Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Testimonies in Poetry

A month or so ago it was my assignment to teach the high priests group, and the topic was Testimony of Jesus Christ. I thought about all the various testimonies we have in the scriptures, and recalling them reminded me that many of them attain a high level of eloquence, even poetry. I collected some of these together, which we read together during our meeting time. I like them enough - for the content as well as for the beauty of the language - that I wanted to share them here.

Testimonies in Poetry

Beauty and Eloquence in the Spirit

The Apostle, Paul, reminding the Hebrews of their core beliefs:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…

Hebrews 1:1-3

Some 550 years before the birth of the Messiah, on the Western Hemisphere, a prophet reveals his source of knowledge of events to come – the revelations of God (note, too, that Christ is merely the Greek translation of the Hebrew, Messiah):

For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.

Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.

Jacob 4:4, 8

The beloved Apostle knew the Lord well; in introducing his account of the Lord’s mission, he testifies:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John 1:1-5

It strikes us ironic that so many people who respect the Savior as a great teacher, philosopher even, overlook his very specific testimony of himself:

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

John 17:3

Stephen indicted the Sanhedrin who sought to discredit the true Messiah by pointing out in a grandly eloquent manner how the entire history of Israel, from Abraham to the present, testified of Christ. Enraged, they began to physically assault him; filled with the Holy Spirit, he gave this testimony before they stoned him to death:

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Acts 7:55-56

Again the Beloved, declares the Lord as our source of light; if we disregard His light, we stumble in darkness:

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

I John 1:5-7

Latter day revelation testifies in support of John of the light that emanates from God through His Son to illuminate the entire universe and each of us individually:

This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;

Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—

He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;

Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;

And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—

The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

Doctrine & Covenants 88:4-13

Moroni spent several decades alone, with the companionship only of the Holy Ghost and, possibly, the Three Nephites. He must have pondered much the things of God. We know that he was keenly interested in us who live in the last days. His stated purpose in preserving the sacred record compiled by his father, Mormon, was to bear testimony to us, Jew, Lamanite and Gentile, in the latter days of the goodness and grace of God of the sacred mission and atonement of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He surely gave long thought to his final statement to us. These are Moroni’s last words after spending many long years alone: his final words of wisdom imparted to us of the latter days:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

Moroni 10:32-33

And finally, from one who witnessed the Lord numerous times, seeing Him and hearing His voice as he did the Lord’s bidding in restoring the Lord’s Church prior to His coming again, his great testimony, last of all:

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24

Stirring and beautiful words indeed.



Haylie said...

I once took an English class and part of our reading assignment was to read sections of the New Testament. During discussion, it was interesting how many times the idea of the sections as poetry came up. We talked a lot about how that style of writing was, like many epic poems and old lessons, poetic possibly to achieve its being better remembered by the common man. Unfortunately, I think our society today has moved in an altogether different direction with the poetic device and its use as a mnemonic trigger (see essentially any rap song). Great as usual.

Hank Bidu said...

Sorry, I was signed in as my wife with that last. Not that it really matters.