Leaves of Nauvoo: Reflections of Mormon History From my Honeymoon

11.23.12 | | 4 comments

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

“Wanderers–

Outward Bound”

Returned.

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.

Purer.

–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

Mother

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?

Reorganized?

Reorganized again–

— and again.

A reckless ship in the sea.

Oh Mother

Mother

Mother!

Remember, I am your boy–

I yearn for the truth from your lips.

Must I turn to madness to find truth?

Ah–

Ah—

Ah–

there is no God–

I feel him not

here

but in the West?

There are Father’s friends–

“Ye are my friends.”

I am their favorite

of

Father’s sons.

Ah–

Ah–

Ah–

Golden Beads

by Mahonri Stewart

Brown Sad Eyes

Staring out the window

–remembering?–

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.

Builder

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

Prayers

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 others 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

Statues

by Mahonri Stewart

Ave Maria–

Scenes of Passion–

Bleeding Heart, kneeling angels–

Fashioned out of love.

Idols?

Perhaps, perhaps not.

Doubtful.

Sincere, reverent?

Aye.

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

Farewell.

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.

Gone.

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.

Liberated

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

emerging

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.

4 comments: “Leaves of Nauvoo: Reflections of Mormon History From my Honeymoon

  1. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    Thank you, Yvonne! I’m not a poet by discipline, so I’m sure they’re very rough and amateurish. Mainly they were just thoughts I was jotting down, albeit sincere ones during a simpler time in my life.

  2. Mahonri Stewart Post author

    Thanks, Mark. I’m actually usually very self conscious about my poetry, so I’m kind of surprised at myself that I shared them here. They were largely personal thoughts that I hadn’t originally intended in sharing. Mainly it was the experience of it all rather than the actual poems, etc. themselves that I wanted to share. The trip also had particular impact on the draft of my play Fading Flower that I was working on at the time.

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