Thursday, June 30, 2005

MORMON TRIVIA: "Praise to the Man"

This one came about while I was preparing a talk for last Sunday on the assigned theme of "Praise to the Man." Of course, the W.W. Phelps story about his temporary apostasy, and Joseph's frank forgiveness came to mind (Joseph's rather famous--and deeply touching--letter to Brother Phelps welcoming him back into the church is found in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 165).

So I looked up the text of the hymn online, and found it at this link on a website, called the Mormon Literature Database.

According to this source, the line "Long shall his blood which was shed by assassins/plead unto heaven while the earth lauds his fame" was originally sung "Long shall his blood which was shed by assassins/*stain Illinois* while the earth lauds his fame." Ouch, W.W.

There's always the tendency to ask, Am I the only jerk that didn't know that? Doesn't that change the way we see that song? As a sidebar, I converted a roommate, a brother and his fiance, and a guy sitting next to me on the stand to sing the original lyric last week. If I were a vandal (which I am not) maybe I'd bring a pencil to church with me and correct the 1985 hymnbook.

What do you have to say?


At 6/30/2005 10:05:00 PM,

Postscript: There is also an indication of the anti-Illinois sentiment in D&C 135:7, which also says the the Prophet's and Patriarch's "innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois, with the broken faith of the State as pledged by the governor, is a witness to the truth."

At 7/01/2005 12:36:00 AM,

Interesting. You're not the only one that didn't know that. I think I'll sing it that way next time we sing that song.

P.S. I like this trivia thing. Keep it up. 

Posted by Rusty

At 7/01/2005 09:46:00 AM,

We believe in the Hymnal as Scripture only as far as it is translated correctly, right? Which means, by translation, that devious ascetics and the like have deprived us of the truth exactly as it would be had it fallen from the mouth of God.

(forgive the snideness, I just finished Barlow's "Mormons and the Bible" -- More later.)

At 7/01/2005 03:32:00 PM,

I learned that while I was on my mission. I sing it no other way now. :) 

Posted by Craig Atkinson

At 7/01/2005 08:39:00 PM,

Craig, I think you are right on. Once you give "Stain Illinois" a try, it is hard to go back. It is so much more true to the mood and particular style of mourning that the early church felt post-martyrdom.

At 7/02/2005 08:51:00 AM,

Justin wrote about this  with respect to the Smoot hearings. 

Posted by J. Stapley

At 7/02/2005 03:15:00 PM,

Thanks for giving rejuvenating us. We may be inactive, but if you dare call us inactive, we'll show you.

Actually, it's funny that nobody has written on the blog for over a month, and yet when you make a post, everybody comes out for comments. I guess I'm not the only lame contributor who consistently checks the blog, knowing there is nothing there.

I've never heard about the "stain Illinois" lyrics. I love it, though. My in-laws are all from Illinois. I'll have to sing that line louder next time.

Also, I'm surprised nobody has commented on the John Taylor use of the phrase "escutcheon of the State of Illinois." I wonder if he was going for the double meaning there.

At 7/02/2005 09:19:00 PM,

You're probably not the only person to be ignorant of that bowdlerization of the lyrics.

But, I don't know that there's any reason for your "ouch, W.W." There was a real sense that Illinois, in the person of Governor Ford, had breached its promise to protect Joseph and Hyrum, and that their blood therefore did stain the honor of the state. (John Taylor says as much in Section 135:7: "their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois, with the broken faith of the State as pledged by the governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel that all the world cannot impeach . . . ." 

Posted by Mark B.

At 7/03/2005 02:54:00 AM,

Doug Spencer: I might be dense, but I don't see how the phrase "escutcheon of the State of Illinois" might indicate a possible double meaning by John Taylor. Could you please explain this one?

Mark B: Well taken. My reaction was from the p.o.v. of a year 2005 correlated-church member, whose sampling to date of bitter church reaction to American government has been pretty much limited to the Lilburn Boggs extermination order story. (Though now that I think about it, President Hinckley's sermon in the session of the Nauvoo temple dedicaiton that I saw from Italy on my mission was very frank about Tom Ford, his downward spiral after the martyrdom, and the juxtaposition of Joseph's dynamic work .)

But I agree that it is a grave thing for the government to promise protection and then allow a mob assassination. And W.W. Phelps owed his salvation not just to Joseph in the same way we all do for his part in the restoration, but also was dependent on Joseph personally for the forgiveness and mercy that made it possible for Phelps to rejoin the church after his estrangement. I would not mince words in that hymn either if I were in his place.

It is, however, a mild shock to my modern polite conscience.

At 8/23/2005 03:25:00 AM,

I first heard about "stain Illinois" from a Dutch member of my ward in the 1980's. He was one of the last missionaries out of Belgium before the war -- WWI. He told me that when they came to these words, they sang louder. This was echoed by LDS soldiers in the Viet-Nam war, who *raised* their voices at "and should we die before this journey's through" in "Come, Come Ye Saints."




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