Literary BMGD #24: Why Should the Christian Sigh

Luman Shurtliff

One of the most stunning acts of persecution in the scriptures has to be the attack on the believers in Ammonihah described in Alma 14. Those who have heeded the words of Alma and Amulek, men, women and children, are taken by the mob, bound and cast into fire, along with their scriptures while Alma and Amulek are forced to watch. In consternation, the missionaries face the problem of evil in a very personal and immediate way and Alma is constrained by the spirit not to intervene.

In our dispensation church members also have faced persecution, and our early poetry reflects this, with many poems addressing this persecution, some seeking redress of wrongs, others encouraging those who needed to endure the persecution, and others lamenting the loss of those who have died. The following poem, signed simply “L. S.,” is addressed to those who wonder why the saints are persecuted.

Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure who “L. S.” is. My brief investigation suggests that it may be Luman Andros Shurtliff because the poem’s style is similar to one that Shurtliff wrote around this same time and because he is the only known Mormon poet in Nauvoo at the time who had the initials “L. S.”

Shurtliff was born in Massachusetts and had moved to Ohio and married before he learned about Mormonism, but he took five years before he became convinced of the truth of the gospel and was baptized in 1836. After serving a short mission during the winter of 1837-38, he moved his family to Missouri, where he participated in the Mormon war there and was expelled along with the rest of the Church. While he lived in Nauvoo, Shurtliff served multiple short missions and taught school in his home. When the saints went west following their expulsion from Illinois, Shurtliff led one of the companies of the poor saints—those more refugees than pioneers—across the plains to Winter Quarters. He and his family arrived in Salt Lake in 1851. Shurtliff served in the Utah Territorial Legislature and as Prosecuting Attorney for Weber County, Utah after settling in Harrisville, where he owned a brickyard. At thois point I only know of one signed poem by Shurtliff, although I suspect several others signed “L. S.” are his also.


Why should the christian sigh

by L. S.

Why should the christian sigh?
Though with cold, averted eye,
The friends of other days,
Who were loudest in his praise;
Are the first to turn aside,
And his faith and hope deride,
Though the scornful word and sneer,
Should fall often on his ear;
Though on his once honored name,
They should pour contempt and shame,
Let him never breath a sigh;
But, with calm and steadfast eye,
Meet the darts against him hurled,
By a vain and wicked world.


Let him never think it strange,
Though his dearest friends should change;
For it is a truth, well known,
That the world will love its own;
But, should any dare to rise,
To claim kindred with the skies;
Should they break the chains of sin,
And a better course begin,
They have nothing to expect
From the world, but cold neglect;
They can never be exempt
From its hatred and contempt.


But, for this, he should not sigh,
When his treasure is on high;
For, the servant need not hope
To escape the bitter cup,
To his Lord and Master given;
Who, tho’ Lord of earth and heaven,
For the love he bore our race,
Left his own bright dwelling place,
And his Father’s glorious throne,
For transgressors to atone;
He assumed a servant’s name
And endured reproach and shame;
And, tho’ ever doing good
To the thronging multitude,
He was hated and despised,
And his favors lightly prized;
Was derided, scorned, abused,
And of various crimes accused;
Denied all human aid;
By a chosen friend betrayed;
By his followers denied—
Scorned, rejected, crucified;
And, at last, to crown the whole,
He poured out his righteous soul
As an offering unto God,
E’en for those who shed his blood.


And shall those who bear his name
Shrink from suffering and shame?
Shall they hope his crown to ear,
If his cross they do not bear?
Or to reach the saints’ abode,
By a smooth and flowery road?
No! the only way to God
Is the path the Savior trod;
And his followers must prepare
In his sufferings to share;
They must bear the ridicule,
Of the scorner and the fool;
Persecution may assail
And all earthly friends may fail;
But they have a friend on high
Who will hear his children’s cry
A firm and faithful friend,
Who will love them to the end;
And the recompense is sure,
If they steadfastly endure;
If they fight the fight of faith,
Ever faithful unto death;
They will conquer in the strife
And receive a crown of life,
Which the Lord, the righteous lord,
Has prepared for their reward;
And, as kings and priests to God,
They shall reign in his abode;
When the earth shall be renewed
And their foes are all subdued.

The Wasp, v1 n10 18 June 1842, p. 4


What I think is fascinating in this poem is how it examines what victims think and experience, from their former friends turning away from converts due to their new beliefs, to encouraging believers in enduring to the end. it is very easy to hear this poem with the ears of those who suffered and died at Ammonihah.

Today, it is perhaps difficult to understand how victims like those in Ammonihah or Missouri or elsewhere might feel. This poem gives us a little insight into that feeling.


3 comments for “Literary BMGD #24: Why Should the Christian Sigh

  1. This is wonderful. Thank you so much. It appears that besides from me, people are rarely commenting on these Literary BMGD, but if nobody else does, I just wanted to say thank you for all of these. I think I might make a collection of all of them (with your permission). They are truly inspiring. Keep them coming!

  2. Thank you, themormonbrit. My hope is that by giving teachers something to use that will enhance their lessons, that more members will become familiar with mormon poetry and perhaps more mormon poetry will be enjoyed and be familiar to church members.

    I do realize that much of this poetry isn’t exceptional given today’s standards — but then again, neither is much of the poetry quoted in General Conference.

    While it helps, in my experience, much of the most beloved poetry isn’t the same as the best poetry. But beloved poetry has a lot of impact. I’m just trying to give more Mormon poetry the chance to have a bigger impact.

    As for making a collection, go ahead, as long as you do so only for your personal use and don’t distribute it to others. Once I have enough material that I think is good, I’ll put together something myself for distribution — something that will probably include a lot more than what I’ve included in this series.

    But, I should also note that I can’t control what yo do with the actual poems — they are in the public domain. I can only claim copyright in the notes I’ve written before and after the poems.

  3. Many thanks, kent. I just wanted to make sure you were ok with it, and of course it would just be for personal use.

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