Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Captain of Thy Soul

I memorized a poem by Orson F. Whitney. I thought you might like it. It is a reply to the Poem “Invictus” by William Henley and is titled “The Soul's Captain”. President Monson also likes it and related a little more about it. I'll post President Monson's remarks below the poem.

Art thou in truth? Then what of him
Who bought thee with his blood,
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood

Elder Record in a Fairbanks Autumn
Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but him could bare
That God who died that man might live
And endless glory share

Of what avail, thy vaunted strength
Apart from his vast might
Pray that His light may pierce the gloom
That thou mayest see aright.

Men are as bubbles on the wave
As leaves upon the tree
Thou, captain of thy soul? Forsooth,
Who gave that place to thee

Free will is thine – free agency
To wield for right or wrong
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong

Bend to the dust that “head unbowed”
Small part of life’s great whole
And see in him and him alone
The captain of thy soul.

When I was a boy, my father would offer me a coin now and again to memorize a poem or a piece of scripture. Memorization was easy then. It is well nigh impossible now.

I remember his offering me 25 cents to memorize William Ernest Henley’s poem “Invictus.” I can still remember it. I will repeat two verses:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

(R. J. Cook, comp., One Hundred and One Famous Poems [1923], 95)

It is a great poem. It places upon the individual the responsibility for what he does with his life. Through these many years, when I have been faced with difficult choices I have repeated these stirring words.

But on the other hand, it may sound arrogant and conceited in terms of the Atonement. Orson F. Whitney, of the Quorum of the Twelve of many years ago, so regarded it and wrote a marvelous response using the same poetic meter and entitling his verse “The Soul’s Captain.”

I repeat three of the verses from his writing.

Art thou in truth? Then what of him
Who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood?

Free will is thine—free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.

Bend to the dust that head “unbowed,”
Small part of life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.

(Improvement Era, May 1926, 611)" [as Quoted in Ensign, Feb 2011, First Presidency Christmas Devotional: “My Redeemer Lives”]

I love Alaska.  I love Fairbanks. It's snowing quite a bit. It's snowing pretty heavy right now. Life is good.  Snow is awesome.  And the cold isn't that bad.  I have a warm coat and am taking my vitamins.  I'm happy, healthy, and strong =).

Elder Record 2nd from the right and his Fairbanks district.
This week we had a pretty good day Saturday. We had a zone tract in the morning from ten until noon. We were in our area this time. It was pretty fruitful. We got nine referrals from the other missionaries for people to go and visit. We went on our first street which is kind of short, and no one was really interested in listening to us. We went to a different street and it was the second house we knocked on and the first house that answered. She was very receptive. We gave her a Book of Mormon and taught her about it. She seemed to really appreciate it. Normally she doesn't open the door, which was pretty cool she told us, so that made us feel good. We gave her our card and number and told her when church was, and she said she might stop by. That was really neat, and it felt good to be able to do that. I have never had that happen before while I was tracting, where somebody was just that open and receptive. I definitely felt the Spirit there, and hopefully we will be able to catch her again and talk to her. She's not around much, and I was kind of praying that we would be able to at least plant some seeds. It seems like we definitely planted some seeds there. So we will go back again and follow up.

There is a less active sister who came to church this Sunday. We were excited about that. She's excited about coming back. It was neat to get to know her because she is someone that acts. A lot of times when we talk with people they are kind of lukewarm and don't really want to do anything like read or find out. Or if the do, they are just kind of slow about it. But she was ready to act. She said, “yeah, I'm going to talk with the bishop.” So she met with the bishop like she said she would (haha). Things seem to be going well there.

We had one of our investigators, who is pretty shy, come to church. That was good that she was there. We were pretty happy about that. The week kind of started off a bit slower because of various things, but towards the end it really started to pick up.

A snowy river in Fairbanks, AK
I set a goal to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the transfer, which is in three weeks. So far I am on track. I got an 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon because it's setup like a novel. There are not verses, so it reads like a novel; like it's a lot faster to read it. So I'm reading that, and it's fun. I'm getting the bigger picture. I think the Spirit is able to be with me a little bit more because I'm focusing more on that and those basic principles. It's just the way the Book of Mormon is written; it's specific and plain, and it's all about people's experiences and coming closer to Christ. So, the Spirit is there stronger when you read it. That is what I like about reading so far. But anyway, I'll read 28 pages per day. It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour. I borrowed another missionary's copy – I'm going to have to get my own copy of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. I'd really like that. It is a lot easier to read. Granted, it still has those spelling errors or punctuation errors and things like that in it, but that's okay.

Elder Beirne had a neat miracle. He felt like he needed to not go to a certain restaurant, so he went to a Quiznos, and there was somebody there that paid for him (haha). So that was neat for him. Elder Wadell got sick this week, which wasn't fun. I kind of stayed with him for the day. Anyway, he's feeling better, so that's good. It kind of reminded me when I got sick. I had a fever of 102.7. This was while I was in Anchorage. I got sick on a P-day, so I was laying in bed for the whole day (haha). After I emailed, I went home and just died on the bed and was there for the whole entire day. Elder Wright was very patient and stayed there in the apartment with me. He's a good guy.

We have had some interesting experiences the past week too. One of them is inappropriate and I won't talk about it, but (haha).... When you are tracking and you knock on a door, or even in general when you knock on a door, you are never quite sure what's going to answer (haha).

I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know we can have the Spirit with us more, if we will read it regularly because it is so direct and specific and focusing on those things that Christ would have us know. I know it will help us be more happy and focused because it helps me be happy and more focused. I know that the Church is true. I know that you guys are awesome, and I hope everything is going well at home. I hope Chris is excited and getting ready for a mission (haha), because it's not too far away. Stay in Seminary. Read the scriptures. As soon as I get off my mission, I am going to dig into the Old Testament. I love the Old Testament. I would love to go to Jerusalem too, and do the study abroad thing. But anyway, that is kind of the highlights of the week, and it was a good week.

Love, Elder Record

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