3. Retrospection

Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997), 103–108.

Retrospection

This short chapter is made up of only one article, dated 1 July 1881. Consisting of “scattered ideas and reflections,” the essay quotes liberally from Robert Pollock’s poem entitled “Course of Time.” Helen Mar Whitney recommends the book to her young readers, that it “might prove a great benefit.” Making a call for readers to consider their choices, she reminds them that the Latter-day Saints must be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ as understood through Restoration scriptures and the teachings of the prophets and apostles.

In looking over my past life I can plainly see the overruling hand of providence and realize that I was favored in being blessed with parents who when they heard the voice of the true shepherd, listened and followed Him and were willing to accept of salvation at the risk of losing their good name. As I grew up I was more or less fascinated by the allurements of the world and there was many a hard struggle between my love for them and desire to be saved. The germ was there but it took time and patient care and much watering from the pure fountain before it gave evidence that it had taken root or would spring forth to bear fruit. There were times when I wondered if religion by some other name would not do just as well. I thought of the contrast between our circumstances and those of our kindred who were enjoying wealth and worldly homes while we were not only enduring privation but were looked down upon and despised by the most of them and the people at large, and I saw a difference even in our own midst; those who could dress the finest were the ones who were most respected and admired, and they in turn looked upon those that did not dress and make as fine an appearance as themselves; this had always been the case; as a sample I will relate a little circumstance that happened to me when a little child, which no doubt helped to mold my future character.

School was out for noon and I having an apple one of my mates asked me for a piece of it when I handed her the apple, as she was biting it another girl some five years our senior whose parents were well off and had not as yet been called to leave their home or sacrifice any property, with a proud look said—“I wouldn’t touch her apple”; one of her companions asked why? When she said why “her father’s poor,” the other laughingly replied “I’m sure he don’t look very poor,” meaning in flesh. Having a proud and sensitive nature her words stung me and though I said nothing I remembered it. This was the first time that I ever realized that I was poor or that poverty was considered any disgrace. We had a comfortable home and orchard and I had not wanted for anything, and was much better off than numbers of my little mates, but to the sequel. Years passed which brought many changes and when in my teens this same girl took a great fancy to me and sought me for a companion though I was so much the youngest. Our acquaintance ended in a deep and lasting friendship; and though our circumstances were afterwards reversed I never referred to it and she most likely never knew how she wounded me, when I was a poor man’s child. I am very sorry to have it to say that there is too much of this spirit manifested among us now, not only in the hearts of some of the children but older ones are guilty who bear the name of Latter-day Saints and should be more exemplary but instead are stumbling blocks to the weak, as well as a reproach to the cause which we have espoused. I confess that there were times when I wished that my father had never heard of “Mormonism” and then we might have been rich instead of which he had given his money and all his time from the beginning, and left us with barely enough to subsist upon. I thought that worldly riches would bring happiness, and I believed that if my father would only leave the “Mormons” and return to his former home, he would soon accumulate wealth and I fancied that life there would be one round of pleasure and worldly enjoyments; but these temptations were only momentary, being of a hopeful nature the cloud would soon burst and I could see a bright future in imagination. I was always indulging in castle building, and my pleasures were too often anticipated and very seldom realized, until experience taught me to take such things as they came and enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself. Until my faith was established and I knew for myself that this work was true, and that my future happiness or misery depended upon the course I took here whether I received or rejected the principles contained in the everlasting gospel, I was like a ship without an anchor liable to be tossed to and fro by the various trials and temptations that beset me. When a child I had perfect faith and confidence to ask of God because I knew nothing of the opposite power and my faith had not been tested. I believed this to be the true church because my parents did and I trusted to their judgment believing all they told me to be true. What a responsibility there is resting upon parents. I can truly say the Lord has been very good to me and I consider that I was exceedingly fortunate in being blessed with affectionate and wise parents who gave me timely advice and admonition, though it was not always agreeable and I was incapable of appreciating it at the time, but how often I look back with a grateful heart that I was preserved from falling into the snares set to lead the youth of Zion down to perdition. To my young friends who may have experienced similar trials I will say “seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all other things shall be added thereto”; for this is the only legitimate way for us to obtain happiness; I know this to be true and would that it were possible for me to impress it upon the minds of the youth that they might not have to suffer sorrow and perhaps despair and everlasting woe. How truthful are the following lines from Pollock’s Course of Time. “Love God, love truth, love virtue, and be happy.

“These were the words first uttered in the ear
Of every being made, and made
For thought, or word, or deed accountable.
Most men the first forget, the second none.
Whatever path they took by hill or vale,
By night or day, the universal wish,
The aim, and sole intent was happiness:
But erring from the heaven-appointed path,
Strange tracks they took through barren wastes,
And up the sandy mountain climbing toiled,
Which pining lay beneath the curse of God,
And naught produced: yet did the traveller look,
And point his eye before him greedily,
As if he saw some verdant spot where grew
The heavenly flower, where sprung the well of life,
Where undisturbed felicity reposed;
Though wisdom’s eye no vestige could discern,
That happiness had ever passed that way.
Wisdom was right, for still the terms remained
Unchanged, unchangeable, the terms on which
True peace was given to man: unchanged as God,
Who, in his own essential nature, binds
Eternally to virtue happiness;
Nor lets them part through all his Universe.”

This book if read with care, might prove a great benefit to the young and thoughtless in bringing their minds to reflect upon what is of the greatest importance; the day “when all will be called to give an account of the deeds done in the body,” and not wait until, the day has come and, “The hour of grace,

“The final hour of grace is fully past.
The time accepted for repentance, faith,
And pardon, is irrevocably past;
And justice unaccompanied, as wont,
With mercy, now goes forth, to give to all
According to their deeds. Justice alone;
For why should mercy, and more be joined?
What hath not mercy, mixed with judgment, done,
That mercy mixed with judgment and reproof,
Could do? Did I not revelation make,”
Plainly and clearly, of my will entire?
Before them set my holy law, and give
Them knowledge, wisdom, prowess, to obey,
And win by self-wrought works, eternal life?
Rebelled, did I not send them terms of peace,
Which, not my justice, but my mercy asked?—
Terms costly to my well-beloved Son;
To them gratuitous, exacting faith
Alone for pardon, works evincing faith?
Have I not early risen, and sent my Seers,
Prophets, apostles, teachers, ministers,
With signs and wonders, working in my name?
Have I not still, from age to age, raised up,
As I saw needful great religious men,
Gifted by me with large capacity,
And by my arm omnipotent upheld,
To pour the numbers of my mercy forth,
And roll my judgments on the ear of man?
And lastly when the promised hour was come,
What more could most abundant mercy do?”

I hope to be pardoned for quoting so much from this poem but much that he describes I know to be true having been taught these great and important lessons in the school of experience. The principles contained in this the gospel of Christ are so clearly set forth and explained by Him that no Latter-day Saint who will read this work can doubt that he was gifted with inspiration for his mind soared above the vain things around him. On the first page he writes,

The muse, that soft and sickly wooes the ear
Of love, or chanting loud in windy rhyme
Of fabled hero, raves through gaudy tale
Not overfraught with sense, I ask not; such
A strain befits not argument so high.
“Hold my right hand, Almighty! and me teach
To strike the lyre, but seldom struck to notes
Harmonious with the morning stars, and pure
As those of sainted bards, and angels sang,
Which wake the echoes of eternity—
That fools may hear and tremble, and the wise
Instructed listen of ages yet to come.”

The author of this book was certainly a remarkable man raised up and inspired to write it but the labor was so arduous that it affected his health and cost him his life he dying in the twenty-ninth year of his age. His grave bears the following inscription:

“The Grave of
Robert Pollock, A M.,
Author of ‘The Course of Time,’
His Immortal Poem
Is His
Monument.
Erected By Admirers of His Genius.”

If the mist or veil which hides the eternities from our view could only be removed for a moment and we could have a slight glimpse of things as they are there oh, how vain and worthless the things around us would seem. Would any of us condescend to read novels or be willing to waste a moment of the time allotted to us to prepare ourselves to dwell there? I think not, then why not listen and obey the voice of wisdom and ever seek for the spirit that can lift our hearts above the paltry things around us enabling us to cultivate that love which surpasseth all understanding that will fill our hearts with meekness, mercy and charity towards our fellow beings. Our Savior said “If you do right in all other things and lack charity ye are not mine, “and also “To do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Everything in the world is so uncertain and changeable that a person who is wealthy today may be a beggar tomorrow and vice versa; so would it not be better for us all to show civility and even politeness to one another? Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you,” and “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you, If ye were of the world the world would love its own. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you”: The people of the world must be very blind not to see the facts as they are or how can they deny that this is the true Church of Christ? I hope that these few scattered ideas and reflections may help to stimulate and stir up the pure minds in the way of remembrance that in the last day we may not be found on the left hand of our Father when He utters these awful words, “Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not.”

Woman’s Exponent, vol. 10, no. 3,
1 July 1881, pp. 17–18