Essential Brigham Young
Foreword by Eugene E. Campbell
“We Talk a Great Deal about Our Improvements and Increase in Knowledge”
A Sermon Delivered on 4 August 1867 (see Utah Historical Quarterly 29 [January 1961]: 66-76)
[p.193]We talk a great deal about our improvements and increase in knowledge. This is a subject for philosophers. There is no question but there is a great deal of knowledge in the world. But how much knowledge have we in proportion to that that does exist in, through and round about the earth, in the starry heavens and in the eternities of the Gods? When we draw this comparison, our knowledge is very limited, and although we hear our Elders talk Sabbath after Sabbath on the principles of the gospel that we have embraced, yet we cannot improve as fast as we would like to. A child of seven or eight years of age when sent to school cannot learn the letters of the alphabet in one day; neither can he learn the English language in one week, month or year, and I will say not in one short lifetime like ours. So it is with regard to learning the principles of the Gospel—the principles of truth and righteousness comprised within the pale of the Gospel.
I want every man and woman here to understand that the Gospel we talk about circumscribes and comprehends the knowledge that is possessed by the Gods, all the holy angels, and I may say the unholy angels; the knowledge, glory, power and excellency, whether it be good or bad, in time and in eternity. We do not talk much like this do we? When strangers come to our meetings they think, probably, that we do not exhibit any knowledge more than they possess. The fact is, we are endeavoring to commence right.
Suppose, for instance, we want to strike a direct line to the North Pole, and in order to do so we take a compass in which the needle is out of order and does not traverse correctly. It may go five degrees to the east or ten degrees to the west; if we start on the line indicated by this needle, do you suppose we will ever reach the North Pole? Never, we will go past it, and by and by we will swing ourselves from the earth, and by going round a few times we would be left in open space, which would be worse than a ship on the ocean without sail, compass or rudder. This is the case with regard to the religions or what I may call the philosophical systems of the day pertaining to the life we now enjoy and that which is to come. If we start right and we continue in the right path—if we do [p.194]not know everything today or even as much as we desire and as other people expect us to know—do you not see it will eventually land us right in the fountain of eternal knowledge, so that we will see as we are seen and know as we are known?
The Gospel of the Son of God that we preach is the system of life and of salvation. The inquiry may arise, where did we get this, how came this people called Latter-day Saints into possession of the true principles of eternal life? Are they not disseminated to all the inhabitants of the earth? I will say they have been, but the inhabitants of the earth have rejected them; consequently, they are left in darkness. Nation after nation, people after people have wandered in darkness and ignorance, and have lived and died without the knowledge of the Gospel. (Asked a blessing on the water.)
On some points, that we may call religious peculiarities, we differ from all the rest of the inhabitants of the earth. How? In this, that we profess to have the fullness of the Gospel of the Son of God that is possessed by no other people that we know of. If our life and conduct as individuals and as a people have witnessed to God, to angels and to the inhabitants of the earth that we have something different from all the Christian world, it is time for them to reflect seriously on the matter, and not treat us with jealousy and contumely.
If we, for instance, were to go to that portion of the house of Israel who were left on the land of Palestine when the ten tribes marched to the northern country and learn the tenets of their faith, we should find that they do not possess one iota of truth but what is enjoyed by the Latter-day Saints. Where is the proof? I do not know that I will have time to measure and weigh these points on the present occasion, but the proof is right before us. We may ask them the question, “Do you believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and of Jacob?” So do the Latter-day Saints. If they believe in the God who told Moses to say to Pharaoh that He was a man of war; so do the Saints. I say, O Israel, ancient Israel do you believe in the God who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt with a high hand and an outstretched arm! “Yes,” say they; and so do the Latter-day Saints. Have you faith, that if necessary, He would again shower manna from Heaven and send flocks of quails to allay your hunger and cause water to burst from the rock to quench your thirst as He did when the Children of Israel were passing through the Wilderness? Do you believe that He is the God whom Moses followed and by whom he was dictated? “Yes,” says the whole house of Israel. Well, that is the very God that we—the Latter-day Saints—are serving. He is our Father. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—whom the tribe of Judah discard, heaping ridicule upon his name. He is the Father of our Spirits, everyone of us, Jew or Gentile, bond or free, white or black. Is that saying too [p.195]much? Is there any of us who will reject the idea that He is the Father of the spirits of all living? If there is, it is through ignorance. All the varieties in physiognomy and the different shades of color—the tawney and copper colored, the black and white, are His; and if there be any who are not white and delightsome, it is because their sins and iniquities have brought a curse upon them. But our Father and our God is the Father of the spirits of all living. He is the framer and finisher of our bodies, and He set this machine in motion that has brought forth the whole human family; and He has laid, made and prepared the plan of Salvation for His children that all may be saved who will receive the Gospel.
Here, in our city, are many who profess to be of the tribe of Judah; some are of that tribe and some are of other tribes. Let them go into the houses of this people and they will hear the prayers of the Elders of Israel ascend in behalf of the tribe of Judah; day by day they are borne before the throne of the Almighty for Him to hasten the day when the eyes of the children of Judah shall be opened that they may see, their ears unstopped that they may hear, and that their hearts may be penetrated by the power of God that they may understand the truth as it is in Jesus. These few remarks with regard to the house of Israel will satisfy me.
Now, what have the Christians got that the Latter-day Saints have not got. Has the holy Catholic Church got faith in Jesus that we have not got? Not a particle that is true and pure. But as for the ordinances of the House of God, we say, and we say it boldly, and here is the standard of our faith—the Old and New Testament—that the mother church and all her daughters have transgressed the laws, every one of them; they have changed almost every ordinance of the House of God; and not only so, but like the children of Israel in olden days, they have broken the covenants made with the fathers. We are bold to say this and we will take this book—the Bible in which Jews and Gentiles believe for our standard and proof.
Has the holy Catholic Church the ordinance of baptism? So they say. What do you say Latter-day Saints? We say they have not. There is but one mode of baptism and that is by being immersed in the water that the subject may come forth out of the water, in comparison like a child at its birth—struggling for breath—emerging into another element. This is the figure that Jesus gave us. Jesus and others were baptized of John, and the disciples of Jesus baptized more; but none of them were baptized by pouring, sprinkling, kneeling, or face foremost, but they were immersed in the water and came forth out of the water.
Have they the Sacrament? Yes, so they say. “Jesus took bread and blessed it and brake it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body.’ And he took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to [p.196]them saying, ‘Drink ye all of it.’” Now, I leave it to all whether they carry out this ordinance or not.
Leaving the mother church, we will go to her children—the other churches of Christendom. And here permit me to politely invite my Christian brethren all over the earth, never to speak evil of their mother. “What do you mean?” say they. I mean, do not speak evil of the church from which you have derived your authority and priesthood. You hear the Protestants crying against and depreciating the character of her who bore them. I would say to all that portion of the Christian world not in communion with the Church of Rome, if you must speak evil of your beloved mother, do it very softly; she is your mother and you are her offspring. It is true that the Greek Church does not acknowledge this, and the Protestants more or less deny it, but still if you trace the matter to its source, you will find they derive their authority from the mother church; and she is as good as any of her children.
Yes, I will venture to say that there are just as serious, honest, virtuous and truthful men and women in the holy Catholic Church as there are in any other on the face of the earth, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not excepted so far as our truth and honesty as individuals are concerned. But go to each and all of the churches of Christendom and can we find the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ practiced amongst them? We may find a few of them.
Mr. Campbell, some years ago, introduced the great principle of being baptized for the remission of sins. This was the reform from the Close Communion Baptists who baptized merely as a test of fellowship. But Mr. Campbell said “Be baptized for the remission of your sins”; they went no further than that. Said I, “I acknowledge that portion of your doctrine to be true but will you please read the scripture following that and see what it teaches?” “We cannot do it; we do not believe in the laying on of hands for the Holy Ghost. No, No, repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins, but we can go no further.” How was it anciently. This book—the New Testament—I think says, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost”; and we also read, “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them and they spake in tongues and prophesied.” But Mr. Campbell says, “Stop, stop, that needs to be spiritually construed. It does not mean what it says.” “Then,” I say to Mr. Campbell and his followers, “what proof have you that it is necessary to be baptized for the remission of sins?” If one is the doctrine of Christ, so is the other. Repent ye, therefore, and be baptized for the remission of your sins that you may receive the Holy Ghost. What is the office of the Holy Ghost? It brings things past, present and to come to the minds of all who receive and enjoy it.
[p.197]Do the Christian world believe in any of the doctrines of the gospel of Christ? They believe in faith in Jesus, and so do we. Many of them believe in strict honesty, so do we. Yet they frequently say, “How dishonest some of your Mormons are? I acknowledge that some who are called Mormons are dishonest. I am sorry to say so. And then again I should not be sorry for if this gospel gathered none but the good, the words of the Savior would fall to the ground. He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind.” I think we have gathered of all kinds, and this is collateral evidence and security to us that this is the gospel net; and if the world do not acknowledge it now, they will by and by.
We have this gospel, and it behooves us to live according to its precepts. Some are disposed to call us rogues and to say that we are ignorant. I do not care one farthing what the people from one end of the world to the other call me if they will only repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins, receive the Holy Ghost and live according to the dictates of the spirit of Christ. But there are some rogues and some fools, and I would to God that all were foolish enough to believe and obey the gospel and to live it every day of their lives. All who will do this will be saved.
A good deal was said this morning in relation to our organization and possessing a will of our own. Our Father in Heaven has placed within each of our tabernacles the attributes that He, Himself, possesses. He has given to everyone of us—His children—the germ and foundation of all knowledge and wisdom; and we are fashioned, and made and framed for the express purpose of exercising our will that we may become independent and that we may reign, rule and predominate over all things. Brother Heber says that we have not got a will. He meant that we should not let our wills lead us to destruction. We have all a mind, disposition and will, are capable of becoming gods even the sons of God to rule and reign forever and ever. With these wills of ours we will go to the Master—Him whom we have enlisted to obey as our Teacher, Head and Guide, and from Him we will receive our lessons day by day, and we will fashion our wills and passions accordingly. You and I and every individual will do this sooner or later. In doing this, however, we will each follow the promptings of the spirit within us, and there will be the same diversity as we now behold. Here is one man, for instance, says, “I want to go to the gold mines”; another says, “I will go and haul my potatoes”; another, “I will become a merchant”; another will go to making carriages or furniture, and each one uses the volition God has bestowed upon him with that independence that the angels exercise. It is true that we may be so far controlled by circumstances that we cannot do exactly as we please, which is, in part, the theory of the infidel, or what in England are [p.198]called the Owenites. They pretend to say that every man and woman that lives are wholly controlled by surrounding circumstances; that we have no choice or will of our own, or if we have, the circumstances surrounding us, continually prevent its exercise.
This is true in part. We are capable to some extent of framing the circumstances by which our children will be surrounded. To illustrate, one man says, “I will become a thief”—we have just such characters in our midst—he is raising a family of children who are brought up to steal all they can lay their hands on, and by and by they are found in the penitentiary. Such characters are governed by surrounding circumstances but they are of their own making. If we will deal honestly and justly with one another, we will so control circumstances that the rising generation will become honorable men of the earth—honorable before God and angels. Take a course opposite to this and their names will be cast out as evil, and not for righteousness sake, but for their bad deeds. It is for you and me to live according to the precepts of our holy religion.
There was one question hinted at very plainly this afternoon by Bro. George Q. Cannon, to which I will now refer, that is, whether this people are going to dictate to their leaders, or whether they are going to follow them and obey their counsel. I will tell the Latter-day Saints, one and all, male and female, from beginning to end, that while God keeps me here in this capacity and calling, you will follow me, or we shall separate no more to meet. I can say of a truth, if you will follow me as I follow Christ, we will go into the Celestial Kingdom. The people can do as they please; I do not ask them to follow anything they do not choose to follow. They generally prefer taking their own course, like some of our merchants here, who buy and sell and oppress the people all they can. They are blinded by the spirit of the world; they cannot see things as they are; they act as they please, and by and by, as I told them years ago, if they are not careful, they will get their reward and go to hell.
I had a talk during the past week with one of our merchants, who, I understood, had taken a contract to furnish flour to Camp Douglas at five dollars and twenty-four cents a hundred. While conversing with him, I learned that he had taken but a small contract and that he had the flour and wheat on hand necessary to fill it, and he was disposed to sell, being satisfied that others would have done so if he had not. I could not say much to him on the subject when I heard what he had to say. But what do such prices do for our farmers? They reduce their wages to twenty-five or fifty cents a day. Circumstances are woven around them that this is the inevitable result. To facilitate operations on their farms they have probably got reapers and mowers, thrashing machines, ploughs and other farming utensils on credit from some of these merchants, and being in debt they are obliged to let their wheat go at a dollar a bushel, when it [p.199]cost them two dollars a bushel, and if their labor were paid for in proportion to that of our mechanics and common laborers, it would be worth from three dollars to five dollars per bushel. If our merchants and producers would be agreed in these matters, the outsiders could not affect the price of wheat or flour one sixpence, and we might have a fair remunerative price for them.
I recollect when Mr. Livingstone was here and the army was at Camp Floyd that he reduced the price of flour and wheat. I told him that it was the most impolitic thing he could do; for if instead of reducing, he kept up the price of wheat to three or four dollars a bushel he would make a thousand dollars where he only made a hundred. I want to inform our merchants, whether in or out of the Church, that these gentlemen here on the hill—I am disposed to call them gentlemen, I am acquainted with some of them, it is not Pat[rick Edward Connor] and his crowd—would rather pay this community ten dollars a hundred for their flour than five. Why? Because they see that this is a laboring community and they ought to have pay for their labor. We ought to be reasonable with one another, and be as willing to give as to receive.
I think I will tell a story in relation to this matter. A few years ago when the people were very anxious to trade off their flour, a company passed through here, the captain of which was a pretty honorable man; he had been through before and was tolerably well-known. When the flour was offered to him for three or four dollars a hundred, said he, “Gentlemen you are a set of damned fools; we do not want this flour short often dollars a hundred. Why do you sell it so cheap; you do not get anything for your labor?” I do not say that our quartermasters who purchase here say this, but I guess it comes into their minds sometimes. Some of our friends think they are going to curry favors by selling so cheaply. What is it to them who let out the contracts; it is not they who pay for this flour; neither do those men who are sent to Washington pay for it, but it is paid for out of the millions that are gathered from the taxed hard laboring community of the United States. Do you not think these gentlemen here would as soon let us have a fair price for our flour as to see it gambled away? My solid opinion is that they would; whether it is so or not, it is no matter. I will let this rest.
I want to say to the farmers when you gather your wheat, put it in your bins, and if you owe a merchant, let him wait until the day of judgment unless he will pay you so that you can live. If you owe a man who has it in his power to control your labor and means, and would crush you, tell him to wait. If he were just and generous, he would be willing to let you live, as well as to live himself. It is almost straining my own feelings to say a man should not pay his honest debts, but is it honest for a man who has me in his power to crash out my life? No, it is damnable [p.200]and will send many an Elder to hell. Equal rights of live and let live is our doctrine.
With regard to this people, I will say, we do not advance as fast as we should. We have characters in our midst who are despicable in the eyes of justice, truth and mercy, but we cannot help it. Let me say to you, Latter-day Saints, that the man who refuses or rejects counsel pertaining to his temporal affairs will sooner or later go out of this Church and will go down to misery. Is this a hard saying? Yes, very hard. The feeling of a great many is that they should actually have the privilege of dictating their temporal affairs without being molested or meddled with. But stop! stop! Let me ask a question—I will say of the whole Christian world—when you get to heaven, do you not expect whether you are farmers, merchants, tradesmen, or whatever your calling may be to be subject in all things to the voice of Him who has the right to rule and dictate? Yes, everyone of you, and I want to say that if this order of things is not carried out on earth by the Latter-day Saints, God will choose another people who will carry out this principle to the very letter. Some will say, “I do not agree with Brother Brigham in temporal affairs.” Who cares whether you do or not? You can do just as you please, but you who despise counsel in anything whatever, will, unless you repent, soon lose the spirit of this gospel and will be filled with the spirit of apostacy; that is to say the spirit of Christ will no longer dictate, prompt, and comfort you, but will give place to the spirit of darkness, mourning and discontent, and by and by you will go and join the bogus Josephites, for the Latter-day Saints will be so wicked that you will want to get away from them. It is true we are wicked. Jesus came to save sinners and if we were not sinners, we should be as independent of Him as Amasa Lyman. But I need the blood of Christ and I also need the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ to lead, guide and direct the affairs of this Kingdom. Do you need the same? Yes. Let a woman rise up in rebellion against her husband that lives his religion, and I will promise her sorrow and woe. Do I desire this? No, ladies I do not, but I would that all would live so as to receive the spirit of peace and comfort and enjoy an increase of it as long as they live on the earth. Children who rise in rebellion against their parents will receive the spirit of discontent and uneasiness; it will grow upon them; they will be dissatisfied everywhere, and the spirit of apostacy will grow upon them and they will go down to destruction. Every man that refuses counsel, or sets himself up as a guide to this Church or people had better go where his company is, for he has got one somewhere; but we will not follow him one inch.
I have said a good deal about the faith we have embraced and about the course this people ought to pursue; if we had time to go into the [p.201]philosophy of this life and show what it is worth, it would be interesting. This life is one of the most precious lives ever given to any creature in heaven, earth, or hell; and this earth is one of the most beautiful planets if we were disposed to make it so. The wretchedness, misery and woe on the earth are through the wickedness of the children of men. The children of God have rebelled—they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the laws, and every man has turned his own way, and the spirit of the Lord is not with them without it is to convict them.
I recollect when I first joined the Church a certain Elder making this assertion—that all had gone out of the way; the question was asked him, “Do you suppose that John Wesley is damned and in hell?” “Yes,” said he, “he is weltering with the damned in hell.” It was one of the most unwise expressions that could be made, and the man who made it was as ignorant as Henry Ward Beecher who has said that “to be born was the greatest misfortune that could befall man.”
John Wesley is just as happy as he can be, or as he ever anticipated; but he is not with the Father and the Son, nor ever will be unless the ordinances are administered for him, and they will be by and by.
Do you recollect what Brother Macdonald said this morning about redeeming the dead? By and by when the world is subject to the law of Christ and we can build temples to the Lord, the responsibility of redeeming the dead will rest upon us. Then, if you and I do not, our children will enter the temples of the Lord and go through all the ordinances for every good man and woman that ever lived on the earth who have died without the privilege of hearing the gospel.
I have detained you long enough, and have talked long enough. May God bless you.