A DISCOURSE, BY
PRESIDENT E. T. BENSON,
Delivered at the Saints’ Hall, Orange Street, Swansea, Wales, November 11, 1856.
Millennial Star, vol. 19, no. 5 (31 Jan. 1857), pp. 65–70
With your kind attention, brethren and sisters, I will make a few remarks, which I hope will prove Words of Wisdom to the Saints and to all others who will receive them.
We have assembled here for the purpose of worshipping God. I have come to speak in the name of the Lord, and not in my own, nor in my own strength and wisdom, of principles that I know from experience to be true and necessary, which the Lord desires to reveal unto this people.
We say to this generation that the work in which we are engaged is the work of the Lord, in the last days. It is the Gospel which the angel, whom John saw, was to preach “to them that dwell upon the earth,” crying, “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
We know that God has created and brought forth every thing that exists; all that we eat, drink, or in any way enjoy therefore, worship Him and receive His Prophets when He sends them? We should, but how few do. The Prophet truly said, “Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people.” . . . .Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell there-in are desolate; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” Jesus frequently referred the Jews to the Scriptures, saying, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.”
The great mass of them rejected him and his servants, and ill-treated them, as many of this generation now do those who are sent to do them good, and save them in the kingdom of God. I have come on a mission to preach the Gospel unto the children of men, and to endeavor to speak such things as are given me by the Holy Spirit according to the mind and will of God. What is His spirit? Who has it? Jesus said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heave.” Will they destroy or injure any thing or any body? Will men do this when led and dictated by the Spirit of God? No, they will not, but will be humble, innocent, and child-like. They will turn away from all evil, and be willing to lay down their lives and their all for the sake of the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ plain and simple, and has not the Lord spoken from the heavens to the people in these last days? Cannot every man and possessing sufficient intelligence to accumulate the necessaries of life understand when God speaks? Yes; but the majority will not comprehend the Gospel. How is this? Paul said, “If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Why has the god of this world blinded them? The reason is, they have sought first the things of this world, and have worshipped Mammon, instead of seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Some one will say, “Do you not want the things of this world?” Yes, we do; but we should seek first the Gospel and kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then we may expect to have all other things that are necessary added unto us in due time, if we faint not. You Latter-day Saints profess to have received the Gospel, to be born of water and of the Spirit, and to be subjects in the kingdom of God. I will ask, do you live according to the Spirit of God, and so that you do not infringe upon the rights of others, nor grieve any of your brethren or sisters? If you will do as I tell you, it will not be long before all things shall be added unto you or until all of your necessary wants will be supplied.
I have not come to preach any strange Gospel nor great mysteries to you, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is not new, for it was preached of old to Abraham, to the children of Israel, in the days of Moses to the Jews, and to all the world by Jesus and his Apostles. Its principles are the same now that they were then, and the same blessings attend those who are obedient to its principles and attended the obedient in those days.
For what would I exchange my religion? Could you find gold enough in England, or in all the world, to purchase it from me? No you could not. The knowledge that I have obtained through experience of the goodness, mercy, and power of God, and of the principles of the Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ, brought to light through His Prophet Joseph, are to me above price. I love the Gospel, I love and desire salvation, and it is my privilege to love everything that is good which God has made and given me to enjoy, in its place, time, and season, but my duties to God should be uppermost in my heart and every thing else of a secondary consideration.
I am satisfied with the doctrines of Jesus Christ and his Apostles, they are the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I rejoice, because by the blessings of my heavenly Father my destiny is linked with theirs. The keys of the kingdom of heaven are restored to men who are worthy to bear them. It is my good pleasure to be obedient to their words, because I know that they are the words of God unto me, as were the words of Moses or Peter unto the children of Israel in their days. If they call us to forsake the comforts of home, and wander through the earth, to bear glad tidings of the Gospel to its inhabitants, it is our delight to obey. Jesus said, he that will not forsake father or mother, brother or sister, wives, children, houses or land for my sake and the kingdom’s is not worthy of me. As it was then so it is now.
It affords me more joy and pleasure to preach to you the Gospel, than it would to feast upon all the luxuries that this land could afford. The honour that this world can bestow upon its votaries is but a bubble on the wave, when compared to the honour that the Lord confers upon a man, by calling him to preach His Gospel. After delivering the word of God by the power of the Spirit unto the people, His servants can rest; having a conscience as pure as snow, and continually enjoying the visions of the Almighty, they feel happy and secure. A consciousness of our acceptance with God, and the consolations that flow into our bosoms, through the agency of the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, far surpass in value the perishable things of this world. We know that if we should be called to pass behind the veil, we have a work to do in the Spirit world. If all of this generation lived in this way, what a happy people they would be, compared to what they now are. If my words harmonize with the word of God, with reason, and your understanding, and the Spirit of truth testifies to you that they are true, receive them, and let those of the world who will not, go their own way. If we do not own our Saviour here, he will not own us before his Father. What are relations, wives, children, brothers and Jesus Christ. When I embraced it, my friends forsook me; I left them and did not see them for ten years.
The way to obtain peace and revelations, as Daniel did, is to be humble and prayerful as he was, until he could interpret dreams and speak words of wisdom. His wisdom surpassed that of the king or the wise men of Babylon. He obtained it from the God of heaven, by keeping His commandments, by faith and prayer. I expect that he observed the Word of Wisdom, threw away his pipe and tobacco, dispensed with his snuff box, and broke his whiskey bottle, that is, if he ever had them. Have you done so?
Do you suppose that the people in these lands are going to life for the next ten years in the manner that they now do? I think not. The Spirit which I have, prompts me to warn the Latter-day Saints, and to cry with a loud voice, without ceasing, to them to live their religion, to serve their God wholly, with an undivided heart, and that those who will
not keep these words of wisdom will inevitable apostatize. What is wisdom? To understand and act righteously. And if we do not do this, we much go backward and not forward; we may apostatize and be found among those that oppose the work of God. Will such men succeed in overthrowing the kingdom? I say they will not. We know that God has called and ordained a Prophet, and committed unto him the keys and powers of His kingdom, and that He has ordained others unto the same power and authority, and that that power has reached unto us. It is the power of the Almighty.
Whatsoever His servants seal on earth is sealed in heaven, or whatsoever they loose on earth is loosed in heaven. God and the hosts of heaven are with us. It is His work that we are engaged in, and not ours. Of what does it avail, them, for man to raise his puny arm in opposition to the Almighty? I tell you that those who do will find themselves digging at a hill where there are but few potatoes, or where there are none at all. They shall wither away until they sink in the earth, rot, and lose their influence even with their own friends. They may lie, print lecture, and fight as they please, and go to hell, for God is with His people, and always will be as long as they do right, and nothing shall prevail against them. I know it, for I would not be a “Mormon” if I did not know “Mormonism” to be true.
In my rewards to-night, I have touched upon a variety of subjects more particularly adapted to the Saints, but still what I have said is true and good for others, if they will receive and obey the truth. We do not make any requirements of you different from those made by the ancient Apostles; but desire you repent of your sins, to be baptized for their remission, and come into the kingdom of God with sincere and honest hearts to serve Him. We honour and fulfil all the ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We require all, both men and women, to believe their Bible which they have had in their houses for years, assuring them that if they do, they will be “Mormons,” they must deny their Bible. We say if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God repent of your sins, and be baptized for the remission of the, that you may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will open your understanding, so that you can see and comprehend for yourselves and know , most assuredly, that “Mormonism” is true.
You say that we Latter-day Saints, are very zealous; we admit that we are. An old maxim says, “Be sure that you are right, and then go a-head.” But the grand difficulty is, after people know that they are right, for them to do right. Brethren and sisters, how are we to keep in the straight and narrow way that leadeth unto life? I will give you a key. You are aware that there are two opposing powers which are always striving with you, prompting certain thoughts and actions. If a feeling of pure love and affection exists in you towards any body, it is the effects of the Spirit of God. So is every thing that prompts you to benefit your fellow-beings, or to perform any good, and noble action.
When you feel so, and know what is good, why not go a-head with all of your might? Do so and I am certain that the good Spirit will prompt you just as fast as you can perform, and there will be no room for a particle of the opposite spirit to swell in you. If we lived in this way we could not do wrong, neither would we have any inclination to do so. All of our thoughts and inclinations would be controlled by the Spirit of God. We could not sin any more than God or the angels, and we would be just as perfect in our sphere as they are in theirs. Jesus said to his disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” He did not require the same from them as he did from angels, but according to their knowledge, experience, abilities, and the circumstances by which they were surrounded, to be perfect in their sphere; so I say to the Saints be perfect. You may ask, how can I be perfect? By living your religion for it is perfect. I never have had any doubts about the truthfulness of the Gospel that I have embraced. It enables me to increase and improve from day to day, just as fast as I desire and strive to increase. “Mormonism: is a progressive work, and if you Latter-day Saints do not progress with it, you will be left behind. Do you intend for the next ten years to remain in the same state or condition that you have been in during the past ten? I do not think you will. If you will not increase you must decrease, and you will have to abide the consequences. Live up to what light you have, and you will have a conscience void of offence towards God and man. Can we not do this? Then why should we not? Do we lack confidence in God? Jesus said, where two or three were agreed, and would ask anything in his name of the Father, that He would grant it. He will not withhold any good thing from the faithful. We want to have this faith, by which our works will be made perfect. Can we have it? Yes; if we will only discharge the duties of each day as they are presented before us. I do not ask God to tell me what I shall have to do next week, or next year, but what is required at my hands now? Before I came here to-night, I prayed not for tomorrow, but said, “O Lord give me wisdom and strength this night, to reveal thy mind and will to the congregation to whom I shall speak. “If I do well to-day, I shall be able to do better tomorrow, and thus continue to increase. We cannot recall what has past. We cannot do the work of yesterday to-day, therefore reform; we have no need to still follow in the same old track. People know more now than they did in old times, when they sent the boy to mill with wheat in one end of the bag and a rock in the other to balance it. They have since learned to divide the wheat, and put a portion in each end of the sack. If we do our duty we will progress, if we do not we will go backward.
We lack confidence in the Lord. He has said that it is His business to provide for His Saints. I have frequently asked some of the Saints, when are you going to Utah? Some have answered, “I do not know? Do you expect to remain for the next five or ten years as you now are? “Well, there are no other prospects before me.” Yet they are aware that the Lord has said, that it is His business to provide for His Saints. It would be very strange if He did not think of them as He did of Israel in the days of Moses. Moses led them out of Egyptian bondage when they were poor and penniless, without any visible means of subsistence. They believed his words, and had faith in God, which caused the hearts of their Egyptian neighbors to be softened, so that they helped them; by their faith they were enabled to cross the Red Sea. Do we not worship the same God? have we not obeyed the same Gospel? Cannot, we possess the same strong faith? And will it not produce the same effects now that it did then? Certainly it will, if we will live our religion.
We profess to be of the first and best class of people that can be found upon the face of the earth. Show me a people in any place who live according to the principles of truth and holiness, and you will show me “Mormons.” While you act according to “Mormon” principles, you are “Mormons,” and will receive their reward; but if you stoop to the low and degrading practices of the Gentiles, you will go down with and even below them, for the reason that unto whom much is given, of him much will be required. We should live our religion so that the world might see our righteousness and benevolence. We have need to live humble, prayerful, watchful, and diligent. Do you who are heads of families call them together morning and evening, to give thanks and pray, or do you sleep too late? Do you keep order in your houses, and cause every one to bend the knee before their God? Have you thrown away your tobacco and pipe. I have or I would not talk about them? Have you dispensed with your snuff box, whiskey bottle, and everything that is offensive to the Spirit of God or to your brethren?
It but little becomes the Elders to go about preaching with pipes in their mouths. Will those who snuff, smoke, and drink strong drink excessively, as some do, ever go to Zion. I think that they will not be apt to go so soon as they would if they were to keep the Word of Wisdom, nor will they be able to do as much good after they get there. I will say to young men and women who are strong and healthy, and wish to continue so, keep the Word of Wisdom, leave off the use of everything that is not good for man, before you become confirmed in the habit of using it, and you shall be blessed. The young cannot have any excuse that will justify them in not observing the Word of Wisdom. Some say, I have a week constitution, my appetite is poor, and I have to strong an inclination for such things that I cannot do without them. Again, there are others who make resolutions to keep the Word of Wisdom who remind me of an anecdote I heard of a drunkard in Massachusetts. He wanted to join the temperance society, and become a tee-to-taller. The officers, not having sufficient faith in the new applicant, refused to initiate him until he had proven the sincerity of his intentions to reform, by passing a grog ship without calling in. The drunkard mustered resolution, stiffly walked by the grog ship, and when about a hundred yards past, suddenly halted, shrugged himself and said, “Well done, resolution, now I will return and treat you.”
Whatever you sow that you will reap; if you sow wheat, your crop will be wheat; if you sow to the flesh, of the flesh you shall reap corruption; but if you sow to the Spirit, you shall have everlasting life, this is the word of the Lord. The Gospel is plain, simple, and comprehensive. What does it require of the Latter-day Saints? To keep the Word of Wisdom in wisdom. Do I ask the aged sisters to leave off their tea, and such things? No; not without they like to do so. But I urge its observance upon the young. They may ask, what shall we do with the money that we save by keeping the Word of Wisdom? The amount is too small to deposit in the Office at Liverpool towards our emigration, and yet it burns in our pockets, we must get rid of it somehow. This is the feeling which actuates a great many, and instead of saving the small amounts which they have from time to time, until they grow to be large ones, they spend them for Gentile pictures or other unnecessary articles, which neither relieve their necessities nor add to their comfort, and thus continually close up the way for their deliverance.
I will tell the poor of the Saints here, that the Lord is going to enable them to gather to Zion, upon the penny principle; yes, I will come down as low as a penny, for the pennies saved will soon increase to shillings, and shillings to pounds. Keep the Word of Wisdom; be diligent in all things; pay your tithing; keep the counsels that you receive from those who are over you, and put the small sums, that you can occasionally spare, into the penny emigration fund, and thereby show to the Lord and your brethren, that you are determined to do all that you can to work out your own salvation.
Many of the Saints receive and practice the tithing principle, and they have not found themselves any the poorer thereby, but have been made richer in faith and in the blessings of the Gospel. They know what they will reap by thus sowing. The Temple will be built, in which they can receive their endowments, and the keys of the eternal Priesthood, with its powers and blessings, which will prove a saviour of life unto life if adhered to, otherwise of death unto death. Through the ordinances of the endowment, you will be enabled to become saviours unto your ancestors, and their posterity who have died without the Gospel. If you do not do it, some one else will.
What else does the Gospel require of you? To preach it, distribute tracts, and bear your testimony with all your might. Do you suppose that it is only the Elders who should preach the Gospel? You , sisters, can preach privately by distributing tracts, bearing testimony, and by inviting your neighbors to meeting.
“Mormonism” is not dead, neither is it going to die, but it will spread from sea to sea, and the Elders will yet go out into all parts of the earth. Bless your souls, “Mormonism” is not confined to this land. I have traveled thousands of miles over European countries besides this—Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, &c., and wherever I go I hear it said, there are “Mormons” here and “Mormons” there. The Elders are preaching to almost every country throughout the world. In America they are sufficiently numerous to constitute a State, and if the Saints were all there, they would fill up three or four States.
I have frequently asked the Saints, when do you intend going to Zion. Oh, when they take me. And who are they? Are you not as much they as any body else? If they means to emigrate themselves, with a little assistance, it will look better than for it to have to be done entirely at the expense of others. I will ask this intelligent congregation where are the means of your emigration, if not among yourselves? But some who have the means are not willing to use it. The Saints in the Valley, greatly desiring the deliverance of their brethren and sisters from Babylon, have contributed to the P. E. Fund Company, what they had to spare, which amounts to thousands of dollars worth of property, hoping that the rich Saints in Babylon would buy it, and thereby assist in gathering the poor without any loss to themselves. President Young has taken the lead in this great work, by contributing a large amount of his individual property, and others have followed his example.
I have traveled thousands of miles over these European countries, and have found but one purchaser, who bought 300 dollars worth of property. So it appears that the rich are not going to do much to advance the work of the Lord. He has not called many of them, but the poor to do His work. I realize your situation—many of you are poor and oppressed. Jesus said, “The poor have the Gospel preached unto them.” Do you appreciate your great privileges? Had you been born and reared in the midst of riches and luxury, who knows but what you also would have rejected the Gospel? As you have the work to do treasure up your pence and shillings towards your emigration. The voice of the Spirit is, “Gather out of Babylon, O ye Latter-day Saints.” Have a good and capable man in each Branch, who will keep a correct account of your subscriptions, and not spend your money for himself, and when you have accumulated a sum sufficient to defray your expenses go home to Zion.
When I left the Valley, upon my present mission, I committed all that I had into the hands of my brethren for the Church. What could I have done that would have been more reasonable? What can be more inconsistent than for a man to trust himself, body and soul, in the hands of the Church, and to keep back his property, saying, “Take me along Church, but don’t touch my property. I cannot trust you with that.” If the Saints would bring their all into the Church, upon the principle of consecration, and be united in their efforts, but little time would elapse before all things which they desire should be added unto them. This is as sure as that we are here. Cannot God who owns the earth and its fulness, give His Saints what He pleases, as soon as they are worthy to receive it? By acting upon this principle I expect to have all that I can wish for or think of, wives, children, gold, silver, houses, and lands, and all that is good or desirable. They are the Lord’s, and will only be conferred permanently, upon those who hold the Priesthood. Thus you see the kingdom of God and its righteousness are first with us, and that the good things of this world are of a secondary consideration, but they will come along in due time, though some of us may have to lay down our lives before we are put in possession of them..
I feel well, there are good people here and many of them will yet come into the Church; as for others, they may belch and spew out their “exposures of Mormonism” as much as they please, that is what we want done. We are on hand to expose “Mormonism” to al the world as much as possible; we are not ashamed of its principles for we know that they are true, and will become the power to God unto salvation to every one who believes and obeys them. That God may bless you is my prayer, in the name of Jesus. Amen