Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter XXXII
Discourse by Elder L. Snow, delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City. Blessings proportioned to faith and diligence. Plainness of the Gospel. Naaman, the Assyrian. How the Gospel found us. The same as that of New Testament. Power of the Gospel. Testimony of the Elders. What Philanthropists tried to do, the Lord has done. Joseph Smith. His mission. Obedience brings knowledge. Elders honest and brave as the ancients. Knowledge not confined to our leaders. Falsehood refuted. The dishonest will apostatize. Persecution promised. The honest will receive the truth. The Latter-day work will triumph.
N addressing an assembly of Saints, I expect the benefit of their prayers, without the ceremony of asking, being assured they are aware, as well as I am, that our teach- ings and administrations in the Gospel of life are blest according to our faith and prayers and the diligence and attention we bestow.
I propose to make some general observations upon the Gospel and its administrations, and in relation to its effects when received, and the important blessings derived by this community through its divine power and virtue. This Gos- pel, which God has commanded us to offer to the world, is an order or system of things, simple, plain, and may easily be understood. In regard to its principles the nature of its requirements and the precise kind and character of its bless- ings and promises, no one, however ignorant or unlearned, needs to be left in the dark any great length of time; but may discover its golden truths and the emblazoned mark of divinity in its arrangements as distinctly and as speedily as Naaman,
the captain of the Assyrian host, found divine
virtue and the hand of divinity in the order prescribed to him by Elijah, through which his leprosy was removed. In
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his case the order of obtaining miraculous blessings, viz. : to immerse seven times in Jordan, as prescribed by Elijah, was so simple, so plain, and in regard to its divine efficacy,.so easy of ascertainment, that the great captain, at first, was exceed- ingly wrathy at the idea that God should propose to work upon him through such easy and simple forms; but the order through which he could be healed of his leprosy was pres- cribed of God through the Prophet, and finally the Assyrian officer, 'through the plain, common-sense reasoning of his servant, concluded to waive his objections, and comply with the requirements; and having done so, he received the prom- ised blessing.
The first principles of the Gospel which we offer, and which put men in possession of the revelations of God and of a knowledge of this work, are precisely as simple, plain and as easy of understanding as the order before alluded to, through which the heavens were opened in Naaman's behalf.
The Gospel was brought to our respective locations, far remote from these mountain vales. It found us citizens of many nations speaking our respective languages, each pos- sessing his peculiar notions and prejudices, with our associa- tions and a strong attachment to kindred, friends and country. However unpleasant, unkind, unjust and inconsistent it might appear at first, we clearly foresaw that, in receiving this Gospel, we should be compelled to break up those associa- tions and sever those attachments, leaving the lands of our nativity, and going forth with our wives and children to a distant land, of which we had but little knowledge. Yet a similar requisition was made upon the House of Israel, in the land of Egypt; also upon Noah and his family, and upon Abraham and the family of Lot, in the city of Sodom, and upon the families of Lehi and Ishmael, as mentioned in the Book of Mormon. But in the provisions of the Gospel which was offered to us, there were fairness and safety; it proposed to give us, through obedience to its requirements, a perfect
knowledge of its divine authenticity; so that in leaving our kindred, breaking up our social relations, and going forth from our native lands, we should first become perfectly assured that it was no human contrivance something gotten up to effect some political purpose, or to satisfy some worldly ambition to achieve some private end through human cun- ning or craftiness.
The Gospel was plain and simple in its requirements, and there could be no mistaking the precise nature of its blessings and promises, nor the manner and time in which they were to be reached.
The first feature in this system which struck us with sur- prise and arrested our attention, was its perfect similarity, in all its parts, with the Gospel as recorded in the New Testa- ment. It required repentance and a forsaking of sins immersion in water for the remission of sins, with a promise that, through the laying on of hands by those having author- ity, people should receive the Holy Ghost, by which a knowl- edge should be obtained of the truth of the doctrine. Another remarkable feature which called into exercise our most serious consideration, was the solemn testimony of the Elders, that they possessed the right to administer these sacred ordinances by virtue of the holy Priesthood committed to Joseph Smith through the ministration of the Apostles, Peter, James and John. And furthermore, that this solemn and most important fact should be revealed to every man upon his faithful obedience to the Gospel requirements.
In these propositions, though at first seemingly strange, we saw that everything was plain, fair and honorable. In doing what they required, we should only do, in fact, what, as true-hearted believers in the ancient Gospel, we ought to do, and if we failed to receive the promised blessings, and thereby proved the Elders' testimony false, our religious con- dition would, nevertheless, be then as good as any other Christian's, and a little better, perhaps, because we should
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have approached a little nearer to the doctrines of the Scrip- tures, inasmuch as their true forms and ceremonies were con- cerned. Of course, in this case, having proved to our satis- faction that there was no Holy Ghost no supernatural manifestations no knowledge no revelations accompanying the Elders' administrations of the Gospel; no human persua- sion, no cunning sophistry could have induced us to leave our homes and friends, to embark in a scheme which our common sense taught us would eventuate in bitter disappoint- ment and inevitable ruin; but, like other Christians, we should have continued in the enjoyment of friends and home, groping our way through religious darkness, expecting nothing, hoping nothing, and receiving nothing.
But the fact that I am now speaking to assembled thous- ands of intelligent and enlightened people, who received this Gospel with the aforementioned fond considerations and lively expectations gathered here by their own free will and choice, out of almost every nation, demonstrates most clearly, most forcibly and most solemnly, that this system of life, this Gospel as proclaimed by Joseph Smith, has been shown to us by the revelations of the Almighty that it is undeniably His will, His word and His message; not only this, but we find within ourselves a fixed purpose an unalterable resolu- tion to do, if need be, what many of us have already done; show the sincerity of pur convictions of these solemn truths, through sacrificing all we possess not even holding our lives as dear to us as this religion.
There was yet another prominent feature embraced in this order of things, viz., where it found people in poverty, misery and in a condition but a little above starvation, it spoke in positive terms of future relief and effectual deliver- ance. It did not simply say, "Be ye warmed and be ye clothed," but it declared plainly, and in distinct terms, that the Lord had seen their bondage and oppression, and heard their cries of sorrow and affliction, and had now sent His
Gospel for their deliverance, and would lead them into cir- cumstances of independence, where they could supply their own wants and necessities. There, again, was something con sistent and worthy of all praise and admiration, and char- acteristic of our Great Parent,, which we discover in all of His dispensations, when they are in actual working order, as they were in the case of Noah, and in calling Israel and mak- ing them an independent people ; likewise as in calling Lehi to establish a people upon this continent, as well as in many other instances.
A religion or system is of very little account, where it possesses no virtue nor power to better the condition of people, spiritually, intellectually, morally and physically. Enoch's order of the Gospel did for his people all this, and it has done the same in every instance, when preached in its purity and obeyed in sincerity. Many of the thousands of persons in these beautiful valleys, who formerly were com- pelled, with their wives and children, to subsist in a half starved condition not owning a habitation, nor a foot of land, nor a horse, cow, pig, nor chicken in fact, not anything they could call their own subject at any moment, through the whim of their employer, to be turned into the streets, miser- able beggars ; now own cabinet shops, factories, mills, flocks and herds, beautiful gardens and orchards, productive farms, wagons and carriages, dwelling in their own houses in com- fortable and easy circumstances. No one has any apprehen- sion of starvation within the jurisdiction of the Latter-day Saints.
The Gospel proposed these blessings at its announcement, and they have been most miraculously accomplished. No other religious system could have achieved such things, nor dared any other Christian denomination venture to send out its missionaries " without purse or scrip," and without a col- legiate education, to declare to the people that they had authority from God to administer the sacred ordinances of
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the Gospel, through which should be revealed tangible evi- dence and knowledge of its divinity, and of their being authorized to administer it, and take the people from a state of poverty, and lead them thousands of miles, and despite every obstacle, establish them as a comparatively independent people in the midst of a wild desert country. That they found the people poor, friendless and without the means of living, and in servitude not much better than Egyptian bondage, as we found many of them ; they would have im- parted no cheering news of an approaching salvation from the God of heaven, but could only have exhorted them to be con- tented and reconciled with their unhappy lot, and in no case must they look for any new revelation or miraculous inter- position.
What philanthropists have wished to accomplish, and have often attempted, the Lord is now doing on a magnificent scale in this great American Desert. Flourishing settlements, towns and cities are rapidly being built, extending over a dis- stance of five hundred miles in length hundreds of miles in width, through the untiring energy and perseverance of a people formerly totally ignorant of such labors. In these cities people live in harmony and peace; and robberies, grog shops, gambling hells, houses of ill-fame and prostitution are not known in any of our numerous towns and cities, except in some instances
where Christians (so called) possess a footing
and influence. Everywhere else this community flourishes without these demoralizing institutions.
No one, however prejudiced he may be, can scarcely avoid acknowledging the palpable fact that this system has conferred miraculous blessings upon thousands and tens of thousands, in the way of putting them in possession of the means of sustaining themselves, after having delivered them from oppression and tyranny little better than African slavery : and no doubt our legislators at Washington, one and all, would give us credit for our indefatigable and successful
labors in establishing an extensive and flourishing colony on a portion of our government's domain, formerly inhabited only by savages and wild beasts, provided we would admit this work to be the work of man, and not of God that it had been accomplished through the artifice and wisdom of man, and not by the power, wisdom and revelations of God.
Joseph Smith, whom God chose to establish this work, was poor and uneducated, and belonged to no popular denom- ination of Christians. He was a mere boy, honest, full of integrity, unacquainted with the trickery, cunning and sophistry employed by politicians and religious hypocrites to accomplish their ends. Like Moses of old, he felt incom- petent and unqualified for the task to stand forth as a religious reformer, in a position the most unpopular to battle against opinions and creeds which have stood for ages, having had the sanction and support of men the most pro- found in theological lore; but God had called him to deliver the poor and honest-hearted of all nations from their spiritual and temporal thralldom. And God promised him that who- soever should receive and obey his message, and whosoever would receive baptism for the remission of sins, with honesty of purpose, should receive divine manifestations should receive the Holy Ghost should receive the same Gospel blessings which were promised and obtained through the Gos- pel, as preached by the ancient Apostles : and this message, this promise, was to be in force wherever and to whomsoever it should be carried by the Elders, God's authorized messen- gers. So said Joseph Smith, the uneducated, the unsophisti- cated, the plain, simple, honest boy.
It is through the virtue and force of this boy's statement that I speak this afternoon to assembled' thousands. In the integrity of my heart, with honesty of purpose to know the the truth, I received the message I obeyed this form of doc- trine, and I received, in the most tangible and satisfactory manner, a divine manifestation, the promised blessing a
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knowledge of this work. Am I the only witness? How is it with the experience of thousands whom I now address? Are you also witnesses ? If you are not, I ask you in the name of common sense, Why are you here ? Why did you leave your homes and countries, giving your sanction to the truth of a system which promised you divine manifestations, but which you failed in experiencing? Being honest ourselves, if we can- not bear a solemn testimony of having received divine mani- festations of the great fact that God himself has founded this order of things, then it becomes a serious fact that we are witnesses, and in truth the only proper witnesses, that this whole plan and pretension of Joseph Smith is a sheer false- hood a miserable fabrication.
It will be recollected that this Gospel message proposed to give us divine manifestations through our doing certain specified acts ; we have performed those acts in precisely the manner indicated. None but ourselves have attempted to conform to this arrangement, consequently, 110 other people are prepared to be witnesses either for or against this system.
The Gospel, as recorded in the New Testament, in its promises and provisions, was precisely similar. It required certain specified acts to be done, with promises that divine manifestations should follow their performance. Jesus said, "He that will do the will of God shall "know of the doctrine." Peter, on the day of Pentecost, said, "Repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins, and you shaH receive the Holy Ghost." Again, Jesus said, "These signs shall follow them that be- lieve," etc. A multitude of testimonies could be produced from the New Testament, showing that divine manifestations and perfect knowledge were promised to and were actually received in a specified and tangible form by those who then obeyed the Gospel. Those who obeyed its requirements were the only competent witnesses for or against its divine authen- ticity. After honestly complying with its requisitions, via.:
repenting of, and forsaking their sins, being immersed in water for the remission of sins, and receiving the ordinance of the laying on of hands; then had they failed to receive the Holy Ghost, with its gifts and promised knowledge and attendant signs, they would have seen that the entire Apos- tolic scheme of salvation rested on a baseless fabric.
When the Gospel, or order of things which we have received, was presented to us, we carefully compared it with the Gospel recorded in the Scriptures, and found it alike pre- cisely, in every particular, as regarded its forms, ordinances, and the authority to administer them : its promise of the Holy Ghost and of the signs that should follow, together with a promise of a knowledge of its divinity. In many instances it was brought to us by men with whose character we were perfectly familiar, and for whose honesty and integrity we could vouch ; who solemnly stated, in private and in public, that through an obedience to its requirements, they had obtained, in a tangible form, a perfect knowledge of its heaven-born principles.
This was my experience, and after having complied with its demands, and thereupon received a knowledge of its genuineness, and having obtained authority to preach and, administer its ordinances, I commenced forthwith to proclaim it to the world ; and no doubt there are persons in this audi- ence, out of different nations, to whom I have administered this Gospel, who can witness to its virtue and efficacy. Many years I have been engaged in forwarding the interests of this order of things, and you are the proper judges whether it be of God or of man.
We have the same Gospel the primitive churches had, and the same knowledge and evidence they had of its divine authenticity; and we have just as honest and brave men to preach it as they had men that have proved their integrity through sacrifice as great as the Elders of the primitive churches ever made. The testimony of our Elders is as valid
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and worthy of credit as the testimony of their Elders. Our Apostles who are living are* as honest as the Apostles of the New Testament, and their testimony is as worthy of credit, so far as they live and speak according to the Scriptural law and testimony. If this order of things which we have obeyed is not the Gospel if these evidences, these manifestations, this knowledge, this Holy Ghost, these deliverances from misery and bondage, and being placed in comfortable and happy cir- cumstances, living together in peace and harmony, building beautiful towns and cities, free from demoralizing institu- tions, be not the legitimate fruits of the working of a pure and holy system established by God, through Joseph Smith, we shall be compelled to question the genuineness of the Gospel of the former day Saints, as recorded in the New Tes- tament.
By some it has been argued that Joseph Smith and his prominent Elders were the most corrupt, wicked and infamous of impostors, but his followers, the Latter-day Saints in gen- eral, though deceived, were very good people, and scrupu- lously honest in their religious opinions.
From what I have already said in regard to the operations and effects of this work, it is easy to be seen that, if it be an imposition, it is not confined exclusively to the leaders of this people, but this whole community are actively and knowingly engaged in a stupendous scheme of deception and hypocrisy; and by the way, as I before hinted, if this could be proved to be the case, we should be driven to the belief that the former day Saints, also, had been engaged in the same disgraceful imposition. More than one hundred thousand people now dwell in these valleys, many of them having come from dis- tant climes and nations. In this great fact they willingly and understandingly exhibit to the world a clear and power- ful testimony more expressive and powerful than any language could command that they did undeniably and most positively receive, through the ordinances of this
Gospel, administered unto them by our Elders, a knowl- edge of this work through the divine manifestations of the Almighty.
But it may be objected that, whereas members of this community were found by our missionaries in great poverty and distress, therefore they obeyed the Gospel and emigrated here to better their circumstances financially, without any regard to its truth or falsity, as a divine system. This might be true in some instances, but impossible as regards its appli- cation to this people as a community.' Those persons who received this work without religious motives, and without honest convictions of its divine requirements, but solely for the "loaves and fishes," cannot possibly abide the test to which every one's faith, sooner or later, must be brought, but will have every particle of his dishonesty and hypocrisy exposed, and will sooner or later apostatize.
Hundreds of my brethren, Elders in this Church, full of godly zeal, animated
with the purest motives, having obtained
a knowledge of the will of God, have left their wives and chil- dren, everything that the heart holds most dear, and gone forth to the nations, without any worldly compensation, and called on all to repent and turn their hearts to the Lord obey the Gospel, with a promise that they should receive the Holy Ghost, which would "lead them into all truth, and show them things to come," and it should be their guide and monitor a principle of revelation remaining with them through life, provided they preserved their honesty and integrity, continu- ing faithful in keeping the commandments of God devoting their time, their means, their talents, their all, to building up the Kingdom of God. These duties were required, these blessings promised, in the preaching of the Gospel by our missionaries and the prominent Elders of this Church. To obtain light a knowledge of the will of God; to get the true religion as now revealed through the Gospel divine manifes- tations regarding the truth of the doctrine as taught by
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Joseph Smith, was the first and all absorbing proposition pre- sented to the people.
Now, whether these Elders and missionaries were base impostors, promulgating sheer falsehoods or not, is, of course, a question of grave consideration; and it is a matter of far greater importance, and of more serious inquiry, whether this people, as a community, having failed to receive those divine testimonies, kept silence as to that most vital and important fact, and came here to practice hypocrisy in religion, and thus fasten, irresistibly, on our children and future generations a system of falsehoods for a divine religion.
Joseph Smith affirmed that Peter, James and John vis- ited him and conferred on him authority to administer the holy ordinances of the Gospel, through which every honest- hearted man and woman were promised the Holy Ghost and a perfect knowledge of the doctrine. Our Elders simply affirm that, having received a divine knowledge of the fact that this Gospel was a heaven-born institution, and through its virtue and divine force every honest-hearted person may obtain this same knowledge.
I had been a member of this Church but a short time when I obtained, through a divine manifestation, a clear, explicit and tangible demonstration of the truth of this work. Thousands and tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints, men and women in private life, can testify to the same experience; and though I may know many things in regard to this doc- trine which in their limited experience they may not under- stand, yet, in this one fact they are equal to me in knowledge and equal to the messengers who administer to them this Gospel.
I now wish to examine another prominent feature con- nected with the religion of this Gospel. An important item which was held forth prominently wherever this Gospel was announced, was that its followers should have abundance of persecutions, and- would probably, in the progress of their
new life, be compelled to make the most trying sacrifices, as wife, children, houses and lands, the spoiling of goods, and perhaps even of life itself. No persons are properly prepared to enter upon this new life until they have formed within themselves a resolution to abide this ordeal.
The Savior, the Apostles, Joseph Smith and the latter day Elders, when offering this great system of salvation to the people, told them clearly and emphatically that it required sacrifices of the most serious and trying nature that it would bring persecutions, change our warmest friends into bitter and relentless enemies, and that instances would occur when people, in their confused notions of right and wrong, would even conceive they were doing God service in taking our lives. These were dull and forbidding prospects to a rational person, in being proselyted to a system whose truths he could not know, but only guess at by what he was told, or of which he had read. Every man and every woman, before receiving a system that required such sacrifices, would require a positive assurance that submission to its require- ments would bring indisputable knowledge of its true divin- ity, so that, after having obtained a divine witness of its genuineness, they could willingly, cheerfully, and with a reso- lution inspired by the Almighty, move onward over the path- way of persecution and sacrifice, traversed in all ages by the martyred Saints and Prophets.
On this point permit me again to quote what Jesus prom- ised, viz. : "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonah, flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father in heaven; and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Peter had obtained a revelation which Jesus called a rock, which every man might receive individually to himself and build upon with perfect assur- ance and safety, upon which he could found all his hopes and prospects of salvation. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, prom- ised the Holy Ghost to all who would be baptized, or in other
words, yield obedience to the Gospel. The Holy Ghost would impart the knowledge which would constitute the rock of revelation upon which the Savior said His people should be established. This people have their hopes and prospects of peace and happiness in this life and in the life to come rest- ing and grounded upon this rock of revelation; and we con- stitute the only religious community which dares to occupy a Scriptural position; and our claims upon the Savior's promise, that hell shall not prevail against a people so estab- lished, gives us peace, tranquility, unshaken confidence, and a cheering and happy assurance of security, in the midst of all kinds of threatened ruin and overthrow.
It is the people, the masses not exclusively their leaders who possess this knowledge, and boldly testify of its possession. The astronomer may know of many laws and phenomena connected with the sun and its movements through ethereal space; but as regards the simple fact that it exists and shines upon the earth, millions know as well as himself. President Brigham Young, and e\en Joseph Smith, so far as respects the simple fact that this Gospel, which we preach as a divine institution, never professed to have a knowledge more thorough, more convincing, or more satisfac- tory, than tens of thousands in these valleys who never arose to address a public audience.
This system of religion, in its nature, in the character of its origin, the manner of its operations, and in the purposes for which it was designed, coupled with the fact that people of honest hearts can and will apprehend and appreciate divine truth, is such that it cannot be destroyed. A person who is honest, full of integrity and love for the interest and happiness of his species, having explored this long untrodden path, and made this glorious discovery, will not and cannot keep silence, but despite of threats and opposition, however fierce and terrific, will boldly declare the glorious fact, spread- ing and multiplying the announcement of the divine intelli-
gence, and, if so required, seal this testimony with his own life's blood.
Should the prominent men of this Church, together with tens of thousands of its Elders, be swept away by our enemies, the Gospel would still survive, and, with unabated force and vigor, still continue its irrepressible operations; these holy and sacred truths would be avowed and vindicated, order and proper authority continue their peaceful and happy reign, and Elders^'ith hearts overflowing with love and heavenly zeal, go forth to the nations; churches spring up in every land and clime; Saints increase and multiply and gather together; the Kingdom of God continue to be established, and the suggestive and inspired sayings of the Prophet Daniel be literally and emphatically fulfilled.