Orson F. Whitney: Apostle, Writer, Advocate for Heavenly Mother (Pt 3)

by Martin Pulido

whitney3b

A Hymn. In honor of Orson F. Whitney, I have extracted (and reworked to some extent) lyrics from his poem “What is Life?” and created a four verse hymn. The words are set to the melody of the traditional Irish folk song, “The Mourlough Shore.” The four-part harmony written for the song is my own. This hymn is part of a mini-hymnal that will include 20 hymns mentioning, addressing, and portraying Heavenly Mother. A print copy of the mini-hymnal will be sent to all those who donate at least $20 to the contest, so if you haven’t done so yet, please do so now. PDFs of these hymns will also be posted online up until May 11, 2014.

The Lyrics for the hymn are as follows:

1. There are, who deem life’s ling’ring durance
Designed for freedom and delight,
Its clanking fetters claim as music,
Its darkness workship as ’twere light.
Nor mindful still of loftier purpose,
Vain pleasure’s winged flight pursue,
Their dream: “Today; there comes no morrow,”
That tinkling lie with sound so true.

2. Was such the charm whose soft alluring
Drew spirits bright from heav’nly bliss?
Did morning stars hymn loud hosannas
O’er false and fatal theme like this?
Speak thou, my soul, that once did mingle
Where souls were never doomed to die;
where Father, Mother, friends, did love thee
And bid thee seize the prize of life.

3. Be this their bourn that seek no brighter,
Whom naught save worldly pleasures please;
Graves are the goal of earthly glory,
But man was meant for none of these.
Call earth thy home, clasp thou its shadows,
Till here thy little day be done.
My home is where the starry kingdoms
Roll round the Kingdom of the Sun.

4. I came not forth in quest of freedom
To shrink from peril or from pain;
To learn from death life’s deepest lessons,
I sank to rise, God’s wisdom gain.
Souls to whom life unfolds its meaning,
Ne’er hope full happiness on earth,
But patient bide that brighter morrow,
which brings again celestial birth.

hymn2

I have provided both a music and sheet music files for you to download in common formats. [Download PDF] [Download MIDI]

Read More

Orson F. Whitney: Apostle, Writer, Advocate for Heavenly Mother (Pt 2)

by Martin Pulido

whitney2

The “A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest” is looking for 2-dimensional visual arts pieces and poems that portray Heavenly Mother. The contest will accept entries up until March 4, 2014, and $2200 in prizes will be awarded when the best entries are announced on May 11, 2014. For more details, visit www.amotherhere.com. The contest is being sponsored by Exponent II, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Sunstone, Peculiar Pages, LDS WAVE, and Segullah.

Whitney’s Heavenly Mother Writings.There are roughly 40 published instances where Orson F. Whitney discussed or mentioned Heavenly Mother. She was touched upon only briefly in his literary works (only addressed in Elias and his early poem “What is Life?”), but found Her way throughout his sermons, lectures, addresses during General Conference, and other writings. Below, I will attempt to portray Whitney’s thoughts on Heavenly Mother thematically, and to only a meager extent chronologically.

The first recorded instances were in 1882, when Whitney served as editor of the Millennial Star in England during his second mission. Whitney was just getting to the point where his voice was being heard from frequently in the LDS press. In the June and July 1882 issues of the Mormon periodical The Contributor, Whitney wrote two articles that consecutively discussed the common celestial parentage of human beings.1 That same year he wrote a poem, “What is Life?” dedicated to President Joseph F. Smith, which playfully explored the opposites portrayed in Mormon religious themes, including the “plan of salvation”:

“Son of a God! ‘mid scenes celestial,
Fellst thou from freedom to be free?
Or, hoping rise of endless raptures,
For time renounced Eternity?”2

In the fifth stanza, Whitney notes that the glorious, celestial realms are:

“Where Father, Mother, friends, forsaken–
Till time their “hundred fold” restore–
Await the welcome of thy coming
When time and trial are no more?”3

Life was a period of existence where one was isolated from one’s heavenly kindred, including one’s Heavenly Mother and Father. President Joseph F. Smith wrote to Whitney regarding his poem and heartily endorsed what he had written there. He told Whitney that in life, men and women are “weighed in the balance, in the exercise of the divine attributes, godlike powers and free agency with which we are endowed; whereby, after descending below all things, Christ-like, we might ascend above all things, and become like our Father, Mother, and Elder Brother, Almighty and Eternal!”4

Read More

An (Out)Burst

Three Sundays ago in Relief Society we had lesson 1 in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. It was the lesson on Heavenly Father. I had  ended up on the front row with my knitting and my baby. The first discussion in the class included listing the traits of God on the board. I sat there wondering if I had something to add while everyone else put up all the phrases  I was already thinking about: all the omni-stuff, loving, merciful, etc. And then,

“Male.”

Read More

Heavenly Mother in the Life and Poetry of Melody Newey: A Dialogue (Part 3 of 3)

by Martin Pulido

As part of the A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest, I have been trying to highlight historical and contemporary artists that have already portrayed or referred to Heavenly Mother in their works. This is Part 3 in a series discussing Heavenly Mother in the life and poetry of Melody Newey. For Part 1, go here; for Part 2, here.

PULIDO: Well, I may be wrong, but it seems like you’ve been building on themes in each of your Heavenly Mother poems that I’ve read thus far. The first you’ve written is “Missing God,” which notes only a vague recollection of Mother experienced through the natural world (“in the mountains”) and its musical communication (“the flute” which is also vague in the content of its communication). The communication from nature and the music in it continues in “Heavenly Mother Sings“: the wind, music made of grape vines and cherry blossoms, ballads in sea-swells, requiems on mountain tops. It adds even “internal music” – “hymns hidden in the heart as women going about nursing their babies.”

The music in “Heavenly Mother Sings” seems louder than the flute in “Missing God,” or at least more complete. You might say that the lone instrument from before has been replaced by an orchestra. The last stanza also gives us a spot for the agency of the divine feminine in the earthly realm, Her drawing us to Herself and Christ. In these two pieces you hint that the natural world is an arena in which we can experience to a certain extent God the Mother and the love of God. How do you think the natural world does so? Can you explain more of that here?

NEWEY: You have probably heard the words of Psalms 85:11, “Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” I have always found God in nature. Nature bears witness of its creator, so at least for me, it’s impossible to ignore the presence of deity there. Historically, prophets and wise people have gone into the wilderness to commune with God, a place where it is just themselves, God, and nature. This is the way it happens for me. And because the earth is often portrayed as feminine, it’s also been natural to meet Heavenly Mother there. Somehow physically working with the soil, digging my shovel into it, planting a flower, pulling a weed out of the ground seems to connect with this notion of truth coming up from the earth. I feel I am connecting with truth.

rsz_newey3

Read More

Heavenly Mother in the Life and Poetry of Melody Newey: A Dialogue (Part 2 of 3)

by Martin Pulido

rsz_1rsz_newey1

As part of the A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest, I have been trying to highlight historical and contemporary artists that have already portrayed or referred to Heavenly Mother in their works. This is Part 2 in a series discussing Heavenly Mother in the life and poetry of Melody Newey. For Part 1, go here.

PULIDO: This notion of the word and art being a conduit by which heaven spills into the earth is an interesting image. It makes art essentially revelatory. This leads me to another thought and question, so bear with me here. It’s been my observation of our current Mormon culture that we haven’t put a large emphasis on art. I’ve read articles speaking roughly to this effect, and you can see it in the plainness of our chapels, and the excessively repetitious artwork adorning the hallways of our meetinghouses.

A stake center I used to attend in southern Utah had the exact same piece of art on opposite sides of the building, and I thought “Really? They can’t have any more variety than this?” For a religion that proudly professes belief in continuing revelation, we seem to stifle the revelatory expression embedded in art. Am I wrong here? What do you think about this?

NEWEY: I think you’re right — We have correlated art out of us; it breaks my heart. It’s ironic, really. In trying to establish a uniform model for worship we have gotten rid of some of the very things that create the best environment for worship. This model is highly structured, uniform and rigid, in contrast to our freeflowing, natural experience and expressions of spirit. Worship is an expression of the soul. I go to a Mormon feminist retreat in Denver each year, and this last year Fiona Givens said that we Mormons don’t worship anymore. We just go to meetings. The lack of art in our buildings is an expression of that lack of worship, or it at least it’s contributed to a less worshipful experience for me.

Read More