La Proclamación: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 1

“I know for myself that Joseph Smith was a prophet because I have applied the simple promise in the Book of Mormon: ‘Ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ’ (Moroni 10:4). In simple words, look up.”[1]

~Adrián Ochoa

 

Note: This is a part of an ongoing series.  To start at the introduction, follow the link here.

The Text

La Proclamación, by José V. Estrada G., is one of the few hymns original to Mexico that have survived up to the present (1992) Spanish-language hymnbook in the Church.  Also called “La voz, ya, del Eterno”, it was was initially included as hymn 51 in the 1912 Himnos de Sion (Mexican Mission) (see Figure 1), and was included in all subsequent editions of that collection, the 1942 Himnos de Sion that was published by the Church (Hymn 252), and the 1992 Himnos (Hymn 145).  In the original hymnal, it was intended to be sung to hymn 53 in Songs of Zion, which was “Improve the Shining Moments” by Robert B. Baird (the tune still used today).  The text itself has had a few edits over the years, particularly for the 1992 Himnos (see Table 1).

 

Figure 1. “La Proclamación” in the 1912 Himnos de Sion.

 

Table 1. Variations in text of La Proclamación over the course of Church Publications.  Changes from the 1912 edition are bolded.

1912 1942 1992
1. La voz, ya, del Eterno,
Nos llama otra vez,
A que seamos justos,
Cumpliendo con su ley;
Que nos amemos todos
Sin mal ni altivez;
Y que al desgraciado,
Llevemos á la mies.
1. La voz, ya, del Eterno
Nos llama otra vez,
A que seamos justos,
Cumpliendo con su ley.
Que nos amemos todos
Sin mal ni altivez;
Y que al descarriado,
Llevemos a la mies.
1. La voz, ya, del Eterno
nos llama otra vez
a que seamos justos,
cumpliendo con Su ley.
Que nos amemos todos
sin mal ni altivez,
y que al descarriado
llevemos a la mies.
2. Las vidas mejoremos,
Amando la verdad;
Los vicios despreciemos,
El bien á conquistar;
Pues es mejor la vida
De paz y de bondad,
Que negros sufrimientos
En la eternidad.
2. Las vidas mejoremos,
Amando la verdad,
Los vicios despreciemos,
El bien a conquistar.
Pues es mejor la vida
De paz y de bondad,
Que negros sufrimientos
En la eternidad.
2. Las vidas mejoremos,
amando la verdad.
Los vicios desechemos,
y la iniquidad.
Pues es mejor la vida
de paz y de bondad
que negros sufrimientos
en la eternidad.
3. Con fe, con esperanza,
Roguemos al Señor
Que brillen nuestras vidas,
Con celestial amor.
Pues El jamás olvida
Al mundo que formó,
Llenándolo de dichas
Y con la salvación.
3. Con fe, con esperanza,
Roguemos al Señor,
Que brillen nuestras vidas
Con celestial amor.
Pues él jamás olvida
Al mundo que formó,
Llenándolo de dichas,
Y con la salvación.
3. Con fe, con esperanza,
roguemos al Señor
que brillen nuestras vidas
con celestial amor
Él nunca se olvida
del
mundo que formó,
y quiere bendecirnos
y darnos
salvación.

 

 

I based my translation primarily on the 1992 version, since that is the form currently used in the Church (see Table 2).

 

Table 2. Translation of the text of “La Proclamación”

Original Text Prose Translation Poetic Translation
1. La voz, ya, del Eterno,

Nos llama otra vez,

A que seamos justos,

Cumpliendo con su ley;

Que nos amemos todos

Sin mal ni altivez;

Y que al desgraciado [descarriado],

Llevemos á la mies.

1. The voice of the Eternal One now

Calls us again,

To be righteous,

Fulfilling His law;

That we love each other

Without evil or arrogance;

And all the unfortunate ones [And all the ones who have gone astray],

Let’s take to the harvest.

1. The voice of the Eternal

Now calls to us anew,

To live in righteousness here,

His law fulfilling too:

To love each other always,

No evil in our heart;

To those who’ve gone astray here,

The gospel we’ll impart.

 

2. Las vidas mejoremos,

Amando la verdad;

Los vicios despreciemos [desechemos],

El bien á conquistar;

Pues es major la vida

De paz y de bondad,

Que negros sufrimientos

En la eternidad.

2. Lives improve,

Loving the truth;

The vices we despise [let us discard the vices],

The good to conquer [And our iniquity];

Well, the life is better {that is}

Of peace and kindness,

Than black sufferings

In eternity.

2. Let us improve our lives, and

Love truth emphatically;

Discarding all our vices,

And our iniquity.

Then life will be much better,

A life of kindness, peace.

But otherwise, dark suff’ring

Will come and never cease.

 

3. Con fe, con esperanza,

Roguemos al Señor;

Que brillen nuestras vidas,

Con celestial amor.

Pues El jamás olvida [Él nunca se olvida]

Al mundo que formó,

Llenándolo de dichas [y quiere bendecirnos]

Y con la salvation. [y darnos salvación.]

3. With faith, with hope,

We pray to the Lord;

Let our lives shine

With heavenly love.

For He never forgets

The world that He formed,

Filling it with His words [He wants to bless us]

And with salvation. [And give us salvation]

3. With faith and with much hope, come:

And pray unto our God.

And let our lives shine brightly:

With heav’nly love we trod.

Our God will not forget us,

The world that He formed thus.

And He desires to bless us,

Salvation giv’n to us.

Music:

The following is what the hymn would have appeared like if it had been printed with the indicated music in 1912:

 

The following links are to the form currently used in the Church’s hymnal:

Music file provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Music score provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

 

My English translation of the hymn is as follows:

 

New Music:

As for my own setting of the hymn, here is the music with the Spanish text from the 1992 hymnal:

And here is the new music with the English translation:

 

 

History:

When the Latter-day Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, they arrived as refugees fleeing the United States of America to settle in northern Mexico.  Converts rejoiced in what they saw as the Restoration of God’s work, as “La voz, ya, del Eterno” celebrates.  Yet, fears and frustrations about Latter-day Saints that were sparked by the political and economic implications of them gathering to specific geographic locations, the level of control leaders of the Church were given over the lives of the Saints, concerns about perceived fanaticism, and internal dissent within the Church combined to repeatedly make the Latter-day Saints unwelcome in the various Midwestern communities that they settled.  As a result, the Latter-day Saints had to repeatedly flee from violent opposition while living in the United States of America.

When they started the exodus from Illinois, it was the full intention of the Quorum of the Twelve to get out of the United States.  Elder Orson Pratt wrote to the Saints in the eastern United States in 1845: “Brethren awake!  Be determined to get out from this evil nation next spring.  We do not want one Saint to be left in the United States after that time.”[3]  He added that: “The time is at hand for me to take a long and last farewell to these Eastern countries, being included with my family, among the tens of thousands of American citizens who have the choice of DEATH or BANISHMENT beyond the Rocky Mountains.  I have preferred the latter.  It is with the greatest of joy that I forsake this Republic.”[4]  Having faced persecutions and even a war against them in the United States, the Latter-day Saints were ready to leave behind the country that was, for many of them, their native land.

Granted, it wasn’t so much of a love of Mexico that they decided to move to the northern reaches of that country (called Alta California at that time).  During a 22 March 1845 meeting of the Council of Fifty, Elder Erastus Snow noted that:

If we pitch upon California, and that seems to be the place where our feelings center, we can take care of ourselves.  He [Elder Snow] often heard the prophet speak of that country last spring.  … The only difficulty there appears to be in the way of our locationing in California is the Mexican government, and he has no fears about them. … He knows the Mexican government is weak, and they have never taken measures to place themselves in a situation of defense.[5]

At the time, Mexico was occupied with internal conflicts–the well-known Antonio López de Santa Anna had recently been overthrown and exiled, but the new president, José Joaquín de Herrera, was facing intense internal opposition due to his suggestion that Mexico recognize Texas’s independence in an effort to avert war with the United States.  Herrera would, in turn, be overthrown by Mariano Paredes the following December.

Because of that turmoil, during the March 1845 meeting, Elder Snow expressed that: “Every information he has been able to get goes to satisfy him that there is a mere form of government but not much power.  He dont think we would encounter the obstacles there as we would in other gentile settlements,” though he speculated that if Mexico did gain more control over Alta California, “they would naturally torment us, as much as the United States would if they had power.”[6]  It wasn’t that the Latter-day Saints wanted to be a part of Mexico that made it their goal to move into Mexican territory so much as they thought they would be able to get away with governing themselves without external governments overseeing them.

Nor were Mexicans ignorant of what the Latter-day Saints were contemplating.  On November 26, 1845, the newspaper El Monitor wrote that:

The new religious sect called Mormons, has revealed how closely it is being washed by the American Government, and the efforts and diabolic plans that it must pursue in order to free itself from such a terrible stepfather, who makes them so uncomfortable and threatens them from the center of their same soil.  One of the suggested options for those that form this new sect is to migrate to the Californias, with the objective that once within this country [Mexico]; their independence will be easy and realizable within a short time.[7]

Thus, in Mexico, people knew what the Latter-day Saints were contemplating when it came to Alta California.

The plan to escape the United States, however, did not work out as initially hoped.  In December of 1845, Texas was annexed by the United States of America.  Texas and the United States also claimed more territory than had previously been claimed by Texas and began moving into the disputed territory, all of which sparked the Mexican-American War.[8]  During the middle of the conflict, the United States government decided to offer an opportunity to the Latter-day Saints that would give them some payment through military service.  After some lobbying for some financial support for the Latter-day Saint exodus, United States president James Polk authorized enlisting a group of Latter-day Saints to “conciliate them, attach them to our country, & prevent them from taking part against us.”[9]  In hopes that it would make them more amenable to supporting expansionist plans of the United States rather than fighting against them ( in support of Mexico, the United Kingdom, or independence).

At first, the Latter-day Saints were extremely suspicious of this offer.  For example, Hosea Stout wrote in his journal that: “We were all very indignant at this requisition and only looked on it as a plot laid to bring trouble on us as a people.  For in the event that we did not comply with the requisition we supposed they would now make a protest to denounce us as enemies to our country and if we did comply that they would then have 500 of our men in their power to be destroyed as they had done our leaders at Carthage.  I confess that my feelings was uncommonly wrought up against them.  This was the universal feeling at Pisgah.”[10]  President Brigham Young, however, recognized the opportunity it presented for the Latter-day Saints, and told Stout that: “They were going to comply with the requisition of the President of the United States and furnish the 500 men demanded and that there was a good feeling existed between us and him & all was right.”[11]  In the Mexican-American War (the Intervención estadounidense en México), the Latter-day Saints sided with the United States and created the only religious military unit in the United States’ history.

Luckily, the Mormon Battalion did not have to fight during the conflict.  They essentially spent a year marching from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, California, helping to occupy the latter for the United States before being released to return to their families.  Still, the Battalion accomplished the major goals of those who set it up: The Latter-day Saints sided with the United States rather than fighting against it and, in turn, they received the desperately-needed financial assistance necessary to fund colonizing Alta California.  With the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the territory the Latter-day Saints had settled officially became part of the United States.

In relation to Mexico, however, this set up an interesting relationship for the Latter-day Saints with the country.  They intended to escape to Mexico to get away from violent persecution in the United States because they thought they could get away with self-rule.  When it came to the Intervención estadounidense en México, however, the Latter-day Saints sided with the United States rather than Mexico, providing a military unit of around 500 people that marched into Mexican territory.  The war resulted in approximately half of the land that Mexico claimed being ripped away from that country by their more powerful northern neighbor – something that continues to be resented to this day.  Hence, one prominent Mexican Latter-day Saint suggested that if Latter-day Saints want to appear less United-States-centric, they should avoid claiming links to the Mormon Battalion because: “The Mormon Battalion offends all of Latin America.  Fortunately, the Battalion had no battles.  Had it done so, the church would never have been allowed to enter Mexico.”[12]

 

Footnotes:

[1] Adrián Ochoa, “Look Up,” CR October 2013, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2013/10/look-up.p15?lang=eng

[3] Orson Pratt, New York Messenger, 15 November 1845, 153.

[4] Orson Pratt, New York Messenger, 15 November 1845, 153.

[5] Council of Fifty minutes, March 22, 1846, The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records: Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844-January 1846, ed. Matthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Jeffrey D. Mahas (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016), 354-355.

[6] Council of Fifty minutes, March 22, 1846, The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records: Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844-January 1846, ed. Matthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Jeffrey D. Mahas (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016), 354-355.

[7] El Monitor 26 Nov 1845, cited in Fernando R. Gomez and Sergio Pagaza Castillo, Joseph Smith, Jr.: His Influence in the Mexican Press of the XIX Century (Mexico City: Museo de Historia del Mormonismo en México), chapter 2.

[8] The tactics the United States used to justify declaring war seem to have some parallels to how Russia justified its current invasion of Ukraine.

[9] James K. Polk Diary, 2 June 1846, in Milo Milton Quaife, ed., The Diary of James K. Polk during His Presidency, vol. I (Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1910), 444.

[10] Hosea Stout Diary, June 28, 1846, in On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout, Volume One 1844-1848, ed. Juanita Brooks (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1964), 172.

[11] Hosea Stout Diary, July 3, 1846, On the Mormon Frontier, 174.

[12] Lozano Herrera, interview, cited in, F. LaMond Tullis, Mormons in Mexico: The Dynamics of Faith and Culture (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1987), 203-204.

2 comments for “La Proclamación: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 1

  1. I love this and I’m looking forward to more posts about these songs. My teenage son will sing at church if the song is in Spanish, but we never get a chance to try out the Spanish-only hymns since we’re in an English ward. Thanks for doing this series so we can learn about these hymns too.

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