Lit Come Follow Me: D&C 67-70: The Lord’s Witness, Inspiration, and Parenting

William W. Phelps

As Chad observed earlier this week, the sections in this week’s Come Follow Me curriculum concern the first attempt to publish Joseph Smith’s revelations as the Book of Commandments, ultimately assigned to William W. Phelps, who had established a printing press in Missouri. And, also as Chad noted in his post, sections 67 and 68 specifically address the nature and validity of revelation along with who is entitled to receive revelation for the Church.

In addition to these thoughts on revelation, sections 67 and 68 also indicate that the Lord stands behind those who receive revelations. We are taught that He often gives a witness of the spirit to confirm revelation. And section 68 also suggests that inspiration therefore reflects the will of the Lord.

In addition, section 68 also addresses parenting, indicating that parents are responsible to teach their children the doctrines of the Gospel.

 

The Lord’s Witness

Receiving a witness from the Lord can be comforting, something that strengthens our faith. Poet Walter W. Morrison understood this. Morrison was a native of Richfield, Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah before serving a mission to the central states. He worked as a public school teacher in Richfield, eventually overseeing music teaching in the county until 1910. Later, he was the postmaster of Richfield beginning in 1914. He wrote the following poem, which was published in 1927:

The Witness

by William W. Morrison (1927)

More sure than what I see or hear or measure,
Is the spirit’s witness to the truth revealed –
More precious far than any earthly treasure,
Are the covenants by keys of Priesthood sealed.
The perfect guide, through life to point the way,
Is freely given to each repentant soul;
It fills with purpose our beclouded day,
Disclosing whence we came and what our goal.
The great Archangel came, with glorious Eve,
And ate the fruit which genders mortal flesh.
That waiting spirits might new powers achieve
And here pursue their destiny afresh.
We walk by faith and, using, gain its power;
And here we learn by contrast wrong from right;
We add the body to the spirit’s dower
And train its strong desires with growing might.
This life’s a test – a time of quick unfolding –
In which we make or mar our destiny, –
Creative urge and new-found freedom holding –
Our adolescence in eternity.
Lest death our hopes destroy, with love divine
Our loving Father sent his first-born Son
To bear the shame and guilt that’s yours and mine –
And cleansed, each temple from its grave is won!
As a mother knows, when joy her heart has filled,
That she loves her babe close-folded to her breast,
So I know when my soul’s illumed and thrilled,
That prophets speak the truth at God’s behest.

[H. T. Ardis @ Keepapitchinin]

 

Inspiration

We use the term “inspiration” in many different areas. Revelation can be inspired, as can our choices. We often say that art or music is inspired. And, of course, writing, especially poetry, is often said to be inspired. This is one of the reasons that Apostle Orson F. Whitney gave for his claim that poets are prophets. Given this, when section 68 promises Orson Hyde and other missionaries inspiration (saying “whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture,…”) we might think not only about inspired words of missionaries and prophets, but also of poets.

Poet Henry W. Naisbitt, one of the more prolific Mormon poets of the late 19th century, wrote about his own inspiration in the following poem. When his father died when he was still a boy, Henry neglected school to help his mother, but somehow managed, despite the family circumstances, to develop a great love for reading, leading to his  literary talent. After apprenticing as a maker of copper kettles, learning to make silk hats and learning carpentry, Naisbitt ended up in the grocery business. He joined the LDS Church in 1850 and immigrated to Utah in 1854.

By the late 1800s he had become well known as an exponent of Mormonism and he regularly spoke in the Tabernacle on a variety of occasions and his poems and articles appeared frequently in Mormon periodicals. He served two missions to Great Britain. During the first, from 1876 to 1878, he served as the editor of the Millennial Star. He served the second mission starting in 1898 (at age 72) as a counselor to European Mission President Platte D. Lyman. After returning in 1901, he published a volume of poetry, Rhymelets in Many Moods.

The Poet’s Passion

By H. W. Naisbitt (1883)

How distant often seems what is beloved,

When silent worship is the highest key;
Who hath not by this real of life been moved,

A memory of the past-or yet to be?

 

Not by the forms we see e’en now and then,

Whose surface, contour, may arrest the sight;
Oh, things may be quite fair to common ken,

And yet lack soul which thrills like song at night!

 

The landscape may be lovely as a dream,

Its harmonies as if of Paradise;
And one will catch, ah, e’en its brightest gleam,

When to another, it is simply-nice!

 

The sculptor’s art from marble may evoke

True inspiration bursting to his will;
What patient toil, what touch, what artist stroke,

But to the soulless, it is marble still!

 

Tell all the masters who have pencil used,

And on the canvas bid their thought to swell;
Till ‘rapt souls gaze as if themselves transfused,

But millions simply ask, “Why, will it sell?”

 

So if ’tis music, glorious and sublime,

Echoes from far, of symphonies above,
And then rehearsed by gifted men in Time,

Are there not querists, “What doth music prove?”

 

Oh dull, uncomprehending mortals we,

Sightless to beauty, to its glory dead;
Or if ’tis visible, but gold most see,

And barter turns it into paltry lead!

 

Yet beauty is, its ideals grace the world,

Itself hath beauty ‘neath its varied skies;
And oft the human soul hath half unfurled,

Trophies of labor, skill, which heaven doth prize.

 

But all these seemings, landscape as it is,

Man’s art, his science, music, painting, all,
Are nothing to the glory which is his,

As man, as woman, where there is a soul!

 

What gulfs between, how one illumined lives,

Another, sordid, nearly void of good;
Light, love, and blessing is the wealth he gives,

While death, not life, the other understood.

 

In woman, sunshine from the soul steals out,

With beauty glorified a queen she stands,
Or, like a meteor as it sweeps about,

No good distilling from her outstretched hands.

 

Worship instinctive give we to the true,

And at a distance love or homage pay;
‘Tis soul, not form, the first is ever new,

The latter vanisheth within a day.

 

Soul is immortal, beauty is its dress,

Its own expression, without counterfeit;
Time and Eternity but this express,

Perfection’s stamp, is Heaven’s ideal yet.

 

Silence befits the poet, yet for speech

He waits in patience till the influx swells,
Till eloquence can his ideal reach,

Then his vocation in his music tells.

 

Oh beauty, soulful beauty be to me

The glimpse of heaven, assurance of its truth;
The dream of life, the is-and yet to be-

God’s welcome promise of eternal youth!

 

Parenting

Despite section 68’s admonition that parents teach their children the gospel, that doesn’t mean that children believe or even remain in the church. The commandment in section 68 is about what parents should do, not about what their children do. It’s about instruction, not outcome. In contrast, the following poem addresses the outcome, and its often very real effect on parents.

The author of this poem is Annie Eliza Gardner Lauritzen, one of the prolific Mormon poets of the early 20th Century. Born in Goshen, Utah, Annie moved with her family to Richfield, where she met Jacob Lauritzen, who she married in the Manti Temple in 1889. They later established a ranch at Short Creek, Utah, where they raised their family of ten children and Annie wrote stories and poems, eventually publishing hundreds of works in Church magazines. She passed away in 1942.

 

God Bless the Parents

by Annie G. Lauritzen (1925)

Dear God, bless every parent, who hath a wayward son
Or daughter under heaven, please bless them every one.
O touch them with thy Spirit, to lead them back to thee
Through deep, sincere repentance, to live eternally.
Forgive them all their follies, and lead them in the way
Of virtue, truth and honor, ah, never more to stray.
Heal thou the heart that’s broken, bind up the wounds that bleed;
The tempest-tossed, the afflicted, their soul’s deep hunger feed.
O let the prayers of the righteous raise to thee not in vain
But send to them deliverance from sorrow, grief and pain.
O grant that true salvation may come this very hour
To the oppressed, downtrodden, of Satan’s cruel power.

[H. T. Ardis @ Keepapitchinin]

 

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