Nathaniel Spens Family Heritage


"Deacon Jones Experience"


"The Deacon Jones Experience" or simply, "The Deacon¬ís Prayer," (16.5 X 22.75 oil on paper) was originally given to Nathaniel's son Alex Spens.  The painting is now at Springville Art Museum in Springville, Utah.

"Deacon Jones Experinece" is based on the art work of Archibald Willard, and a poem, "Family Prayer," by Bret Hart, written approximately 1875 in Kilamock, Scotland, and published in Songs of a Pioneer, in 1922 by John Lyon. By the 1970s this painting was in disrepair to the point of being thrown away. It suddenly disappeared and miraculously came into the hands of one who had it restored and presented it to the Springville Art Museum where the family agreed to have it remain. The story behind this painting has been recounted as follows.  Nathaniel and his friend were passing Charles R. Savage's Art and Photography business in downtown Salt Lake City when they became intrigued with the painting and the poem. Nathaniel painted his version of the painting and his friend wrote a new poem to go with the new painting. Without the poems, the painting is admired for its depiction of family struggles. The poem adds a frank reminder of the importance of keeping day-to-day events in perspective. It also reminds the reader that problems in living occur even during the family¬ís efforts to do what is right:

Family Prayer

"Tis sometimes hard to be devout at prayer,

For devils then will lead our minds astray

By some injected thought, or outward snare,

And turn the current of our thoughts away

From holy things, in spite of all our care,

So artful are they, watching night and day

To work our ruin, by some hidden guise,

Which, when found out, we heartily despise.

This story's of a countryman's devotion,

While praying with his wife and two small sons,

Who of a dog and cat had little notion,

Were winking by the fireside without noise,

When all at once, by some infernal motion,

Snap growled at Puss, and gave her such a noise,

When she hissed, spitting, jumped from the attack

And fastened claw-deep on the farmer's back.

The boys laughed loud to see at pray'r such fun,

While father groaned, and swore an oath or two;

The cat kept scratching where she'd safety won

Above the reach of Snap, who growled, and grew

More furious barking as at Puss he run,

Till all the family were in a stew,

Nor could continue longer their devotion

With such unholy feelings and commotion.

"O Lord!" he cried, in accents quite emphatic--

Rather more serious than his praying mood--

But which he'd often done, stung with rheumatic;

His wife, as every loving woman should,

Roared out, "Confound that dog!" in tones erratic,

And rising from her knees, in holy ire

Caught Snap and threw him plump into the fire.

The husband, sorry for his poor burnt dog,

Threw Puss in fury at his angry wife;

And she, to be revenged, commenced to flog

Her little boys, for laughing at the strife--

"Who were," she said, "like father, the old rogue,

Who never did the square thing in his life."

So on they went, a town's talk and their sport,

Until they parted at the probate court.

Such is a picture I have seen of late,

Suggesting quarrels of a family kind,

That led to greater, and a sadder fate,

To say and do things in our passion blind

Which, when the other, meaner, acts combined,

Led on by folly, in an angry state,

To sober thought, and helplessly do fail

To calmly act, as we would read this tale.

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