Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter LIV
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Discourse by Apostle Lorenzo Snow at the General Conference, Salt Lake City, April 7, 1882, Reported by George F. Gibbs. Reference to Moses and ancient Israel. Distrusting results the effect of ignorance. Latter- day Saints have more faith. No such thing as standing still. Move on, trusting in God, the watchword. Persecutions of the Latter-day Saints. Move on and work on. If we do our part, God will do His. How the Lord overruled in our coming to the mountains. Plural marriage. Good resulting from the Edmunds bill. The great worth of the Gospel. Move on, move on.
'HE speaker read from the ninth to the fifteenth verses, inclusive, of the fourteenth chapter of Exodus, and then said: A very important lesson is contained in those verses, applicable not only to this community as a whole, but to every individual. At the time referred to, the children of Israel were but little acquainted with the Lord His ability to carry out His purposes not having had the opportunity for spiritual enlightenment as the Latter-day Saints. They had witnessed some miracles wrought in their partial deliverance, but their hearts were not affected, nor their understandings enlightened by the intelligence of the Holy Spirit as has been the case with the Latter-day Saints; therefore, when they approached the Red Sea, which to every human appearance was impassable, and saw the armies of the Egyptians pressing closely upon their rear, their hearts failed them.
The Latter-day Saints have been placed in circumstances very similar, where it was necessary to rely on their knowledge of God and their faith in His promises. It is not strange that the Israelites on that occasion, considering the little knowledge they possessed, should have been alarmed and manifested such folly and ignorance as they did in expressing to Moses their
doubts of the propriety of persisting in his efforts to deliver them from Egyptian tyranny, notwithstanding they had been treated with such great rigor and barbarity. They had so little faith in the word of the Lord, through Moses, they were willing to return and remain slaves rather than continue under the direction of the Almighty.
They wished to know if there
were not sufficient graves in Egypt that it became necessary to be destroyed in the wilderness by the army of Pharaoh, and chided Moses for the course he had pursued. I scarcely imagine the Latter-day Saints, in any period of their history, have dis- played such lack of faith and cowardice ; however trying their circumstances may have been, they have never been guilty of such weakness and foolish conduct. When the mob arose against us in Missouri, we were but few, and our circumstances so forbidding, it was impossible to expect deliverance except through the intervention of the God of Israel. It is true there may have been some Saints at that time who faltered under the peculiarly trying situation, but they were few.
The Latter-day Saints had received the Gospel, accom- panied by the Holy Spirit; therefore they had confidence, and could exercise the gift of faith and entertain pleasing hopes in the confident expectation of their ultimate deliverance. They did not exhibit that weakness and folly which were manifested by the children of Israel on the occasion to which I referred. There were a few, however, who wdshed to escape the ordeal and return to Babylon.
In reading ecclesiastical history, we discover that Prophets exhibited more or less weakness and want of faith in times of peril ; and I have thought Moses, perhaps, manifested a little on this occasion. He beheld the difficulties, and, although he had more faith and knowledge than the people whom he was leading, yet there seemed to be a fault in the course he advised on this particular occasion. With the Red Sea in front, and the hosts of Pharaoh threatening in the rear, the
state of affairs certainlv wore a fearful aspect; and while the as
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people were bewailing their condition, Moses gave instructions,, saying, "Fear ye not" that so far was good, and should apply to the Latter-day Saints, and indeed always will be applicable in whatever position we may be placed ; but the remainder of the counsel I would think hardly consistent, and certainly would not be applicable to us in any situation or under any circumstances, namely, "Stand still and see the sal ration of the Lord." It appears that Moses began to cry unto the Lord for deliverance, and the Lord answered him, saying, "Wherefore cryest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward" It w r as not proper to stand still. We are required always to move on never stand still: while there remains one step forward that can be taken, that step should be taken.
In this example before us, it was not good for Israel to stand still waiting for the Lord; they had not exhausted their own abilities ; there was still room to move on in the direction God, through Moses, had appointed, and neither were they, nor are we, justified in ceasing to press onward in the path of our duty while we possess the ability. Never stand still, never suspend our efforts, however insurmountable may seem the obstacle ahead, however fierce and threatening the enemy.
When driven from Jackson County, from Kirtland, from Missouri and Illinois, by mob violence, the Kingdom was still moving on the purposes of God being accomplished, and the work of the Lord undergoing changes necessary to its growth and progress, and 'the trials and afflictions incident thereto were required for proving the Saints and advancing them in the knowledge of God. I would say, let this motto be that of every Elder in Israel, and of every person worthy to be called Saint, Fear not never stand still move on. Let the farmer go forward making improvements plow, sow and reap; let those engaged in proper and useful enterprises continue their opera- tions, and every man be faithful and very diligent in observ- ing his covenants and keeping the commandments of God,
and in cultivating a desire to do all the good possible; and if, in reflecting on the past, we discover we have not acted strictly in accordance with the dictates of our consciences, let us make ourselves right before God and man that we may be fully pre- pared fpr every emergency.
Let the building of Temples and houses of worship and education go on; let the Saints continue to school their children, bringing them up in the fear of the Lord ; and let the Gospel still be carried to the nations afar, Israel be gathered, and the people be found always moving on as the purposes of God continue to roll forth.
Do not stand still looking for the salvation of God, but move ahead while there remains a step to be made in the direction which He has commanded; then shall we see the salvation of the Almighty. This is truly the work of God; He is directing its course and progress, and to promote its interests should ever be uppermost in our minds, that we may exhibit to the world our faith and confidence, and our devotion to the divine principles we have embraced. And because of this exhibition of our faith, confidence and integrity during our past trials and afflictions, God helped us in a marvelous manner to go through the fiery ordeals which indeed appeared to 'the world unbearable, though to us were not so grevious; the Spirit of God was with us, even the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. Our experience at those times was like that of the three Hebrew children when cast into the fiery furnace, the angel of God appeared and walked with them, side by side, to and fro, in the midst of fiery flames; and when Daniel was cast into the den of lions, God sent him a comforter in the person of an holy angel. Those men, instead of faltering in the path of duty, and waiting for the Lord to deliver them, moved on, and were irrepressible in their course. The} r possessed the knowledge of God through the Holy Ghost, which also imparted unto them a divine confidence and faith, enabling them to persevere. They knew that in Him, whom they were
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worshiping and obeying, were the issues of life and death ; that to die in Him, is to live live eternally go on, though it lead through martyrdom to the realms of glory and immortality. This principle of faith and fidelity was exhibited by the Latter-day Saints when forced, at the point of the bayonet, to sign over their property to the mob in Missouri, and advised to disperse, scatter, and not venture to gather together, but live as other people.
We ignored that counsel, fled to Illinois, built the city of Nauvoo, and secured a charter from the legislature, embracing more favorable provisions than those of any other city in the State. We did not stand still, but with divine faith and hope, kept pressing forward, the Lord doing as He promised, namely, softening the hearts of rulers and impressing them to favor JZion.
I am not of the mind of some, that good cannot come out (Nazareth) Washington. We occasionally speak rather harshly of some politicians of our country, and, no doubt, deservedly; notwithstanding their illiberal and unjust measures, I believe they can do us good, especially if the Lord operates upon their minds as He has in the past and will do in the future, in granting us favors that many little imagine.
The circumstances which led us to these mountain vales are well known, and need not be related. After having sub- mitted to the necessary chastisement, through failing to give heed to the counsels of the Priesthood, the Lord moved upon our nationargovernment to accord us favors and privileges. They granted what is called the "Organic Act," a bill of rights as good, perhaps, as could have been expected. Furthermore, what was rather surprising, they appointed our Prophet, Brigham Young, Governor of our new Territory. Who would have thought it? Had any man dared to predict such an extraor- dinary change of tactics at the time we were driven by a merciless mob, legalized by the executive of Missouri, he would have been pronounced, to say the least, an enthusiast. And
besides, they selected one of our Elders, and made him United States Judge, and another prominent Elder, Secretary of the Territory. Now, who did this? Our dear "Uncle Sam."
Well, now, I do not propose to speak much against "Our Uncle," for as we see, occasionally, he has taken a notion to act the part of a pretty fair uncle. We perceive, in all this, the hand of (rod working out these changes; and for one, I am willing to admit that good can be brought out of (Nazareth) Washington. We certainly can afford to suffer a little when we discern, now and then, some kindness and humanity exercised in our behalf by the authorities of the nation.
In former generations, the Lord sometimes inspired heathen kings to favor His people, and He is the same God now as then, and He will do in the future as in the past, inspire our rulers to favor Zion, notwithstanding the means now employed to deprive us of our political and religious rights.
We talk about the Edmunds bill; what that law will accomplish, I do not pretend to say, neither do I imagine that its framers and abettors know exactly how far it will affect the Latter-day Saints. One thing, however, I have noticed, that congressmen differ widely in their ideas with regard to certain of its provisions, and that being the case, perhaps it would be policy to wait and watch. But there is one singular feature in it relating to plural marriage. In regard to that doctrine, allow me first to say I have a knowledge of it as a principle, revealed from God, belonging to the religion we have espoused. I was personally acquainted with Joseph Smith, the Prophet, during twelve or fourteen years, by whom I was first taught this doctrine, and knew him to be a man of truth and honor. But then,
I am not dependent on his word for my
knowledge of plural marriage; the Lord gave me a divine testimony confirming His teachings, which no man can give nor take away.
And now, as there is more or less good to be found every-
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where, the Edmunds law, also, is not without its advantages; therefore, let us accept the good and be grateful. There is a provision in that extraordinary statute which legalizes the issue of our plural marriages up to the first day of January, 1883. Now, who- could have expected so much good to come out of Nazareth? "Uncle Sam," after all, is occasionally i pretty fair uncle. [Laughter.] And, mark you, the framers of that law have been so considerate and generous as to provide, distinctly, that the children thus legalized, must be the offspring of marriages performed exactly according to the rites and cere- monies of the sect known as the Latter-day Saints. In the language of the little boy, I say "good enough." [Laughter.] Now, if any of our Gentile friends, in the past, have been indiscreet or should hereafter take mistresses (their usual custom), their offspring, of course, are not so favored. [Laughter.] We ought to be thankful for this kind legislation, and, no doubt, we are.
.Really, I never anticipated the law makers of our nation would legalize our plural marriages performed in the last thirty
vears or more. If the Lord is able to work in this manner
through men who framed that odd and singular statute, our open and avowed enemies, what may He not do in our favor if w r e continue faithful in keeping our covenants. The Lord, very possibly, will permit a heavy pressure to bear upon us, such as will require great sacrifice at the hands of this people. The question should be, Will we be prepared? This is the work of the Almighty, and the blessings we look for, which have been promised, will be given after we have passed through the ordeal and proved ourselves. I have no special word for the Saints that there is, or is not, approaching them a fiery ordeal which they must endure; the question with me is, Am I pre- pared to receive and put to proper use every blessing and ability the Lord bestows, and thus be ready to make such sacrifice as He may require? I will close my remarks by exhorting one and all move on, move on, and never stand still.