December 31, 2007

King Benjamin and Brother Brigham: God Giveth the Increase

Brigham Young June 8, 1856 As it often did, Brigham's preaching in this sermon combined temporal with spiritual pursuits. The legacy of working out our salvation continues to the present, leading some (both member and non) to believe Mormons must "work" their way into heaven. Working was critical to the new world the Saints founded, everyone worked, expecting to create a Zion society. This sermon is called "Irrigation—Every Saint Should Labor for the Interest of the Community—It is the Lord that Gives the Increase—Etc.":

I wish to say a few words before this meeting is dismissed, upon the subject of the Big Cottonwood Canal...
He commended them for their good work and service, and then moved along:
In regard to irrigation, I will venture to say that one-half of the water is wasted; instead of being applied where and when it is needed, it runs here and there, and perhaps one-half reaches the drooping plants. If people would take a little more pains in preparing ditches, gates, and embankments for economically conducting water where it is most needed, it would be a very great advantage to them...
Still talking about that temporal stuff...moving along:
If we had time we should build several reservoirs to save the waters of City Creek, each one to contain enough for once irrigating one-third of the city. If we had such reservoirs the whole of this city might be irrigated with water that now runs to waste...
We're half way through the sermon now, and now it gets good:
Our preaching to you from Sabbath to Sabbath, sending the Gospel to the nations, gathering the people, opening farms, making needed improvements, and building cities, all pertain to salvation. The Gospel is designed to gather a people that will be of one heart and of one mind. Let every individual in this city feel the same interest for the public good as he does for his own, and you will at once see this community still more prosperous, and still more rapidly increasing in wealth, influence, and power. But where each one seeks to benefit himself or herself alone, and does not cherish a feeling for the prosperity and benefit of the whole, that people will be disorderly, unhappy, and poverty-stricken, and distress, animosity, and strife will reign. Let every man and woman be industrious, prudent, and economical in their acts and feelings, and while gathering to themselves, let each one strive to identify his or her interests with the interests of this community, with those of their neighbor and neighborhood, let them seek their happiness and welfare in that of all, and we will be blessed and prospered.
Brigham directed the Saints through several different efforts to establish he law of consecration. These efforts included discouraging them from patronizing stores of 'gentiles,' which caused much strife in the territory.[1] Brigham was aware he wasn't always right, even if it seemed otherwise. For example, he continues this sermon by letting people know he was aware of his shortcomings. His desire was for everyone to deal kindly with each other:
I do not wish to boast in the least, neither do I think much of myself, nor ever did, nor do I ever pause much to think, in all my labors, doings, travelings, toils, and preachings, whether I have friends or foes, but the care that I have for this community I do manifest in my works. Not that I think that I am extraordinarily praiseworthy, or that I am a very good man, for you know that I have never professed to be a very religious man; but what I wish you to do to your neighbor I do by you; but I will not ask my Father in heaven to deal any more kindly with me than I deal with my brethren.
My interest is the interest of this community; this has been characteristic of my course from the beginning. I have witnesses here to prove that, from the time I entered this kingdom until this day, this community and its welfare have been my interest.
How can we expect forgiveness and love from God, knowing we are so imperfect, while at the same time denying that forgiveness and love to others? The injunction Christ makes in the Lord's Prayer," to forgive those who trespass against us as God forgives our trespasses, seems more than a suggestion. As I compare it with other scriptures, this seems to be a commandment linked to the essence of forgiveness. In an essay by Eugene England on God not being a "respecter of persons," he makes this observation:
[The demands of justice] can only be appeased by Christ's "plan of mercy," which offers intimate and unconditional love, not as a payment for repentance but as a means to empower our repentance; it provides "means unto men that they might have faith unto repentance" (Alma 34:15). But, as King Benjamin makes clear, we tend to remain caught up in justice, in deciding what others "deserve," and therefore withhold unconditional love and service to them, not- as God requires- "administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants" (Mosiah 4:26; my emphasis). And King Benjamin declares that anyone who has such respect of persons cannot "retain a remission of... sins from day to day" (v. 26) --that is, cannot enjoy the continuing blessings of the Atonement, and "except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God" (v. 18).[2]
Additionally, in view of our works, we must take caution not to rely on the "arm of flesh," by realizing that our very efforts are only possible through the opportunity God has afforded us to begin with. We are in His debt, no matter what we do; and "do" we must. We plant, and we water, but God gives the increase (see 1 Corinthians 3:6). Without God, our efforts would avail nothing. With God, our efforts are influenced, magnified, inspired by, and blessed by Jesus Christ. Brigham's words seem like a 19th century rendition of King Benjamin's sermon:
I do not wish you to deal any better by me than I do by you, neither do I wish God my Father to deal any more kindly towards me than I do towards you. How came I by what I have? We may dig water ditches, make canals, sow wheat, build mills, and labor with our mights, but if God does not give the increase we remain poor. Though we bestow much labor upon our fields, if God does not give the increase we shall have no grain. How few there are who fully understand this matter, who realize thoroughly that unless God blesses our exertions we shall have nothing. It is the Lord that gives the increase. He could send showers to water our fields, but I do not know that I have prayed for rain since I have been in these valleys until this year, during which I believe that I have prayed two or three times for rain, and then with a faint heart, for there is plenty of water flowing down these kanyons in crystal streams as pure as the breezes of Zion, and it is our business to use them.

While we see the hand of God in all things, we are also given much leeway in our personal decisions. Brigham wanted it understood that we don't expect to sit back and have God tie our shoes, so to speak. With that in mind, we should also be willing to keep our eyes heavenward, even as we earn bread by the sweat of our brow. This keeps us less hectic, realizing a failed effort isn't automatically a sign of divine displeasure:
I do not feel disposed to ask the Lord to do for me what I can do for myself. I know when I sow the wheat and water it that I cannot give the increase, for that is in the hands of the Almighty; and when it is time to worship the Lord, I will leave all and worship Him. As I said yesterday to a Bishop who was mending a breach in the canal, and expressed a wish to continue his labor on the following Sabbath, as his wheat was burning up, let it burn, when the time comes that is set apart for worship, go up and worship the Lord.[3]

While temporal matters are important, they should not overshadow the "weightier matters" (see Matthew 23:23). This paradox of relying on God while relying on our own efforts is undergirded by the fact that even the possibility to work, our very existence in this probation, is because of the grace of God. Thus, our salvation isn't a matter of "works vs. grace," but a blending of the two, as Benjamin said:

And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? (Mosiah 2:23-24).
I don't believe Benjamin reminds us that we will always [eternally!] be indebted to God in order to discourage us, but to encourage us to know that we owe God our best efforts. Rather than being grateful for God's grace and thus believing our efforts are not necessary, our gratitude for our opportunities will create a desire to worship God, to forgive others, to follow Christ:
When Bishops and the brethren can perceive and understand that it is the Lord that gives the increase, after all their exertions to sustain themselves, they will be satisfied that the glory belongs to Him, and not altogether to the exertions of man. You know Paul says that he considered himself an unprofitable servant, and so is every other man; that is, when we have done all we can to save ourselves, spiritually and temporally, it is the Lord who gave us the means.

He opened up the way of life and salvation, organized the elements to sustain our mortal bodies, and thus afforded all the means for increase. It is all through the wisdom of Him who has created all things, who rules over and sustains all things. Have the Latter-day Saints got to learn this? Yes. And they have got to learn that the interest of their brethren is their own interest, or they never can be saved in the celestial kingdom of God.
Brigham continues, much like King Benjamin, describing some of his efforts to help the poor, and saying "do thou likewise."
You who have flour and meat, deal it out, and do not be afraid that you will be too much straightened, for if you will give, you will have plenty, for it is God who sustains us and we have got to learn this lesson. All I ask of you is to apply your heart to wisdom and to watch the providences of God, until you prove for yourselves that I am telling the truth, even that which I do know and have experienced. I have experienced much in my life, and I will not ask you to do any better by one another nor by me than I do by you, and I will bless you all the time. I feel to bless you continually; my life is here, my interest, my glory, my pride, my comfort, my all are here, and all I expect to have, to all eternity is wrapped up in the midst of this Church.
Brigham believed by giving, we will be blessed, sometimes- though not strictly and always- even in temporal ways:
I have plenty on hand, and shall have plenty, if I keep giving away. More than two hundred persons eat from my provisions every day, besides my own family and those who work for I intend to keep doing so, that my bread may hold out, for if I do not I shall come short. Do you believe that principle? I know it is true, because I have proven it so many times. I have formerly told this community of a circumstance that occurred to brother Heber and myself, when we were on our way to England. We paid our passage to Kirtland, and to my certain knowledge we had only $13.50, but we paid out $87.00; this is but one instance among many which I could name.
You who have flour and meat, deal it out, and do not be afraid that you will be too much straightened, for if you will give, you will have plenty, for it is God who sustains us and we have got to learn this lesson.
Brigham even ends his discourse with some similar thoughts to King Benjamin; basically telling them he cannot command in all things , but that the Saints will be led by the Spirit:
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8).
So Brigham concluded:
All I ask of you is to apply your heart to wisdom and to watch the providences of God, until you prove for yourselves that I am telling the truth, even that which I do know and have experienced. I have experienced much in my life, and I will not ask you to do any better by one another nor by me than I do by you, and I will bless you all the time. I feel to bless you continually; my life is here, my interest, my glory, my pride, my comfort, my all are here, and all I expect to have, to all eternity is wrapped up in the midst of this Church. If I do not get it in this channel, I shall not have it at all. How do you suppose I feel? I feel as a father should feel towards his children. I have felt so for many years, even when I durst not say so; I have felt as a mother feels towards her tender offspring, and durst not express my feelings; but I have tried to carry out their expression in my life. May God bless you. Amen.
Footnotes: [1] Leonard Arrington pivotal work on the subject, see Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of Latter-Day Saints 1830-1900, University of Illinois Press. [2] Eugene England, "No Respecter of Persons," Making Peace: Personal Essays, 184-185. [3] I strongly resisted the urge to title this post "Let it Burn!"

December 28, 2007

"Tell Mr. Devil to walk out of your barn"

Brigham Young June 15, 1856 A paradox as taught by Christ is that by losing one's life for Christ, one will find it (see Matthew 10:39; 16:25). Rather than "laying up treasures on earth," Brigham believed we ought not place our hearts upon the things of this world:

We are organized for the express purpose of controlling the elements, of organizing and disorganizing, of ruling over kingdoms, principalities, and powers, and yet our affections are often too highly placed upon paltry, perishable objects. We love houses, gold, silver, and various kinds of property, and all who unduly prize any object there is beneath the celestial world are idolaters. Let every man and woman bring up their children according to the law of heaven. Teach your children from their youth, never to set their hearts immoderately upon an object of this world. Should you train yourselves? Yes, you should.
Here, Brigham applied one of his colorful illustrations to encourage the Saints to "banish selfishness."
The Gospel of salvation has been revealed unto us expressly to teach our hearts understanding, and when I learn the principles of charity or righteousness I will adhere to them, and say to selfishness, you must not have that which you want; and when it urges that I have no more flour than I shall need until harvest, and that I must not give any away, not even a pound, I say, get out of my door. And when it argues that a brother will not be profited by our endeavors to benefit him, that you had better keep your money to yourselves and not let him have this ox, that farm or cow, &c., and strives to persuade you not to feed such a poor person, not to do anything for the P. E. F. Company, that you have not any more than you need, just do as the man did in Vermont; for by the report we would judge him to be a pretty good man. He had a farm, raised a large quantity of grain, and usually had some to spare. It so happened one season that a poor neighbor thrashed out his rye, and was to receive his pay in grain. The poor man came; the farmer told him to leave his bags and he would measure up the amount and have it ready when again called for. He was alone when measuring the grain, and as he put into the measure, something whispered to him, "Pour it in lightly," but instead of doing this, he gave the measure a kick. When he put on the strike something said to him, "When you take that off, take a little out, the poor man will know nothing about it." At last the farmer said, "Mr. Devil, walk out of my barn, or I will heap every half bushel I measure for the poor man." When you are tempted to do wrong, do not stop one moment to argue, but tell Mr. Devil to walk out of your barn, or you will heap up every half bushel; you can do that, I know. A drunkard can walk by a tavern, though I have heard it said that some men cannot go by, or if they do manage to get by, that they say, "Now I know I am the master, and I will go back and treat [toast] resolution."

Brigham knew we will face temptations, have evil thoughts at times, give way to the adversary, but he believed we can become master over ourselves by recalling the good instead of the evil for ourselves, as well as for others. A charitable outlook would help:
I am aware that some will argue that they cannot do good without evil being present with them; that has nothing to do with the case. Though it may be present with them, as it was with Paul, there is no necessity for any man's giving way to that evil. If we should do good, do it, and tell the evil to stand out of the way. You are privileged to be masters of yourselves; you can strengthen your memories, and by a close application you can train yourselves to remember the good instead of the evil. If anybody has injured you, forget it. Can you do so? I know you can.
As Peter said:
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
Selfishness can and must be overcome if we are to be truly united:
I do not care what becomes of the things of this world, of the gold, of the silver, of the houses and of the lands, so we have power to gather the houses of Israel, redeem Zion, and establish the kingdom of God on the earth. I would not give a cent for all the rest.

Granted, the things of this world aren't inherently evil. Brigham taught we should enjoy things, take comfort, and use our means to spread the gospel, and find and spread good in the earth. Zion must be redeemed!
True, these things which the Lord bestows upon us are for our comfort, for our happiness and convenience, but everything must be devoted to the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth. I may say that this Gospel is to spread to the nations of the earth, Israel is to be gathered, Zion redeemed, and the land of Joseph, which is the land of Zion, is to be in the possession of the Saints, if the Lord Almighty lets me live; and if I go behind the vail somebody else must see to it. My brethren must bear it off shoulder to shoulder. We must be of one heart and one mind and roll forth this kingdom; and when we get the first Presidency, and Twelve, and so one, shoulder to shoulder to forward the kingdom, wives and children, what are you going to do? Will you pull another way? No, but let your affections, faith, and all your works be with your husbands, and be obedient to them as unto the Lord. And husbands, serve the Lord with all your hearts, and then we shall be a blessed people, and be of one heart and mind, and the Lord will withhold no good thing from us, but we shall put down the power of Satan, walk triumphantly through the world, preach the Gospel and gather the Saints. I say then, let us be faithful, and may God bless you. Amen (JD 3:357-361).

December 27, 2007

"The joy which filled my bosom in reading that sacred record"

Parley P. Pratt April 7, 1856 Samuel Smith, often referred to as the first missionary of this dispensation,[1] set out with the newly printed Book of Mormon for sale. Since it came off the press the Book of Mormon played a part in the conversion process of Latter-day Saints, though not always in the way contemporary Mormons might think. The Book of Mormon appears to have been somewhat neglected by early members of the Church. So far in my reading of the Journal of Discourses I have noticed a disparity in how often it is actually quoted in comparison with the Bible. Noel Reynolds explained that "writings in the early years of the Church contain remarkably few references to the Book of Mormon." Early converts steeped in a Biblical tradition were more apt to use the Bible in their preaching perhaps because of familiarity, or even because it was easier for their listeners to accept. Even when the Book of Mormon was cited, it was typically in reference to Biblical prophesies.[2] Terryl Givens argued the Book of Mormon was seen more as a sign that the heavens are open than a doctrinal exegesis.[3] Even Joseph Smith rarely quoted actual verses from the book.[4] Regardless of the reasons, the Book of Mormon received enough neglect to warrant a divine mandate: repent and remember the Book of Mormon (see D&C 84:54-57). References to the Book of Mormon still remained few, but interest in the book grew gradually until President Ezra Taft Benson declared the need to "flood the earth" with it. Since then, the Book of Mormon has held a prominent place in the Church; readership seems to have increased, publications on the book and references from it in General Conference have ballooned.[5] With that background in mind, consider this remarkable sermon by Parley P. Pratt which gives one of the fullest treatments of the Book of Mormon thus far in the Journal of Discourses. This sermon was given during the April conference marking the 26th anniversary of the founding of the Church, and Parley saw the growth of the gospel as reason to rejoice:

My brethren, sisters, and friends,[6] I have rejoiced in the return of this anniversary of the rise of the Church, and to see so many of those that we have reason to believe love the truth, assembled in general conference; in beholding and seeing the faces of so many as were assembled on yesterday, and as are here today; to feel the spirit, behold the unanimity, and the good feeling that appear to exist, and the dispatch with which we are enabled to transact business; and in reviewing the past, looking at the present, and contemplating the future, my heart has been cheered. I have been highly edified and interested, and have had reason to rejoice in looking at the Saints...who have met to rejoice and reflect upon the things of God. I have rejoiced while listening to the edifying discourses which have been delivered. I have not heard anything more useful and more to the point for a long time than the discourse on yesterday in the forenoon; it was practical and instructive in all its points, just the advice and counsel that are needed at the present time; nor have I been less edified and instructed in the remarks made, as I conceive in the spirit of prophecy, in a great measure, that flowed from my brother yesterday in the afternoon, a parting discourse as we may call it, as he expects soon to depart to a foreign land on the other side of the ocean.
The brothers would not meet again in mortality; Parley was killed the following year on a mission to the Southern states.
I have also been led to reflect much in contemplating that this is the twenty-sixth year since the restoration of the Church of God, visibly as an organization upon the earth. Twenty-six years have rolled away in the experience of this Church, and it naturally leads the mind to contemplate upon the past, and past events will rise in review, the memory will fall back upon them and whether we look at the past, the present, or the future, the mind cannot but view it, if it is constituted like mine, or influenced by the same spirit that mine is influenced by, with pleasure and delight.
His thoughts turned to the Book of Mormon, which he first read in 1830 while traveling as a Campbellite preacher. He describes his conversion experience:
Twenty-six years ago, the coming summer, mine eyes glanced over the Book of Mormon, and I afterward heard the voice of the servant of the Lord and enjoyed the smiles and the blessings of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum, and received under their hands and those of Oliver Cowdery the Priesthood, or a portion of it, and the keys and power of the same, they having received it by the ministering of angels, to be carried through to all the people of the earth; and at that time all the people of this Church upon the face of the earth, could have been assembled in the vestry of this Tabernacle without being much crowded.
He gives a rare synopsis of some of the content of the Book of Mormon that brought him joy; most notably, Christ's visit to the Nephites in the book of 3 Nephi:
The joy which filled my bosom in reading that sacred record, waking up our minds and giving us the knowledge of the past dealings of God with the inhabitants of this vast western hemisphere, and of a nation of people as ancient as that of Abraham or of the Jaredites, and giving us a knowledge also of a branch of scattered Israel led away from the land of their fathers 600 years before Christ, and the glorious fact, the most important of all others in the book, that the risen Jesus in his glorified immortal flesh and bones set his feet upon this western hemisphere and ministered publicly to thousands and thousands of the Nephites, blessed them, revealed to them his Gospel in its fulness, and was glorified in their presence, and thousands of them had the privilege of bowing at his feet, of bathing his feet with their tears and of kissing them, and of handling him and seeing and beholding the wounds that were pierced in his side and his hands and feet, and of hearing the words of salvation and the commandments of God from his own mouth, and then from day to day they had the privilege of assembling in general conference and hearing his prophesyings, and his remarks on the prophecies of the Prophets referring to himself and to others, prophecies also concerning this our day, and the coming forth of this work to us, and the visions that should appear and be given at the opening up of this dispensation; all these things received in faith in my heart, and by the spirit of knowledge and of light and of understanding, and of hope and joy, and charity filled my heart in a way that I never can express to any being; to have the same joy understood, it must be experienced.
Parley saw in the Book of Mormon a pattern which unfolded in his own experience. The Book of Mormon openly proclaims that God still speaks to His children, and that all can ask and receive, knock, and have the mysteries opened. Hope, joy, charity; these things were experienced rather than merely read about. Alma describes the change that comes over a person, and compares it to the growing of a tree. He explains one will feel swelling motions (see Alma 32), which I believe Parley has described in different words above. Parley said this type of knowledge exceeded mere physical evidence. Since that initial converting experience, Parley said the seed continued to grow, and it increased his faith that Joseph Smith, who translated the book, was indeed a true prophet of God:
Nor have I been disappointed in my hopes since I embraced this Gospel. After twenty-six years of progress-progressive fulfilment of the things spoken by that Redeemer to the Nephites, and the things written by his commandment and brought forth unto us, I not only believe but I realize and know by the Spirit of the Lord as well as a man knows anything that he sees and hears, and better too, for a man might be deceived in seeing or in hearing, but I know these things by that light that reflects on the understanding, and in which there is no mistake, nor deception. By that I knew that the work was true and that Joseph Smith, the finder, translator, and the restorer of the Priesthood upon the earth, was a Prophet and an Apostle of Jesus Christ;a restorer, raised up according to that which is written, to bring back and commit unto the person appointed, those covenants, those keys, those ordinances, that Gospel and plan of salvation which were had in old times, but which had been suspended and lost from the enjoyment of the people; I say, that he was such, I had a knowledge and an understanding.
Parley does something interesting here, something missionaries and Latter-day Saints still do: He tied his testimony of the Book of Mormon as a true book to the divine calling of Joseph Smith. If the Book of Mormon is true, he reasoned, then Joseph was a true prophet:
He was only about twenty-four or twenty-five years old when I first met him, and I became intimately acquainted with him and his brothers, and with his father's house, and I remained so, as far as I was not separated by foreign missions, until his death; and did I not know, and do I not know and bear testimony that he lived and that he died an Apostle and Prophet of Jesus Christ?
Joseph Smith provided the world with concrete evidence of his prophethood in the Book of Mormon, as Terryl Givens explained on the PBS documentary The Mormons:
What Joseph does there, see, he takes a very important step from which he would never, never retreat, and that is that he creates a foundation from which it is virtually impossible to mythologize or allegorize the foundations of Mormonism. What that means is that it puts the Book of Mormon in a position in which it is very, very hard to find a middle ground, because [with] many of the stories of the Bible we can say, "Well, we don't know that God really wrote with his finger on the tablets of Moses," or, "We don't know that Moses really spoke face to face with God." One can take a kind of distance and say it's the message of the Bible that's important; that God has become incarnate in Jesus Christ, and salvation is through him... The same is not true in the case of the Book of Mormon. It's not [just] the message in the Book of Mormon which is true; it's the message about the Book of Mormon. If Joseph really was visited by an Angel Moroni and really was given gold plates, then he was a prophet, and he has the authority to speak on God's behalf. That's how the logic worked.[7]
His testimony of the Book of Mormon as inspired, of Joseph Smith as true prophet, continued to Brigham Young as successor and to the priesthood authority as held in the Church.[8] Interestingly, Parley's brother Orson brought up the Book of Mormon just 6 days after this discourse; saying he felt "disposed to read" from the Book in his discourse,
...for I highly esteem the Book of Mormon, as I presume do all the Latter-day Saints. But many lay it upon the shelf and let it remain there for a year or two, consequently they become careless concerning the dealings of the Lord with the Former-day Saints.
He tied the reading of ancient scripture to the testimony of living prophets:
It is my belief that if this people more carefully read the oracle of the ancients, they would be directed more diligently to attend to the Living Oracles. We are commanded to search the Scriptures for instructions, but I fear that we neglect this counsel too much, and become careless. In consequence of such neglect, the Lord reproved this Church some years ago, and said that the whole Church was under condemnation, because they had neglected the Book of Mormon; and He told them that unless they would repent, they should be held under condemnation, and should be scourged, and judgments should be poured out upon them. If you would read these things in the Spirit, and call upon God to give you His Spirit to fix the sayings of the Prophets upon your minds, you would do good and derive benefit therefrom. If the Saints will give most earnest and diligent heed unto the instructions given in those books which have been preserved, and especially to the instructions which are given by our President, they will prosper and be blest in all things.[9]
Faith in prophets and apostles were appendages to that initial testimony of Christ and the Book of Mormon as another witness of Him. Keeping that testimony vibrant takes effort. As Alma asked, once you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, can ye feel so now? (see Alma 5:26):
Has it become dim and waxed cold in my heart, or departed from it? I say unto you no! But if it be possible for a man to rejoice more than I rejoiced twenty-six years ago, I say if it be possible, then I rejoice more to-day than I did on yesterday and more than I did twenty-six years ago-and why? Because my heart is larger; it was full then, it is full now, and although outwardly and according to the flesh, and in the world I may be in tribulation and sorrow, and care, and labor, and anxiety, yet in Jesus Christ there is peace, in the fulness of the Gospel there is joy, in the Spirit of God there is gladness; and whether we look to the past we rejoice with thanksgiving, and whether we look to the present our hearts seem to grow larger, and whether we look to the future there is hope and a fulness of joy, and we increase in understanding-and why? Because the Spirit that is in us sheds forth in abundance in our souls joy and satisfaction, and the Gospel inspires us with a degree of knowledge and light, and certainty in regard to what we are about, in regard to the work we are engaged in and the prospects that lie before us.
God's grace through the Holy Ghost fills us; the change of heart doesn't come as the mere result of our own works, but in a relationship of growth with God leading us and changing us on the way. Parley said the Book of Mormon was an instrument in bringing about that process.[9] For all Parley knew, he also knew he wanted to know more. But he knew enough to feel satisfied while seeking for further light and knowledge. As Nephi told the angel he knew not the meaning of all things, (see 1 Nephi 11:17) so Parley explained:
We know for what we labor, although in the flesh, subject to mortality and its weaknesses; we may be partially asleep, or in other words we may know in part, comprehend in part, prophesy in part, and hope in part, not seeing and realizing the fulness, nor the thousandth part of the fulness that will be consummated in the progress of this work. But after we see enough of it to serve us for the time being, and we enter into it with sufficient comprehension to rejoice with a heart full of joy and of satisfaction, it inspires us to act with all our heart, might, mind and strength.
Rather than give us all the answers, the Book of Mormon gives us important insight into receiving answers for ourselves. To me, the greatest power in the book is its invitation to each individual to seek for themselves. Joseph Smith's experience is to become our own. The Book of Mormon, being revealed by God, demonstrates the process of revelation in the way it came forth, and within its pages the process is repeated again and again. Footnotes: [1] See Saints Without Halos for more information on Samuel. [2] See Noel B. Reynolds, "The Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century," BYU Studies, vol. 38 no. 2, pp. 7-47. The jury is still out on this issue, however. Not all sermons- especially at the lower levels of the Church- were recorded. I wonder how often journals discuss the Book of Mormon or principles therein, as well. It has been argued (I was apprised by a post on the blog Juvenile Instructor) the Book of Mormon was used more in print than in sermons, that references to it are often made in publications like the Evening and Morning Star. Jan Shipps, through Richard Bushman, argued:
Jan Shipps has argued that the Book of Mormon was one of the great foundation pillars of early Mormonism, and I agree (”The Book of Mormon in Early Mormon History”, 16, in New Views of Mormon History, edited by Davis Bitton and Marueen Ursenbach Beecher).
Steven C. Harper argued that the Book of Mormon provided a crucial and tangible tool for early Mormon converts who were persuaded both by empirical and revelatory evidence, and that the Book of Mormon played a large role in many early conversion narratives. See "Infallible Proofs, Both Human and Divine: The Persuasiveness of Mormonism for Early Converts," Religion and American Culture, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Winter, 2000), pp. 99-118.
[3] See Terryl Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion, Oxford University Press, USA (March 14, 2002). [4] Richard Bushman mentioned he thought it odd that after completing the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith seemed to "set it aside," so to speak and move right along. He adjusted his conclusion, realizing that Joseph, rather than simply setting the Book of Mormon aside, actually continued the Book of Mormon tradition by bringing forth new records (such as the Book of Abraham, and the inspired translation of the Bible). See Bushman, "The Book of Mormon in Early Mormon History," Believing History, 65-78. [5] President Benson's key address on using the Book of Mormon was "Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon," Ensign, November, 1988. For more on the development of the usage of the book, see Reynolds, "The Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century," BYU Studies, vol. 38 no. 2, pp. 7-47. [6] James E. Faust became fond of sometimes addressing the saints as "brothers, and sisters, and friends." For example, see "The Light in Their Eyes," General Conference October, 2005, and "This is Our Day," General Conference April, 1999, among others. [7] Givens' quote is from Helen Whitney's PBS documentary The Mormons. He continues:
One can't take a kind of distance and say, "Well, maybe he was an inspired dreamer; maybe he was an inspired visionary," because from day one he points to the physicality of those plates, meaning that the foundations of Mormonism are located in real space and time, not in a prophet's interior world... There's no question that the church rises or falls on the veracity of Joseph Smith's story. Now, as a consequence, some people, for example, the Community of Christ, their president made a statement a few years ago in which he said, "History as theology is perilous." You don't want, in other words, to found all of your beliefs and hopes and religious values on a historical account that may prove to be spurious. To which my reply is yes, history as theology is perilous. If it turns out that the whole story of Christ's resurrection is a fabrication, then Christianity collapses. That's the price we pay for believing in a God who intervenes in human history, who has real interactions with real human beings in real space and time. That makes it historical, and that's a reality that we just can't flee away from. ...What we have is an unmediated presentation of gold plates to us through one prophet figure...It is its strength...
[8] If the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph is a prophet. This testimony tied to the priesthood authority, which continued with Brigham Young and so forth, as Parley explained:
And from the day of [Joseph Smith's] death, or long before that until the present, I have been intimately acquainted and associated with the Apostles of this Church and kingdom under all circumstances, whether in sickness or in health, whether in the midst of life or in death, whether in prosperity or adversity; whether abounding or suffering want; whether by sea or land; whether in the midst of peace or of mobs and oppression. And do I not know that President Young and his counselors and the other Apostles associated with him in this Church, hold the keys of salvation? That they hold that authority which administers life and salvation to the obedient and the humble, and which to reject is condemnation, wherever it exists, to every soul of man upon the earth? Yes I do know it, and I do this day bear testimony of it, and of that glorious Gospel in its fulness which was restored to the earth twenty-six years ago, that filled my heart with joy and charity and love for my fellow men, and with a desire to do good, and to impart the truth as it is revealed (JD 3:308-309).
[9] Orson Pratt, JD 3:344-354. More to come from Orson's discourse in a future post. [10] For more on the role of grace in changing our hearts, see "You Find What You Seek."

December 26, 2007

Gospel dispelling the gloom

Brigham Young April 20, 1856 There may be some few exceptions, but I have made no sacrifices. "Mormonism" has done everything for me that ever has been done for me on the earth; it has made me happy, it has made me wealthy and comfortable; it has filled me with good feelings, with joy and rejoicing. Whereas, before I possessed the spirit of the Gospel, I was troubled with that which I hear others complain of, that is, with, at times, feeling cast down, gloomy, and desponding; with everything wearing to me, at times, a dreary aspect. But have the trees, the streams, the rocks, or any part of creation worn a gloomy aspect to me for one half minute since I came in possession of the Spirit of this Gospel? No, though before that time I might view the most beautiful gardens, buildings, cities, plantations, or anything else in nature, yet to me they all wore at times a shade of death. They appeared at times as though a vail was brooding over them, which cast a dark shade upon all things, like the shade of the valley of death, and I felt lonesome and bad. But since I have embraced the Gospel not for one half minute, to the best of my recollection, has anything worn to me a gloomy aspect, under all circumstances I have felt pleasant and cheerful. When surrounded by mobs, with death and destruction threatening on every hand, I am not aware but that I felt just as joyful, just as well in my spirit, as I do now. Prospects might appear dull and very dark, but I have never seen a time in this Gospel but what I knew that the result would be beneficial to the cause of truth and the lovers of righteousness, and I have always felt to joyfully acknowledge the hand of the Lord in all things (JD 3:316-327). For more on optimism, see: The Privileges and Blessings of the Gospel Rejoice in God: Trials and Tolerance Trials and Happiness "Realize from whence your blessings flow"

December 24, 2007

Orson's Christmas Sermon

Orson Pratt December 29, 1872 On the Sabbath following Christmas, Orson Pratt addressed the congregation, and began his Christmas discourse by emphasizing the importance and meaning of the sacrament:

We are, this afternoon, commemorating according to our usual custom, one of the most important events that has ever transpired in our world, and one which most concerns the whole human family, namely, the death and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ for the redemption of the human family. No other event can be compared with this in its importance, and in its bearings upon the human family. Everything else is but of a secondary consideration, when compared with the atonement that has been wrought out in behalf of man by the great Redeemer...[1]
As Joseph Smith taught,[2] everything in our religion is only an appendage to the atonement of Jesus Christ. After explaining the fallibility of the dating of the birth of Christ,[3] Orson expressed some historical thoughts on the celebrating of Christmas as a holiday:
Having found out that there is an error in regard to the year of Christ's birth, now let us inquire if the day observed by the Christian world as the day of his birth, the 25th of December, is or is not the real Christmas Day? A great many authors have found out from their researches that it is not. I think that there is scarcely an author at the present day that believes that the 25th day of December was the day that Christ was born on. Still it is observed by certain classes, and we, whether we make any profession or not, are just foolish enough to observe this old Roman Catholic festival. The boys and girls all look forward with great anticipations to Christmas. Many of them, it is true, do not know the meaning of it, or why it is celebrated; but when we come to reflect on the matter, it is all nonsense to celebrate the 25th day of December as the birthday of Jesus.
Lest he sound like too much of a kill-joy, he tempered his remarks:
It will do for a holiday, so you might select any other day for that purpose.
True enough, most scholars, and Latter-day Saints, do not believe December 25 is the actual birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. Celebrating Christmas in December seems to be a tradition began by the Roman Catholic Church. In he 2nd century A.D., the Romans began holding a festival on December 25 called "Dies Natalis Solis Invicti," or "the birthday of the unconquered sun." It is likely that the sun was considered "unconquered" then due to the prolonged day during winter solstice (which occurs today around Dec. 21-22). According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Sol Invictus festival has a "strong claim on the responsibility" for the date of Christmas.[4] The Encyclopedia explains The word Christmas originated as a contraction of "Christ's mass," from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes m├Žsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038, compounded from Old English derivatives of the Greek christos and the Latin missa. In short, Christmas, and many of its traditions, migrated from pagan celebrations to take on Christian connotations.
It is generally believed and conceded by the learned, who have investigated the matter, that Christ was born in April. I have seen several accounts—some of them published in our periodicals—of learned men in different nations, in which it is stated that, according to the best of their judgment from the researches they have made, Christ was crucified on the 6th of April. That is the day on which this church was organized. But when these learned men go back from the day of his crucifixion to the day of his birth, they are at a loss, having no certain evidence or testimony by which they can determine it. I intend this afternoon to give light on this subject from new revelation, which we, as Latter-day Saints, can depend upon.
For the sake of visitors in the congregation, Orson described the Book of Mormon as a record of Israelites who left Jerusalem and founded a civilization on the American continent. He reasoned:
Now if God led a company of Israelites from Palestine to colonize this continent, and taught them to keep the law of Moses with its sacrifices and burnt offerings, typical of the great sacrifice that was to be made at Jerusalem, it would not be at all strange for him to give to them a sign concerning Jesus, when he should be born, and when he should die. He did this by the mouths of prophets. Numerous prophets were raised up on this land, and they prophesied to the inhabitants thereof, and taught them about the coming of Jesus, and what signs should be given at the time he should come. They taught them that the night before Jesus should be born there would be no darkness on this land, but that it would be perfectly light. They would see the sun set in the evening, and that, during the night, until it should rise the next morning, there would be no darkness; that great signs and lights would appear in the heavens, and that they were to be to them indications of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ [See Helaman 14:1-8]. These signs were given, and by them the people on this continent knew the very day that Jesus was born [see 3 Nephi 1:4-23].
The Book of Mormon gives us a wonderful addition to the nativity story as found in the New Testament. Orson describes the Book of Mormon account, including the widespread disbelief in Christ and the prophets in the years following the sign of His birth and before the crucifixion. The people were warned of the calamities that would occur at the death of Christ, including three days of darkness. Using the dates in the Book of Mormon, Orson came up with Christ's age at the time of the crucifixion, taking into account longitudinal differences between Jerusalem and Central America; but he runs into a little trouble regarding the exact nature of the Nephite calendar; proposing that the old Mexican calendar would provide a good estimate:
When Jesus was crucified, at the age of about, thirty-three years, if the Nephites reckoned according to the Mexican portion of the Israelites, they had not added the eight days that we would add for leap year, consequently this would shorten their years, and instead of being thirty-three years, three days and part of the fourth day, it would bring it, according to our reckoning, eight days less than the Book of Mormon date, or thirty-two years, three hundred and sixty days and fifteen hours. This, then, it is highly probable, must have been the real period that existed between the birth and the crucifixion of our Savior.

Now we have a clue in the New Testament to the time of his crucifixion, but not of his birth; that is, we know that he was crucified on Friday, for all of the Evangelists testify that Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, and that on Friday Jesus was hung on the cross, and according to the testimony of the learned, that was on the 6th of April, consequently by going back from the crucifixion 32 years, 360 days and 15 hours, making allowance for the longitude, it gives Thursday for his birthday. Again, making allowance for the errors of Dionysius the monk, adding four years or nearly so to the vulgar or incorrect era, it would make the organization of this Church take place precisely, to the very day, 1,800 years from the day that he was lifted up on the cross.

Orson saw this "coincidence" as evidence that Joseph Smith was directed by God- as D&C 1 claims- to organize the Church on the anniversary of the crucifixion:
This is something very marvelous in my mind. Joseph Smith did not choose the 6th of April upon which to organize this Church: he received a commandment from God, which is contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, setting apart that day as the one upon which the Church should be organized. Why did he set up his kingdom precisely 1,800 years from the day on which he was lifted up on the cross? I do not know why. The Lord has his own set time to bring to pass his great purposes....the very fact that God commanded that boy to organize the Church on that day, ought to be regarded as strong collateral evidence of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
Interestingly, Orson does not conclude, as is sometimes believed by some Saints, that Christ was also born on April 6:
Perhaps I have said all that is needful on this matter. If I were to celebrate Christmas, or the birthday of Christ, I should go back a little less than thirty-three years from his crucifixion, and it would bring it to Thursday, the 11th day of April, as the first day of the first year of the true Christian era; and reckoning on thirty-two years, 360 days and fifteen hours from that, it would bring it to the crucifixion, and bring it on Friday also (JD 15:253-265).
This post is not an endorsement of Orson's reckoning, just an interesting discussion regarding his views on the subject. After discussing the chronology of Christmas, Orson moved on to discuss the chronology of New Years Day, which I will blog later in the week. Footnotes: [1] Orson believed the sacrament was the most often preached subject in the Church, viewing the actual ordinance of the Sacrament as a sermon on the atonement: [The doctrine of the Atonement] is one that has been so thoroughly taught to the Latter-day Saints, that I esteem it almost unnecessary to repeat that with which they are so familiar. By partaking of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper every Sabbath day, we commemorate that great event. If we do not preach so much about it by word of mouth we certainly fulfill the commandment which God has given requiring us to remember unto the Father the crucified body and shed blood of his Son, without which there would have been no remission of sin, and no redemption, and mankind would have remained in their fallen state. No light could have penetrated the hearts of the children of men, and there would have been no resurrection, no exaltation in the kingdom of God without the atonement. [2] "[T]he fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and the Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it ..." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121). [3] Apparently, Orson had been reading Smith's Bible Dictionary:
You will find a full account of these matters in the writings of the learned, in encyclopedias, and in various works touching upon chronology, so that you have no need to take my testimony alone on this subject, for you have access to our library here in this city, and you can examine works on chronology and see that I am correct. There may be those here who would like me to cite some works on this subject. I will cite one that I read while I was in England, a Bible dictionary, by a very learned author named Smith. This subject is treated very plainly and fully in that work.
[4] See "Christmas," Catholic Encyclopedia. I am relying heavily upon the Christmas entry in Wikipedia.

December 21, 2007

Utah: "Saint-raising country"

Brigham Young June 22, 1856 Three women accompanied the vanguard pioneer train to Utah. An old legend holds that when Brigham arrived in the valley one of the women told him "I've walked one thousand miles to get here, and I'll gladly walk one thousand more if we don't have to stop here." The first few years, especially, were difficult. Brigham explained his feelings on the unique trials faced by the early Saints:

If the troubles of this people from the commencement of this work, from the early history of the Prophet, and the persecutions of the Saints, could be presented before this congregation you would be astonished, you would marvel at them. You would not believe that a people could endure so much as this people have endured, you would think it an impossibility for men and women to endure and pass through what a great many in this Church have. Truly it is a miracle that we are here.

Perhaps some would have hoped for a miracle involving a more hospitable climate. Brigham continued:
Taking these things into consideration, and viewing our present circumstances and the privileges we enjoy, there is not a heart that fully realizes what we have passed through and the blessings we now enjoy, without praising God continually and feeling to exclaim, "O praise the name of our God."
Praising God for hard times?
True, many think and feel that we have hard times here, that it is a hard country to live in. We have long cold winters, and we have a great many difficulties to encounter-the Indian wars, the cricket wars, the grasshopper wars, and the drouths. What we have suffered during the two years past comes before us, and now the prospect is gloomy pertaining to sustenance for man. How many are there who feel and say like this? "Were it not for 'Mormonism' I should know at once what to do; I know the course I would pursue." What would you do, brother? "I would pick up my duds and leave; I would sell what I have here, if I could, and if I could not I would leave it." These are the feelings of some. I will tell you what my feelings are, they are, praise God for hard times, for I feel that it is one of the greatest privileges to be in a country that is not desirable, where the wicked will pass by.

They believed they'd found a unique place that wouldn't be coveted by others where they could live without fear of being driven from their homes once again.[1] If they would reflect on the past persecutions, they'd thank God for Utah:
Now, do we all realize this? No, we do not; though I have no doubt but that some do. I will tell you what will make you realize it; to suffer the loss of all things here by the enemy's coming along and driving you out of your houses, from your farms and fields, and taking your horses, cattle, farming implements, and what little substance you have, and banishing you from this place and sending you off five or six hundred miles, bereft of all you possessed, without suitable clothing and provisions for the journey. Then you go to work, and toil and labor with all your might, for a few years, to get another home, and then let another set come and drive you out of that place, taking your cattle, your farms, and all you have, telling you that they want your possessions, and by the time they had thus driven you four or five times, as they have many of us, and made you leave every thing you have, and threatened you with death, and watched for you by day and by night, to get a chance to kill you, and they suffered to go at large with impunity, and would kill you in open daylight if they dare, after having passed through fifteen or sixteen years of this kind of persecution, you would thank God for hard times, for a country where mobs do not wish to live... Here we are in the valleys of these mountains, and I say that there is not a people on the earth that would live here but the Latter-day Saints, and it seems almost more than they can do to stay here. Now if they would be as swift to hearken to counsel as they are to get rich, and as they are in pleasing their own dispositions, we should not see the hard times that we now see.
Some immigrants didn't have the experience of being driven from their homes; some had likely left better climate. Brigham knew the valley wasn't a Garden of Eden, but he wanted the people to enjoy their new home. He saw all these experiences as part of the education God intends for His children, and he believed it takes time to learn. We're all in this together, so have compassion on others as you would want compassion:
I look upon the people, and as I frequently say, I have compassion upon them, for all have not experience. It was told you this morning that you could not be made perfect Saints in one day, that is impossible. You might as well undertake to learn a child every branch of English literature during its first week's attendance at school, this cannot be done. We are not capacitated to receive in one day, nor in one year, the knowledge and experience calculated to make us perfect Saints, but we learn from time to time, from day to day, consequently we are to have compassion one upon another, to look upon each other as we would wish others to look upon us, and to remember that we are frail mortal beings, and that we can be changed for the better only by the Gospel of salvation.
Through our experiences in life we are given choices between good and evil, and everything in between. Brigham felt our duty is to learn God's will and discern between the good and evil. The valley seemed calculated to provide excellent experiences for the Saints to learn:
A man, or a woman, desiring to know the will of God, and having an opportunity to know it, will apply their hearts to this wisdom until it becomes easy and familiar to them, and they will love to do good instead of evil. They will love to promote every good principle, and will soon abhor everything that tends to evil; they will gain light and knowledge to discern between evil and good. The person that applies his heart to wisdom, and seeks diligently for understanding, will grow to be mighty in Israel...
All I ask of you is to apply your hearts to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be Saints. I will not ask anything else on this earth of you only to live so as to know the mind and will of God when you receive it, and then abide in it. If you will do that, you will be prepared to do a great many things, and you will find that there is much good to be done... I wish to be tyrannical enough, if that is the proper term, to make you good men and good women. Go to with your might this year, and see if we cannot prepare for another. This is a great Saint raising country; we have seen wheat grow here almost spontaneously, and there could not be a better Saint raising country...
It is our business to live our religion, and it is all that we have to do. "But," says one, "I thought we had got to raise grain." I have told you, many a time, that I would not give you anything for your faith, without you add works. How are you going to work to build up the kingdom (JD 3:362-375).[2]
The earth itself is great "Saint-raising country." Our mortal probation here parallels that of the Saints; the strange wanderers in a strange lane; as Jacob expressed in the Book of Mormon:
And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; ...wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days (Jacob 7:26).
The motif repeats again and again, at the beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, cast out to the wilderness; the children of Israel seeking the promise land through the wilderness for forty years, our spirits leaving the presence of God to come to earth as wanderers and pilgrims, our experiences calculated to teach us, and get us back to the paradise again. We're all in Saint-raising country. It is our business here, as Brigham declared, to live our religion, and that is all we have to do. Footnotes: [1] Six days later, Heber C. Kimball echoed these sentiments while talking about the grain shortage and encouraging Saints not to sell grain to Gentiles. Not only did the Saints need to save grain for themselves, but for Saints on the way to the valley:
The hand-carts are rolling, and those with them can sleep at night and be up in the mornings, and the carts will jingle through the day... Brethren and sisters, take care of your grain; do not waste any of your grain, for you will need it all; and do not make an unwise or unsaintly disposition of it. I beg of you to attend to this counsel, for I have told it three or four times; not because I profess to be a Prophet, but because I naturally see the necessity for so doing... Suppose all this people had been wise and taken counsel, would they have suffered the present destitution? No, they would not. Much of our grain has been consumed by our enemies... In addition to our present number, according to accounts that I see, there are five thousand Saints ready for the Plains at one place, and five thousand more at another... I speak of these things to warn and forewarn you to take care of your grain and save it, and it will be better for you to do this, even though in so doing you have to go bare-footed. .. I do firmly believe that our bread has been blest and multiplied this season, for I know there was not enough in the Territory to sustain the people. However, the present scarcity is one of the best things that ever happened to this people, for it will teach them wisdom. This is one of the poorest countries for occupancy for Gentiles that I have ever seen, though for the same reasons it is at present the very best for the Saints, for we can get along in it better than any other people (JD 4:1).
[2] Brigham would return to the "saint-raising country" theme several times. On August 17, 1856 he lighted on the subject:
My soul feels hallelujah, it exults in God, that He has planted this people in a place that is not desired by the wicked; for if the wicked come here they do not wish to stay, no matter how well they are treated, and I thank the Lord for it; and I want hard times, so that every person that does not wish to stay, for the sake of his religion, will leave. This is a good place to make Saints, and it is a good place for Saints to live; it is the place the Lord has appointed, and we shall stay here until He tells us to go somewhere else (JD 4:32).

December 19, 2007

Brigham's Dream: The Parable of the Sheep

Brigham Young April 20, 1856 We might look around at the world today, focus on all the problems, and wonder "why all the trouble?" It's a question that has bothered theologians for centuries; why God allows evil. If God was all powerful, and could create anything He wanted, why even allow the possibility of evil? Either God knowingly created evil or even allowed for the possibility of such when He could have avoided it, making God the Father of evil, or He couldn't avoid evil, making God less than "all-powerful." The restored gospel offers a persuasive view on the subject of God and evil which overcomes these objections. Many Christian thinkers have come to justify or understand evil as part of life, that it can help us learn and grow, that it can't always be avoided, but there are eternal principles to be considered; that God is King of Kings through the mastery of law, not the capricious creation of law. Thus comes the rallying cry of Lehi, there must needs be "opposition in all things" (2 Nephi 2:11). Brigham saw the necessity for opposition:

When I was among the wicked, they looked to me as do the wicked, and when I saw devils possessing the bodies of the children of men I knew that God permitted it, and that He permitted them to be on the earth, and wherein would this be a state of probation, without those devils? We cannot even give endowments without representing a devil. What would we know about heaven or happiness were it not for their opposite? Consequently we could not have got along so well and so rapidly without those mobocrats. And if mobbers should happen to come here do not look too sour at them, for we need them. We could not build up the kingdom of God without the aid of devils, they must help to do it. They persecute and drive us from city to city, from place to place, until we learn the difference between the power of God and the power of the devil.
This seems awful indulgent of the prophet, who is sometimes thought of as a rather unbending individual. Brigham explained he wasn't out to indulge evil, or condone those who persecute the Saints. He wished the Saints to profit from opposition rather than let it turn them into bitter, intolerant individuals. He also knew we must hold sacred the individual rights to make choices (without infringing upon the choices of others, of course.) While we should love our enemies and do good to them that curse us, should we embrace their habits, or causes as well?
But does it then follow that we should say to them, “Come on here, we are good fellows well met?” By no means, care must be observed that we do not overrun the rule; we only need enough of them to help do up the work. If we should get too many here they would overcome the good, and the Saints would have to flee. Some of our Elders desire all the time to say, as I plainly phrase it, “How do you do brother Christ, and how do you do brother devil? Walk in and take breakfast with me.”
Brigham recalled when the Saints first arrived in the valley they thought they could usher in the Millennium through righteousness, and keep themselves "unspotted from the world."[1] The gold rush, which brought all sorts of characters through Utah, showed them otherwise. Especially at first, Brigham saw the diversity as somewhat of a threat, likely based on prior experiences where the Saints had been driven from their homes. However, he said he learned that such men, even those who didn't wish to live the gospel, could be "useful" in their place. As gold fever captured the attention of the nation, Brigham had a dream:
This fact [that 'gentiles' were a part of God's plan] was very clearly exemplified to me in a dream which I had while so many were going to California, at a time when many of the brethren were under quite an excitement about the Saints going there to dig gold. At that time I dreamed that while I was a little below the road and just north of the Hot Springs, about four miles from here, I saw brother Joseph coming and walked up to the road to see him, and asked him where he was going? He replied, "I am going north." There were two or three horsemen along, and some men were riding with him upon a few boards placed loosely upon the running gears of a wagon, upon which were also a tent and camp utensils. I wished to talk with him, but be did not seem inclined to conversation, and it occurred to me that he was going to Captain James Brown's to buy all his goats. I had been promised ten or a dozen of them, but I thought that he was going to buy every one, and that I should not get a single goat to put with my sheep, and I laughed in my sleep. Pretty soon he came back, with a large flock of sheep and goats following the wagon, and as I looked upon them I saw some sheep that were white, pure, and clean, and as large as a two year old cow, with wool from ten to twenty inches in length, as fine as silk and as white as the driven snow. With them were all lesser sizes down to the smallest goat or sheep I ever saw, and all mixed up together. I saw some sheep with hair like that of goats, and goats of all colors, red, black, white, &c., mixed with the sheep; and their sizes, colors, and quality of fleeces, seemed to be almost innumerable. I remarked to Joseph that he bad got the strangest flock I ever saw, and looked at him slyly and laughed, and asked him what he was going to do with them. He looked at me in his usual shrewd manner and replied, "They are all good in their places." On awaking I at once understood the dream, and I then said, go to California, or where you please, for goats are as good in their places as sheep, until the time for them to mingle is over. And in striving to guide and improve the flock we sometimes have to cry out, shoo, and at other times to draw them nigh by calling, sheep, sheep. We are trying to train the flock, and to turn the goats into sheep, and the spotted, ring-streaked and speckled into beautiful white, and how shall we succeed? Perhaps we shall see rather a curious flock at last, but we will do the best we can.
Brigham wanted the people to know we ought to reserve judgment, we really can't tell where we will all wind up. Instead of being prone to cast people off as lost causes, or "wicked" sinners, we should seek to overcome the divisive spirit and love everyone. Brigham often referred to this parable:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away (Matthew 13:47-48).
Focusing on our differences, lacking charity, leads us into all kinds of situations calculated to draw us further from God. Similarly, in the parable of the wheat and tares, they are to grow together until the final harvest, because it is too difficult to judge between them at the present time (see D&C 86; Matthew 13:25-30). After denouncing frivolous lawsuits, self-righteousness, and other unfortunate traditions, Brigham mentioned the gospel net:
I have spoken with much plainness concerning several traditions and practices, in order that the Saints abroad may correctly understand that we are not all, as yet, fully sanctified by the truth, and that both they and the world may know that the Gospel net still gathereth fish of every kind, that the flock has some goats intermingled with sheep of various grades, and that the day of separation has not yet arrived. May God bless you. Amen (JD 3:316-327)
In a subsequent discourse, Brigham explained the concept of mercy as follows:
The good and evil are mixed together, the wheat and the tares are growing together, the wise and foolish virgins are traveling on together. Some of the people are actually foolish, and they think that the Lord looks upon sin with a great deal of compassion, and are thinking, "O, if I should do this or that I will be forgiven. Yes, I will go and tell it all to the heads of the Church and get their forgiveness, and pass on in my wickedness." Do you wish your friends to stay here, and all to be Saints indeed? Now some children are wicked and their parents righteous, and again children may be Saints and their parents wicked. There are good people who have wicked brothers and sisters, and they say, "Let us be forgiving, let us hold on to them, if we have compassion, perhaps they will do better and repent of their sins, and yet be Saints." Is this not the feeling of every heart? It is, more or less. Who is there entirely void of these compassionate feelings? Father, save your son if possible; save your daughter, parents, if it is possible; brothers, save your brethren, if it is possible; save your sisters, if it is possible; save this man, or that woman, and let us have mercy on them, we will be compassionate on them.
Brigham cautioned the Saints to avoid the spirit of contention, to extend love, especially to those you may have enmity with:
The spirit of contention divides families as we see some divided. We can hardly associate with some persons, for we have to walk in their midst like walking upon eggs. What is the matter? You do not know the spirit they are led by. Treat them kindly, and, perhaps, by and bye they will come to understanding. What would they do were they of one heart and mind? They would be like little children, would respect their superiors and honor their God and their religion. This they would do, if they understood things as they are. Be careful of them, and treat them kindly.
In Brigham's flock he intended to make sheep's wool from goats hair:
I am not going to undertake to separate the tares from the wheat, the sheep from the goats, but we will try to make you goats produce fleeces of wool instead of hair, and we will keep hammering at you with the word of God, which is quick and powerful, until you become sheep, if possible, that we may not have five foolish virgins in the company. Though in all this I do not expect to even desire to thwart the plans and sayings of Jesus Christ in the least.
He admonished the Saints to avoid being goats, to avoid being foolish virgins themselves:
Let us do all the good we can, extend the hand of benevolence to all, keep the commandments of God and live our religion, and after all there will be five foolish virgins, and if we are not careful, we shall all be on the list of the foolish ones (JD 3:343-344).

Footnotes: [1] Unspotted from the world? Well, we are to be a light unto the world. That would seem to preclude complete isolation from the world. On the millennial thinking, Brigham said:
...there had been a feeling abroad among the people that when the Saints got into the mountains “judgment would be laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet,” that the axe would be laid at the root of the tree, and that every person who did not meet the measure would, in accordance with the iron bedstead rule, be chopped off if too long, and stretched out if too short. Several supposed that this would be the case; and perhaps thought that they would be able to so sanctify themselves, that in one year they could take Great Salt Lake Valley and the regions round about up to Enoch, or have him come here. I did not so view the matter, and did not give any special instructions upon it (JD 3:321).