DELIVERED BY EZRA T. BENSON,
At a Priesthood meeting, held in the Whitechapel Hall, London, on Monday Evening, April 6th, 1857.
Millennial Star, vol. 19, no. 23 (6 Jun. 1857), pp. 353–57
I feel very happy to meet with the brethren this evening. I believe it is six weeks ago since I preached to you in this Hall. We had a good meeting then, and I do not know why we should not have a good time to-night. I wanted to hear brother John L. Smith talk a little; he has come from a place where they have not the privilege of talking so freely as we can this evening. May the Lord bless him. If he talks there, as he has done here, I am sure the work will roll on. When I was in Sweden, I did not talk quite so loud as I do here, or perhaps, I should have had to run off without my coat.
Our subject six weeks ago was Reformation; requiring all, from the Pastor downwards, to carry out the instructions of our beloved Prophet, President Young. If I remember right, I gave some instructions to the Elders upon the order of the kingdom, how to set the Branches in order, and how to conduct meetings properly, for God’s house is “a house of order.” I wish to see those instructions carried out, and I expect to see the time when the attention of the people will be so attracted towards the Elders, that when they are preaching, if the door opens, the congregation will not turn their heads every time to see who enters, and I do not care how soon that time comes, even if it begins this very night. If you will exercise faith, and let all outside business stay outside, we will have the Spirit here. Great things are required of you, brethren, because you hold the Priesthood; you have to lead the people, and you ought to be as fathers in the room of masters, and set them an example in all things. You should also be examples to your families, and to do that you must preside over yourselves, bring your feelings in subjection to the will of our Father in heaven, and be governed at all times by the dictates of His Holy Spirit. Then you will have power to preside over your wives, over your children, over a Branch of the Church, or anything else that might be placed under your watch-care. If you have not the power to govern yourselves, you will never have power to govern any one else; and if you cannot save yourselves, you will never to able to save others, you will have to get somebody to save you.
When I was here before, my subject was reformation. It is the same now, and if I stay in this country five years longer, I shall continue to preach reformation to the people. I suppose the majority of this congregation have renewed their covenants by baptism? [Elder Budge—yes, sir.] I feel thankful to hear it, my heart rejoices and my spirit is glad. If you had not done it, I should have preached the same sermon to-night, but as you have been obedient thus far, I feel to lay some other matters before you. You know brethren, the Prophet says we are to receive “line upon line, precept upon precept;” that is the way we progress, we cannot, stand still, there is not a Saint in the world that can do it, they must either go onward in the eternal path of progression, or they must go backward toward darkness and death.
I have never in the course of my experience found a stopping place in “Mormonism.” Every man who ceases to exercise the duties of his calling, from that very moment loses strength and is on the path of retrogression.
Then we have to continue in obedience, to “put our shoulders to the wheel,” and exert ourselves to roll forth the kingdom of our God, by doing do we shall obtain a right to claim the blessings of the kingdom, and not without. I will promise every man that he will have what he earns, not a particle more! Neither Jesus Christ nor any of the Prophets have promised any more, and those who expect to obtain salvation, honour, glory, power, or any of the blessings of eternity, upon any other principle, will find themselves miserably mistaken.
I do not know how these teachings suit you, I have not asked you, and I never do. My object is to build up the kingdom of my God, I have no other in view, and I do not want to preach at all now travel, nor do anything else unless I can do some good to my brethren, and further the interest of this great work. This is my object in speaking to you to night. If I were to consult the condition of my lungs, and my constitution, I should keep my seat. But I feel that the kingdom of God requires all our attention, all our time, and all our strength; and that we should use all the wisdom and power that we can obtain from our Father in heaven. This kingdom is worth all the attention of every man on the earth, or it is worth nothing at all, and men should consecrate their means, their talents, their language, and all their arts and sciences to roll forth the purposes of God. But how few, how very few, there are who are willing to do it!
I suppose this is the majority of the Priesthood in the London Conference. What a small number in proportion to the inhabitants of this great city! The prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled, “the inhabitants shall be burned and few men left”—and why will this be? Because their attention is taken up with the things of the world; they have set their hearts upon silver and gold, upon fine raiment and delicate food, and they think more of these things, and of their bellies, and of the gratification of their appetites, than they do of the kingdom of God. The comforts of life are good in their place, but the kingdom of God must be the first thing in our minds, it must take the lead in our thoughts, and other things will come in their time and order.
Do right. How can we do right? By doing the will of our Father in heaven. The Apostle James says, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth unto all men liberally and upbraideth not.” Here is a glorious promise. If we “lack wisdom,” if we do not know our Father’s will, we have but to ask Him, and He will grant us wisdom, He will make His will known unto us, and He will not find fault with us for importuning Him. We can learn His will through the channel he has appointed, even His servants who hold the Priesthood, and He will give us His Spirit to testify to the truth of their words.
We should all do right. If we have entered into the spirit of the reformation we will, and we shall be ready to do as we are told. We have commenced to do right ourselves, we have made a covenant to live in the spirit of our holy religion; what is the next thing we are required to perform? To preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. The Lord wants you to lift up your voices like the sound of mighty thunder, and warn this wicked generation of the coming judgments of the Almighty; to call upon them to cease from their abominations and turn unto the Lord. Thousands and millions of the people are hastening on the road to death, they know not God, they know not the plan of salvation, and shall we stand idly by, and make no effort to arrest them from rushing onwards in the soul-destroying path? I think I hear you cry with united voice—no! Then I call upon you all to go forth in the name of the Lord, and sow the seed of the Gospel. We have received authority to preach, and can impart it to any who are worthy. I have called upon brother Budge to see that the Gospel is sent into all the region around, and into every nook and corner of this city; and I have called upon Pastor Ross to see that it is done throughout his Pastorate. I wrote to President Pratt this morning, and told him that I did not know of a better place than London, to find Elders to send out into the ministry.
I feel like cutting all the traveling Priesthood loose, they have made themselves local. They have been bound to a great extent. If they have been wanted to preach to the Gentiles, they have said, “Oh, I am a presiding officer! It is not for me to go to the Gentiles, I must eat from the public crib, I must get clothes from the public funds, I must keep around among the Saints, for I am a president!” We are going to turn the tables over. An important item in the reformation is to go to the Gentiles, and preach the Gospel to them. The work of the Lord will prosper among you.
Go into a town where an Elder has been sent to preach; ask the people if they know such a man; “oh no,” is the reply; “we never heard of such a person.” Well, I want to see the Elders brought into notice, I want to see them made public characters, and I want them to preach, so that the ears of the Priests may tingle, and that the attention of the people may be irresistibly attracted towards the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want you brethren, to build up the kingdom in the region around London, and when you are called upon, go forth in the name of the Lord. Fast and pray! Till the Holy Ghost rests down upon you in such power, that the influence which proceeds from you shall be felt by all who hear you!
It is our privilege to overcome all the designs of the wicked, even as Joseph our beloved Prophet did in the days of his youth, when he received the plates containing the Book of Mormon. He had to preach, to translate, to plan, and to run about from place to place, to hide the plates, while the devils and wicked men were close at his heels, seeking to frustrate his plans, and to destroy the work; but by the power of God which he obtained through fasting and prayer, and through exercising nightly faith, and by humbling himself before the Lord, he conquered them all, and did a greater work upon the earth than any Prophet that preceded him, excepting only the Son of God. Do we not pray to the same God, and is He not willing to assist us? He is not changed, and if we will ask in faith, we also shall obtain the power which is necessary, to enable us to spread the truth, and overcome the machinations of evil spirits and the wicked designs of ungodly men.
Brother Brigham says in his letter that he wants the Gospel preached throughout the British Isles. His instructions have to be carried out; they must be; and I intend by the help of God, to see that they are carried out. I want you to help me. I do not intend to call you out individually, myself, but I leave it to brothers Ross and Budge. As brother Brigham says, there are plenty of native Elders who are fully competent to preach the Gospel, without so many Elders being sent from Zion. Prepare yourselves, ye Elders of Israel? Settle your families and go forth without purse or scrip to labour for the Lord.
Set your minds on the salvation of men, and you shall be prospered. Read the promises of God in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, “You shall not go hungry nor athirst,” if you are faithful in all things, “neither be weary in body, limb, or joint, and a hair of your head shall not fall to the ground unnoticed;” and the Lord says that He will send His angels before you and prepare your way. I do not want you to preach a sermon and then come back again, but I want you to leave your workshops and become traveling preachers. Go to the Gentiles and preach to them in their houses, and you shall be fed and clothed, and the way shall soon open for you to gather to the mountains. Would I work for the Gentiles when I can work for the Lord? No! And you may work for them till doomsday, and all you will get will be scarcely enough to keep soul and body together. Would I exchange my position for that of any Gentile in Britain? No! I am making more property than any of them, I am accumulating more wealth, only it is not visible. I am working for my Father in heaven, and He has promised good wages to His servants, even a hundredfold for all their labours. Hear His words, “Verily I say unto you, he that shall leave father or mother, wife, or children, houses, or lands, for my sake and the Gospel’s shall receive a hundredfold in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting!” Everything I have at present belongs to the Lord what I have is only lent. And we shall never have anything of our own, until we have been proven, and are found worthy of it. Do you not pray for the Lord to spread the Gospel? Go forth and show by your actions as well as by your prayers, that you wish to see the Gospel spread; and do not ask the Lord to perform that which you can do yourselves. If you want to preach to the people, go where the people are. The Prophet says, “The Lord shall send for many fishers, and they shall fish for them, and for many hunters, and they shall hunt for them.” Why should not you be the Lord’s fishers and hunters? Why should not you be “fishers of men” and go forth to “hunt” up the “seed of Israel?”
In traveling to preach this Gospel, we must use wisdom, “be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
It is on my mind more than anything else to call upon the Elders to preach to the Gentiles. The people must be warned and the Lord says He will “cut His work short in righteousness,” It makes no difference to us whether the people receive our testimony or not, but they must all hear it. We do not want you to work upon their feelings by talking about the torments of hell, but to lay before them good sound doctrine; and when you preach do not say too much about sectarian religion. If you should be led to chastise the Priests for their iniquity, get the attention of the people fastened on you first, and when you do it, give them a “good one” and have done with it. I sometimes chastise them, and they deserve it, for God never suffered a greater set of infidels to live. Do they believe the Bible? No more than we do the writing of Tom Payne, nor half so much for he wrote some things that are true, and we are willing to receive truth no matter from whence it comes.
But do not pull any one’s house down, until you have built a better one for them. Suppose some one was to tell you your house was a decaying fabric, and commence pulling it down. Would you look upon him in the light of a friend? No! But if he were to build you a splendid mansion, and say, “Come out of your old building, and take possession of this beautiful structure,” you would receive his invitation with joy and delight. Instead of trying to pull down other religions see to build up the kingdom of God. Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in plainness, in meekness, but yet with power.
I feel as though I were in the Tabernacle, talking to the Elders who were going out on missions. Well, you are going on missions. We want you all to feel that you are called to preach the Gospel. Some of the brethren seem to think because they have not been to Zion, and have not received their endowments that they are not qualified to preach, and have not sufficient authority to do much in this work. But I tell you that there are men in this Hall, who are better, far better, in my eyes, than some who have been to Zion; for they sit themselves down at their ease, and their influence is leaving them; and unless they arouse themselves from their sleep, their strength will leave them like Sampson’s when he was shorn of his locks in the lap of Delilah. I want you to feel, brethren that as you hold the Priesthood of the living God, your words are just as important, and your testimony as powerful, when spoken by the Spirit of the Lord, as the words and testimony of the American Elders. Some men’s heads have grown to a large size since they have been in this country. “Oh! I have been to Zion and have received my endowments!” Why not show it by your works , for where much is given much is required, and where great power is conferred, great results are expected! Brethren, be encouraged! Be led by the Holy Ghost, and your words will be the word of God. Let no opportunity slip that offers itself to you, to publish the Gospel. I could weep day and night at the opportunities for spreading the truth which are thrown away by the servants of God.
We want faith, brethren, and to feel the power of God resting upon us, as it did upon Enoch, that we may cry repentance to this generation, walk up the nations from their death-like slumbers, and make the old Priests fall trembling from their easy chairs. And we must humble ourselves and acknowledge the hand of the Lord in all things.” To illustrate this I will tell you a little of my experience.
When I first came into the Church, I wanted to go and preach the Gospel, but brother Kimball told me it would not be wisdom at that time. In 1842, I was called upon to take a mission. It was close times just then, and I had no one to go to and ask them to take care of my family, but I left them what I had, and said,” The Lord will provide for you, and see that you lack nothing that is needful.” I went to Illinois, where the mobbing fever was at such a height. I went trusting in the Lord, and if I had not so much learning as the priests, I knew that this work was of God, and neither they, nor all the devils, could knock it out of me. I knew that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and that was of more weight than all their arguments. It is the testimony that goes to the honest heart. I knew if I had to rebut argument, that I might be used up, but I had knowledge which they did not possess.
The second time that I preached was at Chambersburgh on the Illinois river. I obtained permission to preach in the school house. I gave out an appointment, and invited the people to attend. At the appointed time the place was filled. I put my trust in the Lord, and I never felt more liberty in my life. I felt as though I was about two inches from the floor. The people were so silent that you might have heard a pin drop, for the power of God was upon them. I preached about an hour and a-half, and when I had concluded, the people said they never had heard such a sermon in their lives. Well how did I feel? Why instead of being humble before the Lord, I felt, I am a preacher, gentlemen, Hurrah! I can preach as well as the rest of them. With this feeling I stood before my next congregation, but did I feel the same power as before? No. I preached, it is true, and it was nobody else, but me, for the Lord was not in it; it was about the driest discourse that ever I heard in my life, and if I could have taken my hat and walked off, I should have felt very thankful. Well, this did me good, for I learned to put my trust in the Lord. Let us all do so brethren, and we shall never be confounded.
We want “Mormonism” spread to the ends of the earth. Some men are taking it in hand to expose “Mormonism; “if they do that they will be sure to tell the truth. We want “Mormonism” expressed, for it is beautiful and holy, and the more it is exposed, like the opening of a beautiful flower, the more glorious and lovely, does it appear. But when men take it in hand to expose our religion, they get the assistance of the devil—and you know he commenced a lying mission in heaven, and has been faithful to it ever since—so that instead of unveiling our principles, they only tell lies.
Well brethren, go forth and “expose ‘Mormonism’” to the world, and you shall have my blessings and prayers, and you will have the faith and prayers of the brethren in Zion; for they are praying continually in behalf of those who are engaged in preaching the Gospel, and they know how to pray, so as to obtain what they ask for. You are only children now, but bye and bye if you continue in well doing, you will grow to full stature in the Gospel, and receive more power, more light, and more of the blessings of the Lord; and more responsibility will be placed upon you, because you will have more strength to bear it.
May God Almighty bless you, my dear brethren, be of good cheer, be strong in the Lord! Gird up your loins and go forth like mighty warriors to the battle! Clothed with the armour of salvation, wield the bright sword of the Spirit, and God will give you power to perform such deeds of valour, as will cause your names to be numbered among the names of those who have fought the good fight and have overcome all things; and with them you shall sit upon the thrones which shall be prepared, and wear the never-fading crowns of glory, which the righteous Judge has promised to the pure in heart! God bless you all in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.