“Venid, Hermanos”: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 8

To the degree that members of the Church live the gospel and follow the counsel of the prophets, they will, little by little and even without noticing it, become sanctified. Humble members of the Church who conduct daily family prayer and scripture study, engage in family history, and consecrate their time to worship in the temple frequently, become Saints.[1]

 

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

Hymn Text:

Venid, Hermanos” by José V. Estrada G. was published initially in the 1912 edition of the Mexican mission hymnbook, though it did not make the cut past the 1933 edition of the same hymnal.  It bears a similar name and the same author as the previous hymn discussed in this series (“Hermanos, Venid”), though it is a distinct hymn.  The original edition indicates that it was intended to be sung to hymn 87 from The Songs of Zion, which was “How Firm a Foundation.”  In this case, the same tune is used for “How Firm a Foundation” in the current hymnal.  It took me a bit to figure out how to do the translation, since rather than using an iambic meter (every other syllable is stressed), it uses a dactyl-based meter (every third syllable is stressed).

Figure 1. The text of “Venid, Hermanos” in the 1912 hymnal.

Table 1. Translation of “Venid, Hermanos”

Spanish Prose English Poetic English
Venid pues, hermanos, gozosos cantad,

Que llega el tiempo de la salvación;

Ya luce del cielo la luz de verdad,

Guiando los santos ya para Sión.

Come then, brothers, sing joyfully

That the time of salvation has arrived;

The light of truth shines from the sky,

Guiding the saints to Zion.

Oh come, then, my siblings, and sing with great joy:

The time of salvation has now come to hand,

The light of God’s truth shines from heaven above,

And guides all the Saints to great Zion’s bless’d land.

En contra los vicios, sin tregua luchad,

Amando con fe vuestro Padre y Dios;

Su gran Evangelio verdades os da,

Que Cristo al mundo dejara ayer.

Fight against vice without truce,

Loving with faith your Father and God;

His great gospel truths gives you,

That Christ left the world yesterday.

Come fight against vice and all sin without truce,

While faithfully loving your Father and God;

For all of His Gospel and truths that they give,

That Christ left the world in the past while he trod.

Dejad las riquezas y la potestad,

Dejad los placeres, tomando la cruz;

Que Cristo enseña eterna verdad,

Y El, en el cielo, os muestra la luz.

Leave riches and power,

Leave the pleasures, taking the cross;

That Christ teaches eternal truth,

And He, in heaven, shows you the light.

Oh leave all your riches and leave behind pow’r,

And leave earthly pleasure while taking the cross;

For Christ teaches truths of eternal account,

And He, from the heavens, shows you light sans costs.

Sufrid pues con calma el mal y desdén;

Sed siempre humildes, ¡Oh hijos de Dios!

Y horas serenas más tarde tendréis,

Con el Ser Eterno, el Dios de amor.

Calmly suffer wrongs and disdain;

Always be humble, O children of God!

And you will have peaceful times later,

With the Eternal Being, the God of love.

Now calmly we suffer all wrongs and disdain;

And always be humble, oh children of God!

And you will have days of great peace later on,

With the God of love, the Endless One we laud.

 

 

Music:

Here’s how the hymn might have appeared if printed with music in 1912:

New Music:

And here is my take on music for the hymn.  I wanted to do something bright, cheery, and upbeat for this one.

History:

One of the important aspects of the Church’s presence in Mexico was the establishment of colonies in the far north.  Intended as refuges against anti-polygamy legislation and persecution, the colonies were a constellation of settlements that proved successful for many years and, in some cases, still continue to exist to this day.

Historian Leonard J. Arrington once wrote that Latter-day Saints in the late 19th century faced “a trial even greater than that of Jackson County, Far West, and Nauvoo” that forced “the goal of the Kingdom… to be tragically revised, or largely abandoned”.[2] The practice of plural marriage, first introduced in secret by Joseph Smith and publicly announced by Orson Pratt in 1852, proved unpopular among the neighbors of the Latter-day Saints. It became a subject of ridicule, a core component of “the Mormon problem” in United States politics, and even an excuse to consider Euro-American Latter-day Saints as their own burgeoning race.  Partially in reaction to this opposition, the Latter-day Saints doubled down on the practice, speaking of it as divinely ordained and necessary for salvation.  This, in turn, led the federal government of the United States to pass a series of laws aimed at forcing the Latter-day Saints to abandon the practice.

By 1890, those laws had imposed draconian measures that nearly broke the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The Republican party had been founded in the 1850s on the platform of eliminating slavery and polygamy.  While slavery was their initial focus, polygamy was not forgotten and became an area of focus over the course of a few decades.  The 1862 Morrill Anti-bigamy Act banned bigamy in federal territories such as Utah and limited church and non-profit ownership in any territory of the United States to $50,000, though it was not enforced at that time (the country was engulfed in the Civil War and ignored enforcement of the Act as long as Utah didn’t attempt to leave the Union).  After the Civil War, however, the Poland Act was passed in 1872, giving teeth to the Morrill Act by eliminating the control members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  exerted over the justice system of Utah Territory.  The pressure continued to grow, and the Edmunds Anti-polygamy Act of 1882 prohibited “bigamous” or “unlawful cohabitation” (an easier thing to prove than polygamy) and made it illegal for polygamists or cohabitants to vote, hold public office, or serve on juries in federal territories.  When this began to be enforced in 1887, it effectively disenfranchised all members of the Church, since it was treated as being applicable to anyone who professed belief in polygamy.  The Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 then disincorporated both the LDS Church and the Perpetual Emigration Fund on the grounds that they fostered polygamy, prohibited the practice of polygamy and punished it with a fine of from $500 to $800 and imprisonment of up to five years, dissolved the corporation of the church and directed the confiscation by the federal government of all church properties valued over a limit of $50,000.  Upheld by the Supreme Court, these laws put significant pressure on the Church to abandon plural marriage.

The chaos that this caused for the Church and its members was extensive.  As a result of the Edmunds-Tucker Act, the Church handed over property valued at $807,666 to the federal government, including stock, land property, buildings and livestock.[3] Adjusting for inflation, that sum would be equivalent to $25,196,924 US dollars in 2021.[4] Included in this sum was the Temple Block of Salt Lake City, which was leased back to the Church for a minimal sum per month, though construction on the temple was halted.  These financial pressures were a major consideration in closing the mission in central Mexico during that time.  Almost all male leaders of the Church went into hiding, were imprisoned, or left the country to escape imprisonment. For example, Joseph F. Smith went to Hawaii, President John Taylor snuck from home to home in northern Utah before his death in Kaysville in 1887, and George Q. Cannon could hardly spend two nights in one place  as he was pursued all over the West by the United States marshal and his deputies before his final capture in 1886. Many members migrated to colonies in Chihuahua and Sonora in Mexico, and a few went to Albert, Canada with one of their families to avoid the US laws. To catch these “criminals,” government officials would invade Church meetings and beat on doors late at night, disrupting the lives of all members of the community.[5]

As a result of these pressures, Church leaders explored the option of moving to Mexico to escape prosecution.  The first mission to Mexico in 1875 was not only a proselytizing mission, but one that included a directive to scout out potential areas for colonization in northern Mexico.  These early missionaries explored Chihuahua and reported their findings to leaders of the Church, with a second expedition in 1776 exploring Sonora.  When missionaries arrived in Central Mexico in 1779, they not only answered the call of Plotino C. Rhodakanaty to share the Gospel and baptize members in the area, but also began meeting with government officials to explore options for establishing settlements in the north.  Despite polygamy also being banned in Mexico, the Latter-day Saints convinced Mexican government leaders that the benefits of allowing them to colonize in Mexico outweighed concerns about plural marriage.  For example, in 1880, Moses Thatcher met with Foreign Minister Zárate, Minister of Public Works and Colonization Fernández Leal, and Minister of War Carlos Pacheco, all of whom were familiar with Latter-day Saints and impressed by their ingenuity and prosperity in Utah.  As a result, they invited the Saints to settle in Mexico.

Finding territory to settle, however, would prove difficult at first.  Various deals were explored through the 1880s without success until 1885, when President John Taylor approved and purchased a site and a settlement began to be established in Apache territory near the border of Mexico and the United States.  Called Colonia Díaz, the area began to see a flood of polygamous refugees moving into the area in Chihuahua before land negotiations were even complete.  After a few hiccups with their Mexican neighbors during the time of their initial settlement, the Latter-day Saints began to establish more colonies in Chihuahua and Sonora, ultimately resulting in 10 colonies and hundreds of families settling in northern Mexico.  Many of the families were connected to people in high positions of leadership in the Church and proved successful in colonizing difficult areas.

Combination church-schoolhouse with Sunday School congregation in Colonia Díaz. Courtesy Wikimedia.

The colonies would prove to be important centers for the Church in Mexico, providing a missionary force of people with cross-cultural awareness and the ability to speak Spanish.  Several influential leaders of the Church have had ties back to these colonies, including President Henry B. Eyring and President Marion G. Romney.  And, perhaps most significant to this project, most of the hymns included in the 1907 and 1912 Mexican mission hymnals seem to have been written by people living in the colonies during the early 20th century.

 

Footnotes:

[1]  Benjamín De Hoyos, “Called to Be Saints,” CR April 2011, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/called-to-be-saints.p18?lang=eng

[2] Leonard J. Arrington, Great basin kingdom: An economic history of the Latter-Day Saints 1830-1900 (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1958), 354.

[3] Leonard J. Arrington, Great basin kingdom: An economic history of the Latter-Day Saints 1830-1900 (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1958), 371.

[4] Morgan. “The Inflation Calculator.” westegg.com.

[5] Thomas G. Alexander, Utah, the Right Place, revised ed. (Salt Lake City: Gibbs-Smith Publisher, 1996), 192-194.

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