What’s in this Name?

Poor Wayfaring Man

The name of this blog is derived from an LDS hymn called A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. It describes a series of encounters the narrator has with a wretched beggar, in which the narrator helps the beggar, and the beggar (or the act of rendering the service itself) somehow gives something valuable back to the narrator. In the end, the beggar turns out to be Jesus.

What lesson does this song teach? Well, the central message appears to be that everything the narrator did to help the beggar actually earned the narrator serious capital in the economy of the afterlife; he is now destined to be a big shot–the ruler of a kingdom in Heaven. The song, of course, does not present this lesson in so many words. It is actually a first-person reformulation of a lesson Jesus is reported to have taught (in Matthew 25:31-40), which culminates in the famous line, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” This lesson establishes that Christian behavior, however uncomfortable or difficult to engage in, will be richly rewarded in the afterlife.

This song was a favorite of the Prophet Joseph Smith–the founder of Mormonism (and the LDS Church’s ultimate big-shot). The song was sung a couple of times, at Joseph’s request, on the day of his 1844 murder. It’s no surprise that he liked it, given its central message, which Joseph used to great advantage in motivating the Latter-day Saints to action (or submission) during his time as their prophet and leader.

Okay, maybe the connection to Joseph Smith is just trivia, since it’s not really why I picked the hymn for the name of this blog. The reason for the name is that this blog features an author who isn’t the most attractive person to devout Mormons. I imagine his lack of faith and generally negative attitude toward the doctrines and certain cultural features of the LDS Church (which he was raised in) probably permeates the air of Mormon religious and social gatherings, in the same way the stench of a homeless person or a leper (true “poor wayfaring” folks) would. Maybe I’m not right about that, but I think the spiritual “illness” that afflicts me is considered every bit as scary and dangerous for a faithful Mormon as leprosy used to be for the unafflicted. The fact that I don’t really have any friends in the Mormon community where I live seems to support my theory. And the fact that people who I do interact with have never even come close to inquiring about my…er…shaken faith syndrome or any other reasons for not going to church on Sundays, seems to lend further solid support, but I admit I’m working with limited data here, and could be wrong.

As someone who grew up in Mormon culture, who has always been fascinated with Mormonism’s history and teachings, I have not found it easy to just disengage completely from the topic (as many mainstream Mormons would prefer). Also, my wife and kids are active participants in the local LDS community, so I am interested in finding ways to explain my own perspective and personal choices to them without being insensitive to their point of view. This is part of what I plan on doing with this blog.

It may be easy to see this collection of thoughts as yet another faceless unorthodox Mormon blog. Maybe I look like just one of many anonymous strangers wandering the wild internets, panhandling for your attention. But give this Poor Wayfaring Man a chance, and you just might get a little something in return. (You never know–I may actually be a big shot, giving you a chance to earn some heavenly real estate for yourself.)


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