Literary BMGD #44: The Book of Mormon

As Mormon completes his own record in Mormon chapters 7, 8 and 9, he prophesies about the role that the Nephite records will have in the future, saying that the record will come forth in the latter days, in a day of great wickedness, and urging readers of the book to believe in Christ. This role of the Book of Mormon was a very common theme in Mormon poetry, including this poem, written under the pseudonym “Equator.”


The Book of Mormon


In this treasure trove you’ll find
Gems worth more than gold refined.
Precious more than diamonds, too:
Pearls, or rubies, bright in hue.
Fairer than the silver moon.
Brighter than the sun at noon.
Truths more brilliant than the morn
Spreading light—of darkness shorn.
Speaks of nations, gives their lore,
Once were rich, their remnants poor;
Then from other peoples free.
Now oppressed from sea to sea.
Idle, filthy, they would roam.
Without friend’s and without homes.
Bows and arrows by their side.
Hunting beasts o’er prairies wide.
Fierce and painted, blood they’d shed;
By tradition they’d been led
From the paths their fathers trod.
Holding not the “iron rod.”
Tell’s of pilgrims who’d come here;
Then the red men, them should fear.
Smitten, scattered far and wide,
Pressed by them from every side.
But a dawn would soon arise,
Dark scales, falling from their eyes,
Truth be brought from out the earth.
Priceless treasure of great worth.
White, delightsome, they would be.
Fair, as Nephi did them see.
Not forsaken, nor forlorn.
Nor by tribes asunder torn.
The “Great Spirit” be their guide,
Weapons, war, all cast aside.
Labor, peace, arts, they’d learn.
Former greatness will return.

Juvenile Instructor v28 n23, December 1, 1893, p. 752


Like other poems I’ve featured, the short lines and rhythmic orientation of the poem might seem tedious to current tastes. Nor is the poem’s expression unusual.

But despite this, there are some noteworthy lines, things that might catch the reader’s attention. I like the suggestion in the last line of the 2nd stanza that the truths in the Book of Mormon are “Spreading light—of darkness shorn.” The imagery leads me to think of jewels that have shed the mud or dross they were buried in and that marred their surface. And it isn’t hard to see how today we sometimes encumber the truths of the gospel with cultural mud and dross.

The couplet at the end of the 5th stanza, suggesting that the Lamanites were led “From the paths their fathers trod. / Holding not the ‘iron rod.'” is a nice description of the process, although its a little strange to suggest in the previous line that they had been led so “by tradition.” Traditions usually come from your “fathers,” so I’m not sure how they were led “From the paths their fathers trod” “by tradition.”

The 7th stanza may be the climax of the poem, where the introduction of the Book of Mormon brings a new dawn. Dawn was, and is to some extent, a common image of the restoration — but one we don’t use nearly as much any more. Parley P. Pratt and others wrote hymns using the image, such as “The  Morning Breaks” and “The Day Dawn is Breaking.” But I have the impression that this image isn’t used nearly as much as it once was.

But reader’s today may be put off a bit by the attitude towards the American Indian inherent in the poem. While it does share a favorable view of indians, it is perhaps a bit patronizing, and the use of the word “White” at the beginning of the 8th stanza hints at a kind of racial superiority that we today struggle to make sure is well behind us.

Fortunately, that has little to do with the overall message of the poem, which, similar to Mormon’s message in the scriptures, sees the important role that the Book of Mormon has for us today.