Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Poetry without borders

Yesterday the church announced that they'll be releasing new versions of the hymn book and children's songbook. They have a survey up for people to take so members can share things they like about the books as well as things they don't. And they've asked for submissions of new works and so forth.

Poetry swirls in my brain constantly, though I don't write much of it down, but I thought it would be fun to try to write some song lyrics to submit. I think my chances of creating anything noteworthy is slim, not because I don't think I'm capable of writing well but because I think I'm incapable of escaping the slightly silly, slightly sarcastic tone my poetry is wont to take.

It's a family curse, I swear.

As proof, I offer first to you poem Andrew's ancestor, Joseph Stacey Murdock, wrote:

Come, listen to a prophet’s voice,
And hear the word of God,
And in the way of truth rejoice,
And sing for joy aloud.
We’ve found the way the prophets went
Who lived in days of yore.
Another prophet now is sent
This knowledge to restore.

The gloom of sullen darkness spread
Thru earth’s extended space
Is banished by our living Head,
And God has shown his face.
Thru erring schemes in days now past
The world has gone astray;
Yet Saints of God have found at last
The straight and narrow way.

’Tis not in man they put their trust
Nor on his arm rely.
Full well assured, all are accursed
Who Jesus Christ deny.
The Savior to his people saith,
“Let all my words obey,
And signs shall follow living faith,
Down to the latest day.”

If you're Mormon, you might recognize those words as the hymn Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice. It's beautifully written. Eloquent, stirring, perfectly worshipful.

Now, for a little ditty my ancestor, Solomon Hancock, wrote:*

Once I was a Methodist... Glory, hallelujah!
And I thought that they were best. Glory, hallelujah!
But when I read the Bible right... Glory, hallelujah!
And I found myself a Mormonite! Glory, hallelujah!

So ummm...yeah. I don't have half a hope. Irreverent poetry is in my blood.

But I know that my children would like more primary songs featuring female role models from the scriptures. My mom said that if I wrote some verses she would try to come up with a melody and arrangement. So last night I sat down to write about Esther (while thinking about global crises, obviously, both those abroad and those happening at our own borders) and instead of something charming I came up with this:

Moses went to Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go!”
Pharaoh wouldn’t free them and increased their burden, so
God sent plagues to Egypt until Pharaoh set them free
And Moses led the Israelites across the dry Red Sea.

Esther stood before the king and bravely pled her case,
For Haman had decreed all Persian Jews should be erased.
She said, “Please spare my life, if I’ve found favour in thy gaze.”
Queen Esther saved her people, who in joy lived out their days.**

The Anti-Nephi-Lehies were converted to the Lord;
They buried all their weapons and they never broke their word.
When the other Lamanites sought to take revenge
They fled unto the Nephites, who gladly took them in.

Herod was a jealous king who sought to take the life
Of the young boy Jesus, and so Joseph with his wife,
Mary, took the child south and raised him in exile.
King Herod never thought to seek the family by the Nile!

In 1838, Missouri’s Governor Boggs declared
An extermination order: no Mormon would be spared!
The early Saints escaped the state, to Quincy, Illinois,
Whose gen’rous residents received the refugees with joy.

Armenians in Turkey faced a dreadful genocide
The Saints in Aintab had to find a new place to reside
They crossed into Aleppo and found sanctuary there
And offered praises to the Lord that their lives were spared.

Helmuth Hübener was a youth in Nazi Germany.
With courage he spoke out against the cruel atrocities
Committed by his government. For this he had to die—
“All I did was tell the truth!” young Hübener testified.

To those who seek asylum or need shelter from the storm,
I can share my harbour, I can offer up my arm.
For although I am but flesh I covenanted to serve
The way the Savior would if He were on the Earth.

So I can be like Esther, like the locals of Quincy,
Lift up the hands which hang down, strengthen the feeble knees!
Like Hübener, and like Moses, and like the good Nephites,
I’ll be faithful and courageous and stand up for what is right!

It's going to take me awhile to come up with the right formula for a primary song...

In the mean time, I'm be happy with this statement from the church and pray that others will get on board:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long expressed its position that immigration reform should strengthen families and keep them together. The forced separation of children from their parents now occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border is harmful to families, especially to young children. We are deeply troubled by the aggressive and insensitive treatment of these families. While we recognize the right of all nations to enforce their laws and secure their borders, we encourage our national leaders to take swift action to correct this situation and seek for rational, compassionate solutions.
* I also referenced theses poems in 2011 because I like to repeat to repeat myself.
** First thought for finishing this verse: “and got Mordecai a raise!” But that seemed a little too flippant.


  1. A few thoughts:
    1. Andrew's ancestor wrote that poem? Very nice. I am impressed. I mean, I know the hymn of course, but I didn't know there was that family connection.
    2. Ahaha! You should just hear the irreverent tune that popped into my head to go with your verses. Honestly, kind of an Arrogant Worms feel to it. Will have to try again...

    1. 1. Yes! His great-great-great-grandfather was Joseph Stacey Murdock (1822–1899). Solomon, of course, was my great-great-great-great-grandfather (1793-1847). They probably knew each other in Nauvoo! Haha!

      2. Yeah, the tune in my head is nowhere near reverent, either. But you said you wanted something a little more playful for :)

  2. I love your lyrics and I would love for my kids to sing them someday in Primary!