Essential Brigham Young
Foreword by Eugene E. Campbell
“For Many Years I have Sought to Instruct My Fellow Beings in the Ways of Life and Salvation”
A Sermon Delivered on 19 July 1863
[p.160]For many years I have sought to instruct my fellow beings in the ways of life and salvation, and, as far as I had influence, I have endeavored to lead them in the path of right, in their faith, in their morals, and in the government of every passion and impulse of their natures. Whether my daily example has corresponded with my teachings, I will leave all who are acquainted with me to judge. My spiritual walk and conversation have been constantly before the Latter-day Saints, who are my witnesses as to the way in which I have lived my religion.
It is my desire to be saved in the Kingdom of God; and it is my desire that all who can shall be saved in the presence of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ. For this I labor and toil, and with me it is the Kingdom of God or nothing. Nothing can endure, only that which abides in God.
All the triumphs of science are the grand results of revealed truth. All that mankind possesses of true greatness and goodness is the gift of God. All that is not of God and that does not exist to honor Him, will sooner or later return to native element. Consequently, to serve God and to acknowledge Him in His true character and in His works should be the greatest and highest purpose of mankind while they exist here. To deny the existence of God is equal to denying the existence of intelligence. To deny the existence of God is equal to denying the existence of the earth and of all things that live and breathe upon it. Those who worship a God who does not exist, and to worship a bodiless, passionless, partless God, is equal to worshipping something that is non-existent, subscribe to the worship of a fable and walk in total darkness so far as knowledge of the true God is concerned. It must strike [a] sensible person that nothing can be made without a maker, that nothing can be created without a creator, and that no person can be begotten without a father, or brought forth without a mother. These are plain facts which we all naturally know. The earth exists, and it owes its existence to a designer, organizer, and framer. We exist, and owe our existence to a Maker. There is a Supreme Being, and to Him the earth and its fullness, the animate and inanimate, existence owe their being; and this God, Brother Spencer told us this morning, he delighted to acknowledge. In the fashionable world it is quite a remarkable circumstance to find a single person who [p.161]is willing to openly acknowledge the God of Heaven as the Creator, and upholder of all things. Indeed, it is quite a task for professed Christians even to acknowledge God, hence they are exhorted, “oh, my dear brother, my dear sister, do take up your cross, and be not afraid to acknowledge God,” for “he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.” The man that cannot freely acknowledge God must be devoid of the best portion that intelligence granted to his race, must stand branded as unwise in the midst of created things, and virtually denies before God and angels that he ever possessed true intelligence.
In modern revelation it is said that the Lord is displeased with none save those who do not acknowledge His hand in all things. Who gave the knowledge there is in the world? O, inhabitants of the earth, can you hear it? It was God who gave it. Who gave Robert Fulton knowledge to apply steam and machinery to propel boats? He said that he had dreamed on the subject. Who gave them to him? It was God. Through the achievements of agricultural science, the raw material is produced of which the numerous and varied appliances of civilization are made; and the great attainments in mechanical knowledge have harnessed the elements to powerful and nicely adjusted machinery for making the raw material into articles for clothing and other conveniences. The greatest and wisest of mankind are unable to make a mosquito wing, or a leaf, or a blade of grass, independent of God and His laws.
There are great mysteries connected with the different races of men. Why and how they are made different in their color, intelligence, and physical construction, philosophers and learned men have failed to discover. Why have they thus failed? Because they do not possess the key to their own philosophy. Men may have much knowledge given to them, and yet not possess the key of knowledge.
Brother [Orson] Spencer said that he is thankful that he is located in these sequestered vales, far away from those who have hated, hunted, and persecuted the Latter-day Saints. Why have they so abused this people? Because we hold the key of knowledge that all the world are ignorant of. For this we have been driven to the secluded country. I also am exceedingly thankful that we are here. I used to pray to be delivered from the Christians. I am delivered from them, thank God, and from there [sic] pernicious influences. The nations of Christendom naturally have good common sense, yet it is so perverted that they do not know how to preserve themselves. They know not how to wisely guide their own affairs, nor how to conduct themselves one with another without corrupting each other, and destroying every vestige of honor, virtue, and truth that exists among them. Some of them are willfully blind, and some are ignorantly so. They acknowledge the Bible to be true; they say that it contains the words of God to them; they say that they believe the [p.162]accounts given by Moses of the creation of man, that God said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” Yet [in] the most sublime and transcendent stretch of their philosophical and scientific theology, they have not succeeded in finding out the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in whom, in their few common sense moments of thought, they believe. The Bible gives Him an image, a Likeness, a body, with parts, senses, and passions, which has a location, a family, a home, but we find modern theology has set up an idol to worship which cannot be said to have the likeness of anything that ever did or ever will exist in all the eternities of God, and that does not possess any one of the qualifications possessed by the God of the Saints. It would be much more consistent to altogether set aside the Bible as a revelation of the will of God to man, than to profess to believe in it and then depart from it in practice. It would be more consistent to boldly say that there is no God, consequently no heaven, nor earth, that we are not or that we are anything but what we really are, than to persist in worshipping a phantom of the brain, at the same time persuading ourselves that we are worshipping the true God.
I can tell all the world that we have a Father and a God; that He has a home, a location, a mansion of glory where He dwells, that He is endowed with all the powers of physical and mental constitution possessed by His children, mankind, but that He has those powers developed in a degree infinitely more perfect than they; that He is capable of understanding and supplying the wants of all His creatures, and is touched with the infirmities of His children that live in a sinful world.
Much proof could be produced to demonstrate that good, sober sense is not a prevailing element in the philosophical, political, theological, and scientific knowledge of the world.
When men have surrounded themselves with the comforts of life, when they have accumulated means to live and friends to live with, when they are happy in their peaceful homes removed from the busy bustle and turmoil of life, when they enjoy the society of wives, children, and friends, being charmed and consoled by music made at home, their minds, educated and used and refreshed from the rich stores of their libraries, when in short they have surrounded themselves with every means of home comfort, improvement and enjoyment, what a blessed and happy state of society it would be could such senses of home felicity and contentment and peace be perpetuated and remain forever undisturbed; but no, the husband and father dragged from his peaceful domicile, hurried to the field of sanguinery strife, where he is left bleeding far away from the loved ones at home and the comforts that surround them, which cease to give them happiness in the absence of him around whom they once so often circled in their happy glee. [p.163]Petty differences between potentates and rulers of nations have to be arbitrated by shedding rivers of blood, and sending blight and despair into the bosoms of thousands of families whose protectors and friends have fallen in the fields of battle. Intelligence and good sense would devise means to protect every man in the enjoyment of his life, home, country and friends, where they prevail peaceful hours like a river, and war with its dread consequences never comes. Is not the present condition of the world positive and undeniable proof that unperverted sense and wisdom that God gives does not prevail among mankind? Are not the sayings of the prophets literally fulfilled? “Wherefore the Lord said, for as much as this people draw near me with their mouths, and with their lips do honor Me, but removed their hearts far from Me, their fear toward Me is taught by the precepts of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” Again, speaking of Zion in the last days, “Now also many nations are against Thee, that say, let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion, but they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they His counsel; for He shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor.”
Our nation would have spent many millions of treasure to prevent the Latter-day Saints from coming to these mountains, had they known the counsels of the Lord. They may hunt the Mormons now, but it will do them no good. They have driven us to where the Prophet Joseph said that we should be driven. He said in Nauvoo, “This people will leave here. We have been kicked out of the frying pan into the fire, and the next they do will be to kick us into the middle of the floor, where they do not want us.” If we are not now in the middle of the floor, I do not know where the middle of the floor can be.
It is a fashionable practice in fashionable society to profanely swear by the name of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, throwing dishonor upon the name of their Maker and upon the name of their Redeemer. God will bring all such into judgment. True ladies or gentlemen, even if they did not believe in the existence of Deity, would not be found using His name profanely; but the true character of a saint is to openly acknowledge God in all things, never taking His name in vain, but using it at all times with reverence and proper solemnity. This also properly becomes every person of intelligence who is in doubt with that wisdom which comes from God. Those who honor and reverence the author of their existence, honor themselves.
While I am speaking of the Christian world, my mind glances at the heathen world; they are as much Christians as those who profess [p.164]the name of Christ in Christendom. There are no people upon the face of the whole earth but what have once been in possession of the knowledge of the true God, and have, sometime in the past, been in possession of the Holy Priesthood. Why are they so ignorant and benighted in their understanding? And why is the Christian world so lost to every sense of duty to themselves and to their Father and God? It is because they have transgressed the law of God, have changed His ordinances, and broken the everlasting covenant which God made with the fathers. Why is the House of Judah and the half tribe of Benjamin scattered to the four winds of heaven and left to wander to and fro on the earth like lost sheep? It is for the same cause, and because they clamored for the blood of the Savior and wished it to be upon them and upon their children. The other tribes were scattered, smitten and led away for the same cause. If any of them have ever kept the Holy Priesthood among them, they have been led to where no communion could be held with them since they went away.
I declare to the heavens and to the earth, and to all intelligent beings that dwell in them, that we possess the true gospel of the Son of God, that we acknowledge God, our Father, Who lives in heaven, in whose image we are made; that we may dwell with Him, we must be made perfect through suffering as He was. We believe that He is perfect in His power, in His glory and in His exaltation, possessing all things and swaying His sceptre over all things that we know anything about. His power and intelligence are everywhere disseminated. Not a sparrow can fall to the ground without His notice, and the very hairs of our heads are numbered. He goes where He pleases throughout His extended dominions; He is capable of walking through this congregation, or of preaching from this stand, and we would not know Him from one of ourselves. Or He can show Himself in His glory, which could not be endured by persons still in the flesh. We believe in Jesus Christ, the heir of the family, who gave His life for the redemption of the earth, and everything pertaining to it—every flesh that ever lived and walked or crawled on the earth, flew in the air, or swam in the waters, that He may bring forth the Kingdom of God as prepared for Him and present it to His Father spotless; that was the object of His errand in the world. We believe that He was the Son of Mary and of God, precisely as recorded in the New Testament.
I am happy in having the privilege of speaking to my fellow beings who are passing through this territory. I have traveled scores of thousands of miles, often with bleeding feet, and many times without food, to preach the gospel to mankind, and now people are willing to come and hear me. I am thankful for the privilege of speaking to them, and I shall tell them the truth and in whom we believe.
[p.165]It is stated in the book of Doctrine and Covenants that “Seth was a perfect man and his likeness was the express likeness of his father’s, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age.” So it is with Jesus Christ and His Father. They are one and cannot be known apart only as Adam and Seth were known apart. Shall we boldly acknowledge all these things before the world? Yes, and let the world howl as they have let them howl on. By and by every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess to the glory of God the Father, that Jesus is the Christ. We had better do this sensibly and willingly. I do not know how other people feel, but I never want to be drive[n] to do anything. I want to willingly do what I do, that I may have credit for what I do. If I am forced to do a thing, then I have no reward. If I wanted to be a soldier in the army, I would willingly go and be one, and fight like a man, but if they undertook to drive me to it, they would have a hard work to perform. What! Go to murder my fellow men? But it is argued that it cannot be murder when men kill each other in a popular war. It is just as much murder as it is for the Indians to kill the passing immigrants.
At the judgment of the quickened dead, popular leaders, who have inaugurated war instead of arbitrating peace, will be held accountable to God for the lives of their subjects which they have caused to be destroyed on the battlefields, and for the thousands of hearts they have broken and for the destitution and suffering they have caused to exist outside the battlefields in trying to maintain what they called the honor and dignity of their nation. Every generous, noble, and God-like impulse that dwells in the breasts of earthly and heavenly beings, cries aloud for war to cease. Is there not room enough in the world for every man to have his farm and his garden? And why cannot the advantages and blessings of commerce be enjoyed by all, without mixing folly, rabidness, and devilism with wise and free institutions?
What say the powers of wickedness? Destroy each other, or make each other as wretched as you possibly can. Heaven says, “Let there be no war among you, my children, and let the bonds of everlasting peace continue to grow stronger and stronger until all are sanctified and I can come and dwell with you, like the children of Israel in the days of the Prophet Samuel, they say make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” When this demand was made to Samuel by the Israelites, he prayed unto the Lord, “And the Lord said unto Samuel, hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” A king was given to Israel with this prophecy for Samuel, after they had seen the great sin in asking (for) a king, “but if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed both ye and your king.”
[p.166]The people of the world have chosen kings to rule over them, as Israel did of old, and have refused to acknowledge God to be their king. Hence, desolating wars and their consequent evils have from time to time almost depopulated kingdoms, laying the foundation for burdens and exactions from the survivors to pay the expenses of costly and needless wars and to sustain princes in their luxourious idleness (who) have made slaves of millions who now groan in their chains and cry to God for deliverance. When the wicked rule, the people mourn; while prosperity, peace and plenty flow under the sway of righteous rulers.
It was the overanxious, tyrannical and grasping disposition that rendered it necessary for the American Revolutionary fathers to take up the sword in defense of their liberties. Had the King of England conceded to them, the right of self-government, when they called for it, the effusion of much blood would have been stayed, and that king would have less to answer for before the bar of God.
Laws instituted by nations are to hold in check the turbulent, wicked, and unruly spirits of the people, and to fortify kingly authority and power against insurrection and the vengeance of the oppressed millions. Law is not made for the upright, only to exalt them. The law and order of heaven are given expressly to increase celestial intelligence in the Saints, and to advance them in glory and power eternal. The man who walks uprightly before his God and infringes upon the rights of none, but feeds the hungry and clothes the naked, doing all he can to improve the condition of and happify his fellow-beings, walks above all law, and goes onward and still onward from conquering unto conquering. The laws of God are given to exalt the Saints to a higher state of glory—celestial felicity and power, while the laws of men are too often made and enforced to subject the creature who disobeys them to increased depths of misery and degradation. The law of God enstills into the human soul a hatred of sin by portraying the beauties and advantages of righteousness, elevating it even above the desire to do wrong; the laws of men, consisting chiefly in a code of penalties, against crime, are made more to over-awe the creature than to instruct and elevate the mind above the love of crime. Obedience to the one brings the spirit of God—the Holy Ghost—to enlighten and educate the mind with heavenly wisdom; obedience to the other promises protection of life and property, but in every instance leaves the mind still uninformed and in darkness. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” “Great peace have they who love Thy law.”
The two ways are before us—the law of life and the law of death; the one gives the sheep a wide range and exalts them to glory, the other unchains the dogs from confinement. The laws of men have a good and salutary influence upon society—keeping the unscrupulous merdurder [p.167][sic] and the desparately [sic] wicked within bounds, encouraging the arts of industry and the progression of political and domestic economy, therefore “let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land: wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until He reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under His feet.” “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” “Owe no man anything but to love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
Very often we hear people excuse themselves in their wickedness because of sin which dwells in their mortal bodies, arguing that they were born in sin, and shapen in inequity—born into the world with no good thing in them. This tradition is simply not true, and this favorite argument of theirs will fail them at the bar of God. People are wicked because they list to be wicked. If they were made wicked without their agency, then may it fairly be expected that this same power will make them righteous without any effort of theirs; but seeing that they are wicked of their own free will and accord they are very justly addressed in the language of the prophet, “Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord and He will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
My counsel to all the Saints is to love God and to keep His commandments. And to those who do not wish to be Latter-day Saints, I say live a good, moral, virtuous life, and win the confidence of all your acquaintances, that they may esteem you as a faithful and trustworthy man.
May the Lord bless you, Amen.