as necessary to their salvation, and the blessings they would receive were expected only in the future, if not in the next life. Eliza R. Snow captured this view in the following poem, written in late 1843 during her stay in the Morley settlement some 30 miles north of Nauvoo. She was living there after Emma Smith threw Snow out of the Mansion house in Nauvoo—which was in many ways her own trial.

To the Latter-day Saints

by Eliza R. Snow (1843)
The trials of the present day
Require the saints to watch and pray,
That they may keep the narrow way

To the celestial glory.
For even saints may turn aside,
For fear of ills that may betide,
Or else indue’d by worldly pride,

And lose celestial glory.
O’er rugged cliffs, and mountains high.
Through sunless vales the path may lie.
Our faith and confidence to try

In the celestial glory.
Why should we fear, though cowards say
Old Anak’s host in ambush lay,
Or there’s a lion in the way

To the celestial glory.
Fear not, though life should be at stake,
But think how Jesus, for our sake
Endur’d, that we might yet partake

Of the celestial glory.
We here may sometimes softer wrong.
But when we join with Enoch’s throng
We’ll loudly echo vict’ry’s song

In the celestial glory.
What though by some who seem devout.
Our names as evil ore cast out,
If honor clothe us round about

In the celestial glory.
Be steadfast, and with courage hold
The key of God’s eternal mould
That will the mysteries unfold

Of the celestial glory.
O, let your hearts and hands be pure,
And faithful to the end endure.
That you the blessing may secure

Of the celestial glory.
With patience cultivate within
Those principles averse to sin,
And be prepared to enter in

To the celestial glory.
Then let the “Times and Seasons fly.
And bring the glorious period nigh.
When Zion will be rais’d on high

In the celestial glory.

 

The Blessing of the Sabbath

When we’re faced with a project of overwhelming scope, like building the city of Zion, we might be tempted to clear everything that isn’t productive out of the way, such as observing the sabbath. So, soon after the first Saints arrive in Independence, the Lord urged them to keep the sabbath day.

I like the following poem by Joseph Longking Townsend, author of several of our most well-known and beloved hymns, including Choose the Right, Hope of Israel and The Iron Rod. After growing up in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri, Townsend came to Salt Lake City in 1872 seeking a better environment for his health. Despite the reputation of the Church because of polygamy, Townsend soon joined the Church, and frequently published his poetry in LDS magazines, while working as a druggist and school teacher. In this poem he praises the blessings he gets from observing the sabbath day:

Sabbath

by Joseph Longking Townsend (1920)
O, blessed day of peace and rest,
Thou art the day I love the best!
Through precious hours thy gifts are sown
With blessings from the Savior’s throne.
With songs of joy attune my lyre,
And feed my soul’s celestial fire;
Let love with love its pleasures meet,
And happiness be mine complete.
I know the joy of rest and peace
That from my toil brings sweet release;
And when the evening hours have passed
Yet shall thy precepts ever last.
And so repeated days replace
Thy happy hours of love and grace;
And Heaven, each departed year,
In vision thou hast made more clear!

.

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