DISCOURSE BY PRESIDENT E. T. BENSON.
Delivered in Thorp Street Chapel, Birmingham, October 28, 1856.
Millennial Star, vol. 19, no. 10 (7 Mar. 1857), pp. 145–50
I need not say that I am thankful in being here once more, for if I had not wanted to come I should not be here tonight, and this I suppose if the case with you.
I have listened with great attention to the discourse of Elder Lunt, and I consider that he has preached a first-rate “Mormon” sermon. I also consider that whenever Elders rise to preach to the people, and are led by the Spirit of truth, and of their calling, it is good Gospel. Though we may have heard it many times, yet when we listen with attention we hear a number of things touched upon which we had forgotten. We cannot call them to mind until we hear them again. Then we recollect having heard them before. They stir up our minds to those things to which we ought to attend; and in this way we derive joy, comfort, and satisfaction in a re-hearing of the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; I know it is so with me. I am never tired of hearing the Elders discourse. If I did not think it was my duty to preach, I would rather sit and hear than speak. But as I am called to travel and visit the different Conferences, I feel that I must magnify my calling, and that I must talk a little as well as my brethren, and speak as I am led by the Holy Ghost.
While brother Lunt has been speaking to you this evening, my mind as been reflecting. I have listened and beard what he had to say, with a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction. Yet my eyes would behold your faces, and discern the brethren and sisters that love the Lord; and I found myself asking a question something like this, “How many are there in this room to-night, if it should fall to their lot in the providence of God to remain in this land for the next ten years, who would stay and keep the faith?” However, I hope and pray that this will not be the case with one Latter-day Saint that is now before me. If it were right for me to have my own way, I would wish that every Latter-day Saint in the European mission, who wants to go to Zion, was safely placed on the soil of the Great Salt Lake Valley, or in the region thereof. Yes, I wish that every one of you that feels that he could live this religion there, and that would be willing to cast his lot with the people of God, was safely lodged in the valleys of the mountains. Moreover, that they who do not want to go, if there by any such, may have the privilege of apostatizing here if they choose. Then the Elders who are here would not have any Latter-day Saints to preside over. We should then be left perfectly alone. We should have nothing to do but to go and break up new ground—nothing to do but to carry the words of life and salvation to the nations of the earth. We should then see if the Lord would provide for His servants, and open the way for the Gospel again to be established in this land, as He did at the commencement. Now we are situated differently, very differently, from the first Elders who came into the midst of this people. I can reflect upon the time when Presidents Young and Kimball, and a number of other Elders, came over to this land, when there was not a Latter-day Saint here. The sound of the Gospel had not penetrated the ears of any man or woman this side of the Atlantic Ocean. They came without purse or scrip. They did not know that they should have the first meal of victuals given them, the first, coat put on their backs, nor anything of the kind, only as they had faith in God. That was the situation of the Elders who first came to this land. How did they come? Not as many of the Elders do now. I will tell you how they came if you do not know. But I am aware that most of you do know that they came to this land weeping before God, bearing precious seed to the people. What has been the result: Has not the promise been fulfilled? They returned carrying their sheaves to Zion by hundreds and by thousands.
But when the Elders came now, and I have the honor to be one of those who are preaching the Gospel through this land, they come to a people whose arms and purses are open to receive them, who are ready to give them money to enable them to travel from place to place, who are ready to feed the, and put as good coats on their backs as any gentleman wears in these cities, Prince Albert hardly excepted. That is the situation of the Elders now. Then what should be our conduct and motto? Why to go forth day by day and preach life and salvation, and do all we can to build up the Saints and bring souls to Christ. That is what we should do, and if we do it we shall prosper..
We heard from brother Lunt, that there never was a man or woman in this Church, from its organization, twenty-six years ago, that followed counsel, who has apostatized; but that such have been saved from day to day. Our experience bears testimony to this. It is one of God’s eternal truths. An observation more true and never spoken. We can prophesy that no such man or woman ever will turn away from the faith; they never will apostatize; their salvation is sure if they follow counsel.
I feel for one, that I am greatly blessed in my labors among this people. This is also the feelings of the majority of my brethren that are traveling in the ministry in this land. If ever men ought to be energetic in preaching to the Saints we ought to be. Yes, we should be whole-hearted about it, and go at it, as though we meant to do something. Our voices ought to be heard in the congregations of the Saints, and in the midst of this generation until out missions are fulfilled in this land. That Elder who will follow this counsel will prosper. We have nothing else to do but to do good and build up the kingdom of God.
I want to say a few words more about this mission. How thankful we ought to be, brethren and sisters, that God has men at the head of His Church, who have laid down their all for the cause. We know that they have been proven, and that they have not been turned to the right hand or to the left. No matter what situation they have been in; if it was poverty, they cared nothing at all about it; if they had a dollar in their pockets, it was all right; if they had not, it made no difference. It was life, life and salvation to the people first. They trusted in their God for everything else. That is the way the kingdom has been built up. When I think of these things, I wish that I was endowed with the voice of thunder, and that it was penetrating as the trumpet of an Archangel, so that I might make the ears of this generation ache until they ceased their lying about the Saints, repented of their sins, and obeyed the Gospel.
It is my prayer to God day and night, that he will pour out His Spirit upon this people, and bless His servants, that they may be as angels in their midst and that the power of God and the revelations of Jesus Christ may attend them. If you have not the power of God and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, what is the reason? The channel of communication between heaven and earth—between God’s people here and His Church there, is open, and has been for the last twenty-six years. If you do not have revelation, and life, and salvation, it is your own fault.
Here is my beloved sister, that sits on my left, who cannot see, but she knows that I tell you the truth, and that I speak by revelation. Brother Lunt has blessed the brethren, I will bless the sisters, and I say God Almighty bless this one. Although she has not eyes to see, she has a thought she has not eyes to see, she has a mind, and can comprehend the things of God. She can perceive from the ends of her fingers, and feel her way by the revelations of Jesus Christ. She will land safe in the celestial kingdom of God. I will prophesy in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that in the morning of the resurrection she will have eyes as beautiful as those of an angel, because of her faithfulness. Her testimony is heard in the houses and in the streets, she does a great deal more good than many dilatory Elders. Brother Lunt, says, the testimony of this sister convinced him of the truth of this work. Well, what is the promise? It is if a man or woman convert one soul they shall not lose their reward.
All the trouble I find is, that my lungs got out of order sometimes. They are not made of steel. I wish they were stronger, I want to get them strengthened, and myself revived. I would like to come to Birmingham and stay about a week, and go into the Odd Fellows’ Hall and have a revival here. Not but what you have had revival; but let us have another, and another, and another, until all the honest in heart in this town are converted and baptized, that we may gather out of this land, for I know the Gospel is true. What follows after the warning voice of the servants of God? His judgments—famine, pestilence, war, strife, murders, and every evil, are then soon distributed by the powers of darkness in the midst of the nations of the earth. Now is the time, ye Latter-day Saints, to prove yourselves worthy, while God is blessing this nation.
I have been traveling through some portion of Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. God is blessing the nations of the earth. He is giving seed time and harvest, peace, health, prosperity, and the offer of salvation. The Gospel is spreading! It is branching out like the fingers from your hand, through all the most important towns and cities in Denmark, and many people believe the testimony of the servants of God. How do the Saints feel here? Just as well as you feel; they do indeed. A better feeling I never witnessed in our community than I witnessed among the Saints in those lands, according to the knowledge, light, and experience that they have had. They love God and work righteousness. They live up to the light and counsel that have been committed to them. If they have not so much faith as your flock, Pastor Muir, it is because they have not as great an amount of experience, nor the opportunity of acquiring it. You are greatly blessed here in Birmingham. You have had the Elders from Zion with you all the day long. The teachings of the Spirit have been poured out upon you, to an extent that they have not enjoyed. You are a privileged people.
We preached tithing through those Conferences, and ordained many Elders while we were there. We made more ministers of the Gospel while on this mission, than all the colleges in England made during the same time, which was about six weeks. I took my college with me. In other words, I earned with the authority of God and the holy Priesthood, and therefore I was myself a minister-making department.
We ordained twelve out of one small Conference, containing, probably, about as many as there are here this evening. They were fine looking young men, full of the spirit of Zion. When they arose to talk, they would daily tremble from the crown of their heads to the soles of their feet. Do you not think I felt well amongst them? Yes I did. You would have felt well too if you had been there; you could not have helped it. I never had more joy and satisfaction in my life, on a short mission, than on that one, because the people do not know neither do they want to know anything but “Mormonism.” They are full of it, and if the devil does come along, he has no chance to get power over them. If you keep your bodies full of light, how much darkness can enter? Keep yourselves filled with the power of God; keep the Holy Ghost within you and can the powers of darkness lead you tin difficulty? No, they cannot. Then keep yourselves pure, foster the good Spirit, bid it welcome into your tabernacles and habitations, and you shall be blessed more than you have ever been. Do not wander after the things of the world like fools. Do all things in the name of the Lord. Eat and drink in His name; rise up and walk in His name; go to work in His name, and do it because it forms part of the duties of life, and the duties of life belong to our religion. Never be found wandering or digressing from the principles of the Gospel of which you have been made partakers.
Well, is “Mormonism” alive? Yes, and going ahead; and this will be the case more and more if we will all do our duty, put our shoulders to the wheel and lift together. Just try this experiment for the next ten years, and see if God does not deliver you, although this very evening, there may not be the first earthly prospect of your being gathered to the valleys of the mountain.
If you do your duty, and you are called to lay down your bodies in this land, is there not sufficient power to save and exalt you in the kingdom of God? Yes, there is. The plan of salvation is glorious and complete. God has made it suitable to the conditions and circumstances of the whole human family.
The Lord feeds and clothes us; He gives us water to drink, and makes our bread sure. Do we acknowledge His hand in these things? Yes, all true, Latter-day Saints do. Does the world? No, it does not. But Latter-day Saints, if they have wisdom, light, and ability to do good, acknowledge it as coming from the bountiful hand of the Lord, and they use all their gifts for the building up on His kingdom, and the spreading of the Gospel of Christ.
That is what I find in these missions that I have named. I find that God has raised up a holy man in Scandinavia—an educated man, who can read the languages of Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and England. He is almost like the Apostle Paul, a good deal like him, a talented man, and an humble man. I refer to brother Winderborg. What does he do? He lays down his German, Danish and Swedish and takes up the English, and talks to the people in that language when it is necessary. When it is not, he lays down his English, and takes up the Danish, and so with the Danish and takes up the Swedish. He does this in the name of the Lord, and interprets what the Elders say to the people who speak in these languages. He is doing good, and God is blessing him. Education and book-learning did not crowd his brains, and drive out every bit of common sense which the Lord had given him. He lays it all down or takes it up as wisdom directs for the interest of the kingdom, and the spread of truth. He acknowledges the hand of God in being brought up so well and receiving so good an education, for it enables him to do good in the Church. If he remains faithful and retains his spirit of humility, the Lord will continue to bless him.
Now, if this generation would repent of their sins and use everything they have—their steam-ships, railways and all, for the building up of the kingdom of God, he would less them more than He does now. He does bless them now, but this will not always be the case if they reject the message of salvation. Men will say that this Gospel is not true; that it is no more than sectarianism. But if they do not render obedience to it, the little light which has been put into their hearts naturally will be turned into darkness, and how great will be that darkness!
Well, then, brethren, let us try to keep the faith and endure to the end; let us prove ourselves before the Lord, previous to expecting any great things at His hands, out of the common course of blessings which He bestows upon the children of men. It is true we have the Gospel, we have a little light above the world, but have we faith enough to soften the hearts of the rich, so that they will be willing to donate money, jewelry, and everything necessary to the gathering of the Saints? No, not yet; I wish we had. Can we have that faith? We are commanded to contend for the faith once delivered to the Saints. That very faith of which I am now speaking was once delivered to them. It was delivered to Moses and the Israelites. They softened the hearts of kings and rulers, so that they obtained the necessary blessings that they desired, and walked out from the midst of their enemies. The time has not yet come with the Saints in this land for that, I expect, but let us increase, and add a little to the faith we have already. We have sufficient to come out from the world and acknowledge God and His servants. Let’ us continue to acknowledge them, and work and pray until we have the faith that was once delivered to the Saints. If we live at the coming of the Son of God we shall all need it. Every Latter-day Saint who expects to live to see the day when the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will come in the clouds of heaven, taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel—when he will sweep the wicked from the earth with the breath of his lips and the brightness of his coming, will find that they must possess it.
May God Almighty bless you, brethren and sisters, and keep you pure and holy before Him. Uphold those who are over you in the Lord, and do as you are told, and you shall be saved. My salvation for your if it is not so. That is a considerable pledge. It is all I can offer. It is the greatest promise that I can make to man, and I do it because I know “Mormonism” is true.
God blesses me according to my walk, faith and zeal in keeping His commandments. He is able to take care of us here. I had a good home, and wives and children whom I love, but I and my brethren have left them and all that we have, to preach the Gospel of Jesus. I would like to see them, although I will tell you, beloved Saints, I have not shed the first tear for them since I left my home. I never do cry except for joy. I admit I am foolish enough to do that sometimes.
I thank God that I am here, and have the privilege of associating with good Saints. That is how I feel, and when I weep it is for job. Let that be your feelings. When you are sad turn the devil away, for I tell you he has no business with Latter-day Saints. Neither is it your business to hold communion with him. Your duty is to serve your God.
I will tell you that every man in this Church has to be thrown on his own resources more or less. He has to be brought to feel as though he stood alone in the community, and had no friend around him save God to give him aid or succor. If we had to carry men on our shoulders to heaven, how many should we get there? It would be a very slow process to get people to heaven in that way, would it not? While I am speaking on this principle, an anecdote comes to mind.
I was once traveling in Pottawattamie with President Young; we were going out to visit some settlements, and stayed all night with a family who were very friendly to the President and the authorities of the Church, but their faith was not very well grounded. They went a good deal by sight. There is a certain kind of hound that hunt by sight. As soon as the game gets out of sight of the latter they can go no further, and would as soon take the back track as the forward one. As I was saying, we stayed all night. In the morning I walked out with President Young, and asked him how he thought the folks felt there. Brother Brigham answered, they make me think of the old Quaker. He got up before his congregation and said, “Brethren and sisters, you all expect to go to heaven, don’t you?” “Oh yes, yes,” was the answer. “Well,” said he, “how do you expect to get there? I will tell you how some of you expect to get there. You think that because I wear a big box coat with large pockets, you are going to heaven in them, but I will tell you, you will all be mistaken, for I will wear a spencer.” That was prophecy to me, and I treasured it up. In about twelve months after that, the whole family, root and branch, went off to California. If they had been rooted in “Mormonism” they would have brought forth the fruits of righteousness. If men have not the truth rooted in their hearts, the very first gale of wind blows it out of them. They are like a ship at sea, without ballast or rudder, carried to and fro, and tossed about by every wind of doctrine. We must be rooted and grounded in the work of the Lord, firm as the rock which stands in the mighty ocean, that has withstood the dashing of the furious waves from century to century. A true “Mormon” will stand as if he were alone, nor waver though there was not another this side of heaven. When men hiss, persecute, and cry poor deluded “Mormon”, he will answer, “I am a latter-day Saint; I am bound for heaven.” That is the way to feel. The devil cannot obtain power over such to lead them astray. He will turn from them and seek those who are not so grounded in the faith. We will say to himself, I will make this weak sister feel bad, and try to get her to apostatize; I will make he say yes, if possible.
I will tell you one more anecdote, then I will sit down. A year ago last Christmas, there was quite an excitement got up between the brethren in the Valley and the United States’ troops, which I suppose, you recollect hearing. But this suppose, you recollect hearing. But this was not all. There were some sisters who thought themselves pious, very pious, who came to the Valley with their faces very long, but who were led away by false and seducing spirits. About the time that they were going away, Elder Hyde brought out for illustration a fable like this: “There was on the east mountain a turtle, and it wanted to get over to the one on the west. How to get there it did not know, for there was a good long journey of twenty-five or thirty miles, over creeks and sage brush, with a wet bottom. The turtle wanted to devise some means to get over, for it thought it could live easier on the west mountain than on the one at the east. So it came out into daylight, and got its head out of its shell and began to peep around. After awhile, there came along two ducks, and seeing the turtle, they settled down beside it and began to converse with it. As they were fleet on the wing, the turtle asked them if they could not devise some means to take it to the west mountain. The ducks consulted, and at last came to the conclusion that they would carry it over. So they said to it, “Get a stick and put it across our backs, and then take hold of it with your mouth, and do not let go and we will take you over in safety.” They started and got about half way through the journey, when a raven came along, and began using such expressions as these: “What a beautiful bird! what a beautiful creature! what fine feathers! what a beautiful body! the handsomest bird I ever saw; Yes, the finest in all the crowd.” The turtle said yes, and down it went into the mud. There it is at present, and it has not yet got over to the west mountain.”
Well, do you know what the figure means? The turtle was our sisters; Some of them went to California. The soldiers were the raven with its fine expressions. “How do you do Madam? What a fine intelligent countenance! what beautiful eyes! what beautiful hair! how nice! you are too intelligent to live here among this people! would you not like to go to California! If you have not made up your mind fully, shall I give you a call? When passing by here I have often been struck with you. You have such a fine face and stately beautiful form. Would you not meet me some where? It would look strange for me to come to your house. No matter where it is so long as I can persuade you to say yes!” Now you sisters in Birmingham, you will get to the Valley if you do not say yes, when temptation offers itself.
May the Lord bless you, and by His Holy Spirit enable you to remain faithful. Amen.