Literary DCGD #15: A Prayer

william_gill_mills_mediumI had a hard time finding a poem that fits with this week’s Gospel Doctrine lesson on spiritual gifts. There just aren’t many that even mention spiritual gifts, and most that do seem to be predominantly about another subject. But I was finally able to find one that focuses on the gift of healing, one of the gifts most emphasized in the LDS Church today. There are many others, of course, and the current tendency seems to be to classify things as spiritual gifts that are part of the normal process of learning and living the gospel—things like teaching, testifying and showing compassion as opposed to the more miraculous gifts of healing, speaking in tongues and prophecy.

The following poem is almost a healing blessing itself.

Best remembered for his hymns, We’ll Sing the Songs of Zion and Arise Oh Glorious Zion, the author of this poem, William Gill Mills, was an Irish convert who emigrated to the U.S. in 1855. Born in 1822 in Ardglas, county Down, Mills moved with his parents and siblings to Belfast and then to Castletown on the Isle of Man where the family joined the LDS Church in 1841. Educated at King Williams’s College on the Isle of Man, William soon put his literary talent to work, publishing poems and songs in the Millennial Star from 1841 to 1853. Starting in 1850 he served a mission in the South Conference in England, serving until he was released in December 1854 with permission to emigrate to Utah along with his wife. Unfortunately the couple never had children.

He was called to serve a second mission in England in 1860, from which he was released by excommunication for adultery. (I assume he was later re-baptized.) Returning to the U.S., he and his wife lived in Nevada briefly, in Gilroy, California, where he was the town’s first mayor, and in Alta and Salt Lake City, Utah. Mills died 24 May 1895. He reported to the American Publisher’s Association in late 1894 that he had “written some hundreds” of poems, but they had never been collected into a book.

This poem is somewhat personal for me because it is about my ancestor, Orson Spencer. Spencer had been the mission president in England until sometime in 1848, and had remained there as Orson Pratt’s counselor for a time. He became seriously ill in the Fall of 1848, leading members in the mission to become very worried. Mills wrote this prayer of healing as a result.


A Prayer
In Behalf of Brother Orson Spencer

by W. G. Mills

Eternal Father! by whose skill

Our mortal frames from dust were made;
Who speak’st, and at thy sovereign will,

We in the dust again are laid!


Who dare arrest thy mighty hand

That rules among the hosts above?
And on the earth at thy command

We have our being, live, and move!


We own thy power with humble hearts,

And bow submissive to thy throne,
Yet claim the gift thy grace imparts,

We can approach thee through thy Son.


In Jesus’ name our prayers ascend

To Thee, who do’st our sorrows know;
For brother Spencer’s health contend—

Beloved by Saints and Angels too.


A noble champion in thy cause,

Preserve him for the sons of men;
A lover of thy holy laws,

Restore him to our midst again.


Send down thy spirit’s cleansing aid

To guide the motions of his heart;
Let it his system now pervade,

To heal in each diseased part.


Oh! seal on his devoted head

The gift of health, we do implore;
And raise him from his weary bed,

To tread again his native shore.


Far us the east is from the west

Bid the afflicting power remove:
Oh! let our fervent, pure request

In his behalf effectual prove.


As when of old the prophet pray’d,

The vapoury clouds withheld their rain;
So when he sought thy promis’d aid

They pour’d their cheering draughts again.


As when the sick and feeble felt

Thy Son his healing spirit pour;
So we believe, that if thou wilt,

Thou canst our brother now restore.


Thy promises are gracious, Lord,

“Whate’er ye ask, I will supply,”
And we believe the unerring word—

Thou art a God that canst not lie.


We leave him in thy care, with faith,

That thou wilt heal his suff’ring frame;
Preserve him yet awhile from death,

We humbly ask, in Jesus’ name.

Ramsey, Isle of Man.

Millennial Star, v10 n21, 1 November 1848, p. 335-336


I think that in order to actually say this as a healing blessing, all that would be needed is an invocation of the power of the priesthood and a previous anointing. Of course, this stanza is basically a reference to the priesthood:

We own thy power with humble hearts,

And bow submissive to thy throne,
Yet claim the gift thy grace imparts,

We can approach thee through thy Son.

From what I can tell, this is quite unique among Mormon poetry.