Two Poor Wayfaring Men of Grief

167 years ago today, Joseph Smith, first prophet of the LDS Church, was murdered by a mob in a jail in Carthage, Illinois. 

As he and a few friends sat in a room in the jail, awaiting what they knew to be an imminent ambush, Joseph asked John Taylor, who would later become the church’s third president, after Brigham Young, to sing his favorite song for him.  The song was “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” which is about a man who keeps coming across a humble, suffering stranger throughout his life; the narrator keeps helping the stranger, regardless the sacrifice involved, until the end of the song, when the stranger is revealed to be Jesus Christ, who then offers salvation to His faithful friend. 

The song may have comforted Joseph in two ways.  He probably identified with the singer, who , like Joseph, had undergone almost constant adversity in a life devoted to serving Jesus.  Joseph also likely found some measure of peace in the fact that his difficult life was only a shadow of the suffering the Savior endured, as the song describes. 

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