July 27, 2007

Interesting Tidbits: Part 2

A selection of quotes from Volume 1 We've finished Volume 1; only 25 more to go! During the course of Volume 1 there were many interesting tidbits that didn't fit within the concept of a post. Here are some of the best ones: Soar above the things of time and sense:

The principles of justice, righteousness, and truth- which have an endless duration- can alone satisfy the capacious desires of the immortal soul. We may amuse ourselves like children do at play, or engage in the frivolities of the dance. We may take our little enjoyments in our social assemblies, but when the man comes to reflect, when the Saint of God considers, and the visions of eternity are open to his view, and the unalterable purposes of God are developed to his mind-when he contemplates his true position before God, angels, and men, then he soars above the things of time and sense, and bursts the cords that bind him to earthly objects; he contemplates God and his own destiny in the economy of heaven, and rejoices in a blooming hope of an immortal glory (John Taylor, JoD 1:221).
Every gospel principle is eternal:
Every thing associated with the Gospel of salvation is eternal, for it existed before the "morning stars sang together for joy," or this world rolled into existence. It existed then, just as it now exists with us, and it will exist the same when time with us is no more. It is an eternal principle, and every thing associated with it is everlasting. It is like the Priesthood of the Son of God, "without beginning of days or end of years." It lives and abides for ever. If there is any principle that is not eternal, it is not a principle of the Gospel of life and salvation (ibid.).
The Holy Ghost should be enjoyed daily:
it is the privilege of every Saint so to live and walk before their God, as to enjoy the light of the Spirit of truth from day to day, from week to week, and from year to year, through their whole lives. Without this privilege in the Gospel, connected with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, I should be inclined to believe that the religion that is taught in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, would amount to nothing more than a mere phantom-an imaginary thing. It would be inadequate to satisfy, in any degree, the mind of man, as it is now organized (Brigham Young, JoD 1:233).
Blessings can be curses:
Do you think persons can be blessed too much? I will answer it myself. Yes, they can, they can be blessed to their injury... Have this people been blessed too much? I will not positively say, but I think they have, inasmuch as their blessings in some instances have been to their injury. Why? Because they have not known what to do with their blessings (Brigham Young, JoD 1:248).
Faith and works, together:
Redemption from the original sin is without faith or works; redemption from our own sins is given through faith and works. Both are the gifts of free grace; but while one is a gift forced upon us unconditionally, the other is a gift merely offered to us conditionally. The reception of the one is compulsory; the reception of the other is voluntary. Man cannot by any possible act, prevent his redemption from the fall; but he can utterly refuse and prevent his redemption from the penalty of his own sins (Orson Pratt, 1:328).
Develop true Mormon grit:
A man that refuses to walk up in the track, no matter what comes, and steadily press forward, though there should be a lion in the way, is not of "Mormon" grit. That was the grit Joseph Smith had; and when he spoke, he spoke by the power of an endless Priesthood, which was upon him; and that is the power by which Brigham speaks. When he stood up in the majesty of his Priesthood, and rebuked the judges here, I know some of our milk-and-water-folks thought all the fat was in the fire. "Brother Brigham has gone rather too far; he might have spoken a little milder than he did; I think it would have been much better," etc. This was the language of some hearts; and I feel to say, damn all such poor pussyism. When a man of God speaks, let him speak what he pleases, and let all Israel say, Amen," (Jedediah M. Grant, JoD 1:341).
Brother Brigham on Lawyers and 'Pettifogging': (Almon Babbit was an early convert to the Church, and a lawyer. When the Church moved West he stayed in the east to finish some cases and other business for the Church. He finally made it to the Salt Lake valley and Brigham gave him a ribbing about his profession.)
Brother Babbit has to law it here, and law it there; though he may not feel justified in doing so, I rejoice to hear him declare that the root of the matter is in him. Would I not rather see him an almighty man before God, thundering out the truths of eternity, and living in the flame of revelation, than see him engaged in the paltry business of pettifogging? I thank the Lord for all the good and for all the faith there is in him. Brother Babbit is near to my heart, for notwithstanding all the faults of the brethren, I love them-the old, middle aged, and young; if they have a particle of love in them for the truth, they are near to my heart. I wish to bind them to the Lord, and to His cause upon the earth, that they may secure to themselves salvation. I am happy, and am made glad this day. If you wish to know what I think of brother Babbit, I will tell you. If we could keep him here a few months, and in our councils a few years, I think that he would despise litigation as he would the gates of hell. If we had him here, we would wrap him up in the Spirit and power of God, and send him to preach glad tidings to the nations of the earth, instead of his being engaged in the low and beggarly business of pettifogging. If he would dwell among us, doubtless he would despise it, for it is from hell, and it will go there (Brigham Young, JoD 1:358).
Have you forgot?:
Have you forgot that you came from God, that He is your Father? Have you forgot that you are aiming to get back to His presence? If you have forgot all this, your conduct and actions now are fraught with eternal consequences to yourselves, to your progenitors, and to your posterity after you. Have you forgot that thousands who have possessed the Holy Priesthood here, still exist in the eternal world, and look with interest upon your conduct and proceedings?... Have you forgot that you are standing in the midst of brethren who have gone behind the vail, who are watching your actions, and are anxious for your welfare, prosperity, and exaltation? Have you forgot that we are living in the last time, wherein a mighty struggle will have to take place between the powers of darkness that are in the world, and the children of light; that it is necessary for us as individuals to gird ourselves with the principles of truth, and be girt about with righteousness on the right hand and on the left, to enable us to stand in the midst of desolation, ruin, and misery, that are overhanging a devoted earth; and that as eternal beings we ought to have our eyes open to eternal things, and not be dreaming away our existence, forgetful of what we came into the world to accomplish? (John Taylor, JoD 1:365).

July 26, 2007

Interesting Tidbits: Part 1

A selection of quotes from Volume 1 We've finished Volume 1; only 25 more to go! During the course of Volume 1 there were many interesting tidbits that didn't fit within the concept of a post. Rather than overlooking them, the next few days I'll throw them all together in a mish-mash of quotes so you don't miss out on the little things. Judge not, and see that ye mind your business:

What a delightful aspect would this community present if all men and women, old and young, were disposed to leave off their own sins and follies, and overlook those of their neighbors; if they would cease watching their neighbors for iniquity, and watch that they themselves might be free from it!... I find that I have enough to do to watch myself. It is as much as I can do to get right, deal right, and act right. If we all should do this, there would be no difficulty, but in every man's mouth would be ‘May the Lord bless you' (Brigham Young, 1:1).
Judge not, that ye become a celestial society:
I consider it is a disgrace to the community, and in the eyes of the Lord, and of Angels…when a community will descend to the low, degraded state of contention with each other; this little bickering, jarring, fault-finding, ‘somebody's abused me’; why do you not say: ‘if you have a mind to abuse, abuse away’? Suppose every heart should say, 'if my neighbor does wrong to me, I will not complain, the Lord will take care of him...I will not be cruel to my fellow-creature, but I will do all the good I can, and as little evil as possible.' Now, where would be the wrong of taking this course? This is the way to approximate toward a celestial state (ibid).
You might not see dead people, but dead people might see you:
No, they never cease. They live move, think, act, converse, feel, love, hate, believe, doubt, hope, and desire…[they] are in every way interested, in our relationships, kindred ties, sympathies, affections, and hopes, as if we had continued to live, but had stepped aside, and were experiencing the loneliness of absence for a season (Parley P. Pratt, 1:6).
John Taylor on translating the Book of Mormon into French:
We found many difficulties to combat, for it is not an easy thing to go into France and learn to talk French well; but at the same time, if a man sets to work in good earnest, he can do it. I have scratched the word "can't" out of my vocabulary long since; and I have not got it in my French one (John Taylor, 1:16).
Two witnesses establish the truth:
No man can say that this book [laying his hand on the Bible] is true…and at the same time say, that the Book of Mormon is untrue; if he has had the privilege of reading it, or of hearing it read, and learning its doctrines. There is not that person on the face of the earth who has had the privilege of learning the Gospel of Jesus Christ from these two books, that can say that one is true, and the other is false. No Latter-day Saint, no man or woman, can say the Book of Mormon is true, and at the same time say that the Bible is untrue. If one be true, both are; and if one be false, both are false (Brigham Young 1:37).
Enjoy music and recreation:
In the first place, some wise being organized my system, and gave me my capacity, put into my heart and brain something that delights, charms, and fills me with rapture at the sound of sweet music. I did not put it there; it was some other being. As one of the modern writers has said, "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast." …It was the Lord, our Heavenly Father, who gave the capacity to enjoy these sounds, and which we ought to do in His name, and to His glory (Brigham Young, 1:46).
Temporal blessings are sacred:
If God our heavenly Father has given us temporal blessings in the due course and order of nature, we ought to hold them sacred, and be as prudent and economical of them as we are of a precious truth revealed from heaven…I know not which to prize the most, the blessings of the earth which pertain to the sustenance of these bodies, or the blessings of heaven that give food to the mind; for they are all the blessings of heaven to me and to you (Orson Hyde, 1:171).
Brigham says the gospel is 'happifying':
It is one of the most happifying subjects that can be named, for a person, or people, to have the privilege of gaining wisdom enough while in their mortal tabernacle, to be able to look through the whys and wherefores of the existence of man…and understand the design of the Great Maker of this beautiful creation. Let the people do this, and their hearts will be weaned from the world (BY 1:103). …get so much of the spirit of truth that you may become filled with it, so that you can shout aloud with all your might to the praise of God, and feel your hearts clear as the noon-day sun. Then you can dance, and glorify God; and as you shall abide in the truth, God will raise you up… (Brigham Young, 1:112).
The veil may be lifted at death:
How is it that we do not recollect anything now that took place before we took upon us these bodies? When we lay them off we shall remember everything, the scenes of those early times will be as fresh in our view as the sun was this morning when he rose over the mountains (Orson Hyde, 1:121).
May may become like God...or the devil:
A man never knew how to be wicked, until light and truth were first made manifest to him. Then is the time for men to make their decision, and if they turn away from the Lord, it prepares them to become devils (Brigham Young, 1:136).
Don't love the things of the world:
Brethren and sisters, cast from you the love of the world, and let it have no dominion over you...say to the fields, the flocks, and the herds, to the gold and the silver, to the goods and chattels, to the tenements and the possessions, and to all the world- Stand aside, get away from my thoughts, for I am going up to worship the Lord (Brigham Young, 1:198).
Coming tomorrow: Part 2!

July 25, 2007

No Book Contains ALL Truth

Orson Pratt
October 7, 1854

A video on YouTube called "Atheism vs. Mormonism" contained an interesting dialogue in the comment section between a critic of the LDS Church and a member of the Church over the Book of Mormon. The critic, MystryBox, was using an old favorite. Essentially, he said the Book of Mormon cannot contain the "fulness of the gospel" as it asserts, because it does not teach every point of LDS doctrine. (It doesn't explain things like the three degrees of glory, baptism for the dead, etc.) Thus, Mormons "reel" people in by having them read the Book of Mormon, and then give them all of the "surprise" doctrines later. (MystryBox is also apparently aware of the condemnation the Church is put under in D&C84:54-57 [1] , as he asserts only 5% of the members of the church have actually read the Book of Mormon).

Indeed, the Lord declares in Doctrine and Covenants 20:8-9 the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the gospel," but what does that mean? Mystrybox believes it ought to contain every point of doctrine, large or small. Should it? While we assert the Book of Mormon contains true doctrine, we do not believe it contains all truth. In fact, we believe no book can ultimately contain ALL truth. We also believe the Bible contains the fulness of the gospel (mostly the New Testament, especially Acts 2,) but indeed, it does not contain all truth.

Orson Pratt explained:

Many people think that all the duties of man are recorded in the Bible; that idea is held by many of the sectarian world; they think this book contains all the duties in regard to the relationships between man and man, and that it is a sufficient rule of faith and practice; and enough to govern them in all their dealings with each other, and in their duties towards their God.

Let me tell you, if any one man's duties (if he lived to be an old man) were clearly written, and foretold before he was born, it would take a larger volume than the Bible to contain them all; and when we consider the thousands and millions of human beings that are on the earth now, and the millions that have dropped into their graves in ages past, it is absurd to suppose that one such volume could point out all their duties, even if they all could have been foretold by the spirit of prophecy.

This is reason why the Lord has appointed a living Priesthood on the earth; why He has sent down the Holy Ghost from heaven, why it enters the heart of man, and inspires him with knowledge and information concerning his own duties
, and the duties of others also, that he may impart to them, week after week, and from one meeting to another, in public and in private, before large assemblies and in the family circle, every principle and duty that is necessary to be known; that his family, his wives and his children, and the Church of God at large may be taught by the Holy Ghost-the Comforter that guides into all truth; it is that power that instructs men in regard to all their duties (Journal of Discourses 2:54-61; see also 3 Nephi 26).
Thus, the Book of Mormon can't contain all the truth because written scripture cannot.

Brigham Young put it in this wise:
Language, to convey all the truth, does not exist. Even in the Bible, and all books that have been revealed from heaven unto man, the language fails to convey all the truth as it is (Journal of Discourses 1:112).

It takes continuing revelation to bring us back to God. This is why the Holy Ghost is vital to our progression in life.

The Book of Mormon clearly states its fundamental and main purpose is to convince all people that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that salvation is available through only Him. (see the Title page.) Its purpose is not to reveal all of God’s truth or knowledge.

In fact, the writers of the Book of Mormon directly explain that they are ONLY writing the basics; the “plain and precious” parts. (see 1 Nephi 13:35-40 and 1 Nephi 19:3; among others.) It promises directly that when people receive the “lesser things,” ie: the “basics” in the Book of Mormon, if you will, they will then receive the “greater things.” (See these very clear directions in 3 Nephi 26:8-9.) There are times when Book of Mormon writers cannot record what they've seen or heard, (see 3 Nephi 26:18.)

In other words: more knowledge will come, including details about God, the afterlife, and other points of doctrine that do not directly effect our salvation at this time, (it is not necessary to know everything in order to be saved. Otherwise, no one would be.) Line upon line, precept upon precept is the key. The Book of Mormon does contain the fulness of the gospel, but we must determine what “the gospel” is. The gospel, as you likely know, is the “good news.”

Jesus Christ specifically defines it in the Book of Mormon:
Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil...

And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words. And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end (3 Nephi 27:13-19).
Here the gospel is defined as (1) Christ coming into the world to do the Father’s will, (2) the will being that He is crucified and dies for the sins of the world, (3) because of this atonement all men will be judged according to what they do in life, accepting or rejecting what Christ commands, (4) those who have faith then must repent and be baptized, then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, (5) they then must endure to the end, continue faithful to Christ or (6) be cast out of His presence. (7) The words of Christ shall all be fulfilled. Again, only those who have faith in Christ, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end can be saved.[2]

This is the “fulness of the gospel” promised in the Book of Mormon, which it does contain, in full. All the rest is in "enduring to the end," and we are commanded to receive the Holy Ghost, which will then teach us "all things," and bring all things to our remembrance, as Christ promised in John 14:26.

Thus the importance of the Holy Ghost and guidance of living prophets in our quest to endure to the end is underscored. The other doctrines, such as eternal marriage, the three degrees of glory, etc. are either too sacred to write and must be experienced in person, or they do not directly affect our eternal salvation.

No book can contain it all.[3] As John ended his gospel, so end I this post:
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen (John 21:25).



On the Church being under condemnation for neglecting the Book of Mormon:
"...Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation...And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon," (
D&C 84:54-57).

President Benson said this condemnation had not entirely been lifted:
"Now, my good Saints, we have a great work to perform in a very short time. We must flood the earth with the Book of Mormon—and get out from under God’s condemnation for having treated it lightly," (Flooding the Earth With the Book of Mormon, Ensign Nov. 1988.)

See also these two great sources, where much of this information was already organized:

Daniel H. Ludlow, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Sept. 1985, 17.

FairWiki article: "Book of Mormon and the fulness of the gospel."

Orson Hyde on continuing revelation:
"The words contained in this Bible are merely a history of what is gone by; it was never given to guide the servant of God in the course he should pursue, any more than the words and commandments of God, given to a generation under one set of circumstances, would serve for another generation under another set of circumstances. There must be something to suggest or to draw forth the command to answer the circumstance under which we are placed at the time.
It is so with the servants of God. There is a Spirit that is ever ready, and points out, under varied and conflicting circumstances, the very course which the servants of God should pursue. The Bible is not a sufficient guide; it is only the history of the people who lived 1800 years ago. The history of our Church in this day, presents the scenes and transactions of this people-the revelations and words of God to them; but if an individual living an hundred, or eighteen hundred, years hence, under different circumstances, were to adopt the history of this people for his guide in all things, he would not find it sufficient to answer the circumstances surrounding him," (JoD 2:75).

Bruce Neilson on the MormonMatters blog argued that the Book or Mormon actually paves the way for higher knowledge recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. Here is his list, by no means comprehensive:

  • Salvation of those that didn’t have a chance to know - 2 Nephi 9:26-27
  • Word of Wisdom - Mosiah 11:15
  • Physical nature of God / Godhead (not just a Spirit - has a finger) - Ether 3, 1 Nephi 11, Alma 31:15
  • Holy Ghost is a personage - 1 Nephi 11:11
  • Separateness of Godhead - 2 Nephi 31:14-15; compare with 1 Nephi 11:11 and Ether 3 also
  • True nature of hell - Alma 36, Alma 11:43, Alma 12:17, Mosiah 3:27
  • Age for baptism - Moroni 8
  • Importance of temples - 2 Nephi 5:16, Mosiah 2:1, 3 Nephi 11:1
  • Plural marriage - Jacob 2 (see v. 30)
  • Salvation for the dead - 3 Nephi 25 (Malachi 4)
  • Becoming like God - 3 Nephi 28:10

To it I would add a slight hint at the premortality of man. For example, Mormon 9:13 states "And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord..."

July 24, 2007

Pioneer Day: The 24th of July

George A. Smith July 24, 1854

On the 24th of July, 1854, a celebration was held where a parade of children led a body of saints in a parade ending at the Tabernacle. There, leaders addressed the crowd- mostly comprised of the youth. George A., cousin of the prophet Joseph Smith and current Church Historian, took the occasion to relate some stories from the persecutions in Nauvoo, as well as a funny anecdote about an unfortunate leader of a Missouri mob. I will give you the brief text, mostly in full:
My Young Friends-It is with pleasure I rise to address you on the present occasion. Having been called upon to walk in the Procession, as the Historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it created in my breast feelings not easily described; it brought a reminiscences of past scenes, and of celebrations similar to this…
I could have stopped to drop a tear to the memory of departed worthies-the Historian, the aged Patriarch John Smith, and many others; at the same time, I could but feel joyful to see such an immense assembly, gathered together to commemorate the day on which the Pioneers first arrived in this region to inhabit these valleys.
Should we refer to the pages of the history that is no doubt written in many a private journal, our memories would be refreshed with the startling truth, that the first fifteen years of our existence had been a continued scene of trials, persecutions, afflictions, and murders; including the murder of the Prophet, the Patriarch, and a great many others of the blest and most energetic members of the Church.
At a Council of the leading men of this community in Nauvoo, it was concluded that on finishing the Temple there, a company of one thousand or fifteen hundred pioneers should establish themselves in the mountains, to prepare the way for a safe retreat from the tyranny and oppression which had so long followed this people. This conclusion was unknown to the public, hence the surprise of the mob at our willingness to depart.
In a very few days afterwards, bands of organized mobbers commenced the work of burning our houses in Yelrom, Green Plains, and Bear Creek settlements, and throughout the country. As if they were not satisfied with the destruction of the hundreds of lives their persecutions had already sacrificed, and the millions of property they had already destroyed in Missouri; as if dissatisfied with the blood of the Prophet still smoking from the ground as it were; they lighted anew the torch of the incendiary, and the Governor of the State was silently willing to fan its fires. It will be recollected that he did not stop the house burning, but we stopped it ourselves, under the direction of the Sheriff of the County.
The moment that was done; General Harden, mounted on a white horse, backed up and accompanied by other dignitaries of the State, came into Nauvoo with four hundred men. What was said to us by these worthies? They said, that in consequence of the combination against us throughout the State, the Governor did not feel at liberty to do anything for us; so we were abandoned to the rage of unprincipled men.
They then informed us they had come to search for some men that were missing, and formed a square around the Temple, also around the stables of the Nauvoo house, but more particularly around the Masonic Hall, the basement story of which contained a quantity of wine. General Hardin, and others of his band, went into the stables where a horse had just been bled, and concluded a man had been killed there, but fortunately the horse was there to answer for the blood. The General and his staff then pierced with their swords the heaps of manure, thinking, I presume, that if they pricked a dead man, he would squeal. I thought they acted a little simple, for they might have presumed that if anybody had been killed, they would have been thrown in the Mississippi, which was not more than ten rods from the stables.
This was all that was done to punish the house burners; and the State authorities said they could do nothing for us; hence the only alternative was to leave, as nine counties of the State had concluded in Convention, that we must leave or be exterminated. The fact is, this was the very conclusion we had already come to, ourselves, in a Council a few days before. Yet it was thought, proper not to reveal the secret of our intention to flee to the mountains; but as a kind of put off, it was communicated in the strictest confidence to General Hardin, who promised never to tell of it; that we intended to settle Vancouver's Island. This report, however, was industriously circulated, as we anticipated it would be.
The persecution was blazing on every hand, and the reputable authorities "could do nothing for us;" which was equal to saying, "Hold on, and let us run our daggers into you." The first companies which left, In consequence of those persecutions, were obliged to start in the dead of winter, in the beginning of February, 1848. Many of the companies crossed the Mississippi, with their wagons, on the ice, and the rest in flat-boats, and winding their way through anew and trackless country, making a road of nearly four hundred miles in length, stopped to winter on the right bank of the Missouri, where they built quite a town called Winter Quarters.
Finding that our numbers in Nauvoo were reduced to a mere handful, the mob, numbering some 1800 armed men, supplied with scientific engineers, and good artillery, attacked the remaining few who were chiefly lame, blind, widows, fatherless children, and those too poor to get away. There weren’t one hundred able bodied men to stand against this superior force in defence of the helpless; this is called the battle of Nauvoo, and was fought in September. They cannonaded the citizens of Nauvoo, and finally, after three days fighting, and being forced to retreat three times they succeeded in driving them over the river.
What was the result of all this? In April 1847, we started from Winter Quarters, with a hundred and forty-three men (instead of 1000) as Pioneers. We were "few," and I was going to say "far between,” but we were close together. We set out, and made a new road to this valley, the greater portion of the way; we thus worked the path through, and arrived here on the day we now commemorate.
This is a hasty glance of history. To enter into details would introduce matters that would unnecessarily harrow up the minds of many. Suffice it to say, like the pilgrim fathers who first landed upon Plymouth Rock, we are here pilgrims, and exiles from liberty; and instead of being driven into the wilderness to perish, as our enemies had designed, we find ourselves in the middle of the floor, or on the top of the heap. Right in the country that scientific men and other travelers had declared worthless, we are becoming rich in the comforts and blessings of life, we are now rocking in the cradle of liberty, in which we are daily growing; and I challenge the Union to produce a parallel of this day's Celebration.
I say to my young friends, be firm to extend the principles of freedom and liberty to this country, and never suffer the hand of oppression to invade it.
In the history of our persecutions there have arisen a great many anecdotes; but one will perhaps serve to illustrate the condition in which I wish to see every man that raises in these mountains the hand of oppression upon the innocent. I wish to see such men rigged out with the same honors and comforts as was the honorable Samuel C. Owen, Commander-in-Chief of the Jackson County mob. He, with eleven men, was engaged at a mass meeting, to raise a mob to drive the Saints from Clay County. This was in the year 1834, in the month of June. They had made speeches, and done everything to raise the indignation of the people against the Saints. In the evening, himself, James Campbell, and nine others, commenced to cross the Missouri river on their way home again; and the Lord, or some accident, knocked a hole in the bottom of the boat. When they discovered it, says Commander Owen to the company on the ferry boat, we must strip to the bone, or we shall perish." Mr. Campbell replied, "I will go to hell before will land naked." He had his choice, and went to the bottom. Owen stripped himself of every article of clothing, and commenced floating down the river. After making several attempts he finally landed on the Jackson side of the river, after a swim of about fourteen miles. He rested sometime, being perfectly exhausted, and then started into the nettles, which grow very thick and to a great height, in the Missouri bottoms, and which was his only possible chance in making from the river to the settlements. He had to walk four miles through the nettles, which took him the remainder of the night, and when he got through the nettles, he came to a road, and saw a young lady approaching on horseback, who was the belle of Jackson County. In this miserable condition he laid himself behind a log, so that she could not see him. When she arrived opposite the log, he says, "Madam, I am Samuel C. Owen, the Commander-in-Chief of the mob against the Mormons; I wish you to send some men from the next house with clothing, for I am naked." The lady in her philanthropy dismounted, and left him a light shawl and a certain unmentionable under garment, and passed on. So His Excellency Samuel C. Owen, who was afterwards killed in Mexico by foolishly exposing himself, contrary to orders, took up his line of march for the town, in the shawl and petticoat uniform, after his expedition against the "Mormons."
My young friends, have the goodness to use every man so, who comes into your country to mob and oppress the innocent; and LADIES, DON'T LEND HIM ANY CLOTHING." (Journal of Discourses 2:22-25.)

July 23, 2007

"Rejoice in God": Trials and Tolerance

Brigham Young August 1, 1852

“Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy,” (2 Nephi 2:25).
Though I'm about to say it, it goes without saying that life has ups and downs. This is a fact we’ve been acquainted with as far back as we can remember. A favorite song details some of the feelings I’ve had:

We emerged from youth all wide-eyed like the rest,
shedding skin faster than skin can grow…
The first chapters of lives almost made us give up altogether…
…but you must know

the same games that we played in dirt,

in dusty school yards has found a higher pitch and broader scale

than we feared possible,
and someone must be picked last,

and one must bruise and one must fail...[1]
The same little problems we had when we were playing at recess have only taken on a larger implications for us, though many of the underlying motifs remain the same. You’ve likely heard a lot of talks about “enduring to the end.” Sometimes I dislike those talks because they can make life seem like the biggest bunch of sorrow and drudgery imaginable, and that we must somehow white-knuckle our way through it gritting our teeth, faces drawn down in sorrow, hoping to make it out spiritually alive. Brother Brigham, whose discourse bears similarities to Lehi’s sermon in 2 Nephi 2, gave a different sort of “endure to the end” discourse:
These are happy days to the Saints, and we should rejoice in them; they are the best days we ever saw; and in the midst of the sorrows and afflictions of this life, its trials and temptations, the buffetings of Satan, the weakness of the flesh, and the power of death which is sown in it, there is no necessity for any mortal man to live a single day without rejoicing, and being filled with gladness. I allude to the Saints, who have the privilege of receiving the Spirit of truth, and have been acquainted with the laws of the new covenant. There is no necessity of one of these passing a day without enjoying all the blessings his capacities are capable of receiving. Yet it is necessary that we should be tried, tempted, and buffeted, to make us feel the weaknesses of this mortal flesh. We all feel them; our systems are full of them, from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet. Still, in the midst of all these weaknesses and frailties of human nature, it is the privilege of every person who has come to the knowledge of the truth to rejoice in God, the rock of his salvation, all the day long. We rejoice because the Lord is ours, because we are sown in weakness for the express purpose of attaining to greater power and perfection. In every thing the Saints may rejoice: in persecution, because it is necessary to purge them, and prepare the wicked for their doom; in sickness and in pain, though they are hard to bear, because we are thereby made acquainted with pain, with sorrow, and with every affliction that mortals can endure, for by contrast all things are demonstrated to our senses. We have reason to rejoice exceedingly that faith is in the world, that the Lord reigns, and does His pleasure among the inhabitants of the earth. Do you ask if I rejoice because the Devil has the advantage over the inhabitants of the earth, and has afflicted mankind? I most assuredly answer in the affirmative; I rejoice in this as much as in anything else. I rejoice because I am afflicted. I rejoice because I am poor. I rejoice because I am cast down. Why? Because I shall be lifted up again. I rejoice that I am poor, because I shall be made rich; that I am afflicted, because I shall be comforted, and prepared to enjoy the felicity of perfect happiness, for it is impossible to properly appreciate happiness, except by enduring the opposite.
Rejoice! When is the last time you really felt to rejoice? This view seems like a lovely pipe dream, but it’s true that we can find a certain sense of joy even in trial and sorrow, should we have the gift of the Holy Ghost with us; after all, he is referred to as “the Comforter” (see John 16:7). I don't believe Brigham wants us to skirt over our problems or to pretend all is well when things are collapsing around us. My mission president used to tell us it was alright to be disappointed, but that we should never get discouraged. There is a way to have joy, or at least confidence and resolve, in any difficulty. It seems we’ve practically been commanded by the Savior to “be of good cheer”; as he told his disciples, and tells us today:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
When people becomes overly concerned with themselves, they begin taking their “mood temperature,” so to speak, constantly checking to see if they are happy, odds are we won’t be. It is imperative to have the Spirit, the Comforter with us, and to be ready for the trials that come in order to learn from them without being overcome by them. Casting eyes down rather than up towards God can result in missing out on the support Christ has promised to give us in our darkest hour. Joseph Smith once described a vision he had of the Twelve apostles on their trying mission in England. Some of the Apostles said Joseph couldn’t relate this vision without weeping:
I saw the 12, apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth who hold the keys of this last ministry, in foreign lands, standing together in a circle much fatiegued, with their clothes tattered and feet swolen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold him, the Saviour looked upon them and wept---[2]
Joseph knew Christ had suffered for us, prepared to help us in our troubles, and at the moment we need Him most we look away. It’s no wonder he wept. By shunning evil and cleaving to the good, as Brigham directs, we can live in joy, no matter what we encounter[3]:
I feel to urge upon every person who has named the name of Christ, the necessity of his being faithful to the requirements of his religion, and of shunning all evil, as quick as he becomes acquainted with the principle by which he can discriminate between good and evil; and cleave unto the good, follow after it, pray for it, and cling to it by day and by night, if he wants to enjoy the blessings of a celestial kingdom.
Note the parallel ideas: shunning all evil and cleaving to good. Here Brigham shifts gears and talks about some of the troubles the Church was having with the government at the time. The saints had been petitioning for reparations because of the property they left behind in Illinois when they were forced from Nauvoo. Reparations were never made. Rumors in the eastern newspapers called the Mormons dangerous, that they planned on overthrowing the US government and were establishing a mighty theocracy in the Utah territory. Brigham Young as governor was seen as holding a tyrannical power over the saints, and that freedom didn't exist under his regime. Brigham responded bluntly to these characterizations, mentioning his belief in freedom of speech:
I would rather be chopped to pieces at night, and resurrected in the morning, each day throughout a period of threescore years and ten, than be deprived of speaking freely, or be afraid of doing so. I will speak for my rights.
He discussed the right everyone has to worship how, where, or what they may:
There is no tyranny here, but perfect liberty, which is a boon held sacred to all men. They have aright to come and go as they please. I do not ask you to be a "Mormon." Can you point out one person who has entreated any of the emigrants to become "Mormons," since they came into our midst? Since their arrival here, we have been kind and hospitable to them, and have not cared whether they have been "Mormons" or Methodists...You may say you do not believe in God. Well, it is your privilege to believe as you like… You have a right to belong to what Church you please. Another may say he believes in and worships a white dog, for he has lived with the nations who have a tradition teaching them to do so. It is all right; you are as welcome to worship a white dog as the God I do, if it is your wish. I am perfectly willing you should serve the kind of a god you choose, or no god at all; and that you should enjoy all that is for you to enjoy.
This attitude should reflect in our dealings with people who don’t belong to our faith, or have differing opinions about our lifestyles, etc. Again, his emphasis was on people having the right to enjoy things; to have joy in life. The population of Latter-day Saints in Utah is large, and often this can effect political policy decisions, disenchanting those who are not members of the Church. Some members don’t allow their children to play with children of other faiths, (this behavior is not exclusive to Latter-day Saints, I should add, and is not encouraged by the Church). In numerous discussions in which someone is complaining about living in Utah I've heard the response: “then go move somewhere else if you don’t like it.” Elder M. Russell Ballard condemned this exclusionary take in General Conference a few years ago:
...if neighbors become testy or frustrated because of some disagreement with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or with some law we support for moral reasons, please don’t suggest to them—even in a humorous way—that they consider moving someplace else. I cannot comprehend how any member of our Church can even think such a thing! Our pioneer ancestors were driven from place to place by uninformed and intolerant neighbors...[4]
Brigham went on, referring to those individuals who oppressed the saints, who damaged their property, stole, persecuted, etc. and said they would get their reward; but he was not glorying in their impending judgment; in fact it made him feel sorry:
There are scores of thousands, I may say hundreds of thousands, of acres of land in the United States, for which we have paid money, but which we cannot possess. I am not willing you should drive your cattle into my cornfield, which has been done before my eyes, by men who have thought, "You are only poor damned Mormons anyhow, and we'll tread you down." I am willing every man should worship God as he pleases, and be happy. But the measure that has been meted to this people, will be measured to that people; and it will be heaped up, pressed down, and running over; and then as much again thrown in; all this good measure I am willing they should have when the Lord will. I shall not exult in the miseries that will come upon them, but weep over them. (JD 1:358-365)
We're all in this together and rather than taking joy in the suffering or failure of others we ought to love them. I know there was a lot of mention of weeping in this post even though I started out talking about joy, but I know sometimes our joy rather than our sorrow is great enough to make us weep, too. Don’t keep your eyes cast down; Christ is waiting above to help us find joy every day of our lives. Look and live for the joy. That’s why we’re here. Footnotes [1] Sounds Familiar, John K. Samson, The Weakerthans. [2] Joseph Smith Diary (1835–1836), Pg 136. See Dean Jesse, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, spelling and punctuation in original. [3] It should be noted there is an appropriate and healthy way of mourning, as well. A scripture in Alma chapter 4 seems to indicate there is a good and a bad way to be sorrowful: one including the spirit and the other dismissing Him: And now it came to pass that Alma, having seen the afflictions of the humble followers of God, and the persecutions which were heaped upon them by the remainder of his people, and seeing all their inequality, began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him (Alma 4:15 ). I hope to develop more on this verse later. [4] M. Russell Ballard, "Doctrine of Inclusion," Ensign, Nov. 2001, 35.