Latter Day Saint poetry

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The Scotsman, John Lyon, was one of the first notable LDS poets.

LDS poetry (or Mormon poetry) is poetry written by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about spiritual topics or themes.

Latter-day Saints have composed religious poetry since the Church's beginnings in the early 19th century. For Latter-day Saints, poetry is a form of art that can bring the Holy Spirit to the presented message. For example, the Elder's Journal, published at Far West in 1838 and edited by Joseph and Don Carlos Smith, contained a beautiful poetic tribute to James G. Marsh.[1] Poetry was often used in hymns in the foundation period of LDS Literature (1830–1880). Notable poetry includes the works of Eliza R. Snow, Parley P. Pratt, and W. W. Phelps, along with the published volume of poetry by John Lyon, The Harp of Zion: A Collection of Poems, Etc. (1853).[2]

During the "home literature" period (1880–1930), a number of poets published or disseminated their works. Poets Josephine Spencer and Augusta Joyce Crocheron published didactic and narrative poems. Charles Walker's Southern Utah folk poetry became popular, and Orson F. Whitney published hymns, lyric poetry, and a book-length poem, Elias, an Epic of the Ages (1904).

Another shift in LDS poetry occurred in the 1960s, starting with Clinton F. Larson's poetry. Larson managed to depart both from the "didactic and inward-looking provinciality" of early poetry and the "elitist, patronizing provinciality" of his contemporaries in the lost generation (1930–1970).[2] In the 1950s, he started writing modernist poetry that drew on his Mormon faith. In his review of Larson's poetry collection, Karl Keller wrote that Lason's poetry showed "religion succeeding in an esthetic way."[2] The development of this new movement was aided by the development of the first Mormon academic and literary periodicals, including BYU Studies (1959) and Dialogue (1966). Larson founded BYU Studies in 1959, and contributed poetry there and to Dialogue.[2]

More recently, poetry has been seen in Mormon General Conference talks given by Apostles of the church. For example, in 1972 as part of his address, Elder Bruce R. McConkie read his poem, "I Believe In Christ," which later became a much-loved LDS hymn.[3] Many years later, Elder Boyd K. Packer shared his faith about the cleansing power of Jesus in his poem "Washed Clean" as part of his April Conference talk.[4] While those examples are of personally composed pieces, poetry from many authors is often used in General Conference messages. The former President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson, is an avid lover of poetry and has often referenced it in his own talks.

Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems (1989), edited by Eugene England and Dennis Clark, and Fire in the Pasture: 21st Century Mormon Poets (2011), edited by Tyler Chadwick, are the preeminent collections of contemporary Mormon poetry.[5]

The Association for Mormon Letters has given awards for poetry nearly every year since 1977 as part of the AML Awards.

Notable LDS poets[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ELDERS' JOURNAL OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS. Vol. I. No. 3.] Far West, Missouri, July, 1838. Whole No. 3.
  2. ^ a b c d England, Eugene (1995). "Mormon Literature: Progress and Prospects". In Whittaker, David J. (ed.). Mormon Americana: A Guide to Sources and Collections in the United States. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies. ISBN 0842523154.
  3. ^ Bruce R. McConkie, “The Testimony of Jesus,” Ensign, Jul 1972, 109
  4. ^ Boyd K. Packer, “Washed Clean,” Ensign, May 1997, 9
  5. ^ "Fire in the Pasture: Gleaning After the Harvest" by Michael R. Collings
  6. ^ Susan Noyes Anderson's poetry site

External links[edit]