Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter XLIX
Discourse by Elder Lorenzo Snow, delivered in a meeting of the St. George Stake of Zion, in the Temple, April 5th, 1877; reported by George F, Gibbs. Necessity for effort. What the Lord said to Oliver Cowdery. Regulation of temporal affairs. Consecration and stewardship. Prepa- ration for building in Jackson County. The United Order. Plural marriage. Responsibility of Presidents. How confidence is created. The necessity of its cultivation. Desires for the future.
N occupying the time this morning, I wish, in the first place, to call your attention to the fact that we are Lat- ter-day Saints, or at least ought to be; and that as such we are dependent upon the Lord for our instruction. This is in accordance with our faith that we have to look to Him for assistance under all circumstances, in all places, in all our
affairs in life, and in all matters pertaining to our advance- ment in the principles of godliness.
Assembled together as we are this morning, it is very necessary that we ask the Lord for His Spirit, the spirit of inspiration, to rest upon us as speakers and as hearers, that
we may be enabled to comprehend what may be spoken, and that it may be adapted to our individual needs. It is impos- sible to progress in the principles of truth to increase in heavenly knowledge, except we exercise our reasoning facul- ties and exert ourselves in a proper manner. We have an instance recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants of a misun- derstanding on the part of Oliver Cowdery, touching this principle. The Lord promised him the gift to translate ancient records. Like many of us to-day, he had misconcep- tions in regard to the exercise of the gift. He thought all that was necessary for him to do, inasmuch as this gift had been promised him of God, was to allow his mind to wait in idleness without effort, until it should operate spontaneously. But when these records were placed before him, no knowledge was communicated; they still continued sealed, as it were, for -up power to translate rested upon him.
Although the gift to translate had been conferred, he could not prosecute the work, simply because he failed to exert himself before God, with the view of developing the gift within him, and he was greatly disappointed ; and the Lord in His goodness and mercy informed him of his mistake, using the following language:
"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you when you took no thought, save it was to ask me; but, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right; and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you," etc.
So in regard to us respecting the things which we are undertaking. If we expect to improve and advance in the
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work immediately before us, and finally obtain possession of those gifts and glories coming up to that condition of exalta- tion we anticipate, we must take thought and reflect ; we must exert ourselves, and that too to the utmost of our abilities.
The text given us by President Young yesterday, and to which we, in our prayer this morning, asked God to direct our remarks, was the work pertaining to our present wants and necessities, in which we are now immediately concerned. The question here arises, How shall we regulate affairs so as to qualify us to perform the duties and obligations devolving upon us to-day, and secure to ourselves the blessings of eternal life? On this subject, so far as the Lord will give me His Holy Spirit, through the exercise of your faith, I wish to speak this morning. I desire, however, to confine myself more par- ticularly to the subject relating to our financial union unit- ing ourselves together as brethren who have entered into the everlasting covenant of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, expecting to dwell together in the presence of God in the celestial world.
We have been told, through the revelations of God, to which our attention has often been called, that unless we become one in temporal as well as spiritual things, it were use- less to anticipate the fulness of celestial glory or a state of oneness in the spiritual things of God. But what course we are to take in order to arrive at this most desirable condition seems to remain a difficult, unsolved problem. Doubtless many have asked themselves, What can we do, and how shall we do it?
Now let our minds revert for a few minutes to the time when we received the fulness of the everlasting Gospel, 'in the countries where it first reached us. As soon as we became convinced of the truth, and that the Elders who preached the Gospel were the servants of God, we offered ourselves as candi- dates for baptism for the remission of sins, receiving the Holy Ghost through the laying on of their hands, and then felt
determined to do whatever the Lord should require through His servants, and continue to follow their counsel in all things, even to the sacrifice 01 all that we possessed, if neces- sary, whether pertaining to the world's wealth, or that which we held in higher or dearer esteem.
We learned an important and significant fact, that we were the offspring of God, inheriting, though only in infantile form, the same attributes He possessed, and that through pro- bationary experience, by passing the ordeals of earth, rejecting the evil and accepting the good, these attributes could be developed until eventually we might receive a fulness of the Godhead and dwell in the presence of the Father. We became acquainted with this fact, and were convinced in our hearts that the object that then appeared before us was well worthy of all that we could bestow r upon it. Hence we resolved that we would accomplish the undertaking, though at the sacrifice of all we called our own. We well understood that in order to attain to that position which would entitle us to this exaltation, it would be necessary to submit ourselves wholly to the mind and will of God. We felt in our hearts to consecrate our wives, our children, our property (if we had any), and our time and abilities to the service of God. Had the law of consecration been presented at that time, without doubt it would have been hailed with joy, as it is in exact accordance with the spirit of our covenants.
According to the order of the celestial world, as revealed to the Latter-day Saints, respecting the property we might possess, we were required to consecrate all to the Lord, and then to be made stewards, as pointed out by revelation in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and were to continue to devote that which might be entrusted to us to the service of God; and so far as we increased the property of our steward- ship^ were to devote the same to the benefit of the Kingdom of God, which would be used for the building of temples, emigrating and sustaining the poor, and for carrying on the
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great work of redeeming Israel. This feeling which we enter- tained at the beginning was to continue to burn in our bosoms, and we were to be faithful and honest in our professions.
I knoAV that many of us, when we came to the valleys, conformed to this law of consecration, which is now published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. We deeded our prop- erty, and many were willing, perhaps not all, that, if neces- sary, every part and portion of it might have been used as the servants of God should have directed. This is the kind of feeling that we then entertained, and just so long as we main- tained this condition of mind, of willing obedience, it was all that was required. But I fear that this feeling which gave us so much joy which tended to increase our faith and confi- dence in God and in one another, has not continued to grow correspondingly with our general prosperity, experience and knowledge of the Gospel. So far as this is the case, my testi- mony to you is that we stand this day not wholly approved of God, although we have the privilege of worshiping in this Temple, reared to His holy name. But just so far as this will- ingness exists in our hearts to appropriate our means which we have accumulated, for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God upon the earth, and that too without grudging, even as the former day Saints laid theirs down at the feet of the Apostles, so far are we approved and accepted of God. Who, among the Latter-day Saints within the hearing of my voice this day, could fail to comprehend this?
In many of our business relations one with another, there does not exist that spirit of union and brotherly interest which should be maintained. We need to take a course that will enable us to acquire it, and this spirit should prevail throughout all our settlements.
Who cannot perceive the hand of God in bringing us from the turmoil and strife of the business world to these mountain vales, where we have the opportunity and the privi- lege of building up cities and villages upon the principle of
unity which has been revealed to us, thus affording that necessary discipline which we could not have obtained among the
cities of the Gentiles? This training cannot be acquired
in one year, nor in five years, but its acquisition is enhanced in proportion to our willingness to sacrifice in order to obtain it. By and by the Lord will prepare the way for some to return to Jackson County, there to build up the metropolis of Zion. How- easily this work can be accomplished, after we have learned to build up cities and temples here to His divine acceptance! Our present experience is a very needful one; without it we should be totally unfitted for the performance of such a work.
We read that the temple which Solomon built was erected without the sound of a hammer being heard. There had been a previous preparation, and an experience gained in some distant locality, and a proper training. The materials were accurately prepared elsewhere, and when brought together were ready for setting, each piece to its proper place.
As knowledge and efficiency are obtained gradually, we may expect that the experience we are getting now, in learn- ing how to build up cities in our present condition conform- ing as near as possible to the holy order of God, is designed to prepare us to return to Missouri, from whence we were driven, and there build up cities and temples to the name of the Most High, upon which His glory will descend. A condition of willingness to conform our will to the Divine will is what we need.
It might not be deemed policy to enter into covenants by deed, in our property matters, at present, though it may be hereafter. So long as the emotions of our souls prompt us to exclaim, in the language of Joshua, that " I and my household will serve the Lord " so long as this willingness dwells in our hearts, to give ourselves up entirely to the service of God, we are in the proper condition to ask the Father to hasten the day when His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. And
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further, when the proper time comes to require the use of our property in the interests of the great work we are engaged in, the bare mention of it will be sufficient.
But, we ask, should not the Bishop who operates in our temporal matters be a very wise and good man? Certainly he should, and a man of honor and integrity, full of the Holy Ghost, loving his neighbor as himself, and loving the Lord our God with all his might, mind and strength. On' this, we are told, "hang all the law and the prophets." Blessed is he in whom these two principles are developed, for such an one is without condemnation ; he stands the peer of him referred to in the Scriptures, by the Savior, as one "without guile." The people will soon learn to confide in such a man, as he can establish unmistakable proof before God and before his brethren that he obeys these commandments in which are included all that the Prophets ever lived for.
We will suppose further, that such an individual as I have described, who really had obeyed these commandments, was placed to preside over a city of a thousand people, all of whom were also living in the advanced condition referred to; he must bear in mind his important position, high responsibilities and who appointed him to this position he or they in whom (lod had vested the authority. Why is such a man called to act as president over a people? Is it in order to acquire an influence and then to use that influence directly for his own aggrandizement? No; but, on the contrary, he is called to act in such a position on the same principle as the Priesthood was given to the Son of God, that he should make sacrifice. For himself? No; but to become the servant, not the master, of his brethren, and to work for their interest and welfare not to exercise the influence thus obtained to benefit himself, his family, relatives and personal friends; but esteeming all as his brethren, and as having rights in common with himself, and, therefore, seeking to bless and benefit all equally accord- ing to the talents and worthiness they may possess, and thus
by so doing develop in himself that fatherly feeling which always exists in the bosom of the Father.
At the present time it is too often the case that the men who are called to act in such positions, instead of thus acting according to their holy calling, use their influence, their Priest- hood, the sacred powers conferred upon them, for their own benefit and that of their children and personal friends. This is highly improper; it is wrong and displeasing in the sight of God; and of this sin we are called to repent by putting it away from us, and beginning to live the lives of Latter-day Saints, according the sacred covenants we have entered into.
When you find a man who takes the same interest in those over whom he presides as he does in himself and family you will naturally begin to have confidence in that individual . But as soon as you find that his feelings by day and by night, and the course of his conduct is such as tend directly to benefit himself and his family, you will say : " What interest has he for us? We must look out for ourselves." But where a man works for the community, he becomes truly a father to that people, working for them with the same feeling, desire and interest as he* would for himself. It might be said of him, as it should be said of all men, that he loves his brethren, or in other words, "his neighbor as himself." Now let the man who acts as the presiding Elder of his ward manifest by word and action these fatherly feelings towards those he presides over, and how soon we would begin to perceive perfect con- fidence restored.
Possibly such a man might not possess financiering abili- ties, and possibly the people might not have confidence in his abilities to manage or direct temporal affairs. This is quite supposable, for good, sound principled men are not always endowed with great financiering capacities. Yet, from the -fact of his having established himself in the hearts of the people, and being known by them for his integrity and honesty, and a disposition to work for the interests of God and the people,
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willing to make any sacrifice that might be required of him, he possesses their confidence, and when once in possession of a trust so^acred, what then might he do in order to satisfy the minds of the people, which are more or less progressive? Let him call to his aid those of his brethren who are the most capable, letting them share in his responsibilities. Because, you will find, as a general thing, that talent is diffused through the many, and rarely combined in single individuals ; and it only needs opportunity in order to be developed. He might say to one, " Here, Brother B., you are better adapted to fill this or that position than I am;" and to another, "You are the man best fitted to this department;" and so on until he gets the talents of all brought out, and instead of diminish- ing the public confidence in himself such a course would add to it. Further, he would be doing for his brethren that which the United Order designs to do for all, namely, to afford oppor- tunity to develop the gifts with which nature has endowed us. Therefore, I say that all these matters can be got along with, provided we have the sure and safe foundation, which must be based on honesty and integrity to God and the irue interests of His kingdom and people.
With a people of one heart and mind, possessed of the same feelings and aspirations as we were when we first embraced the Gospel, in connection with our present knowl- edge and experience in the practical workings of building up the kingdom, how easy it would be to establish our home industries or mercantile institutions, and carry them on successfully. Every one would be on hand, like Israel when in the desert, and journeying to the land of Canaan, they were required to build a movable tabernacle for certain sacred purposes, and the people brought their offerings, etc., even more than were sufficient, and Moses had to cry out to the people to stop. So it could be with us, as far as willingness oh the part of the people was concerned to take an active part in any general movement that might be projected. Whatever
means or time or property might be devoted by the commu- nity for the establishing of any certain enterprise, would be done in good faith, for every heart would be inspired with confidence, every one considering his interest identified with that of the whole.
But it takes time to get the people into this condition. Here, in this southern country, we understand that the people have been endeavoring to work together in the United Order, meeting with more or less disappointment. Because of reverses or failures in our attempts to successfully operate in our temporal affairs, we should not allow such disappointment to detract from the principle itself, but rather let us attribute our misfortunes to human weakness, regarding the principle as divine, revealed for our special benefit and blessing, and in every instance of apparent failure, let us be resolved to "try again."
The principles of plural marriage were revealed for the benefit and exaltation of the children of men ; but how much unhappiness has arisen through failure on the part of some who have contracted this order of marriage to conform to the laws that govern it. But does it arise through any defect in the order of the marriage system? 0, no; but from ignorance and the folly and wickedness of those individuals who enter into it, who abuse rather than righteously obey it. So in regard to the principles of the United Order. Its principles also are sacred, and I assure you we will never go back to Jackson County, Missouri, there
to build up the New Jerusalem
of the latter days, until there is a perfect willingness on our part to conform to its rules and principles. Many years have transpired since we received the revelation of the United Order, and in one sense, that long period of time bespeaks negligence on our part in not more fully obeying it. The very principles of that Order, in my estimation, were given for our temporal and spiritual salvation. In order to derive the benefit that Grod designed should flow from them, they must
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be established and systematized on the principle of righteous- ness, each person learning to love his neighbor as himself. For us to undertake to deal with them on any other principle, would virtually open the way to bitter disappointment.
Then allow me to repeat : let me find a community that is willing to conform to this, bringing to mind the covenants made in the beginning when we received the fulness of the Gospel, willing to bring to mind when they dedicated all they possessed their property, their talents, their mental and physical powers to the building up of the kingdom of God; remembering the time when we did this, the blessings of the Most High were upon us, and His Spirit burned within us. Then let those who preach in that community of Saints realize what the Priesthood was placed upon them for; let them know and fully sense why they were appointed to fill such and such offices, viz.: that they should act in the spirit of our Master, a servant of all that they learn to consider and esteem, in the same affectionate interest, the welfare of all as they do that of themselves, and be in very deed fathers to the people. Then will they enter into the spirit of the two great commands, upon which, said the Savior, " hang all the law and the prophets," namely, loving the Lord with all our might, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. This, in my opinion, is the foundation of our future success, temporally and spiritually, in this United Order. Until we come down to the bed-rock of honesty and sincerity in this matter, dealing with temporal as with spiritual things, whole-heartedly, hold- ing all and ourselves sacred to the service of God, we may expect more or less failure.
Let me say to the brethren who are, and w T ho contemplate connecting themselves actively and entirely with this holy order, that the Priesthood was bestowed upon you, as upon the Son of God, for no other purpose than that through sacrifice you might be proven, that, peradventure, at the last day, you might stand approved before God, and
before perfect and lioly beings, and that in order to merit this divine approval, it may be necessary to forget self and indi- vidual aggrandizement and seek the interest of your brethren. If you are read}' and willing to do this, and if your every-day life and conduct and the spirit within you testify the fact, you will establish confidence in the hearts of those who know you, and with whom you are more immediately associated in temporal matters.
Confidence is ofttimes referred to by our brethren, espe- cially when speaking on the subject of the United Order. It is spoken of and written on by the religious, the political and the financial world, and the present condition of the whole is such as to force itself upon our serious attention. We may confi- dently anticipate that, as history shall chronicle the develop- ments of this, our progressive world, we shall witness more and more the necessity of it. For as palpable, and what may be termed legitimate, fraud increases, and the whole world ripens in iniquity generally, confidence will lessen and become more priceless and precious. This is quite obvious to all men in whose hearts dwells a spark of that Spirit by which the Prophets foretold the destiny of the nations. Confidence can be acquired only on the principle of righteousness, whether it be applied to the monarch or the peasant, the religionist or the non-religionist; merit alone commands it.
Then let us live the lives of Latter-day Saints, that we may first beget confidence in ourselves, then we shall begin to have confidence in each other in God and His promises. A people in this condition of progress would know no failures; everything would prosper that they put their hands to; they would grow in faith and in good works.
I tell you in the name of the Lord God, that the time is coming when there will be no safety only in the principles of union, for therein lies the secret of our temporal and spiritual salvation. We have been enabled to establish settlements, towns and villages, and we have been abundantly blessed with
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the necessaries and conveniences of life, notwithstanding we have been slow to hearken to and obey the commands of Jehovah.
I would to God that every Bishop and presiding officer would, this day, in this holy Temple, covenant and swear before Him, the Lord our God, that they would turn and serve Him with all their might, mind and strength, and work for the interest of the people as they would for themselves ; for my greatest desire is to see Zion established according to the reve- lations of God to see her inhabitants industrious and self- sustaining, rilled with wisdom and the power of God, that around us may be built a wall of defence, a protection against the mighty powers of Babylon ; and while the disobedient of our Father's famity are contending, and filling up their cup of iniquity, even to the brim, and thus preparing themselves for the burning, we who are the acknowledged children of the kingdom, being filled with righteousness and knowledge of God, may be like the wise virgins, clothed in our wedding garments, and properly prepared for the coming of our Lord and Savior. Journal of Discourses.