Literary DCGD #42: The Prophet Turned the Key

OctaveFUrsenbachThe Mormon belief in continuing revelation (the subject of Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine Lesson #42) is rare if not unique among Christian religions, and it is one of the features of Mormonism most promoted. What is perhaps less discussed is the range of meanings of this term in Mormonism. We use it to mean everything from impressions each of us receive personally to written documents produced by the Prophet and accepted by the body of the Church as scripture. Revelation is perhaps most effective when it leads to a significant change in our behavior, or the behavior of the Church as a whole—when, as the following poem describes, it ‘turns a key’ to open a whole new perception of what our duties and blessings as members of the Church are.

The author of this poem, Octave F. Ursenbach (1870-1951), was a second-generation Mormon who grew up in Utah. He served an LDS mission to Switzerland and Germany from 1893-1895, a year after he married in the Logan Temple. In late 1934 he was called as the President of the French mission, returning to the U.S. at the outbreak of World War II. He then served as a patriarch as an accountant for the Los Angeles Bishop’s Storehouse. In addition to many poems published in LDS magazines, he wrote Why I am a “Mormon” (1910), Redemption: An Epic of the Divine Tragedy… (1928) and The Quest (1951).


The Prophet Turned the Key

by Octave F. Ursenbach

The Prophet turned the Moses Key. When lo,
Like all pervading rays from yonder sun,
A hope, wide-spread, in hearts of men was born,
Impelling the rare urge, resounding full:
“Back, back to our tents, O, Israel.”
Great Judah’s hordes, in purpose firm, now stand –
Press on to repossess the Holy Land;
While Ephraim, from every land and tongue,
In mountain tops – to Zion’s ramparts throng.


The Prophet turned Elijah’s Key. When lo,
Began a wondrous urge in the hearts of men –
To ancestors long gone, now turned again,
Impelled, search cobwebbed annals of the past –
To weld great family links secure at last.
Great libraries genealogical,
With records of dead ancestors are full,
While, within Holy Temples, blessings spread
O’er millions upon millions of the dead.


The Prophet turned Elias’ Key. When lo,
The flood-gates of intelligence arise –
Majestically truth comes from yonder skies –
God’s spirit lavishly bestowed to men –
Young men see visions, old men dream, dream on.
Lo, yesterday’s achievements, scarcely past –
Today discarded – nearly red with rust,
While in the glare we wait the morrow’s dawn,
To see what God, with human aid, has done.


Work marvelous! Behold God’s great design;
His mercy, love and truth forever shine,
Encompassing within its great embrace,
Salvation for the entire human race.
Aghast, stand we to greet the Hundred Years –
Aspiring in our faith, our hope and fears,
To spend and be spent o’er and o’er again,
Preparing men for Christ’s majestic reign.

The Instructor, v65 n6, June 1930, p. 337
[ht Keepapitchinin, 10 Oct 2012]


I think it is likely that Ursenbach is referring in this poem to the vision discribed in D&C 110 in which he and Oliver Cowdery were visited by Moses, Elias and Elijah in the newly-dedicated Kirtland Temple. The keys committed to them at that time were the keys of the gathering of Israel, the keys of the gospel of Abraham, and the keys of sealing families together.

Ursenbach also hints that he wrote this to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Church, for he refers to the Church’s “Hundred Years” in the last stanza.

But what I think is most fascinating in this poem is the active nature of these revelations. The keys, when turned, produce changes throughout humanity, according to Ursenbach. Revelation, he implies, can have power.