Discourse by Elder E. T. Benson
Delivered July 13, 1855, at a Conference held at Provo City, Utah Territory.
Deseret News, 5:258; or Journal of Discourses, 3:61–65
I feel thankful for the privilege and blessing that I now enjoy with my brethren, and for the privilege of bearing my testimony to the peaceable things of the kingdom of God. I have been indeed edified to-day by the remarks that have been made, and for one I mean to try to practise the teachings, and carry them out to the letter, according to the ability that I have.
Although some people may think that those items are small, and not what they expected to have on this occasion, still they are just such doctrines as I expected to hear; and I shall continue to expect to hear them until we become more perfect in the Gospel than we are at present, for we must learn to practise what has been committed unto us as a people and as individuals, before we shall be taught any greater things. You may search into your own hearts, among your families, and in the midst of your own neighborhood, and you will find that those things which have been touched upon, are what grieve the Holy Spirit, and cause more or less dissension in our midst.
When Jesus commissioned the Apostles, telling them to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, and baptize every one that believed, he promised that they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which would lead them into all truth, and show them things past, present, and to come. We all know that the Spirit is a sure guide for all the Latter-day Saints; hence, we also know that the dictation of that Spirit will not lead to confusion, neither will it bring darkness, hatred, malice, and envy, and it will not lead a man into error, but it will lead and direct him into all truth. That Spirit which we received by being obedient to the Gospel covenant will be our constant guide and companion in sickness and in health; and what is the feeling of that individual who enjoys the sweet and benign influences of the Holy Ghost? He acknowledges the hand of God in all things, whether in life or in death, in prosperity or in adversity; it matters not what his situation may be, all is right with him. He merely wishes to know what there is for him to do, and he is all alive in “Mormonism.”
Such an individual is willing to be taught the simple things of the kingdom, and he will not ridicule “Mormonism” in any respect, neither will he suffer it to be done under his roof, nor upon his possessions, and he is willing to lay down his life for it, and Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I was actually astonished when I used to hear some of the brethren, at the time the Prophet Joseph was martyred, say they were afraid he was in transgression, and had incurred the displeasure of the Almighty, for no Latter-day Saint ever believed it for a moment. Why? Because there were the words of Jesus, that he had the greatest love who could lay down his life for his friends; and Jesus himself had this love, for he laid down his life for his friends; and by his death and resurrection opened up the way to eternal lives.
It is the little things that we need to observe now, and as brother Brigham says, the observance of the small things is what brings us the great blessings of the Almighty. Look, and think of the position of the people here, and in various other places throughout the Territory of Utah; do they all strictly honor the principles which brother Grant has been speaking upon? Most of them say they do, but I wish to see the works.
A man who has labored from the commencement of the work has embraced certain principles because God has commanded him, not because he wanted such principles to be established, not that his appetite was of such a nature that he desired something of the kind, but because the great Jehovah had so commanded through His Prophets; and hence these things cannot be ridiculed by the Saints; the counsel of the servants of God cannot be treated with contempt, and set at naught, without condemnation following. Still you will find some who ridicule and treat as naught the holy principles of our religion, and say, “I am sound in faith; I am filled with religion, but I cannot put up with that awful doctrine, polygamy.”
It is not best to make a great profession in these days, but let our actions and works correspond with our profession, and that will show that we have embraced the truth for the love of it, and not for gain. Let persecution come, let drought, famine, and distress come, for the Lord has designed them; and when these things come, we can eat thistle roots and drink buttermilk, and honor God, and have His Holy Spirit with us. We can do this because we have embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the faith of Abraham. Abraham did not stand and argue with the Lord, in order to find out whether Sarah was to bear him another Isaac in the place of the one he was commanded to offer up, but he believed that God would order all things right, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness.
Shall we not have confidence in God’s Prophets, and in those whom He has placed to teach us? Those who are not satisfied with them are constantly grumbling and growling about their circumstances and the prosperity of the Church, but when we have the Holy Spirit, all is right, and we feel satisfied; the visions of the Almighty and of the heavens are before us night and day, and we have confidence in the holy Gospel, in the work of the Lord, in the Priesthood, and in those who hold that authority upon this earth.
When people have the keys of the Priesthood and the light of heaven, they ought to use the blessing of God as not abusing them.
I wish to bear my testimony to the truth of what you have been taught this day, for it is faithful, and has been dictated by the Holy Ghost. When I enjoy the spirit of this Gospel and the power of the Priesthood, do you wish to know how I feel? I feel that I could preach my way through all manner of opposition. Do I rejoice? Yes, all the time; when I lie down and when I rise up. Latter-day Saints never should be troubled by any small matters, but when troubles do arise, say, “The Lord’s will be done in all things; I am short-sighted; I cannot see afar off, and unless my mind is lighted up by the Holy Spirit, I cannot do much good.”
Do we enjoy ourselves without that Spirit? I will ask my brethren and sisters now present, do we enjoy as much as it is our privilege to enjoy? Can we enjoy the Holy Spirit when we are finding fault with our neighbors? No, we cannot. God has set in His Church, firstly, Apostles; secondarily, Prophets; then pastors, teachers, helps, governments, and spiritual gifts; for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, and to prevent the members thereof from being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine; and they are to continue until we all come to a unity of the faith. I think you are pretty well satisfied in Provo with those who are placed over you, for you know that they are appointed by the authority of heaven, and it is the right of those who appointed them to dictate you and all others; it is therefore your duty to give heed to those placed over you in authority, and if you do, you will enjoy the Spirit of God to a great extent, even to your hearts’ satisfaction.
We are called upon to uphold, by our faith, works, and our prayers, those who are over us; we have raised our hands to sustain and uphold them, and will we turn round and find fault with that which we have sanctioned? Can you enjoy the Spirit of God if you do this? No. In order to enjoy that spirit you must reverence all the members of the Priesthood, no matter who may be in possession of it. Do you ever hear brother Brigham, brother Heber, brother Jedediah, or the Twelve Apostles, censuring the Bishops, or any other person, without a cause? No, never. They give them all the influence and power that they can, in order that they may be bold before the people, and have influence to carry out the things that are given to them to accomplish. Where there is a lack of confidence and proper reverence, people are afraid of the Prophet of God.
Does brother Brigham ever tyrannize! No, he blesses the Saints all the day long, and bears with the sins of the people, as much so as any other Prophet of God ever did, and asks God all the day long, to forgive them; and he continues to do this so long as there is a spark of integrity left in the individuals over whom he is watching.
We do not expect to be purified and become perfect at once, so much so that the old cloven foot can have no influence among us, but I expect that the vision of the Prophet Daniel will be fulfilled, and we are the persons to carry it out. I feel to continue to work righteousness, and the time is soon coming when all will have to walk to the line.
Jesus says, “Except ye are of one heart and of one mind, ye are not mine;” and we have to shape our minds until they become alike. there are not many ways of getting to heaven, for God is one, and His way of saving mankind is one.
“But,” says the old sectarian priest, “going to heaven is like going to mill; if your wheat is good the miller will never inquire which way you came.” Let others say as they please, we know that we have got to walk in that straight and narrow path which has been pointed out to us, and that the course which saved men in former days will save the people in these days, and that the same principles that will save us will save others. If we would carry out practically all that we have received, and not trouble ourselves about any more until that was done, it would exalt us to a higher state than we now enjoy. I have something good to do; I am all right. Here are our blessings now; we taste the blessings of this congregation to-day, and our place and our blessings are at present in this bowery, and not away off somewhere else. If our feelings are centred here, then are we blessed indeed; but if our minds are wandering, they cannot be full of joy, for they must be concentrated on the things of God and His kingdom so long as this meeting continues; then we shall feel refreshed, and I presume we all need to be.
[After making a few remarks about the traditions, habits, and practices of the Indians, Elder Benson continued as follows—]
It is our duty, brethren and sisters, to go to work and bring these natives to an understanding of the principles of civilization, to teach them to till the earth, and earn their bread by the sweat of their brows; and if they are needy and ask us, we should feed them, and at all times be an example to them. We have not been as faithful as we ought to have been in many of these things.
I have a little Indian boy and girl, and certainly it is repugnant to my feelings to have to put up with their dirty practices, but I have passed a great many of these things by; and this I have done because I knew what our duties were. In a short season we shall be rewarded for all that we do to civilize this lost and fallen race. The little boy will soon be quite bright, his mind is becoming clear and perceptive, and if he sees a horse, a man, or any other object, he will always remember them. True, he yet has some of his Indian traits, and I presume it will be some time before they are all erased from his memory.
And even some Saints are guilty of many filthy habits, for some, when they are sick and ought to observe cleanliness in the fullest degree, will send for the Elders to lay hands upon them, and say, “I was taken sick a week ago last Sunday, and have been so bad that I have not washed since, and I have not had a clean shirt on, or clean sheets upon the bed.”
God has condescended to speak to His Saints, and has instructed them to wash their bodies with pure water, and to observe cleanliness of body as well as of spirit; this is necessary, and belongs to our religion. We should also have wisdom, and exercise it in both eating and drinking, ever keeping a guard over ourselves in all the practices of life, and listen to the still small whisperings of the Holy Spirit which never leads a man into error.
I know that the Lord directed brother Joseph by His Spirit, and he never went wrong. What guides brother Brigham? The same Holy Spirit of promise, and blessed is that man who understands the things of the Spirit, for it will direct him aright and lead him in the way of life, and open up his mind to behold the things of eternity; and the very moment that a man sees with this Spirit, he understands the mind of God.
Many have been led astray, and have believed that they could get to heaven without being united with the body of the Church; but if we are ever saved, we must be concentrated in our feelings, and our power, objects, and faith must be one in the kingdom of God. When we are one, we feel to rejoice in the things of God, and all goes well.
May the Holy Spirit guide you from this time, henceforth. Amen.