Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » A Hide as Tough as a Hippopotamus: Charles W. Penrose Schools His Feelings

A Hide as Tough as a Hippopotamus: Charles W. Penrose Schools His Feelings

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - March 28, 2014

Charles W. Penrose was called as a missionary not long after his baptism in England. A decade later as he was finishing his missionary labors and preparing to emigrate to Utah Territory, he noted, “A sort of quiet slander had been circulated concerning me in Birmingham by an elder from Zion and it had cut me to the quick.”


When he had moved to head the Birmingham Conference, he had taken family furniture and other belongings with him and had used them to furnish the office.

It was intimated by one of the Elders from Zion that I was endeavoring to lay claim to the property that belonged to the Birmingham Conference… I had labored then over ten years in the ministry, most of the time as traveling elder, literally without purse or scrip. I started that way and had continued, suffering a great many hardships and difficulties and trials that I need not refer to now, and this touched me right to the heart. I did not know how to bear it.

He continued:

I did not care how much I might be scandalized by enemies of the Church; I had become accustomed to that. I used to say that my hide had got as tough as a hippopotamus; I did not care what an enemy said about me.

But when an elder in the Church did that it cut me to the heart, and I felt like retaliating. But I sat down and wrote that little poem, “School thy feelings, O my brother, Train thy warm, impulsive soul,” and so on. And that was for me.

I did not intend it for anybody else, but it was giving a little counsel to myself.

Penrose’s little poem was shared and shared again and became widely circulated in the Church. “President Brigham Young…later told [an author] that he had it read to him several times when he had a deputy marshal guarding him in his house.”

After Penrose emigrated to Utah, he became editor of the Deseret News and a member of the Utah legislature where he worked in favor of women’s rights. He became an Apostle and was Counselor to Presidents Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant.

Pertinent to the contents of the post yesterday (They Had “Peculiar” Questions, 1912), he was a polygamist himself, with three wives: Lucetta Stratford (15 children), Louisa Lusty (10 children), and Dr. Romania Bunnell Pratt. Despite his own involvement in the practice, he helped edit the Manifesto for publication and took it seriously and did not support those conducting post-Manifesto plural marriages.

Four of his hymns are in the current LDS hymnbook: “O Ye Mountains High” (36); “God of Our Fathers, We Come unto Thee” (76); “Up, Awake, Ye Defenders of Zion” (248); and his “little poem” written in Birmingham, “School Thy Feelings” (336).

Like President Penrose’s answers in yesterday’s post, his sentiments in “School Thy Feelings” are pertinent to many deeply-felt discussions happening now about the Church, so here is the current text of the poem for any of us involved in the discussions to read, and perhaps, like Brigham Young, read again and again.

1. School thy feelings, O my brother;
Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.
School thy feelings; there is power
In the cool, collected mind.
Passion shatters reason’s tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind.

School thy feelings, O my brother;
Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.

2. School thy feelings; condemnation
Never pass on friend or foe,
Though the tide of accusation
Like a flood of truth may flow.
Hear defense before deciding,
And a ray of light may gleam,
Showing thee what filth is hiding
Underneath the shallow stream.

3. Should affliction’s acrid vial
Burst o’er thy unsheltered head,
School thy feelings to the trial;
Half its bitterness hath fled.
Art thou falsely, basely, slandered?
Does the world begin to frown?
Gauge thy wrath by wisdom’s standard;
Keep thy rising anger down.

4. Rest thyself on this assurance:
Time’s a friend to innocence,
And the patient, calm endurance
Wins respect and aids defense.
Noblest minds have finest feelings;
Quiv’ring strings a breath can move;
And the gospel’s sweet revealings
Tune them with the key of love.

5. Hearts so sensitively molded
Strongly fortified should be,
Trained to firmness and enfolded
In a calm tranquility.
Wound not willfully another;
Conquer haste with reason’s might;
School thy feelings, sister, brother;
Train them in the path of right.


President Thomas S. Monson gave a talk using this poem as its basis. So did President Gordon B. Hinckley. Unfortunately I can’t find a performance online, so here is the music app version.



  1. I remember when I released as Cubmaster many years ago in a ward far away — there was some behind-the-scenes discussion about me any my stealing of several of the props I had used at pack meetings — but they were all mine, bought with my own money and never with reimbursement. The one person who heard the discussions and told me sometime later, well, I shared the truth with her, but no doubt everyone else who heard the gossip believed it. If our paths ever cross, they might still believe it.

    Two Sundays ago, I played Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses in sacrament meeting. I got more comments for that one hymn than I ever have for any other hymn.

    The simple messages of the Gospel are so important for all of us.

    Comment by ji — March 28, 2014 @ 9:06 am

  2. Very nicely done, Amy! And a timely reminder.

    I was wondering if this could be sung to the next tune in the hymnbook–O Home Beloved, Where’er I Wander–but every phrase in School The Feelings is just one syllable too short. And I don’t think we could add that many “Oohs” and “Ums” and other fillers to Bro. Penrose’s poem without him rising from the grave and having to write the poem all over again to keep from thrashing us. Still, I prefer the other tune–sung, of course, by a choir of Welshmen, with basses who can fill the hall with echoes of that low F while the first tenors are dancing two octaves up.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 28, 2014 @ 10:00 am

  3. Fun to hear the background on this hymn. Thanks!

    Comment by kevinf — March 28, 2014 @ 10:17 am

  4. For me, the interesting historical information about Penrose and his hymn was enough to make this an interesting post. And then you added the timely application to today, and wow. What a superb post. Thanks, Amy!

    Comment by David Y. — March 28, 2014 @ 10:35 am

  5. Wonderful. Thank you!

    Comment by lindberg — March 28, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

  6. Admitted Threadjack coming – I have read, in just about every post or comment about ordaining women/equality, and the discussions on homosexuality, that people feel “pain.” I wonder if Elder Penrose’s poem addresses that to some extent? I have a difficult time identifying with the “pain” felt by various individuals. I think I’m a reasonably sensitive guy. I grieve. I mourn. I feel disappointed, anger, loss, frustration, and a host of other emotions. But “pain” over some social or cultural quirk, or some church doctrine? No, I don’t feel pain. And it isn’t because there aren’t some things I don’t understand or don’t agree with. But I just don’t feel “pain.” So, every time we’re asked to listen (no problem) I’m not sure if that will help. Instead, I’m just as apt to listen and simply offer words of consolation as I am to say: “School your feelings. You shouldn’t feel all this “pain” over (insert controversial topic).” In the end, I don’t know that I can take someone’s pain away. I can listen. I can change something I am specifically doing. But, I can’t change doctrine or revelation or policy. Am I the only one with this struggle?

    Comment by IDIAT — March 28, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

  7. Thanks, all. We discussed Penrose and his hymns four years ago on Keepa, but this story was worth repeating; together with ji’s story, it’s a great reminder to avoid gossip. And perhaps Mark’s chorus of Welshmen could be replaced by Cornishmen since the Penrose family came from Cornwall. : )

    Oh, if anyone is not familiar with Charles Penrose’s third wife, Romania B. Pratt Penrose, she is one of the notable figures of early Utah history. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote a nice biography for the Deseret Book series Women of Faith in the Latter Days (Volume 2).

    Comment by Amy T — March 28, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

  8. Interesting questions, IDIAT. Penrose is definitely not telling anyone not to feel pain, and when you start telling people not to feel pain you’re going to dig yourself quickly into a pretty deep hole.

    Penrose felt the pain himself. He felt it deeply. I think perhaps part of his answer to those questions is in his first verse:

    Do not its emotions smother,
    But let wisdom’s voice control.

    And what form does that wisdom take? Who knows? Perhaps in giving things time, learning, talking calmly, taking the high road in arguments, knowing when to go to battle and when to let something go?

    Comment by Amy T — March 28, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

  9. Physically, I know exactly what you’re talking about: I’ve been through three wisdom tooth extractions and one root canal, each time taking less than 1200 mg. of ibuprofen total, over the course of two or three days. I try not to be rude when dentists repeatedly offer me prescriptions for pain medications that I will never use, but honestly the only use I would ever have for them is to sell them on the black market. My best guess is that I’m like this mostly because of the luck of the genetic draw, and also partially because I’m physically active and I get the benefit of the endorphins from that.

    Emotionally, on the other hand, I’m on the other end of the spectrum. While it is not unusual for me to go weeks or even months between feeling physical pain that I notice, it is normally only a matter of days between times when emotional pain is so strong that I have to consciously think about what I’m going to do to deal with it. When I’m under a lot of stress, it is not unusual for me to feel noticeable emotional pain every day, for weeks on end. As with the physical pain thing, I figure that this is probably the luck of the genetic draw, so I don’t worry too much about it, though I have developed a wide range of techniques for figuring out what may be going on and what I can do about it. Interestingly to me, one of the most effective techniques for me to deal with emotional pain is writing poems.

    I don’t envy people who are more physically sensitive than me, and I don’t– usually– envy those who are emotionally less sensitive than me. I think that, at the very least, figuring out how to deal with my own pain has given me a leg up in figuring out what I might do for other peoples’ pain. Listening– really listening– really does help; a genuine desire to help does help, no matter HOW it is expressed.

    I do think that it’s incredibly rude to assume about anyone is that because their pain is out of control, they have not done what they should have to keep it under control. We also sing, “In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see,” which indicates that not only our capacities, but our loads, can be invisibly different from each other.

    Comment by S — March 28, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

  10. Yeah, IDIAT, just a little advice from a fellow traveller: I think the directive to “school your feelings” is, as the post makes clear, meant to be directed inward. And here’s another piece of advice: if you have a hard time empathizing with members of the Church who feel pain or hurt or discomfort or sadness, well, you might trying listening more. You’re welcome!

    Comment by David Y. — March 28, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

  11. Thanks for the advice. Perhaps parts of my comment were overlooked. It isn’t as if I don’t feel a range of emotions or that I can’t listen. It’s the use of the word “pain” to describe what someone may be feeling. I associate pain with physical trauma. I use other words to describe feelings associated with non-physical trauma. It’s a semantics issue I guess. Hurt or discomfort or sadness or sorrow? I get. I understand. I feel. Physical pain because of a controversial issue? Not so much.

    Comment by IDIAT — March 28, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

  12. IDIAT: Even if it were helpful to quibble over semantics in the face of someone’s suffering (it’s not), your hand-wringing over the meaning of a word is irrelevant here: the word “pain” includes more than physical hurt (dictionary definition here). Pain can include mental or emotional suffering, too. Now you know!

    Comment by David Y. — March 28, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

  13. Okay, kumbiyah, all. We’re edging away from a wonderful post, one that Amy came up with unsolicited and practically with no time, in order to keep Keepa keeping today. (My laptop imploded yesterday, and between the worries and the technical nightmares — which are resolving — I had nothing to spare for Keepa today.)

    Three cheers, times three, for Amy … with another round for Pres. Penrose!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 28, 2014 @ 3:21 pm

  14. Sorry about that. I’ll school my feelings and my thoughts.

    Comment by IDIAT — March 28, 2014 @ 6:55 pm

  15. My great-grandmother, Rosetta Livermore, was born in Maldon, Essex, England in 1841. At the age of 16 she apprenticed to become a dressmaker at the private home of Eliza Stratford. Rosetta lived with her daughter (my grandmother) for several years after coming to Utah. My aunts and uncle interviewed her a various times and I have their handwritten notes.

    According to Rosetta, Charles Penrose was the first LDS missionary in Maldon and he became a good friend of the Stratford family, who were among the first members of the Maldon Branch. His wife, Lucetta, is the daughter of Eliza Stratford. Rosetta said that one time Penrose had been to Danbury when a brother had offended him. As he walked the six miles back to Maldon, he composed the song, “School Thy Feelings, Oh My Brother.” He entered the Stratford home tired, but he wrote the words down before resting.

    I don’t know how that ties in with the furniture at the Birmingham Conference. I am just going with what Rosetta told my aunts and uncle.

    Comment by Maurine — March 28, 2014 @ 6:58 pm

  16. There is more to the connection between Charles Penrose and Rosetta Livermore. Another of the first few members of the church in Maldon was Samuel Smith, my great grandfather. He emigrated to Boston in 1857 where he worked to get enough money to come west. He kept in touch with the Edwin Stratford, so that when all of the extended Stratford family, including Charles Penrose, arrived in New York, Samuel met them and crossed the plains with them. Samuel then married Rosetta Livermore when she came to Utah in 1862. Edwin Stratford and Samuel at one time were business partners in a furniture store in Logan, Utah.

    Comment by Maurine — March 28, 2014 @ 7:29 pm

  17. That’s cool, Maurine.

    One of the accounts about the writing of the song (Deseret News, September 20, 1969) identified the location as Birmingham and even showed the building, but the location doesn’t seem to come from Penrose’s actual account, so there’s a pretty good chance that your family story is the correct one.

    Comment by Amy T — March 28, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

  18. Thanks for that additional info, Maurine. And Amy T., you rock.

    Comment by David Y. — March 28, 2014 @ 11:27 pm

  19. Thanks, David.

    Funny thing; I should have taken the words of this poem a little more to heart. It would have changed the course of my Saturday, since I found upon waking up this morning and checking my email that there were a number of fires to put out on genealogy front, more in a series of history emergencies. (You’d think that there would be plenty of time to work out some of these things since they’re about events that happened long ago, but sometimes responses need to happen right away). Anyway, I managed to offend someone pretty deeply when I responded crossly to him by email regarding a genealogy question as I was working out the details of another crisis. Oh my. (Yes, I have apologized.)

    So, once again:

    Wound not willfully another;
    Conquer haste with reason’s might;
    School thy feelings, sister, brother;
    Train them in the path of right.

    Comment by Amy T — March 29, 2014 @ 7:36 pm

  20. Maurine–I think your great-grandmother confused the hymns. Penrose was walking along a road in Essex and was upset about the Utah War. He wished he could have been in Utah to fight the U.S. Army. On this occasion he came up with the hymn “O Ye Mountains High.” The early lyrics were more warlike than what appeared in later hymnbooks. “School Thy Feelings” did come later.

    In 1966 the Church News published an article about a plaque that was placed in the Birmingham Ward by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in commemoration of the hymn. Mark E. Petersen unveiled the plaque. The newspaper clip comes from my Mom, and I hope she had the date right.

    Such a great note about your great-grandmother. Lucetta Stratford was my great-grandmother. This is the first I’ve heard about anyone being one of her mother’s dressmaking students.

    Comment by Susan W H — March 30, 2014 @ 10:17 pm

  21. Interesting post, Amy!

    Comment by Dale Topham — April 11, 2014 @ 10:36 pm