DELIVERED BY PRESIDENT EZRA T. BENSON,
In the Saints’ Meeting Room, Whitechapel, London, Monday, February 2, 1857.
Millennial Star, vol. 19, no. 17 (25 Apr. 1857), pp. 265–71
This meeting looks like a “Mormon” meeting. In the Valley we cannot get a house large enough to hold all the people, and I do not expect that we ever shall, for before we should have time to count numbers, measure the ground, and get the building up, there would be a sufficient number for another. This is the way the “Mormons” increase. I feel very thankful for the opportunity of standing before this congregation, and I rejoice in the order of the meeting.
I wanted to speak about the proper manner of conducting meetings, but Pastor Ross has got the start on me; I rejoice in what he has said. I have a great many things to say to the people, but I want to say that which will be of the most benefit to them; I do not care so much about its being pleasing to the ear. I want to speak as prompted by the Holy Spirit, realizing that it knows much better than myself what the congregation needs.
We find recorded in the latter part of Chap. Vi. Moroni, that the meetings of the Nephites were conducted as directed by the Holy Spirit. It would be well for the brethren, particularly the Presidents of Branches, to read it. Now in almost all other churches, except the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they have a written form, and have the same mode of procedure every time they meet. If you are well acquainted with their form, you may know as well, when at home, what is going on at their meeting; as if you were present. Now this should not be the case with the Latter-day Saints, and with the Elders of Israel. If it was the order of God, our Prophet would have written out a Constitution for us to be governed by, with prayers to be read at funerals, prayer for meetings, and prayers to be read when we felt rather more religious than usual; and we should have had in black and white the proper form of conduct for every occasion. But this Church has no such written form, for the revelation says, “The letter killeth but the spirit maketh alive.”
Some Elders feel as though they must stand in a certain position, with their toes pointed out, as if they were going to dance according to order and etiquette. Elders of Israel, do not be controlled and governed by this old Gentile way of doing business. I have not come here to preach the same things as I preached yesterday, unless I am prompted so to do by the Holy Spirit, and the same words come to my mind, but I have come trusting in God for His spirit to guide me in speaking to the people. No Prophet or Apostle ever pretended to write a form to bind the ancient Saints, not yet the Latter-day Saints, and they never will.
Why do I make these remarks? Not with the desire to chastise. I came with a praying heart, and a desire to God that we might have a good time. From the acquaintance I have formed with the London Conference, I am satisfied that my brethren do, generally, the best they know how, but are they to be stereotyped editions? No! There is no such a thing in Mormonism, but there must be an increase, “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little!” I do believe that the brethren are ignorant of the order of the Priesthood; they may know the theory ,but I want to see the practice. It is not the theory that will give an impetus to the spirit of this work, but it will be done by practically carrying the theory into effect. A living faith brings forth good works.
It is a difficult matter to preside over a Branch, without you are continually filled with the Holy Ghost, as you have to be there at every meeting. It is impossible to preach “Mormonism,” to do any good, without faith, and without feeling the life-giving power of the Son of God. Sometimes you have almost to resurrect the people, they are so dull and lifeless.
But we are going to have a REFORMATION! You have heard me say so many times before; it has already reached the Liverpool Office, and I am going home to be re-converted. The Reformation has commenced with the First Presidency, and is extending through all the Stakes, Wards, and Branches, in Deseret. Through the kindness of brother Pratt. I am permitted to stay here, and preach to you this evening; but I am going to Liverpool on the morrow, to renew my covenant. I want to prepare the way for the spirit of reformation here, it must commence with Pastor Ross, then with Elder Budge, and so on to the Presidents of Districts and of Branches down to the Priests, Teachers, Deacons, and every lay member in the Church that wishes to renew their covenants.
Says one, “I don’t know that I have sinned at all.” Well if you have not it will not hurt you to be re-baptized, and to devote yourself more fully to the service of God.
Latter-day Saints! Let the spirit of reformation commence its work in your hearts to night, so that when the word comes you may be prepared to obey it. You would do well to begin to-night. I began when I put my feet upon the shores of Europe, and have tried to preach reformation ever since, and have endeavoured to make my words like forked lightnings; to wake up the people from their sleep and lethargy, that they may cease from their wickedness and all their evil ways, and turn unto the Lord with full purpose of heart.
I suppose, if it is necessary that there should be a reformation in Zion, it is quite as necessary that there should be one here. All the good Saints will be glad to go into the waters of baptism and begin anew. Some who are evil will not; well they may stay out, while those who will reform and renew their covenants will have the blessings. As sure as the Lord lives, there are blessings to be poured out upon this people. When God, in ancient days, stirred up the people through His Prophets unto repentance, great blessings always followed, and will it not be so now? I believe it will. I have been trying to be spiritually minded, but I can see where I might improve, and get more of the power of the Priesthood, to do good and bless the people. If we have done well, cannot we do better? We do not wish to stand still because we have performed half our journey, but to press onward to the end.
Some of the Pastors and Presidents have said to me, “We are all first-rate here, we have good meetings, and all is right, there is nothing the matter with us.” Well we want better meetings, we want to see the mighty power of God resting down upon the Elders; that the sick may be healed, devils cast out, and mobs bound, that they may not have power over the Saints, and that good may be prophesied concerning Israel. “Despise not prophecy, prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.” Brethren and sisters, attend to these things; for you sisters have a portion of the Priesthood, it rests upon all the members of the church; else how are they sustained and held together?
I take the position that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been led by the spirit of revelation up to this time, and that it will be, until every Saint is gathered; until the plan of salvation is made complete, and until all things spoken by the mouths of the holy Prophets, is consummated to the very letter. We are the people that hold the keys, and the power, and the authority to accomplish the work, and it is our duty to be led by the spirit of revelation, by day and by night, in things spiritual and temporal, mental and physical; yes, to be led by it in everything we do, and to be so humble, and faithful, and have so much of the Spirit of God as not to go astray. Brethren and sisters “Quench not the Spirit.”
Have you any necessity to prove the truth of this work? If so, you are not grounded on the rock of Revelation. My advice to you is never to cease your efforts, until by fasting and prayer you have obtained a knowledge for yourselves. If you do not know by the spirit that is within you, that this work is of God, never go to the valleys of the mountains! I do not mean to tell the people that they will have nothing to do but to eat molasses and suck sugar tits! If you want to be pioneers for “Mormonism,” we will hail you as brothers, and invite you to go to some of the new settlements, now being made on the Platte River. If you have not the means to go to the Valley, shoulder your axe, your spade, and hasten to strengthen your brethren in this matter, and thus show to God and man, by your works that you are determined to live your religion. You will have enough of practical “Mormonism” before you get through, you will not go there to play nor to suck your fingers. If you have not got W stamped on your backs, we will soon put it there for you, big enough to cover it. W means work, and its all work in this kingdom.
I hope you will take the advice of brother Ross, and not cry because you cannot go with hand-carts this season; you will get to Zion if you are faithful. In 1851, I was sent to Pottawattamie to gather up the people, not one was to be left behind who was willing to go. These were the Saints who had been driven out of Nauvoo houseless, and penniless. If they had an axe, a hoe, or a spade, they were thankful for it, and went to work and carried out their religion practically. If they had a cow, and could raise a calf; or a hen, and could raise a few chickens, all the better. This is the way to build up the kingdom, so that if you lie down to rest at night, your corn is growing, and your cattle, chickens, and all you have around you, is on the increase. Here, all you obtain is got out of your very heartstrings, and your fingers’ ends. If you are sick and lose a day, or spend a day at Conference, your wages are stopped. Is it not so? Well we have to go to work, in the spirit of reformation, until we have power to organize, out of the elements which surround us all things that we need to sustain life, to build up the kingdom, and to gather the Saints.
We will get back to Pottawattamie presently. How quickly our thoughts can fly there. If we could only travel as quickly, we could do without steam boats, or ox teams, or hand-carts. We could travel as Phillip did after he baptized the Eunuch, or as Elijah, when he went to heaven in the chariot of fire. Well, we have the same Priesthood and the same authority as Elijah had, and if we will be faithful in our callings, I do not see why we should not receive the same power and not only that, but everything our hearts can righteously desire. Is not this worth working for? I feel willing to preach and work for ninety-nine years more, if necessary, and my life were spared; for the thousand years rest is to come, when Satan will be bound. Then we will have a glorious jubilee. Saints! Lift up your hearts, and rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh, it is close at hand. We shall not need to preach ninety-nine years before the consummation of this great work. Read the Book of Mormon, the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and the counsel of the Elders of Israel, and you will understand these things; new light will come to your minds, and you will get the Spirit by which they were dictated; this Spirit we need to be with us by day and by night.
Well, now for Pottawattamie. Brother Grant and myself were sent there to gather the people en masse, though brother Grant was sent more particularly to the eastern States. We were instructed in the letter from the President, to get up a hand-card train, if we could not gather them all with ox teams. We went to work, and commenced making the hand-carts. One of the brethren was at work one day, and another came up, and asked him what he was about. “Making a hand-card,” said he. “What! Have you got faith enough to go to the Valley with a thing like that?” “Yes, I have,” he replied. “Well, then,” said the other, “I want you to drive a team there for me; you are the kind of man I want, so put all your rattletraps into my wagon, and come along.” All our hand-carts turned to wagons! And they went as though they were oiled. Brother Ross, here, is witness. Every man, woman, and child, that wanted to go, went; and the dogs, and chickens, and pigs, and geese, went also. Yes, and the kittens as well, all the four-legged beasts, as well as the two-legged ones that obeyed counsel, not one was left behind.
I have the same faith that all who obey counsel here will go. Who knows but what this reformation will prepare the way? I will prophesy that the blessings of the Lord will rest down more abundantly than ever upon the faithful, and that they will have more of the Spirit than heretofore. I am going into the water to renew my covenant, that I might be cleansed and purified, and have more power to thunder the truth into the ears of this generation, no matter if it cracks the craniums of hypocrites and sectarians I want the voice of an Enoch, that I may thunder until the Gentiles stop their lies about this people. And they shall fear and tremble, and all who work iniquity and make lies against the Saints, shall quake with terror!
Brethren and sisters, REMEMBER! Let the reformation begin in your own hearts; begin to repent, to repent, to cease from all evil, and come out afresh before God and each other.
I have travelled a good deal since I came to this country, and have become pretty well acquainted with the people; I will tell you how I have been treated, sometimes. I have given out an appointment to be at a meeting by sever o’clock, I have gone; the Pastor would sit at one end of the bench, and I would sit at the other. The President would then give out a hymn, read it all down, and then line it for them; then he would pray, or call on some one else, then give out another hymn, lining it the same as the first and then make a long preface—Sidney Rigdon used to call it “prefacing” a sermon—after that he would call on some Traveling Elder to speak. When he had done, the President would say, “Now we will hear from brother Benson, now you will receive light, now you will hear some of the great things of the kingdom;” and after he had told the people what I was going to say, as if he had learned it by heart, then I would get the chance, perhaps of speaking for half an hour. How do you think you would feel under such circumstances? I have felt that if there had been a trap door handy, I could have taken my hat and walked off.
Now this is not the order of the kingdom. I want to see the Pastors, the Presidents, the Elders, Priests, Teachers, Deacons, and the members, each in their proper position, that there may be nothing to grate on the ear, or to grieve the Spirit, that there may be no schism in the Church. Then there will be a perfect order of things, from the First Presidency down to the least member. When the disease, called the big-head, gets to a certain pint it is incurable. It is that spirit which has led many to hell.
In conversation with some of the Pastors, Presidents, and Elders upon the subject, they have said, “Brother F. D. Richards, and brother Wheelock, thought it was all right.” Perhaps they did not want to give out the hymn, not attend personally to every other little matter, but I am sure that they desired to preside over meetings through the officers. This is my privilege, and I desire nothing more than that which is my right. Pastor Ross calls me President Benson, well then, I want to preside through him, and I want him to preside through brother Budge.
If I go to a Branch, the President thinks he must pray and speak some part of the time, and “if brother Benson likes to talk a little while, he can home the privilege.” This is the spirit throughout all Europe. I sometimes feel like pulling men by their coat tails.
It is no thankful office, as I said before, to be a President. If there are any men that need the faith and prayers of the Conference, it is these Presidents of Branches. Sometimes, while I have been unwell, I have gone unawares to a meeting; the President would be there and I would ask, how many members have you in this Branch? “About a hundred:” and there would be present about a baker’s dozen! This is what these men have to contend against. They need the confidence of the Saints, and I feel to sustain them, and I prophesy that they shall feel more of the Spirit, and more of the power of their callings, than they have done. I know that they want to do right, for I can see the image of Jesus Christ in their countenances. The power of God shall rest upon the, the sick shall be healed, the lame shall walk, the blind shall be made to see, and the deaf to hear, and the Spirit shall rest mightily upon the faithful.
And these sisters, who are distributing tracts, and bearing the sneers and insults of this ungodly generation; I feel to bless them in the name of the God of Israel, and they shall do good, the work shall go forward. The devil will work against us, but we have nothing to fear, we have come here to fight the devil, and to cast them from the earth, as we cast them out of heaven. “Fear not him that can kill the body, but rather fear him that can destroy both body and soul.” Then, fear not; the Lord has power to perform His own work, and will do it through the priesthood, which He has confirmed upon us in these last days.
The work rests upon us, brethren. Then lift up your voices, and when you tell the people you rejoice, tell them the reason; preach the principles of the Gospel, and thunder in the ears of the people that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, (and the devil has no power over him, for he is gone into the spirit-world, to work for the salvation of the children of men,) and that Brigham Young is his legal successor.
Shall we, then, mourn as those who have no hope? Brother Ross, here, can rejoice under the affliction which has been placed upon him. He has been called to part with his dearest friend, the wife of his bosom, whom he loved as his own life. Yet he can preach, and rejoice in the truth, because if he mourns, he has hope, and he knows it is for the best. Take the case of Job; he had everything taken from him, but his wife, and she tempted him to curse his God; but though he did get rather angry, yet he would not sin so flagrantly. The Lord blessed him a hundred fold. Who can comprehend God’s designs?
“Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, yea, saith the spirit, for they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.” This is the situation of sister Ross; and when he meets her in the Resurrection, he will find that salvation will come out of his affliction, and he will be rewarded ten-fold for all his sacrifices.
Let not the Saints mourn if they lose their friends, inasmuch as they die in the faith, let them rejoice, because they have passed through the vail, and have gone through the gate which man can neither open not shut. The devil has no power over them after they leave the body; sister Ross is not buffeted by Satan, neither are any of the faithful Saints who have departed from the flesh..
Never be afraid to die. There was an old lady at Bristol who was on her death bed; she sent for brother Martin. “Well,” said she, “brother Martin, I am going to die; don’t be scared, I want you to sing some of the best hymns you can find.” After the singing she said, “Now shout, shout glory! Hallelujah! Hurrah for “Mormonism!” I hope none of the Saints will shed a tear for me, for I know where I am going, and there is nothing to weep about.” She continued in this spirit until she died.
Never let anything get between you and your religion, and you will have no more fear of death than this old lady had. Let it be our constant air to find out what are our present duties. I do not know when I have taken a retrospective view of my life, it seems as though I had not the time to do it; my sole desire is to know what I am to do and say to day, that I may serve my God with an undivided heart. I want to see the Saints attend the meetings more regularly, and sustain the officers that are placed over them. Some do not attend to partake of the sacrament, perhaps, for a month. What is the reason? Are you conscience-smitten, because you have sinned? If so, tell your President, and renew your covenants by baptism, for if you do not you will go swiftly to hell! Attend to your prayers; and you brethren, love your wives, do not joke them about taking others, but bless them, and treat them as the daughters of God.
I see the time is flying, I had quite forgot all about it; what a blessed thing it will be when the time is not measured to us! Even now when our minds are absorbed in the things of God, we take no heed of its flight, and have no reason to complain of the tardiness of its movements.
Well, to return, I want you to call your families together in the morning and in the evening, and let every member of your household bow the knee with you in prayer; and if any among them do not like to comply with the order of your house, let them have the outside, while you keep the inside of it. Set up an alter in your house, and made a heaven there. I have a little heaven in my bosom, and sometimes try to infuse it into the bosoms of others.
Let us pray for the word of the Lord to be made known through the Prophet, let us pray for the Presidency in this country, and let us sustain one another. I went to a meeting in Globe Fields the other Sunday afternoon, when I arrived there, I found some of the young Saints at prayer, asking the Lord, in simplicity and in the sincerity of their hearts, that they might have a good meting. When I began to talk, I felt as though the room was sanctified, and that the Holy Ghost was there..
We are to be watched by each other for good. My President watches me, and I am sent to watch the Pastors, if we can get the Pastors, and the Presidents off Conferences, of Districts, and of Branches, just as they should be, all will be right, for they are the bone and sinew of the Churches. Let no man be afraid of being watched, and may sit up at night and watch me, if you please. He that is afraid f being looked after is dishonest.
Sisters, be spiritually minded, and do not let your minds be wandering, “like the fool’s eye, to the ends of the earth.” Seek the society of the good, the pure, and the holy. I will not keep company with the wicked, with the adulterer, the drunkard, and the liar. We have separated ourselves from them, and we will not harbour their spirit, nor listen to their counsel.
Brethren, there is no excuse for him that falls away because he was led by a woman. In Eden the excuse was offered, “the woman tempted me,’ but now man is not to be guided by woman into evil, if she offers him “forbidden fruit,” he is not to partake of it, but he is to take her by the hand, and lead her back to the position from which she has fallen.
Then we will have the reformation, from Liverpool throughout all Europe, hundreds and
thousands will be baptized, and we will help each other, and encourage each other, and in spite of the devil, we will go into the kingdom of God together, and obtain the salvation which we are seeking after.
The Churches are going to be pruned, and many will be cut off. There are some who merely have a name among us, and it would take a Philadelphia lawyer or a spirit-rapper, or a wizard like Mr. Anderson, to hunt them up, and tell where they are.
Remember, it is not the loud preaching that is going to save us, but it is practical religion; remember also, that many blessings are to be obtained only by fasting and prayer. We had a good time yesterday because we fasted for it, and we have had a good time to night for the same reason. The Lord frequently lays up blessings in store for His people, and it is a good thing to have a prayer ahead. When you go home dedicate yourselves and all you have to God, and ask for the amelioration of your temporal condition. If you were actually out of bread, every one of you, even the smallest boy that could say “our Father,” &c., would be crying to the Lord for food. Do we not want the bread of life, sent down from heaven? If we could have a constant supply of that bread, comparatively very little natural food would be sufficient to sustain us.
It is good for every one, that is strong enough, to fast one day in a week. A Gentile Doctor would tell you that, and you know they are supposed to understand everything. I have heard some persons say that they could not fast a day without fainting; well, it may be bad for the, but it would not hurt a strong man to fast three days.
When I was in Dublin, I went to the Zoological Gardens, and I asked the keeper, if they lost many of the animals; he said they had not lately, but they used to lose many. I asked him the reason of the change, and he said, “Why we make them fast one day in every week, and they are much healthier, and have a good appetite always.”
You all know that your food tastes better, after you have gone without for a time. The stomach gets tired with continual grinding. I hope none of you do as the Irishman did one Sunday. He took beefsteak and coffee for breakfast, beefsteak and pudding for dinner, bacon and eggs for tea and beef again for supper, as much as he could eat each meal. The consequence was, he was taken ill. When the Doctor came he inquired if he had not been eating something. “Yes,” said the Irishman, I work six days in the week for my belly, and sure its mighty hard if that can’t work one day for me.” If you act like that, unless your stomach is strong enough to grind a door nail, you are sure to be sick. Read the Book of Daniel, you will find that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s meat, and the rich things that would corrupt his blood, but requested the privilege of eating pulse, and drinking water, and upon that food he looked fairer and fatter than those who partook of the dainties, and he was filled with the spirit of wisdom, so that he could interpret the king’s dream, when all the wise men had failed to do so.
Let us act upon the same principle, and get the spirit of life and wisdom upon us, and who knows but what we may be called upon to interpret some rich man’s dream who will use his money for the gathering of God’s people! The world is growing darker and darker every day. Every time the Parliament assembles they get more into the fog; therefore let us prepare ourselves, that we may be ready when the time comes, to give that counsel which will one day be needed.
Well we have had a glorious meeting this evening, we have had no room here for the devil, if he had come here we should soon have cast him out. I feel first-rate, I feel as though I had grown a half an inch in bulk, spiritually, while I have been addressing you, and I pray God to help us that we may have a still better spirit the next time we meet. I feel to bless you all, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.