Yearning for God, Trying to Love My Neighbor, Making Theatre and Beauty, Building a Life...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Leaves of Nauvoo: Mormon History Reflections From My Honeymoon

The other day I came across an old mole-skin, black notebook my wife Anne had given me on my birthday when we were dating (including a poem which my friend Nate Drew put music to and which I sang to Anne after I asked her to marry me... a totally different story). Instantly knowing what it was, I reviewed it with fondness.

In its early pages are some overwrought and very loving poems I wrote for Anne. But after several pages nearly all the rest of the notebook is dedicated to things I wrote during mine and Anne's honeymoon in Nauvoo. Those who know my play The Fading Flowing will also see my pre-occupation on David Hyrum Smith at this time, as I was in the midst of revising the play during that time.

After our wedding we went to Salt Lake City for our honeymoon for the weekend and saved up our major trip to Missouri and Illinois Mormon History sites a few months later in the late Spring. As I looked through the poems, quotes, notes, and drawings that I filled the notebook with, a gentle stirring came back to me. It was a beautiful time during mine and Anne's early marriage and I wanted to share some of those pressed flowers of my life. This is a simpler time in my life, but a beautiful one. 

Freedom's Bonds
by Mahonri Stewart

Cramped Cold Creased--
Six men in a prison.
Saints not criminals
A prophet, not a traitor

Like their Ancient Master
Unjust Justice
       afflicts their backs
and cools their lungs.

They're fed afflicted flesh,
but they will not eat.
They wait for their Father's feast
when, lifted from cramped dungeons,
they inherit kingdoms.

--May 3, 2005, Liberty Jail Missouri

The End of Kingdoms
by Mahonri Stewart

A peaceful breeze,
a stretching land,
is all there is to indicate greater things.

These tall trees, empty of inhabitants,
These long, green valleys
These spots for birds,
bugs and butterflies--
shall one day be thronged
with thousands--
tens of thousands--
tens of thousands times
tens of thousands.

This quiet place is a monument of a historic future
When kingdoms end
and Kingdom is born.
--May 4, 2005, Adam-Ondi-Ahman

Eden Restored
by Mahonri Stewart

Outward Bound"
Civilization melted,
far away.

Here I am with my Eve
and God.
No, time hasn't regressed,
but progressed.

Back in Eden,
but different.
Beyond innocence,
to something greater.


--May 4, 2005.

Masonic Hall
by Mahonri Stewart

Thomas Lyne takes the stage--
Brigham Young transforms into
the high priest in Pizarro--
Joseph Smith applaudes, weeps, approves--
"Not an immoral profession!"

William Law scoffs,
a pretentious pharisee,
but a prophet's hands honor in applause,
Apostles don costumes.

The play is the thing
To cheer the weary in Nauvoo,
and makes our a cultured God.

The Fading Flower
by Mahonri Stewart

Like David Hyrum--
It has a sense of wisdom
without coherence
Cut from Father tree
and grafted into foreign vine.

Oh Mother
 You led your sons into fading light
your daughter into "Universal" arms.
I grow mad, Mother.
                                I am not as I was.
It is not David that speaks thus.
          Father, where are you?
                                    Not here, surely.
Reorganized again--
                               -- and again.
A reckless ship in the sea.

Oh Mother
Remember, I am your boy--
I yearn for the truth from your lips.

Must I turn to madness to find truth?

there is no God--
              I feel him not
but in the West?
There are Father's friends--
                                        "Ye are my friends."
                I am their favorite
                 Father's sons.

Golden Beads 
by Mahonri Stewart

Brown Sad Eyes
Staring out the window
Brown Sad Eyes, while aged
hands finger flashing beads.

Your hard stairway of grief
accentuated by courage.
I am hard on you sometimes, Emma.
But few women have more respect from me.
Moroni told Joseph to seek you out,
            so he could obtain ancient words.

by Mahonri Stewart

From homes to chairs
From bustle ovens to Western Kingdoms
Great Lion of the Lord--
        you built---
                         then re-built--
When thieves and apostates would tear down--
                      --break through and steal--
You built--
       then rebuilt.

-- May 7, 2005
Brigham Young's Nauvoo Home

by Mahonri Stewart

A woman's distinct voice
leads the other uttered prayers.
Their "Hail Mary, Full of Grace"
is strange to me--
but though memorized, mechanical--
the prayers are fervent and sincere,
"blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." 
What started as one prayer 
(who still leads) is added by 
voice after voice.
One states, the other repeat.

Their faith is not mine
       (yet is is)
but I believe God 
--hears them--
       --knows them--
              --loves them--
                             -- lead them up thy stairs, Lord. 

-- May 7, 2005, St. Peter and Paul Cathedral-- Nauvoo

by Mahonri Stewart

Ave Maria--
Scenes of Passion--
Bleeding Heart, kneeling angels--
Fashioned out of love.

Perhaps, perhaps not.

Sincere, reverent?

These dramatic images
look down on folk
who adore the representations.

Though eyes of stone do not see.
      --God sees--

David's Chamber
by Mahonri Stewart

Exquisite to see a
Place of Peace for one
who would gain the burden of a troubled mind.
The Sensitive Saint
sitting behind wet, falling sheets

Later you were imprisoned in Stone--
              --imprisoned in mind and spirit--
but these green bonds and
transparent, glassy cage
                             are liberating!

Confined in Nature, dear David Hyrum,
releasing scrawled poems,
Here is the calm before your stormy sea.
Here is your peace.

-- David's Chamber, May 8, 2005.

A Vivid Dream in Nauvoo (May 9, 2005):
I dreamed that I was painting a scene of a bear and a man fighting. It started out as a detailed painting and my mother came and commended it. She told me its title (which escapes me now). Then the next time I looked at the image, it was very small and was now a very small part of my mother's painting, a very beautiful scene in the woods (both the man and  the bear were white), but though it started out as a nice, subtle addition to the painting, the more I worked on it, the worse it became and I felt that I had spoiled my mother's painting (the man in the painting was out of proportion and now looked more like a stick figure).

I went into my parents' kitchen and The Ten Commandments was playing on a little white television my parents own. I came in and and out a few times. Then upon returning again, my sister Sarah had come into the kitchen and turned off the television. She was sitting at the counter, working on what seemed to be a Sunday School lesson. She had some questions for me about Church History. Sarah asked me who had apostatized, and those who had fallen away and come back. She asked about Oliver Cowdery and I told her that had fallen away, but then come back (she looked relieved).

I told her that Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball had stayed true and never faltered; that Thomas B. Marsh had fallen and came back only decades later and was not re-instated into the Twelve. I told her that Parley P. Pratt had faltered for a moment (at which she was startled), but then he came back, never faltering again and staunch in the Gospel.

I told her that John Page had fallen away (I feel sorry for him, he didn't necessarily want to be ex-communicated, he just wanted to stay in Texas and have the Saints settle there, but was rather rebellious to Brigham Young). I told her that Orson Pratt had fallen away momentarily, but came back (over matters of polygamy and his wife). I told her David W. Patten had faltered momentarily, but then came back strong and became our first apostolic martyr (at which Sarah was surprised and impressed with him). I had also told that Orson had betrayed the Prophet and the Saints in Missouri with Thomas B. Marsh, but came back to the Church and was re-instated into the Twelve. 

I told her that people like John Taylor, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzon Snow (who came into the Twelve later) never faltered. I told her that William Smith (Joseph's youngest brother) had fallen away. Then I had a hard time remembering the rest of the early apostles (I'm surprised I couldn't remember some of the more hardened apostates like William E. McClellan, or Luke and Lyman Johnson-- Luke came back to the Church and Lyman committed suicide, reminding me of Judas).

Sarah had me write down a list for her. She wanted dates, but I didn't know dates-- I would have to check my books, which I said I probably didn't have time for. I was wracking my brains trying to figure out who I missed when I woke up.

Sweet Singer
by Mahonri Stewart

My wife sings where you once were
Where you once thought and pondered and wrote--
did you sing here, too,
Sweet Singer of Israel?

"Be still my soul," Anne sings,
"The Lord is on thy side."
The wind in the trees and the trickling waterfall
join in the chorus.

Is a remnant of your voice here as well
Brought back on the breeze
carried in the water?

Do you join my wife in another song--
"How Great Thou Art."

--David's Chamber, May 9, 2005

After Seeing a Snake at David's Chamber
by Mahonri Stewart

He's wrapped himself in green beauty,
A former apostle--now apostate--
greets you in friendship.
Whispers with forked tongue--
leads you into shadows
and swallows your mind.

The fruit he offers you in this beautiful place--
is it from the Tree of Knowledge?
Did its flesh and water
drive you mad?

Or bring you to greater understanding?

Amasa, leave the boy alone!
He's sensitive--
let him gain knowledge through purer means.

Great Bird
by Mahonri Stewart

An overhanging tree
Bowing over the path
Upon it perched a hawk or falcon
A Great Bird.

It eyes us, my wife and I,
Intimidating, but wise.
We draw closer, ever close,
I've never been so close
to one such as he.

Regal, he flies to another tree.
With an impressive wing span,
Like a good omen,
he seals our visit,
our last walk
in the groves of Nauvoo.

Like a Prophet bidding us

Words of Life
by Mahonri Stewart

That empty stand
is significant.

No one speaks among these trees
and no one is spoken to.
Only my wife and I sit here.

Those Saints, Prophets, and Pioneers.
Like Departed Light
leaving only a glow of holy sights.
Silent sermons are all that's
left in Nauvoo.

Stone, brick, wood, tree, grass--
Beautiful oration of wordlessness.

Oh, but Brother Joseph--
I long to hear the words you gave them.
Give me your words on the wind. 

by Mahonri M. Stewart

Confined one last time
A prophet and his brother are
among friends--
but surrounded by wolves.

Shadowed faces...
      fire shooting metal--
      defensive shots, rascal beaters
       deflecting fire--
      a hailstorm of bullets--
      death cries--
      a brother fallen--
      savagely wounded disciple--
      miraculously fulfilled prophecy--
     and a calm resignation
                                walks to the window
    "O Lord, my God!"

He falls
           but his soul flies.
--May 9, 2005, Carthage Prison Room 

Prophet, Seer
by Mahonri Stewart

I've seen you only in
Night Visions,
yet I love you.

Your influences strains through time's misty passage,
And you grasp me,
pull me to belief,
saving me from modern waters
my faith baptized.

You direct me to God, to Christ,
you extend my spirit into
Gethsemene's past
to Adam-Ondi-Ahman's future.

Brother Joseph, let me find you
when I die,
so that--again--
you can lead me to God.

-- May 9, 2005, Carthage Jail.

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