Essential Brigham Young
Foreword by Eugene E. Campbell
A Series of Instructions and Remarks by President Brigham Young, at a Special Council, Tabernacle,
March 21, 1858 (Great Salt Lake City, 1858)
[p.111]I do not know but what I would correctly portray the minds and feelings of many of the people by saying that they do not take much thought in regard to the situation and circumstances we are under, nor of the propriety and policy of our movements.
God has led this people; he has sent forth the new and everlasting covenant. He restored the priesthood to the children of men, and called upon Joseph Smith, jun., to be the first Elder in this church and upon Oliver Cowdery to be the second. From that time until now all persons that have the Spirit of this work have seen and can now see and understand that the hand of the Lord has been with this people and that he has led them all the time. But when men and women so neglect their duty that their minds run into darkness, they are almost universally impressed that this work has been produced by the wisdom of men. Those who have the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ: constantly acknowledge the hand of God in leading this people.
We esteemed Joseph our leader. He truly was our leader in one sense,—the leader that we conversed with face to face, but he was not our invisible Leader, for that Leader was and is the Lord Jehovah.
For almost fourteen years this people have been led and directed by the Twelve Apostles, and this people acknowledge that they have been their leaders. This was the universal acknowledgment of the church before we left Nauvoo. When there was a Presidency selected they were taken from the Quorum of the Twelve. They have not left the Quorum, neither have they been cut off, and I am their President. I have never left the Quorum of the Twelve, but have advanced a step in duty and given place to others to act as Apostles, until we come to where Joseph is. The people now and for some years past have acknowledged the First Presidency to be their leaders, and yet there is not a man or woman in this kingdom, who has the Spirit of it, but what fully understands that it is not man that leads them, but it is the Lord Almighty who directs their movements through His servants.
We have the privilege of seeing and speaking to each other, and how [p.112]easily we can behold the glow of the countenances while we are looking at each other and can get the expression of the eye and receive of the Spirit from each other, to what we can realize when we hold communion or converse with an invisible being. If the First Presidency are led by the Holy Ghost our associates receive of that Spirit, of which you are witnesses, when you converse or associate with us, whether you receive a good spirit or a bad one. You can understand, when you meet a brother or a sister, whether they are possessed of a meek and quiet spirit—of the spirit of intelligence or not. That is the Spirit of the Lord—that is actually holding communion with the Lord, although it is through a tabernacle.
We acknowledge that we are led by the hand of the Lord, and if he does not lead us we may expect to fall into the ditch. Now the question arises, what is the best policy for this people to adopt? We exclaim at once, it is policy to follow the Lord and his dictations. We acknowledge that, and that is what we wish to do; consequently, according to the best light and intelligence we are in possession of, we will tell you what we think the Lord wishes of us and his policy concerning this people.
I need not now rehearse our drivings, the loss of property, the sufferings of men, women and children, and the waste of life that has occurred in consequence thereof in times past. This is understood. The history of this church is before us and is also before the world, and you can call to mind, at your pleasure, the facts that relate to our past transactions and drivings, our being hunted, killed, peeled, smitten, scattered and finally driven from the Christian world by the Christians.
The policy that I believe the Lord designs concerning this people we can learn by referring to several passages that are written and given to us for our instruction concerning the last days. The word of the Lord to us is, “I will fight your battles, saith the Lord.” He has done so, thus far; and he will do so, if we take his counsel. Although we have had to leave our homes several times, and a great many lives have been lost in consequence of the sufferings, yet the Lord has fought our battles. True, he did not preserve Joseph and Hyrum when in the hands of the mob, he has not preserved the lives of all the faithful, but I have acknowledged his hand in the dissolution of our brethren and sisters, and it is right.
I will deviate from my subject a little, and say a few words with regard to br. Joseph that some, perhaps, have not understood. If Joseph Smith, jun., the Prophet, had followed the Spirit of revelation in him he never would have gone to Carthage. Do you understand that? [Voices, 'Yes.'] A great many do, and some do not. Many of the first Elders of this church have a different understanding; they are under the impression that he went there according to his own choice. Joseph intended to go West; he designed to raise a company to come to the very country we now occupy. [p.113]He said, “I can see life and liberty and salvation in that course, but if I return to give myself up, it is death and darkness to the full; I am like a lamb led to the slaughter,” and never for one moment did he say that he had one particle of light in him after he started back from Montrose to give himself up in Nauvoo. This he did through the persuasion of others. I want you to understand that.
With regard to myself I cannot say what I will do.I do not know precisely in what manner the Lord will lead me, but were I thrown into the situation Joseph was, I would leave the people and go into the wilderness, and let them do the best they could. Will I run from the sheep? No. Will I forskae the flock? No. But if Joseph had followed the revelations in him he would have been our earthly shephard to-day, and we would have heard his voice and followed the shepherd instead of the shepherd’s following the sheep. When the shepherd follows the sheep it reverses the natural order, for the sheep are to follow the shepherd.
I want you to understand that if I am your earthly shepherd you must follow me, or else we shall be separated. As I told the people after Joseph’s death, they might cling to the Twelve and receive salvation and be led in the way of truth and holiness, or go to hell if they pleased, for we asked no odds of them. I feel so to-day.
That is the way I feel about many families in the church. A great many parents follow off their children, and men follow their women. For a man to follow a woman is, in the sight of heaven, disgraceful to the name of a man. It is a disgrace for parents to follow their children. I am your leader, Latter Day Saints, and you must follow me; and if you do not follow me you may expect that I shall go my way and you may take yours, if you please. I shall do as the Spirit dictates me. What does it now direct me to dictate to you?
Our enemies are determined to blot us out of existence if they can. Have they done so? No. Long before the Book of Mormon was printed, when Joseph first obtained the plates and commenced the translation of that book, all hell was moved against him, as it is against us to-day. He was but one man, and to oppose him required but a small power of the enemy compared to what it now requires. And as the kingdom of God grows, the enmity of the wicked will increase and extend broader and broader until we shall see the day when the whole wicked portion of mankind is as much opposed to us as any portion of them is now. “We are to be killed,” is the constant feeling and cry of our enemies. “You ‘Mormons’ must be used up, or else you must bow down to the Christianity of the 19th century,” say the world. You can further examine, if you choose, and at your leisure, the religions that they profess. You were more or less brought up in them from your youth, and they make me think of a young man’s reply in Connecticut to a reformation [p.114]preacher who was passing by. The young man was splitting wood, and the preacher asked him if he did not wish to get religion. The young man replied, that “he did not know that he did.” The preacher then asked him whether he had got religion; he replied, “I do not know whether we have any now, but mother makes the best kind; will you get off from your horse and taste a little?” “Of what does your mother make your religion?” asked the preacher. “She makes it out of New England rum and molasses, and that is the best religion I know of.” That is the religion of the day—that is their Christianity.
In connection with this anecdote I will relate a recent statement of modern degeneracy in Berlin, in the kingdom of Prussia. Recruits were wanted for the army, and out of over 12,000 young men who were drafted, only a trifle over 800 were found fit for the service. And yet that is one of’ the first Christian states that was organized and became a Christian kingdom after the days of the Savior; that is what their religion has done for them. With respect to keeping men in ignorance I have said to some of the officers of our Government that I wished my brethren to know as much as I do, and as quick as I learn a little more I wish to impart it unto them. I wish this people to know what I know, and I wish that you knew a little more. I not only wish that you were all prophets, but I wish that you were greater prophets than I am, or even br. Heber, and had more than we have of the revelations of Jesus Christ. I have charged the brethren with stupidity, though I do not know that I should complain of them in the least, but really I would like to have this people wake up and know for themselves the things that are of God and the things that are not of God, and know whether they are led in the path of truth and righteousness or in some other way.
Should I take a course to waste life? We are in duty bound to preserve life—to preserve ourselves on the earth—consequently we must use policy and follow in the counsel given us, in order to preserve our lives. Shall we take a course to whip our enemies? or one to let them whip themselves? or shall we go out and slay them now? We have been preparing to use up our enemies by fighting them, and if we take that course and shed the blood of our enemies, we will see the time, and that too not far from this very morning, when we will have to flee from our homes and leave the spoil to them.—That is as sure as we commence the game. If we open the ball upon them by slaying the United States soldiery, just so sure they would be fired with anger to lavishly expend their means to compass our destruction, and thousands, and millions if necessary, would furnish means, if the Government was not able, and turn out and drive us from our homes, and kill us if they could.
The policy the Lord pursued is the reason we were not killed in [p.115]Nauvoo. Joseph’s going to Carthage did not save this people. I have acknowledged the hand of the Lord in it from the beginning, and say it was right, it was all well enough, but the people would have been just as well off if Joseph had left the country. They succeeded in killing him, and thought they could kill me and br. Kimball and br. Hyde and all the Twelve and Elders of this church, but I told them that they must keep their hands off from Brigham. I promised them that if they put their hands on me to take me prisoner I would send them to hell across lots, God being my helper: I feel so this morning. They have not done that, neither have I employed lawyers; I do my own pleading. With my God and my brethren I am enabled to defend myself, and they dare not put their hands on me.
If they should succeed in slaying a few more of the Elders of this people, they would say, “let us go ahead, we have succeeded in killing Joseph and Hyrum, now let us kill the Twelve.” In seeking my life they will have to wait until they kill me, will they not? If they cannot kill me, they would naturally say, “take care how you try to handle the rest of them.”
If they do not succeed in killing the first Elders of this church, they will be cautious how they try to put their hands on you. But if they can kill us with impunity they would take you by the hair of the head and draw a knife across your throats, as they wished to serve me after the death of Joseph. But I carded a little tooth-pick with a blade some 18 or 20 inches long and a little over two inches wide, and I said come on, if you want to take me a prisoner. I am ready for you; and I intend to be always on the guard against my enemies. But let us begin a fight with the Government troops, and we shall have to leave our buildings and they will possess them, and I am in favor of leaving them before I am obliged to.
Br. George A. Smith has told us that he loved to come to the mountains—that it was a pleasure trip and as fine a journey as he ever had—and how pleased he was to leave his home in the States, and how he liked this country, and why? Because he was obliged to. Now let us leave before we are obliged to.
A large majority in this congregation have never been driven five times, as some of us have been, and I presume that I could pick out a large number that have never been driven from their homes, and have never been compelled to leave their property. I have had to leave mine five times. ‘Did you leave wealth?’ Yes, every time. The first time I left the least, the second time I left more, the third time still more, and so on; and now I have more to leave than I left in all the five times.
‘Where are you going?’ To the deserts and the mountains. There is a desert region in this Territory larger than any of the Eastern States, that [p.116] no white man knows anything about. Can you realize that? What is the reason you do not know any thing about that region? It is a desert country with long distances from water to water, with wide sandy and alkali places entirely destitute of vegetation and miry when wet, and small, scattering patches of greasewood, and it is a region that the whites have not explored, and where there are but few Indians. There are places here and there in it where a few families could live.
Four years ago this spring we sent Bishop David Evans and a company to go to that desert, for we then had too long neglected to explore it. We wanted to plant settlements there in preparation for this day, for we have had foreshadowings and a promise of the scenery now before us. That company did not accomplish the object of their mission; they were absent a few weeks and went to the first mountain, but they did not go to the mountain where they were sent, and made no settlement. Now we are going to try it again.
Probably there is room in that region for 500,000 persons to live scattered about where there is good grass and water. I am going there, where we should have gone six or seven years ago. Now we are going to see whether the sheep will follow the shepherd. I do not care whether they follow me or not. I am like the man who said he was going to Zion. After br. Hyde had done preaching in a certain place in the East, a Presbyterian priest rose to oppose him, but he could not induce the congregation to be still until he opposed ‘Mormonism’ though he did not know any more about it than a red dog. Br. Hyde went out, and the people also began to go out, and the priest shouted out, ‘those who want to hear “Mormonism” exposed, take your seats, and those who are going to Zion, go out of the door.’ The congregation still kept going out and a young man as he neared the door, halloed to the priest, ‘we are all going to Zion.’ The people may go to Zion, or stay and hear “Mormonism” exposed.
‘When are you going to start?’ As soon as this snow is off I am going to start part of my family. I am going to a place that I can say to our enemies, ‘whither I go you cannot come.’ They may come here, and then they will find themselves a great many miles from home and will not want to go much further.
‘How many are you going to call?’ Only five hundred families to leave this city immediately, though more may go now, if they wish to. ‘But,’ says one, ‘I have no team.’ That is so much the better—you have so much less to care for. The only difficulty I can see is that we have too much provisions and goods to be convenient for us at this time. Says one, ‘I would like to go, but I have a wife and three or four children, and nothing else.’ All the better for that; you and your wife can take a handcart, and let the children walk. ‘How can we go without provision?’ [p.117]We are going to send that. Br. Wells and br. Sharp will take all the teams that have been drawing rock, and we are going to get as many more as we can, and send out an ox train. John, William, Harry, etc., say, ‘we have no provision.’ I will relieve your minds on that point. We have received only a small amount of the tithing wheat from Box Elder and Weber counties, a very little from Utah county, not any from the counties south of that, and how much do you think we now have in the General Tithing Store, from this and Davis county? We have enough to load 1,200 teams, 40,000 bushels of wheat. And I say to the Bishops to-day, report immediately to Bishop Hunter what your Wards need, for we are going to distribute that wheat to the people through the Bishops, and they can pay for it when they are able. We are going to forward this tithing wheat and flour with Church teams and all the other teams we can procure.
Another says, “I have no cow.” I have two, you may strip mine part of the time. I know that the complaints among the poor will be trifling when compared to what they will be among the rich. I have so much property around me that I am really plagued. I want to cache the doors and the windows, and the frames, and casings; and my chairs, tables, secretaries and the articles that belong to the Historian’s Office and the Tithing Office, etc., and I have so much property to look after that I hardly know what to do. The caches should be made in safe and dry localities, and looking glasses, clocks, musical instruments, and perhaps some other articles should be taken with you. If I had nothing but a little day book in my pocket, I could start and run. I know that it will be troublesome to men who possess fine houses and good orchards, and you now can perceive that the rich have cares once in a while. It makes me think of the old saying, “God bless the rich, the poor can beg.” God bless the rich and help them to get their property out of the way, for the poor can pick up and start when they please.
That is the policy I suggest to you, and it is the best policy I can now see to make our enemies whip themselves, as they have thus far. Have we killed any of them? No. But to hear them tell the story, they have killed many ‘Mormons’ this winter, for they say they have been shooting at ‘Mormons’ through the winter, and the ‘Mormons’ have not fired a single gun at them. They are whipped so far, without our fighting them.
I will now say a few words with regard to politics. Pledges to the Democratic platform are what brought James Buchanan into the Presidential chair, and the main plank in that platform is the principle of popular sovereignty, as established in ’76. When the Republicans saw that he would be elected President, what plan did they adopt? They went to work to spoil his Administration by causing him to disgrace himself. They so managed the affair as to induce him, in the case of Kansas and [p.118]Utah, to take steps to trample upon the rights of the people, in violation of the very principle upon which he gained his election. If you want to know his present position, I will explain it to you in my own way by saying that he and his party were walking straight-forward on the plank of popular sovereignty, and the Republicans succeeded in making him throw himself directly across that plank; and now every Democrat that comes along says, “Buchanan, what are you doing here? I am going ahead,” and they have to step over him. In his acts touching Utah and Kansas he has disregarded the fundamental principles of the Constitution. The Republicans managed to have him pledge himself and induced him to take a course in opposition to that pledge, that they might destroy his Administration. And now, if James Buchanan had never given orders for an army to march to this country, he might have flung up his hat, but as it is he is whipt and is a disgrace before the nation. He is becoming a hiss and a by-word. You can scarcely read a newspaper, even those brought by the last mail, and what the next will bring we do not know, without learning that such is the case. He is becoming a stink in the nostrils of every honorable person throughout the nation, and is so obnoxious to the people that I do not know but that they will kill him. They killed some thirty persons, about the time of his inauguration, at the National Hotel in Washington, in trying to kill him; and I do not know’ but what they will succeed in killing him yet, if the Lord don’t let the devil kill him in some other way. He is a disgrace to the Democratic party. Br. George A. Smith was in Washington at the time of the poisoning at the National Hotel, and he says that nearly all then stopping at that hotel were nasty, stinking office seekers, and if so it is a pity that they did not keep on poisoning.
There are now two prominent parties in the nation; the Democratic, which professes to follow the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States in strictness, and the Republican, as they style themselves, or Black Republican, as termed by the Democrats. The Republicans have succeeded in flooring Buchanan, and they are now rejoicing over his downfall and expect to come into power at the next Presidential election in 1860.
If Buchanan can be eased down, his own party wish to accomplish it so as not to break his neck. His edicts must be fulfilled, whether they are right or wrong, to preserve the DIGNITY of the Government. He has given orders to the soldiery to build a station ‘at or near Salt Lake City’ in Utah Territory. Those orders must be fulfilled, or both political parties of the nation are disgraced, so I am for letting them come and take ‘Sebastopol.’
We want five hundred families to go south forthwith, and be ready to raise corn, potatoes, squashes, beans, etc., etc., this season. In these [p.119]valleys we now have more grain in the ground that we know what to do with. Instead of planting the sugar cane seed here, plant it there, and you can make your sweet unmolested. I am not going to plant any potatoes nor corn here; and I have sown all the small grain that I shall sow here this season. I will let the rest of my ground lie untilled, and then I will do all I can to gather the crop that I have caused to be put into the ground, if we can get the chance, and we think we shall. Some of you may think I am imprudent in making these statements here, lest our enemies hear of them and start to come here before we are ready for them. If they do that, while we are doing all we can to get away, we shall kill the infernal scoundrels. They may have ‘Sebastopol’ after it is vacated, but they cannot have it before, according to my present feelings.
No doubt some of the brethren will be a little surprised at this move, and think it hard. Who should be the first to volunteer, in all the settlements of the Saints? You who have never been driven, or those who have been driven twice, thrice, or four or five times? Were I to call for volunteers, generally those who have suffered the most would be soonest on hand and say, “we care no more about our property than we do about the ashes of a rye straw, for we can accumulate more.” You may ask whether I am willing to burn up my houses? Yes, and to be the first man that will put the torch to my own dwellings.
If any one sends out word that the army may come in, and that we are not going to fight them, send word at the same time that if they come in to annoy us while we are hastening away, we will send them to hell, God being our helper. We have just as much as we can do to get ready to—what? Waste this city? this beautiful city? What was it twelve years ago? Not much. Once in a while an Indian would come and camp in the bushes, and a few wolves would be howling around. There were also crickets in abundance. Suppose that this whole city is laid in ashes and the troops occupy its site, they will or should be withdrawn as soon as the credit and dignity of the Government is supposed to be saved.
Our Elders are willing and many are over-anxious to fight, and I also should be for killing, if I was crowded into a corner and could not back out. But I would sooner see this city laid in ashes, than to lose one good Elder. We are not obliged to go and endanger our lives. Every time we have left our homes before, it has been in the fall and winter, but now it is spring and we have the pleasant part of the season before us.
This is a different country to what we have heretofore lived in. As I have told you often, if people lived in their old log houses, in their tents and wagons for years, and if we had lived here until now in wickeups you would not hear one cough where you now hear a hundred. It is the worst country in the world to be housed up in close air, and it would be still worse if you would go up on Mount Nebo to sleep for you could [p.120]not live there long in a tight house.
I never permit myself to sleep in a house, since I have been in this valley, without a door or window open; and if I am in a place the least close, I feel it at once and know it will injure my health. I must have the air here. Turn this people out of doors, if you want to make them healthy. When we sent off a little company a week ago last Wednesday, I called upon br. Free to go, knowing that he had been very ill, and believing that it would improve his health. He has since sent word that his health has improved every day, and he begins to feel quite strong and hearty. Send out these women and children, many of whom are not in health, and let them sleep in wagons and they will become healthy.
Such property as you do not need to or cannot remove, but which will keep in a cache, where you please in any dry and safe place. I would cache window and door frames and casings, etc., and thus save all that we can; we may come back here. And let us go to diligently and remove the women and children and the aged and infirm and the wheat and flour and meat, to as far south as Provo, to begin, and retain the able bodied men as much in the vacated settlements as possible, to look after our enemies and the growing crops, &c., and when we get ready to let them, our enemies may come in, in welcome. If this city was vacated and the army here, they would not dare to go to any place only where Government has ordered them to build a station. Let them whip themselves; they are at this time whipt in a masterly manner, and they have done it themselves. Did you ever see any man get so angry and full of revenge that he would be glad to be able to jump up and bite his own nose, and jump until he was tired, and after all find his nose still unhurt on his face, and then begin to curse and rip about it, having nobody to spite himself upon? Our enemies are precisely in that situation. We used to say, when wishing to describe hell, that it was “to want to and can’t.” They “want to and can’t.”
If we are obliged to remove, cache and lay waste, it is for our good, it is not for our injury. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” and he that cannot take joyfully the spoiling of his goods, whenever the Lord requires it to be done and it seems to be necessary, is not worthy to be a follower of the Lamb; and when the moving is over I will have just as much better a house than my present one, than it is better than the old row of log cabins we used to live in. The buildings I now have do not begin to satisfy me, for I mean to keep improving so that I will know how to help build up Zion, when I have the privilege. So also will your buildings be as much better than the ones you now occupy, as they are better than your old shanties which you first lived in, and the earth will be more productive than it has been. If we take the right track, the Lord will bless us accordingly.
[p.121]Many may say, “br. Brigham, perhaps you are mistaken; you are liable to err, and if the mob should not come, after all, and we should burn up our houses and learn that the Government had actually countermanded their orders and that no armies are coming to Utah, it would be a needless destruction. We have all the time felt that there was no need of leaving our houses.—How easy it is for men to be mistaken, and we think a Prophet may be mistaken once in a while.” I am just as willing as the Lord, if he is disposed to make me make mistakes, and it is none of the business of any other person. If a people do the best they know, they have the power to ask and receive, and no power can prevent it. And if the Lord wants me to make a mistake, I would as soon be mistaken as anything else, if that will save the lives of the people and give us the victory. If you get such feelings in your hearts, think of what my conclusion on the subject is, and do not come to my office to ask me whether I am mistaken, for I want to tell you now perhaps I am.
Do I want to save you? Ask that question. But John, what are you doing? Are you now an Elder in Israel? “Yes, I am a High Priest.” What is the office of an High Priest? John replies, “I do not know, without it is to whip my wife, knock down my children and make everybody obey me; and I believe a High Priest presides over an Elder.” You will find some Elders just about that ignorant. Let me tell you what the office of a High Priest and an Elder is. It holds the keys of the revelation of Jesus Christ; it unlocks the gates of heaven. It opens the broad windows of revelation from eternity. John, what are you about, imagining that I may be mistaken? or that br. Heber may be mistaken? Why do you not open the windows of heaven and get revelation for yourself? and not go whining around and saying, “do you not think that you may be mistaken? Can a Prophet or an Apostle be mistaken?” Do not ask me any such question, for I will acknowledge that all the time, but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray one hair’s breadth from the truth, and I do not knowingly do a wrong, though I may commit many wrongs, and so may you. But I overlook your weaknesses, and I know by experience that the Saints lift their hearts to God that I may be led right. If I am thus borne off by your prayers and faith, with my own, and suffered to lead you wrong, it proves that your faith is vain. Do not worry. I have opened the subject and I will now sit down and let others unfold a little more. My mind is too full this morning to come to close points.
May God bless you. Amen.