Essential Brigham Young
Foreword by Eugene E. Campbell
“I Remarked Last Sunday that I had not Felt Much Like Preaching to the Brethren”
A Sermon Delivered on 29 May 1847 (from George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton [Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1991], 325-30)
[p.26]I remarked last Sunday that I had not felt much like preaching to the brethren on this mission. This morning I feel like preaching a little, and shall take for my text, “That as to pursuing our journey with this company, with the spirit they possess, I am about to revolt against it.” This is the text I feel like preaching on this morning, consequently I am in no hurry. In the first place, before we left Winter Quarters, it was told to the brethren, and many knew it by experience, that we had to leave our homes, our houses our lands and our all because we believed in the gospel as revealed to the Saints in these last days. The rise of the persecutions against the Church, was in consequence of the doctrines of eternal truth taught by Joseph. Many knew this by experience. Some lost their husbands, some lost their wives, and some their children through persecution, and yet we have not been disposed to forsake the truth, and turn and mingle with the gentiles, except a few who have turned aside, and gone away from us, and we have learned in a measure, the difference between a professor of religion, and a possessor of religion. Before we left Winter Quarters, it was told to the brethren that we were going to look out a home for the saints where they would be free from persecution by the gentiles, where we could dwell in peace and serve God according to the Holy priesthood, where we could build up the kingdom, so that the nations would begin to flock to our standard. I have said many things to the brethren, about the strictness of their walk and conduct, when we left the gentiles, and told them that we would have to walk uprightly or the law would be put in force &c. Many have left and turned aside through fear, but no good, upright, honest man will fear. The gospel does not bind a good man down, and deprive him of his rights and privileges. It does not prevent him from enjoying the fruits of his labors. It does not rob him of blessings. It does not stop his increase. It does not diminish his kingdom, but it is calculated to enlarge his kingdom as well as to enlarge his heart. It is calculated to give him privileges, and power, [p.27] and honor, and exaltation, and everything which his heart can desire in righteousness all the days of his life, and then, when he gets exalted into the eternal world, he can still turn round and say it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive the glory and honor and blessings which God hath in store for those that love and serve Him. I want the brethren to understand, and comprehend the principles of eternal life, and to watch the spirits, be wide awake and not be overcome by the adversary. You can see the fruits of the spirit, but you cannot see the spirit itself with the natural eye, you behold it not. You can see the result of yielding to the evil spirit and what it will lead you to, but you do not see the spirit itself, nor its operations only by the spirit thats in you. Nobody has told me what has been going on in the Camp, but I have known it all the while. I have been watching its movement, its influence, its effects, and I know the result if it is not put a stop to. I want you to understand that inasmuch as we are beyond the power of the gentiles, where the devil has tabernacles in the priests and the people, but we are beyond their reach, we are beyond their power, we are beyond their grasp, and what has the devil now to work upon? Upon the spirits of men in this camp, and if you do not open your hearts so that the spirit of Gog can enter your hearts, and teach you the right way, I know that you are a ruined people. I know that you will be destroyed, and that without remedy; and unless there is a change and a different course of conduct, a different spirit to what is now in this Camp I go no further. I am in no hurry. Give me the man of prayer, give me the man of faith, give me the man of meditation, a sober-minded man, and I would far rather go amongst the savages, with six or eight such men, than to thrust myself with the whole of this camp with the spirit they now possess. Here is an opportunity for every man to prove himself, to know whether he will pray and remember his God, without being asked to do it every day; to know whether he will have confidence enough to ask of God that he may receive, without my telling him to do it. If this camp was composed of men who had newly received the gospel, men who had not received the priesthood, men who had not been through the ordinances in the Temple and who had not had years of experience, enough to have learned the influence of the spirits and the difference between a good and an evil spirit, I should feel, like preaching to them and watching over them, and teaching them all the time, day by day. But here are the Elders of Israel, men who have had years of experience, men who have had the priesthood for years, and have they got faith enought to rise up and stop a mean, low, grovelling, covetous, quarrelsome spirit? No they have not, nor would they try to stop it unless I rise up in the power of God and put it down. I dont mean to bow down to the spirit thats in this camp, and which is rankling in the bosoms of the brethren, and which will lead to knock downs, and [p.28]perhaps to the use of the knife to cut each other’s throats if it is not put a stop to. I don’t mean to bow down to the spirit which causes the brethren to quarrel and when I wake up in the morning the first thing I hear is some of the brethren jawing each other and quarrelling because a horse has got loose in the night. I have let the brethren dance, and fiddle, and act the nigger night after night to see what they will do, and what extremes they would go to if suffered to go as they would but I don’t love to see it. The brethren say they want a little exercise to pass away time, but if you can’t tire yourselves bad enough with a days journey without dancing every night, carry your guns on your shoulders, and walk, carry your wood to Camp instead of lounging and laying sleeping in your wagons, increasing the load untill your teams are tired to death and ready to drop into the earth. Help your teams over mud holes and bad places instead of lounging in your wagons and that will give you exercise enough without dancing. Well, they will play cards, they will play checkers, they will play dominoes, and if they had the privilege and were where they could get whiskey, they would be drunk half their time, and in one week they would quarrel, get to high words and draw their knives to kill each other. This is what such a course of things would lead to. Don’t you know it? Yes. Well then why don’t you try to put it down? I have played cards once in my life since I became a Mormon to see what kind of a spirit would attend it, and I was so well satisfied that I would rather see the dirtiest thing you could find on the earth, than a pack of cards in your hands. You never read of gambling, playing cards, checkers, Dominoes &c. in the scriptures, but you do read of men praising the Lord in the dance, but who ever read of praising the Lord in a game at cards? If any man had sense enough to play a game at Cards, or dance a little without wanting to keep it up all the time, but exercise a little, and then quit it and think no more of it, it would do well enough. But you want to keep it up till midnight and every night, and all the time. You don’t know how to control your selves. Last winter when we had our seasons of recreation in the council house, I went forth in the dance frequently, but did my mind run on it? No! To be sure when I was dancing, my mind was on the dance, but the moment I stoppt in the middle or the end of a tune, my mind was engaged in prayer and praise to my heavenly father, and whatever I engage in my mind is on it while engaged in it, but the moment I am done with it, my mind is drawn up to my God.
The devils which inhabit the gentiles priests are here. The tabernacles are not here, we are out of their power, we are beyond their grasp, we are beyond the reach of their persecutions, but the devils are here, and the first thing you’ll know if you don’t open your eyes, and your hearts, they will cause divisions in our Camp, and perhaps war, as they did the [p.29]Lamanites, as you read in the book of Mormon.
Do we suppose that we are going to look out a home for the saints, a resting place, a place of peace, where they can build up the Kingdom and bid the nations welcome, with a low, mean, dirty, trifling Covetous, wicked spirit dwelling in our bosoms? It is vain! vain! Some of you are very fond of passing jokes, and will carry your jokes very far. But will you take a joke? If you don’t want to take a joke, don’t give a joke to your brethren. Joking, nonsense, profane language, trifling conversation and loud laughter do not belong to us. Suppose the Angels were witnessing the hoe down the other evening, and listening to the haw, haw’s, the other evening would they not be ashamed of it. I am ashamed of it. I have not given a joke to any man on this journey nor felt like it; neither have I insulted any mans feelings, but I have hollowed pretty loud and spoke sharp to the brethren when I have seen their awkwardness at coming into Camp. The revelations in the bible, in the book of Mormon, and doctrine and covenants teaches us to be sober; and let me ask you Elders that have been through the ordinances in the Temple, what were your covenantes there? I want you should remember them. When I laugh I see my folly, and nothingness, and weakness, and am ashamed of myself. I think meaner and worse of myself than any man can think of me; but I delight in God, and in his commandments, and delight to meditate on him and to serve him and I mean that every thing in me shall be subject to him, and I delight in serving him. Now let every man repent of his weaknesses, of his follies, of his meanness, and every kind of wickedness, and stop your swearing and your profane language for it is in this camp, and, I know it, and have known it. I have said nothing about it, but I now tell you, if you don’t stop it, you shall be cursed by the Almighty, and shall dwindle away and be damned. Such things shall not be suffered in this Camp. You shall honor God, and confess his name or else you shall suffer the penalty. Most of this Camp belongs to the church, nearly all; and I would say to you brethren and to the Elders of Israel, if you are faithful, you will yet be sent to preach this gospel to the nations of the earth and bid all welcome whether they believe the Gospel or not, and this kingdom will reign over many who do not belong to the Church, over thousands who do not believe in the gospel. Bye and bye, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess and acknowledge and reverence, and honor the name of God and His priesthood and observe the laws of the Kingdom whether they belong to the Church and obey the gospel or not, and I mean that every man in this camp shall do it. That is what the scripture means, by every Knee shall bow &c. and you cannot make anything else out of it.
I understand there are several in this Camp who do not belong to the church. I am the man who will stand up for them and protect them [p.30]in all their rights. And they shall not trample on our rights nor on the priesthood. They shall reverance [sic] and acknowledge the name of God and His priesthood, and if they set up their heads and seek to introduce iniquity into this Camp, and to trample on the priesthood, I swear to them, they shall never go back to tell the tale. I will leave them where they will be safe. If they want to retreat they can now have the privilege, and any man who chooses to go back rather than abide the law of God can now have the privilege of doing so before we go any further.
Here are the Elders of Israel who have the priesthood, who have got to preach the gospel, who have to gather the nations of the earth, who have to build up the Kingdom, so that the nations can come to it, they will stoop to dance as niggers. I don’t mean this as debasing the negroes, by any means; they will hoe down all, turn summersets, dance on their knees, and haw, haw, out loud, they will play cards, they will play checkers, and Dominoes, they will use profane language, they will swear. Suppose when you go to preach the people should ask you what you did when you went on this mission to seek out a home for the whole church, what was your course of conduct. Did you dance? Yes. Did you hoe down all? Yes. Did you play cards? Yes. Did you play checkers? Yes. Did you use profane language? Yes. Did you swear? Yes. Did you quarrel with each other and threaten each other? Why Yes. How would you feel? What would you say for yourselves? Would you not want to go and hide up? Your mouths would be stopt and you would want to creep away in disgrace. I am one of the last to ask my brethren to enter into solemn covenants, but if they will not enter into a covenant to put away their iniquity and turn to the Lord and serve him, and acknowledge and honor his name I want them to take their wagons and retreat back, for I shall go no further under such a state of things. If we don’t repent and quit our wickedness we will have more hinderances than we have had, and worse storms to encounter. I want the brethren to be ready for meeting tomorrow at the time appointed, instead of rambling off, and hiding in their wagons to play cards &c. I think it will be good for us to have a fast meeting tomorrow and a prayer meeting to humble ourselves and turn to the Lord and he will forgive us.