Literary BMGD #9: A Paraphrase of Isaiah 60

Thomas B. Marsh

Scripture is often repeated in scripture, and poets have rarely been shy about re-using lines of poetry, often without attribution. Plagiarism is everywhere, and our view of it as a faux pas is really relatively recent—this view is certainly more recent than the mid 19th century, when Mormon newspapers started churning out poetry and other forms of Mormon literature.

The 9th Book of Mormon lesson is also about repeated scripture, specifically Nephi’s use of the early chapters of Isaiah which seem to make up the bulk of 2nd Nephi. Perhaps Nephi served as an example for the poetry I’ve chosen for this lesson.

This paraphrase was written by an apostle. While two apostles (Parley P. Pratt and Orson F. Whitney) are so well known for their poetry that they might be considered Apostle-poets, others have also tried their hand. Bruce R. McConkie wrote hymns, Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt were published occasionally in Mormon periodicals. There are others. And, you can add to that list Thomas B. Marsh. Yes, the same one of milk and strippings fame (which wasn’t, we know, about milk and strippings at all).

In Kirtland, before he traveled to Missouri in early 1838, Marsh was the proprietor of the 3rd Mormon newspaper, the Elder’s Journal; Joseph Smith was the editor. Two numbers were published in October and November of 1837, and this poem appeared in the 2nd. A further two numbers appeared in May and June of 1838, in Far West, Missouri just before the violence broke out there that led to the expulsion of the Mormons from the state and Marsh’s excommunication the following year.

Nonetheless, this poem is a fascinating paraphrase of Isaiah 60, which speaks of the eventual gathering of Israel, just like some of the Isaiah material covered in this lesson:

A Paraphrase

by T. B. M. (Thomas B. Marsh)

For the Journal.—Isaiah chapt. LX.

Arise O Zion, fair and lift thine eyes,
Exalt thy lofty towers towards the skies;
See the resplendent glory round thee spread,
Fill all thy courts and rest upon thy head!
See Gentiles from the distant nations too,
Come to thy light, and in thy temple bow;
See numerous kings and princes from afar,
Cast down their crowns, and in thy glories share!
Behold thy sons shall come in flocks as clouds
Around thine altars bow, in shining crowds,
Rejoice in God that he doth now unfold;
His hidden treasures, as in days of old.
By sons of strangers shalt thy walls be reared,
And by all nations, thou shalt be revered,
And greatly honored, while their kings shall bring,
Their richest treasures and thy glory sing.
Whereas in wrath I hid my face from thee,
Behold in loving kindness thou shall see,
The glory of my presence manifest,
Among thy tens of thousands in the west!
Thy gates shall not be shut by night nor day.
That Kings and Gentiles may be brought to thee.
Lebanons former glory shall be thine.
To thee shall come the fir, the box and pine,
To beautify the place where I shall stand,
Within thy walls upon my holy land.
The sons also of that ungodly band,
Who cast thee out and drove thee from thy land,
Shall come, bending unto thee bowed down,
Call thee the Zion of the Holy one,
Of Israel, who by his almighty arm,
Hath gathered thee and claimed thee for his own.
The substance of the Gentile nations round;
Shall come to thee, and in thy streets abound
Instead of wood, fine brass be brought to thee,
Iron as plenty as the stones shall be;
Silver as iron unto thee shall come,
And gold as brass, thy streets and courts adorn.
And all thine officers shall bring thee peace,
And thine exacters deal in righteousness.
Violence shall no more be heard in thee,
Neither within thy borders shalt thou see
Thy fields with blood and carnage covered o’er,
The warriors trumpet there, is heard no more:
While wicked slay the wicked all around!
The Earth shall shake; the stars from heaven be hurled,
While God with outstretched arm destroys the world,
The seas shall move, and islands flee away,
Mountains flow down in that tremendous day!
The crooked be made straight, the valleys rise,
The sun and moon be darkened in the skies!
The trump shall sound, the dead in Christ shall rise!
While all the living saints beneath the skies,
Shall then be quickened and ascend on high,
To meet with Enoch’s city in the sky,
Descend with Christ with all his holy train,
Upon the Earth a thousand years to reign!!!
Thy children now in righteousness shall rest,
No more afflicted nor no more oppressed.
(For peace and union now shall spread
Their balmy wings o’er all the spacious globe)
They are planting of mine own right hand,
The branch which shall inherit Zion’s land.
While Christ shall reign, and thousand years shall roll,
And songs of praise are heard from pole to pole,
And echoed throughout heaven’s vast domain
In pealing anthems to the Lamb ’twas slain.

Elder’s Journal, v 1, n 2,
November 1837.

2 comments for “Literary BMGD #9: A Paraphrase of Isaiah 60

  1. I haven’t found anything else, and he doesn’t appear at all in the MLCA database.

    The Church history library catalog also lists a poem by Marsh entitled “The mighty trump,” but I don’t have any further information about it.

    There could also be poetry in some of the letters he wrote or in other documents.

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