Category: SS Lesson – Doctrine and Covenants

Lit Come Follow Me: D&C 12-13

The two sections of the D&C for the next Come Follow Me lesson are both quite short, but the second covers one of the most significant events in Church history—the visit of John the Baptist restoring the Aaronic Priesthood and the ordinance of Baptism, found in section 13. But before that, in section 12, we find a blessing on Joseph Knight, Sr., who sought to know what he should do to build up the kingdom. Surprisingly, the answer to that is not often found in the earliest Mormon poetry—when this poetry speaks of Zion or of the kingdom, the message is often simply the millennial message that the Lord will bring Zion, regardless of what we do. Fortunately, there are some poems that do suggest that we should work to build up Zion.   Jane Mason On Zion On Zion is the earliest poem I found that mentions that we should be part of building up Zion. Its author, Jane Horby Mason, was born in Louth, Lincolnshire in 1807 and married Thomas Mason in 1840. They had a child, James, in 1841, and several years later Jane joined the Church and wrote a poem titled “Truth” in 1847 and the following poem in 1848. Early the following year, Jane and her son James immigrated to Utah, leaving Thomas behind. In Utah Jane married Levi Savage, Sr. in 1856, and lived in Utah until her death in 1888. I hope to…

Lit Come Follow Me: D&C 10-11

The two sections in this week’s Come Follow Me lesson seem very different. The first, section 10, concerns the aftermath of the loss of the 116 manuscript pages containing the initial translation of the Book of Mormon. In contrast, section 11 is a revelation of advice to Hyrum Smith. But in both of them is a message of seeking the Lord and relying on Him—the first proclaiming that God foresaw everything from the beginning, so we should rely on Him, and the second urging reliance on Him by accepting revelation and prophecy.   Seek Ye The Lord by Maria Berry Let’s start with a poem by Maria Berry, apparently the Maria Berry who lived in the then mining boomtown of Mammoth, some 45 miles west southwest of Provo (near Eureka). If this is correct, then Maria was born in Denmark as Hansine Marie Bluhm, and immigrated with her family to the United States in 1881, when she was just over a year old. She married John Ernst Berry (born Behre in Germany, also immigrated as a child) in 1900, and raised her family first in Sanpete county and then in Mammoth, before the family settled in Salt Lake. She passed away in 1969. This poem shares its first line with the hymn “Count Your Many Blessings”, which may cause some confusion or dissonance when reading it. But its message is much closer to the message of the lesson: Seek Ye…

Lit Come Follow Me: D&C 6-9

The central character in this week’s D&C sections is Oliver Cowdery, the primary scribe and assistant to Joseph Smith in the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. In our mythology1, we frequently recount the story, told in two of these sections2, of Oliver’s attempt and failure at translating the Book of Mormon, often to teach the idea (among others) that receiving revelation is work, something that we need to put effort into. A third of these section also seeks to help Oliver understand revelation, while the fourth is, if nothing else, an example of revelation. So we don’t need to search hard to find a theme for this week.   The Revelation by Hannah Deady Tomsik And the theme of revelation appears regularly in LDS poetry. Let’s start with a very personal poem, and one that I think will resonate with many of us today. It was written in 1921, not long after the influenza pandemic, by Hannah Tomsik of Washington City, Utah. At this point she was a mother of three small children, and her immediate family had escaped the pandemic. But her poem suggests that she saw many others suffer:   The Revelation by Hannah Deady Tomsik (1921)  We look upon our neighbor in his grief, And wonder how he bears the bitter pain. In our weak way, we try to give relief; We try to help and comfort, but in vain. We see him lay…

Lit Come Follow Me: D&C 3-5

In the three sections covered in this week’s Come Follow Me lesson we go with Martin Harris from the 116 pages to being a witness, with a detour to Joseph Smith Sr. and what it means to serve God. While I haven’t found poems that mention the events associated with these sections, there are a number that examine the principles in them. For example, the lesson discusses Martin Harris’ worries about his standing in the community and with his wife as one of the contributing factors behind him seeking the 116 manuscript pages, and draws from Section 3 the principle “Trust God not man.” And that teaching is the subject of the following poem by Thomas Ward.     A Fragment by Thomas Ward Thomas Ward served as editor of the Millennial Star, the Church’s long-running England-based periodical, following Parley P. Pratt’s return to the US in October 1842 until Orson Hyde took over in October 1846, as Ward was apparently leaving England temporarily.  By the next year, Ward was in England, and had become ill with dropsy. He died on March 4th. A Fragment is one of several poems that Ward published in the Millennial Star. A Fragment By Thomas Ward (1843) I mark’d him as he stood with downcast eye, Whence, ever and anon, a tear would start; While with convulsive throb his bosom heav’d; ‘Twas nature’s final struggle to o’ercome The high resolve, the purpose of the…

Lit Come Follow Me: D&C 2

This coming week’s Come Follow Me lesson discusses the events surrounding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, including the visits of Moroni to Joseph Smith and the scripture’s translation and publication. Like other early events in the restoration, these events have been portrayed artistically many times, and will undoubtedly be portrayed many more times. Clinton F. Larson’s Sonnet on the Book of Mormon I’ll start my selected poems for this week with a sonnet by Clinton F. Larson (no relation — our last names are spelled differently). Larson was a BYU professor who became the University’s first poet-in-residence. He is also known as the playwright of several well-regarded and very Mormon plays, including Coriantumer and Moroni (1962) and of The Mantle of the Prophet (1966). His poetry also appeared in the seminal anthology of Mormon literature, A Believing People.   Sonnet on the Book of Mormon By Clinton F. Larson (1940)   The ruins murmur on unceasingly To testify there was another day … This western hemisphere has known a glory That we know little of, except to say:   ‘I felt their grandeur in the backward look …’ They had a scripture from Omnipotence: So from the dust, from them to us, the book Came down, spanning timeless decadence   To tell us of the nations and the forms That have gone down beneath consuming time; What temporal monument, against the storms, Can hold steadfastly in artistic rhyme?…

Lit Come Follow Me: D&C —Joseph Smith History 1

In the second lesson for this year, the Come Follow Me curriculum turns to Joseph Smith-History in order to include a brief look (over two lessons) at the origins of the restoration. For most Church members, the story is very familiar, and the principles taught are well-covered material. And, as you might imagine, the events of the First Vision have been told many times in poetry. But, that was not always true—Mormon poets didn’t cover the First Vision until the saints arrived in Utah. Below I’ve included three poems that treat the First Vision. Two of them are from some of the best known of Mormon poets. But, don’t stop there. The final poem, a sonnet, is the best, and one of my favorites of all Mormon poetry. Eliza R. Snow’s Historical sketch of the Life of President Joseph Smith The earliest poem I found is from 1856 — found in Eliza R. Snow’s first collection of poetry. Snow started writing a poetic epic poem to tell the life story of Joseph Smith in the early 1840s, completing an introductory poem that was published in 1843. She later wrote two “chapters” of the poem covering Smith’s life until the organization of the Church, and then apparently abandoned the project. The whole poem was published in her 1856 collection. The following is a portion of the second chapter that covers the events of the current Come Follow Me lesson: Historical sketch…

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.

Sacrament Prayers: A Close Reading

A while ago my dad had pointed out some features of the sacrament that somehow I’d missed in all the years I’d been partaking. A few of these were examples of something that’s right before you the whole time yet somehow you still miss. I thought I’d share them with you. We get our sacrament rite largely from the Nephites rather than the Palestinian Christians. Many have argued that the evolution of the sacrament amongst the Nephites takes the form it does going back to King Benjamin’s famous speech. (See for example John Welch’s argument in King Benjamin’s Speech: That Ye May Learn Wisdom where he argues for a close connection to Mosiah 5) The Palestinian version of the sacrament is most likely that found in the Didiche, an early 1st century document that deals with rituals and other such matters. It differs a fair amount although there are points of similarity. Given how the near eastern form of Judaism had been transformed by the exile, the Hellenistic and then Roman conquests, it’s hardly surprising for there to be differences. There are six centuries of divergent evolution. We need to remember that the Nephites had most likely been heavily assimilated into mesoAmerican culture much as the Palestinian Jews had assimilated a lot of Hellenistic and Babylonian culture. There’s also the effect of Joseph’s translation which regardless of the method of translation strongly suggest a fairly loose translation in terms of…

Literary DCGD #46: Zion

Perhaps the most difficult issue in discussing the idea of Zion is defining exactly what we mean. Even though D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson #46 is titled “Zion—The Pure in Heart,” its first section is titled “The word Zion has several meanings” and lists no less than six. Of these, I’ve seen evidence in Mormon poetry for two or three definitions. First, the early Mormon poets used Zion in a millennial sense, to mean “The New Jerusalem.” They also used ion to mean “The dwelling place of those who are exalted,” or perhaps even simply “Those who are exalted.” And, from the poetry I’ve read, it seems that Zion was also used to mean “The Church and its stakes” and “The members of the Church.” In the following poem John Lyon seems to use all three.

Literary DCGD #45: Marriage

The Mormon conception of marriage is central to our theology and understanding of the next life. We see marriage as the beginning of eternal families, and a key element of eternal progression. Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson #45 explores this belief, but, I think, doesn’t quite get at how or why marriage might be so central to eternal life. The following poem may explain somewhat.

Literary DCGD #44: The Nauvoo Legion

Mormons believe in being good citizens, and Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson #44 discusses a little how that is supposed to work. We are supposed to participate, obey the law and to serve others in our communities. But are there limits on this responsibility? How much should we give to our communities? Are there limits on the sacrifice we should make? Things we should not do? In the following poem, Eliza R. Snow lauds those who serve the Nauvoo community, in response to a very real need at the time: defense against mob violence. And some of the Nauvoo community ended up sacrificing their lives for the city.

Literary DCGD #43: Entreaty

What exactly is the “whole armor of God?” Lesson 43 of the Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine manual explores this concept, drawing from D&C 27:15-18, and its inspiration, Ephesians 6:13-18. But while both these scriptural texts point to principles that represent various pieces of body armor, its sometimes hard to see how these principles actually protect us. If we look at an actual struggle, what pieces of armor will we see in use? The following poem may provide some insight.

Literary DCGD #42: The Prophet Turned the Key

The Mormon belief in continuing revelation (the subject of Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine Lesson #42) is rare if not unique among Christian religions, and it is one of the features of Mormonism most promoted. What is perhaps less discussed is the range of meanings of this term in Mormonism. We use it to mean everything from impressions each of us receive personally to written documents produced by the Prophet and accepted by the body of the Church as scripture. Revelation is perhaps most effective when it leads to a significant change in our behavior, or the behavior of the Church as a whole—when, as the following poem describes, it ‘turns a key’ to open a whole new perception of what our duties and blessings as members of the Church are.

Literary DCGD #41: Lines on the Death of Lorenzo D. Barnes

The idea that every member is a missionary depends on a certain kind of commitment to the Church. For the Church to make the kind of progress outlined in D&C Gospel Doctrine Lesson 41 missionaries, even member missionaries, must be willing to make the sacrifices necessary. Recently, the level of commitment that some missionaries end up making has been very public — the Church seems to have switched policy and made public information about missionaries who died in the field. At last report the number who have died is up to 12 (probably fewer than the number of currently serving missionaries that would have died had they all stayed at home — but little consolation to relatives). The subject of this poem was the first missionary to die in the field outside of the United States. Enthusiastic when he left, Barnes wrote a long poem announcing his mission entitled The Bold Pilgrim (which I excerpted for D&C Lesson #11).

Literary DCGD #40: Baptism for the Dead

Temple and Family History work (discussed in Gospel Doctrine lesson #40) are perhaps the most unique of LDS doctrines. The doctrine behind them solves both the problem of making salvation universally available and the need for high-church ceremony in a religion that focuses on low-church ideals in its regular worship. The origin of this doctrine appeared in Mormonism in late 1840, and by the following year it was popular enough that it was the subject of the following poem.

Literary DCGD #39: The Records of Our Dead

The doctrine of baptism for the dead is unique to Mormonism among religions today. Our focus on performing ordinances on behalf of those who haven’t been part of the Church in this life leads us to genealogical research to discover enough information to distinguish between individuals, and sometimes even allowing us to discover who our ancestors were—what kind of people they were and what were they like. While our family history efforts are rightly focused on getting temple work done for our ancestors, we should find value also in getting to know those ancestors, and in that way building eternal relationships with them. The records they left behind are the key to doing this, as the following poem illustrates.

Literary DCGD #38: Song of the Sisters of the Relief Society

Emily Hill Woodmansee

Often when we discuss the principles of welfare today, we talk as if the whole idea of welfare developed in the 1930s, along with the current program. In reality, before the current program caring for the needy, poor and promoting self-reliance were largely the purview of the Relief Society. And so it is a Song of the Sisters of the Relief Society (familiar today since it is the poem on which the current hymn, As Sisters in Zion, is based — Julie also posted here on Times and Seasons about this poem) that I present below to help us understand the principles of welfare.

Literary DCGD #37: Lines suggested by reflections on Joseph Smith

In Mormonism our definition for the term Prophet is usually more specific than that employed outside of the Church. To us, a prophet is not only someone who has been inspired to prophesy, but it is also the president of the Church, the leader called to preside over the membership, the person who is to receive revelation for the Church, the chief teacher and the chief person who testifies of our Savior. There are other prophets, but we focus on THE Prophet. We didn’t always mean this in quite the same way–at least before 1848 THE Prophet was Joseph Smith, who still occupies something of a special place among prophets. That is the position taken by the author of the following poem, but in the process of describing Joseph Smith, he also illuminates something of what it means to be THE Prophet.