Literary BMGD #5: Trials

The story of Lehi’s family and their travels to the promised land perhaps reaches its height in the crisis point during the storm while they are on board the ship they built. The internal divisions within the family have lead to yet another dispute, and the Lord puts them through a trial to help them work it out. In fact, this is just the last of three stories in this lesson, all showing a similar pattern — and  in each case showing faith and diligence (as the lesson describes it), leads to the Lord’s assistance in resolving the trial.

While the lesson to be faithful and diligent is certainly good, there is another lesson that can be found in the poem I’ve selected for this week:


by J. L. Townsend

Thank God for our trials, they come and they go,
Like the sharp biting frost or the tempest of snow,
And as frost to the dew or as snow to the rain,
But changing the form while the blessings remain;
So ever our trials, are changes that bring,
A blessing in sorrow, though deadly the sting.


Thank God for our trials, what though they may be,
As wide and as deep as the waves of the sea,
For the winds of the sea must in time cease to blow,
And the waters must rest in the calm that’s below,
And the bark that has rode on the wild dashing tide,
By outriding the blast, to its harbor shall glide.


Thank God for our trials, O! who has not found
That the sun and the cloud bring the fruits of the ground,
Were it sunshine forever, what joy have we won?
Were it cloudy forever, we’d sigh for the sun!
As an aid to our lives that would surfeit with joy.
Come tl1e trials of life other thoughts to employ.


Thank God for our trials, adverse though they seem
To the joys of prosperity whereof we dream,
For the soul that is pampered in wealth from its birth,
Is the soul that of all has the least show of worth;
And the passions untamed, he indulges with zest,
Shall entail their diseases to rob him of rest.


Thank God for our trials, perfection the goal
That is reached by the trials that burn in the soul;
Be the trial a love, unrequited and scorned,
Or the longing for one whom in death we have mourned;
Let the daggers of pain pierce the heart in its woe.
Yet still must the trial a blessing bestow.


Thank God for our trials, in them we must find
Just the training that’s needed to balance the mind;
For the sin and the pride to humanity yield,
And our hearts are made warm where before they congealed;
And we turn to mankind, for our trials have proved,
That the soul must be tried who can love and be loved.


Thank God for our trials, yes, thank Him to day.
While the laws that He gives we will strive to obey;
For the purpose of life on the earth where we live,
Is to learn good from bad, and learn to forgive!
And the time of each birth is propitious for all,
In events that shall try, as successive they fall.

From The Contributor, December 1881, p. 89

Of course, like the idea that we should be faithful and diligent, this sentiment is not new in Mormonism. Still, Townsend’s expression is kind of nice. It really seems like the kind of poem that gets quoted in General Conference all the time — a clear, unambiguous message presented in a fairly memorable (some would call it sing-song like) form.

In addition to the subject of trials, I tried to find works that referenced other events in this week’s lesson, but I wasn’t able to find anything in the public domain among the poems I have access to that referred to the Liahona, or to Ishmael, or to the incident of the broken bow, or to Nephi’s constructing a ship. I’m not sure why those subjects weren’t seen as attractive topics for poetry then. I suspect more recent (and therefore not in the public domain) Mormon poetry may have taken on these subjects. If not, Mormon poets here’s your chance!!

Trials are, I think, a fairly common subject in Mormon poetry. Love of God by W. L. (Times and Seasons, January 1, 1841) and There’s a Bow in the Cloud (Millennial Star, December 1, 1845) both carry nice messages about dealing with trials. In addition, our hymnal is far from silent on this subject, the Church’s topical guide lists 28 hymns (if I’ve counted correctly) under the topic “trials.”


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