Literary DCGD #26: To Elder W. Woodruff

Our understanding of missionary work has changed and evolved substantially over Mormon history. Where we know assume that missionaries are young, during the 19th century missionaries were more mature and married. Where the sacrifices of missionaries today are usually parts of life postponed, during the life of Joseph Smith they meant real hardship for families, the missionary begging for food and even danger of physical assault. Still, then, as now, those brought to a knowledge of the gospel were grateful, as was the author of this poem.

Unfortunately, my brief searches haven’t yielded much about the author, Rachael Robinson, other than mere suspicion. Because this poem was first published in the New York City LDS newspaper, The Prophet, I suspect she lived somewhere nearby, perhaps in Connecticut, where Woodruff proselyted before going on to the Fox Islands in 1837. I also suspect, given the line in the poem “Yea, more; thou art a son” that Robinson was substantially older than Woodruff. If Robinson lived relatively close to New York City, Woodruff may have visited her area again in late 1844, just weeks before this poem was published, before sailing for England to preside over the mission there.


To Elder W. Woodruff

By Rachael Robinson

Thou art welcome, O thou chosen,

As dew and sun to flowers,
Again in pure devotion,

Thy spirit kindles ours;
Sincere, unfeigned the greeting

Which hails thy kind return,
And at this happy meeting

Our joyous bosoms burn.


Thou art a faithful servant;

Yea, more; thou art a son.
With spirit pure and fervent,

Thou thy Savior’s will hast done.
You have gone at his bidding

To fulfil his high behest.
And at his glorious wedding

Thou wilt be an honored guest.


Blest herald of salvation,

Bearer of joyful news
To every Gentile nation

And long rejected Jews.
We thank Him who hath sent thee

To proclaim His truth and love—
For the talents He hath lent thee,

Thou dost faithfully improve.

The Prophet, v1 n24, 2 November 1844, p. 3


I think the perspective of this poem, from the convert’s point of view, is wonderful. Often the convert has a bond with the missionaries who taught him, and looks forward to seeing the missionary again. And Robinson not only portrays that bond, but touches on its source, suggesting  that:

Thy spirit kindles ours;

Perhaps the most insightful lines in the poem are the last:

For the talents He hath lent thee,

Thou dost faithfully improve.

I think this is part of being a missionary; discovering how to use and develop your talents in the service of God. I wish more missionaries would put effort into doing so.

And I should add, for the benefit of any grammar purists who read this, that I  generally do not correct the errors in the poems I’ve re-published in this series. Perhaps the fifth line in the second stanza should read “Thou hast” instead of “You have” to be consistent with the rest of the poem (and especially the previous line). At least I haven’t yet found any subtle justification for it.