A Song for Joseph

In August 1844, still reeling over the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the LDS newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois published a new Mormon hymn. William W. Phelps wrote the words of this song about Joseph Smith and set it to music, using an old Scottish folksong for the tune.

“Praise to the Man” identifies Joseph Smith as “the man who communed with Jehovah” while proclaiming that “Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.” The lyrics of the chorus are,

Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.

The hymn goes on to praise Smith’s “mem’ry, he died as a martyr; honored and blest be his ever-great name!” It speaks of Smith’s blood pleading to heaven (or, before 1927 when the words were changed, Smith’s blood stained Illinois) while “the earth lauds his fame.”

More eulogizing proclaims Smith’s “great glory” and “endless priesthood,” speaks of him being “faithful and true,” and warns, “Earth must atone for the blood of that man.”

Today, just as when it was first written, this Mormon hymn is cherished by Latter-day Saints all over the world.

In early July (2009) I attended the Nauvoo Pageant: A Tribute to Joseph Smith in Illinois. This musical drama, presented live by the LDS Church and its members, ”celebrates the legacy of early Latter-day Saints” who settled Nauvoo in the 1840s.

The pageant began with a procession of bagpipers marching behind an American flag. As the flag-bearer approached and ascended the steps of the outdoor stage, the audience rose to its feet. Each person in the predominantly LDS audience placed a hand over his or her heart with high emotion. After this the audience would be invited to sing the Star Spangled Banner, but at that opening moment of the performance, the flag-bearer marched to the notes of a different tune.

I didn’t recognize the song. I would expect a procession of the American flag to be accompanied by an American song: “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”; “America the Beautiful”; “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.” But the song used in the Nauvoo Pageant was a Scottish tune. So I wondered, What was the song and what was its significance in relation to the flag?

I later learned that the song chosen for the flag processional was “Praise to the Man.” And again I wondered.

The people who stood with tears in their eyes and hands on their hearts – what were they responding to? Were they exhibiting patriotic respect for the United States of America? Or were they, as Mormons very familiar with the song, exhibiting veneration of the Prophet?

And the non-Mormons in the audience — what would they have done in the midst of this emotional scene if they had known the pledge-posture of the moment was not only vowing allegiance to the flag, but was also a declaration of praise for the man Joseph Smith?

See also “Praise to the Man” — Elevating Joseph Smith

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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57 Responses to A Song for Joseph

  1. Olsen Jim says:

    falcon,

    Why the need to have a discussion of the history of evangelical Christianity, history of the bible, etc. off line? Why not answer my simple questions here? I am happy to do either, but why not open discussion here? My argument has been that evangelical religion is a modern creation with no authority. It is 2000 years removed from revelation and authority. It is based on the assumption that the Bible is infallible. Their stand on “authority” clearly invalidates any claim they make about their own position. It is a completely nonsensical argument based on a very narrow view of history and the Bible.

    Kevin,

    I always find it disingenuous when people claim “no one is ready to leave Mormonism until they can rationally evaluate the evidence with an opened mind.” This is to claim that those who don’t leave do not have open minds and do not evaluate the evidence rationally. Please. I am nothing more than a run-of the mill mormon and like others have studied the evidence from as many angles as possible for decades. In fact, I know a thousand of LDS, and in my experience with those I know personally, the more a person studies the evidence, the greater is their conviction.

    Andy- Jacob 2 says ” For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none… Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”

    This places polygamy in context- Jacob does not say that polygamy is always evil.

    I will say it again- the EV approach on this site, as is typical of LDS critics, is to light as many fires as possible, knowing that it takes two seconds to light them but hours to put them out. But you cannot stand the same scrutiny yourselves.

  2. setfree says:

    Jim,
    Andy was probably talking about this part of Jacob 2:

    24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

    which stands in direct opposition to this verse from D&C 132:

    39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me

    Jim,
    Did you get a chance to get over and see the long explanation I tried to give on the Malachi verses?

  3. mobaby says:

    I don’t know if anyone is still on this thread – but here goes. It seems that there is a question about the reliability of the Bible running through Olsen Jim’s and others comments on this string and other strings. I found (through some Christian blogs) an amazing website that displays the complete Christian scriptures from the 300’s. There is even a translation available of the text!

    This EARLY EARLY copy of the Bible would allow Mormon scholars to go in and see how many of the things that were removed or changed in the Bible are in this version and not in our current Bible. It also provides the opportunity for Mormons to show how Joseph Smith’s version of the Bible aligns more closely with early Christian scriptures. Truth is, I don’t think anyone (not even the Mormons) on this blog would go searching this VERY EARLY copy of the scriptures to see how many of Joseph Smith’s corrections are there. It would be pointless, we all know they would not be there, and no one likes a fruitless and pointless exercise.

    Here’s the website if you want to go check out this website with this amazing text and translation (from just a few hundred years after Jesus walked the earth – another 140 years or so and it will be the same separation society will have from the first BOM!):

    http://www.codex-sinaiticus.net/en/

    Let me know how many of Joseph Smith’s corrections you find indicated in this early text!

  4. Ralph says:

    Setfree,

    You missed the preceding verse as well as the last part of verse 39 in D&C 132.

    D&C 132:38-39 ”David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me. David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife

    These verses are saying that David, Solomon and Moses all received other wives from God through revelation from a prophet, but there were some wives David and Solomon took without God’s permission – the example given was David and Uriah’s wife. So all these verses are saying is that we cannot take another wife without God telling us to through His prophet. This is like killing people – if God gives permission to kill someone then it is OK, as shown in the Bible; but if God does not give permission then it is not OK, again as shown in the Bible.

  5. Andy Watson says:

    Olsen,

    Like I said earlier: “Stay alert – stay alive; pay attention to detail; get your head out of your 4th point of contact”. I think the verdict is in on Shem and yourself. The two of you are nothing but “blow-hards” with no scholarship, no answers and apparently no questions to ask despite the constant “drum beat” that you do have any…you don’t or you would have already asked them. You obviously overlooked these important points in Jacob:

    Jacob 1:15 – “And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow HARD IN THEIR HEARTS, and indulge themselves somewhat in WICKED PRACTICES, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines”

    Jacob 2:23 – “This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in COMMITTING WHOREDOMS, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.”

    Jacob 2:24 – “David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was ABOMINABLE BEFORE ME, saith the Lord.”

    Your scholarship, research, apologetics, study skills, questions and answers are pathetic. Enroll in LDS institute this Fall and read your church manuals after you read your LDS historians. Ignorance of the subject and apathy won’t get you anywhere in this life. In the eternal it will get you a one-way, non-stop ticket to outer darkness riding coach with Joseph Smith sitting in first class with the rest of the fallen, false prophets of the world.

    Email me if and when you ever have a real question.

    n[email protected]

  6. In July Kevin said: ““The church tells me the world is flat, I know it is round because I have seen the shadow on the moon. I believe a shadow much more then I believe the church” ~I believe Magellan said this.
    I truly believe that the church coming out of the dark ages taught many false and confounding doctrines that were wrong. Having grown up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have seen more harmony than discord from most of our christian congregations. We do not disparage truth, we embrace it. My foundation has been supported and strengthened from reading the Book of Mormon and from Joseph Smith’s “13 Articles of Faith”. My faith is in Jesus Christ. He comforts me. If there are things in mormonism that other christians do not agree with, they are not pertinant to their faith and trust in Christ. Let’s meet on common ground. The 10 commandments came down from the Mount to a stubborn and unwilling generation. Let our generation bo one that “loves his neighbor as himself” and worshops the Father, through Christ, wo is, afterall, the author and finisher of our faith. “And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked. And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith”. Jarom 4

  7. Setfree said:
    Jim,
    Andy was probably talking about this part of Jacob 2:

    24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

    which stands in direct opposition to this verse from D&C 132:

    39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me…

    Reading the prior verse, Jacob 2:23 “But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.”

    The thing abominable was committing whoredoms and excusing it on the scriptures, not understanding them.

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