We don’t know why he wrote a poem for his twelve year-old daughter.
But he did, and last week marks 170 years since John Hardison Redd penned the words for his daughter Mary Catherine. He had been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for only three years at that point, but the words show a vivid acknowledgement of the atoning power of Jesus Christ in his heart.
Mary Catherine was the youngest of his daughters- twelve years-old at the time it was put down on paper. Perhaps she was beginning to wonder about God and her place in the world. Perhaps John and Elizabeth just wanted something beautiful to share with her at bedtime as they tucked her in. As a member of a Mormon family, perhaps she faced her own opposition in their community and her parents were trying to strengthen her.
While we don’t know too much about the poem or how it came about, this much we do know. John Hardison Redd had experienced a religious conversion in 1843 and in 1846 wrote down something he wanted his daughter to know about his faith. It is a sign of their relationship and that faith that it has survived to the present day.
A few years after these verses were written, the Redds sold all their property in Tennessee and crossed the plains with the pioneers in 1850, settling in Spanish Fork, Utah. At an age that today’s young women in the Church are in the Mia Maids class, Mary Catherine left behind her world to join the Saints in Utah. She passed away the following year in 1851, not even reaching the age of eighteen. Re-reading these words written for their little girl after her death must have been difficult for her parents, but those words now endure as a memory of their love for her.
While nature was sinking in stillness to rest,
The last beams of daylight shone dim in the west,
O’er fields by the moonlight, with wandering feet
Sought in quietudes hour a place of retreat.
While passing a garden I head then drew near
A voice plain and plaintive arrested my ear
The voice of a sufferer affected my heart,
In agony pleading the poor sinner’s part.
In offering to heaven his pitying prayer,
He spoke of the torments the sinner must bear.
His life for a ransom He offered to give,
That sinners redeemed in glory might live.
So deep were His sorrows, so fervent his prayers,
That down on His bosom rolled sweat, blood and tears.
I wept to behold him, I asked Him his name.
He answered, ‘Tis Jesus, from Heaven I came.
I am thy Redeemer for Thee I must die.
This cup is most bitter, but cannot pass by.
Thy sins like a mountain are laid upon Me,
And all this deep anguish I suffer for thee.’
I heard with deep anguish the tale of His woe,
While tears like a fountain did flow.
The cause of His sorrow, to hear Him repeat,
Affected my heart, and I fell at His feet.
I trembled with horror and loudly did cry,
‘Lord save a poor sinner, O save or I die.’
He smiled when He saw me and said to me, ‘Live,
Thy sins which are many, I freely forgive.’
How sweet was that moment; He bad me rejoice.
His smile, O how sweet, how charming His voice.
I flew from the garden, I spread it abroad,
I shouted salvation and Glory to God.
I’m now on my journey to mansions above;
My soul’s full of glory, of light, peace and love.
I think of the garden, the prayer and the tears,
Of that loving Savior who banished my fears.
The day of bright glory is rolling around,
When Gabriel descending, the trumpet shall sound
My soul, then, in raptures of glory shall rise,
To gaze on my Savior with unclouded eyes.
I’d invite you to read it today- out loud.
A Redd family cousin, Sherrill D. Redd, put those words to music last year and has graciously allowed us to post her work here for our families to have in our homes.