The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star
Vol. 19 No. 9 (28 Feb. 1857), pp.128–33
Minutes of Meetings Held at 42, Islington, Liverpool, on Wednesday and Thursday Nights, 4th and 5th February, for the Purpose of Commencing the Work of Reformation in the Church in These Lands
Wednesday, February 4th, 7 p.m.
The following brethren having convened—
Presidents Orson Pratt, and Ezra T. Benson; Elders James A. Little, John A. Ray, Phineas H. Young, William G. Young, Truman O. Angell, John Kay, Miles Romney, C. R. Dana, James Marsden, Matthias Cowley, Asa Calkin, George Turnbull, Thomas Williams, and E. W. Tullidge; Priests, William H. Perkes, and John Graham—
President Pratt arose and explained the object of the meeting. He said—
“On Monday, the 26th ultimo, I received a communication from President Young, stating the position of affairs in Zion, in which we are given to understand that the Saints in Utah are stirred up to reformation, and the renewal of their covenants. From this communication, we find that the work of reformation is progressing rapidly there. The President has also written to us to commence the same work here in this country, and throughout the mission, and to begin here in this Office. I have accordingly sent for brother Benson, and we have concluded to bring the brethren of the Office together, that we might pray together, repent of our slothfulness, renew our covenants, and be baptized. I am happy to see so many others here to unite with us on this occasion.”
He then opened the meeting with the following prayer—
“Our Father, who art in heaven, we Thy servants have assembled together from the various fields of our labour in Thy ministry, for the purpose of humbling ourselves, and commencing anew to worship Thee, and renewing our covenants, calling upon Thy name with all our hearts, that we may receive the abundance of Thy Spirit to cause our hearts to rejoice.
“O God, the Eternal Father, we pray Thee to look in mercy upon us who have named Thy name, and are most of us absent from our families, and the Presidency of Thy Church, on foreign missions. We feel thankful that Thou hast permitted us to receive a communication from Thy servant, President Young, calling upon us to repent of our sins, and reform, and renew our faithfulness and diligence. We feel thankful for the work of reformation going on there, and that we have received Thy word, showing us our situation before Thee. He has pointed out the condition of the missionaries and Thy [p.130] Saints. He has represented us as being dull, and dead as pertaining to the things of Thy kingdom.
“O God, the Eternal Father, inasmuch as Thy servant has thus represented our situation, and has called upon us to repent and turn away from our sins, even so we desire to comply, and for this purpose we have assembled together, that we may confess our sins—that we may renew our covenants, and be determined to keep Thy commandments—in order that our sins may be forgiven, and that we may receive the renewal of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Give us power that we may search ourselves—that we may find out every sin that is lurking within us—that our faith may become great—that we may be filled with the Spirit, and that we may know by its teachings every duty devolving upon us. We pray that when we become converted, Thou wilt enable us to strengthen our brethren—to preach to them repentance—to point out their errors, and the necessity of being obedient to Thy word, that they may enjoy more of Thy Spirit; and to cut off those who will not work righteousness, and obey Thy word—that Thy Spirit may be more abundantly poured out—that the word of God may spread—that the arrows of the Almighty may reach the hearts of Thy people, and of the honest in heart—that Thy hand may be made manifest—that Thy works may be shown forth in Thy Church—that the honest in heart may see the good works of Thy people, and glorify their Father in heaven, and that thousands may come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits and obey the truth.
“May Thy Spirit be poured out upon us this evening. Remove from our minds all darkness and dullness. Let the energy of the Holy Spirit be with us to instruct us. May our hearts be purified and strengthened, and may we feel that Thou art with us, to bless us and to do us good.
“Bless Thy servants who are appointed to preside over Thy Church in these countries. We feel that we need Thy Spirit to enable us to instruct Thy people and give the counsel—and that we have no counsel or wisdom of our own. We ask that we may be filled with the spirit of revelation, and that Thou wilt give us such instructions as will benefit the Saints.
“Here us in these our humble breathings—be propitious to us, and bless us. We ask these things of Thee, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
President O. Pratt said—
“You have all read President Young’s letter. I feel that it is of the utmost importance to carry out its instructions, according to the letter and spirit. So far as I understand, it is necessary for us to put away the evils we may have been practising—to cease from everything that is wrong—to renew our covenants, and be baptized. I feel that I would like to hear the mind and feelings of all present on the subject.”
President Ezra T. Benson said—
“I feel the necessity and importance of the reformation. It caused my heart to rejoice very much, when I read the letter. I jumped up and shouted, ‘Glory! hallelujah!’ Although I have tried to preach reformation wherever I have travelled, I have felt that the Saints were sleepy, dull, and slothful in attending to their duties, and unless there were some excitement more than usual, not more than half the Saints would attend the prayer and sacrament meetings. It has seemed out of the power of the presiding officers to get the people together. I feel that this move is necessary, and I am glad that it has come. I am determined to get a renewal of the power of God. I believe I shall if I do my duty, and co-operate with those who are over me. I have the best of feelings towards all my brethren and sisters, and I want to do them good. In order to be able to do good to them I must do good to myself first. In order to infuse the Spirit into them I must have it myself. I am willing to comply with any suggestions the President may make. If I have not travelled and preached enough, I am willing to try it again and do more. If I have not climbed high enough on the tree, I am willing to climb a notch higher. I feel as good as I know how; still there is a chance for me to feel better. If I have had a little of the Spirit, I can still have a little more. When an Elder has enough of the Spirit of God, the people, and the world know that he is preaching by the power of God, and that is the man that will be talked about. When a man is preaching by the power of God, mobs may rage, but they cannot touch him. The Devil will howl. Then let him howl on.
“If we are going to have a reformation, [p.131] let us have one indeed. Let us get heated up, that it may not be like hammering cold iron; and let the reformation be both spiritually and temporally. I want it to take place in temporal things as well as spiritual! and not to put the cart before the horse.
“I would to God we had every Pastor and President here. We would lock them up in a room, and keep them there three days and three nights, and would hammer and pound them until we got them into some shape. [Note: See report of Welsh Conference reformation meeting, Millennial Star, 19:19 (9 May 1857) p. 294, in which President Benson says: “When I decided in my mind to visit Wales this time, I felt like having all the presiding Elders together in a fine airy room, somewhat larger than this, for at least three days, to fast, pray, and speak to each other, until we should get the Holy Ghost upon us to the degree we ought to enjoy it.”] It is the Pastors and Presidents who are asleep as well as the people. They think themselves the biggest men in the world, if they can walk about in a first-rate suit of clothes. Do they dig about the people, and know how the money is disbursed? Do all the Presidents consult their Pastors about their business? Some do, and some do not. They buy watches, and chains, and so forth, and do as they please. I would they were here, and then they should stay here till they got the Spirit of God into them. I want to see this reformation become thorough, spiritually and temporally. Let us take a position to render an account of our stewardships.
“Brother Brigham knows the people are not living in the lively exercise of their duties, and we also know it. They are dead, and we must resurrect them. There is a great deal to be done. A great many understand the Gospel, Priesthood, authority, &c., in theory; but talk about it practically, and you find that they are as far from it as sectarianism is from heaven. They are stereotyped, and carry out a fixed form in their meetings just like the sectarians. When I read the 6th chapter of Moroni, I find their meetings were controlled by the power of the Holy Ghost. How is it among the Saints here? Let brother Pratt or myself go into a meeting, and you would see some President get up and extol us to the highest heaven, and preach the preliminaries of a discourse for us, and take up all our time. ‘Oh! look out! President Benson! One of the Twelve Apostles! &c.’ I feel to cut myself loose. I will bear it no longer. I will have the Priesthood respected.
“This letter has put fire on to fire: and, with the help of God, I am on hand to kick the scales from the eyes of the people.
“I feel that God is here. We will have a glorious time. God help us to reform, to be spiritually minded, and to perform every duty required of us, in the name of Jesus. Amen.”
Elder James A. Little said—
“I am happy to meet with my brethren. Brother Benson has expressed my views. It has long appeared to me that the Elders and Saints are stereotyped. They are bound to a certain system, and whether it is right or wrong it makes no difference. Many have thought or acted as though these forms were all there was to ‘Mormonism.’ I have endeavoured, with my imperfections, to do the best I could; and I have tried to get more of the Spirit. I want it, and I believe I shall get some more. The President’s letter fired up my spirit and filled me with joy. The Lord bless you all. Amen.”
Elder John A. Ray said—
“I feel thankful for the privilege of meeting with this Council. Since I was called upon this mission, I have sought the Spirit of the Lord to guide, direct, and strengthen me. I know that I have not been as faithful as I should have been. I have not enjoyed as much of the Spirit as I would like. I realize that I can do no good unless aided by it, and I am dependent on the arm of the Lord to strengthen me. It is thus with all the Elders—they will never do any good unless the Lord employs them. I was thankful when I read the President’s letter. It is a privilege for us to renew our covenants. I wish to enter into covenant with the Lord—endeavour to lay aside every sinful thing, and I pray that the kingdom of God may roll on with mighty power. I feel that the Saints are dull, and that there is a great reformation needed before the work can go forth. I am willing to make an effort to reform, and get more of the Spirit to aid me in the discharge of my duties.”
Elders Phineas H. Young, John Kay, C. R. Dana, Miles Romney, James Marsden, William G. Young, Truman O. Angell, Matthias Cowley, Asa Calkin, Thomas Williams, E. W. Tullidge, and George Turnbull, and Priests William Perkes, and John Graham, severally expressed their thankfulness for the privilege of renewing their covenants, and their determination to exercise renewed diligence in the performance of their duties, and contend for more of the Spirit of God than they have had heretofore.
President Pratt then arose and said—
“I have rejoiced greatly in hearing you express your determinations, and desires to perform the good required of you. I feel the need of setting out anew, and trying to be more faithful. I have felt the importance and necessity of it for years. I have mourned in my feelings when I have seen my own apparent coldness. I have been habituated to reading in the Book of Mormon, Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and the Bible. When I have read in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and History of Joseph, accounts of the great manifestations of the power of God in past times, and then have compared myself and the little I have had, with them, my dullness has given rise to serious apprehensions. When I think of the little progress I have made I am ashamed of myself. I have greatly desired that I might purify myself, and attain to the blessings recorded as having been bestowed upon the servants of God in ancient times. I have mourned for weeks over my barrenness. What have any of us attained to? When I read what was done in ancient times, I oftentimes get alarmed. We find in reading the Book of Mormon, that Nephi used to obtain the ministrations of angels daily, and were blessed with revelations, visions, dreams, manifestations, and the voice of the Lord. And in the Bible we read of Elijah, Elisha, and other Prophets who were similarly blessed. One man of God could lead an army into the midst of their enemies by blinding them by the power of his faith. There is not anything but what we could do if we had the faith. We are dull, and almost dead. We must get the Spirit. Let us cry unto the Lord day and night to get the Holy Ghost. I hope we may all seek diligently, and fulfil our covenants. To be baptized will not benefit us unless we continue in diligence.
“I do not look for the Elders to enjoy very remarkable external manifestations, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, and they turn to the House of Israel with the Gospel. Notwithstanding, I am confident it is our privilege to have more of the power of God than we have had. We all know, ourselves, wherein we can reform. Each knows himself better than his neighbours know him. Notwithstanding the Lord has sent me here to preside, I feel weak, and entirely unable to perform my duties without the Holy Spirit. I feel thankful for the privilege of going out with brother Benson, after the hurry of the emigration is over. I hope the Lord will pour out His Spirit, and that we may get revived. It will be a relief to me to get freed a-while from the business of the Office.
“With regard to the carrying out of the reformation, I feel to concur with the remarks of brother Benson. There is a degree of looseness with regard to temporal things that must be remedied. And this needs looking after under the present arrangement more than ever before. Money contributed as tithing should be regulated by some proper system, so that Presidents and officers may not dip in without consulting other authority. By the help of the Lord I will try to publish something in regard to this that will be beneficial, so that the tithing may be appropriated properly and economically.
“In regard to re-baptism—the Saints out to be preached to first and stirred up. Baptism does not reform a person. It is a testimony of renewal. I think re-baptism throughout the Church will be the means of casting out many of the dead branches. The tree will be trimmed up—placed in a thriving condition—and will soon bring forth much good fruit. Brother Benson will go forth and knock the scales from the eyes of the people, and I hope I will follow soon and help him.
“I have reformed in some few things in my method of preaching, since I have been on this mission. I have seen the importance of doing so. Instead of long discourses, I have felt the necessity of bearing testimony. I think those who have heard me can bear record that I have endeavoured to preach plain, simple principles, and have confined myself to the evidences of the truth of the work—the visions of Joseph, &c., without referring to all the Scriptures that could be brought to bear on the subjects. If the Elders will bear their testimony, relate the visions of Joseph, and preach the Book of Mormon—this will do more good than long sermons.”
Song—”O, Zion, when I think on thee.”
President Benson said—
“I do not know but the brethren may think that I am very zealous. Well, I confess that I am in the cause of the Lord. It is as natural for me, as it is for a child [p.133] to love milk. When I get my mind bent on a thing, it is like steam in a boiler.
“In order to be renewed, I motion that we fast and pray one day, at least. I am sure it will have a good effect. In a good many places the wheels are clogged. The Elders and Saints indulge themselves with too much temporal food. They must have hearty meals on Sundays, if it takes all their week’s wages. They would feel better if they would feed light on Sunday. They would have more of the Spirit if they would fast one day in a week, and live on spiritual food. Almost every blessing that I have obtained out of the natural course has been by prayer and fasting. This eating hearty meals on Sundays makes us heavy, and we feel more like taking a nap than feasting on heavenly things.
“We should preach by the power of God, according to the talent that He has given us We have to grapple with our weakness. When I feel that I preach by the Spirit of God, I am all right; I have nothing to mourn. When I cannot feel the Holy Spirit, I am dissatisfied and mourn. When I know I have the testimony of the Spirit I am satisfied—my heart is light—and my sleep sweet.
“Let us go a-head, preach the principles of the Gospel—and bear testimony of the work. The Saints are backward in attending the meetings, unless there is an especial appointment made for some one extra to be there. They do not attend the sacrament meetings as they ought. And many do not pay their tithing. We have now got the instructions that will enable us to find out who are faithful, and who are not. We shall cut the dead branches off. I would rather have half-a-dozen faithful Saints than a hundred hypocrites. We are called to hunt up the righteous. If we do not do it, we will come short of the blessing. We are looking for a blessing. If we do not go according to President Young’s letter we cannot get it. The dead branches must go off, and then we will find out how many Saints we have got.
“I feel to uphold brother Pratt, and not be half-hearted. The Lord bless him! (all—Amen) and brother Little! (all—Amen). We will have a glorious time. We will be blessed and comforted.
“We ought to reverence each other in the Priesthood. If it were not my duty, I should not ask this of the brethren. I ask no more of them than I am willing to do myself. I do not ask them to be more pliable than I am. Do I open my mouth, where brother Pratt is, without his consent? We should pattern after Zion. If we do not reverence the Priesthood, the Spirit of the Lord is grieved. I wish the brethren were here that we might preach to them.”
Elder P. H. Young bore testimony to President Benson’s remarks, after which was sung—
“Come, Come, ye Saints, no toil nor labour fear.”
Elder Truman O. Angell engaged in prayer.
President Pratt said—
“The plan will be for the Presidents to call together the Priesthood, and point out to the officers their duties. When you have sufficiently preached reformation to the officers, and they have covenanted that they will keep the commandments of God, baptize them first. Then let them take hold and preach to the Saints the necessity of coming to meetings—all that can. I have made it a practice not to have any cooking done here on Sundays. This needs to be instilled into the minds of the Saints. Get them to covenant to do as they are told, then baptize them. A question has been put in regard to those who do not pay their tithing. We have not been cutting them off for neglecting to pay tithing, but we need not graft them in unless they agree to do so. We have felt that it was not really wisdom to cut people off for not paying tithing. But the time will come when it will e made a test of fellowship. It is wisdom if they will not covenant to pay tithing, not to graft them in. Thus they will cut themselves off.
“It has been proposed that we fast and pray to-morrow, that we meet here at seven o’clock, p.m., pray, and then go to the water for baptism.”
Seconded, and unanimously carried.
President Benson closed the meeting by prayer.
Thursday, 5th February, 7 p.m.
The brethren all met according to arrangement.
Sung—”The Spirit of God like a fire is burning.”
President Benson prayed.
Sung—”O, Zion when I think on thee.”
Elder Little exhorted the brethren to faithfulness, and especially the missionaries—to keep themselves pure, so that they might return home with upright hearts.
Sung—”Come let us anew, our journey pursue.”
All then repaired to the place of baptism. After an appropriate prayer at the water’s edge by President Pratt, he and President Benson baptized each other. They then baptized the rest of the brethren.
The company then returned to 42, Islington.
Sung—”How firm a foundation ye Saints of the Lord.”
Prayer by President Pratt
Sung—”Redeemer of Israel, our only delight.”
The brethren were then all confirmed, Presidents Benson and Pratt being the first. Many rich blessings were pronounced by the spirit of prophecy, and the hearts of all present were full of joy and of the Holy Ghost.
Elder W. G. Young prophesied that the work would roll on with greater rapidity and more power, after this, than ever before.
Sung—”Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah.”
President Pratt said—
“I believe a work of great magnitude is about to be accomplished in this country. I consider it will be a great work if we get the Saints purified. If one-third should be cut off, and the rest remain united, it will be one of the greatest works that was ever accomplished in this land. We have all learned by experience that the more we are united, the more the Lord will bless us, whether we be few or many. I am impressed that the time is at hand when the Lord intends to accomplish something, not only here but in Zion. I have not ascertained what it is—but I believe that the Spirit and power, resting on the Presidency, are preparatory to something of importance. It may be that the Lord intends his purification to prepare the Saints for entering into the Temple—in which we expect such manifestations, and blessings to be given as the Church have never had. We know this is a day of power, and that the time cannot be far distant. It seems as if it were near at hand. The Lord is preparing to bring us nearer to His presence. I do feel, and have felt, that something of importance is at hand. With regard to the work in this land, it is bound to go a-head. The Saints will require faith to stand up against opposition, and none but those having faith will be able to stand. The brethren here will go forth with greater power and energy, to administer, and heal the sick. They will have greater power than heretofore. I say, go forth, and the power of the Lord shall be upon you—you shall feel it—and the people shall know it, even if they fight against it the next minute.”
After further spirited remarks from various brethren, the Hymn—”Praise God from whom all blessings flow” was sung, and the meeting was dismissed with prayer by Elder James A. Little.
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