June 23, 2008

An Interview with Brother Brigham

Brigham Young October 6, 1855 This is one of Brigham Young's finest discourses I've read thus far. I offer the highlights in the form of an imagined personal interview between myself and Brigham. Brother Brigham, why do some people leave the Church, and why do some then become bitter?

"When any of this people, who believe the Gospel, forsake the duty which they owe to God and His cause, they are at once surrounded by an influence which causes them to imbibe a dislike to Saints and to the conduct of Saints; they receive a false spirit, and then the Saints cannot do right in their eyes, the ministers of God cannot preach right nor act right, and soon they wish to leave the society of the Saints, and that too, as they suppose, with a sanctified heart and life. They wish to withdraw from this, as they believe, wicked people, fancying all to be wicked but themselves, and wish to separate themselves until the people are as holy as they flatter themselves that they are, when they calculate to return again...the self-righteous will go away and wait until we as a people are sanctified and able to endure their presence, and think that then they will, perhaps, gather among us again."

How can I prevent my being led astray?
"People are liable in many ways to be led astray by the power of the adversary, for they do not fully understand that it is a hard matter for them to always distinguish the things of God from the things of the devil. There is but one way by which they can know the difference, and that is by the light of the spirit of revelation, even the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without this we are all liable to be led astray and forsake our brethren, forsake our covenants and the Church and kingdom of God on earth."
I feel like indifference can be a problem, as well, Brigham. When I'm doing the basics, like reading the scriptures, praying, serving others, I tend to feel closer to God. Can you elaborate on the importance of doing our duty in the gospel and having the Holy Ghost?

"Should the whole people neglect their duty and come short in performing the things required at their hands, lose the light of the Spirit of the Lord, the light of the spirit of revelation, they would not know the voice of the Good Shepherd from the voice of a stranger, they would not know the difference between a false teacher and a true one, for there are many spirits gone out into the world, and the false spirits are giving revelations as well as the Spirit of the Lord. This we are acquainted with; we know that there are many delusive spirits, and unless the Latter-day Saints live to their privileges, and enjoy the spirit of the holy Gospel, they cannot discern between those who serve God and those who serve Him not.

Consequently, it becomes us, as Saints, to cleave to the Lord with all our hearts, and seek unto Him until we do enjoy the light of His Spirit, that we may discern between the righteous and the wicked, and understand the difference between false spirits and true. Then, when we see a presentation, we shall know whence it is, and understand whether it be of the Lord, or whether it is not of Him; but if the people are not endowed with the Holy Ghost they cannot tell, therefore it becomes us to have the Spirit of the Lord, not only in preaching and praying, but to enable us to reflect and judge, for the Saints are to judge in these matters."

Believing that the Spirit is essential, do you also believe the Latter-day Saints possess that Spirit?
"Yes, many of them do.
Do you believe they do in as great a degree as it is their privilege?
A few of them do, still I think that the people in general might enjoy more of the Holy Spirit, more of the nature and essence of the Deity, than they do. I know that they have their trials, I know they have the world to grapple with, and are tempted, and I know what they have to war against."
God knows, as well, and I believe he extends His mercy in accordance with that knowledge. In general, though, are you saying the Saints are a good people?
"Yes, I can say that this people are a good people, and they wish to be Saints, and many of them strive to be Saints, and many of them are Saints. I realize the weaknesses of men; I am not ignorant of my own weaknesses, and this is where I learn every body else, their dispositions and the operations of the spirit upon the inhabitants of the earth; to learn mankind is learn myself."
I would like to add, in addition to the Spirit, you have taught that God has sent prophets and apostles, parents and teachers, all of whom can teach us about life and the gospel. Some have accuse the Saints of blindly following these leaders. Some members in the past have been known to believe the prophets are perfect, or that their doctrine is perfect. Do you feel like the Saints should obey you no matter what?

"Some may say, 'Brethren, you who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am.'

I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within them.

Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, 'If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,' this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.

Every man and woman in this kingdom ought to be satisfied with what we do, but they never should be satisfied without asking the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether what we do is right. When you are inspired by the Holy Ghost you can understandingly say, that you are satisfied; and that is the only power that should cause you to exclaim that you are satisfied, for without that you do not know whether you should be satisfied or not. You may say that you are satisfied and believe that all is right, and your confidence may be almost unbounded in the authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ, but if you asked God, in the name of Jesus, and received knowledge for yourself, through the Holy Spirit, would it not strengthen your faith?"

It would. So we've come back to the subject of the Holy Ghost. I suppose leaders can provide checks and balances on our inspiration. The most important thing is our relationship with God, a point which I like.[1] Still, our leaders- bishops, parents, the prophet, etc.- can help correct us. Sometimes we need someone to tell us what's up, rather than accommodate bad behavior. Or should leaders allow one to continue sinning without saying anything?

"Suppose that a man lies, and you dare not tell of it; 'Very well,' says the man, 'I am secure, I can lie as much as I please.'

He is inclined to lie, and if we dare not chastise him about it he takes shelter under that pavilion, cloaks himself with the charity of his brethren, and continues to lie. By and bye he will steal a little, and perhaps one or two of his brethren know about it, but they say, 'We must cover up this fault with the cloak of charity.'

He continues to lie and to steal, and we continue to hide his faults; where will it lead that person to? Where will he end his career?"

Um... hell?
"Nowhere but in hell."
That doesn't sound very pleasant, in fact, that's a hard saying, indeed. Won't that just make people feel alienated or even angry?
"I know it is hard to receive chastisement, for no chastisement is joyous, but grievous at the time it is given; but if a person will receive chastisement and pray for the Holy Spirit to rest upon him, that he may have the Spirit of truth in his heart, and cleave to that which is pleasing to the Lord, the Lord will give him grace to bear the chastisement, and he will submit to and receive it, knowing that it is for his good. He will endure it patiently, and, by and bye, he will get over it, and see that he has been chastised for his faults, and will banish the evil, and the chastisement will yield to him the peaceable fruits of righteousness, because he exercises himself profitably therein."
So depending on the state of one's heart, even if the chastisement is delivered harshly or improperly, the true message can still lead one to repent?[2] I suppose a call to repentance, or a reminder to righteousness, is best delivered by one having stewardship of another; that we ought not go around looking at everyone else and pointing out their flaws. Still, having to deal with our shortcomings is uncomfortable; is there an easier way?
"If your faults are not made known to you, how can you refrain from them and overcome them? You cannot. But if your faults are made manifest, you have the privilege of forsaking them and cleaving unto that which is good. The design of the Gospel is to reveal the secrets of the hearts of the children of men."
People generally don't like to be told they are doing something wrong. Shouldn't you, as a prophet, be careful about pointing out those faults?
"I have been preached to, pleaded with, and written to, to be careful how I speak about men's faults, more so than ever Joseph Smith was in his life time; every week or two I receive a letter of instruction, warning me to be careful of this or that man's character. Did you ever have the Spirit of the Lord, so that you have felt full of joy, and like jumping up and shouting hallelujah? I feel in that way when such epistles come to me; I feel like saying, 'I ask no odds of you, nor of all your clan this side of hell.'"
Well, some people are uncomfortable talking to bishops, or other people about more grievous sins. What if they are worried about their reputation?
"If you do wrong, and it is made manifest before the High Council, don't grunt about it, nor whine about your loving, precious character, but consider that you have none; that is the best way to get along with it. "
What about you; you've been severely scandalized by critics. Brother Brigham, are you going to bear this? Do you not know that such and such persons are scandalizing your character?
"I do not know that I have any character, I have never stopped to inquire whether I have one or not. It is for me to pursue a course that will build up the kingdom of God on the earth, and you may take my character to be what you please, I care not what you do with it, so you but keep your hands off from me."
Brigham, you've talked of Saints not paying their tithing, Saints who steal poles from their neighbors garden fences, Saints who steal "beef creatures," fire wood, hay, corn, and other things. Some Saints, you say, are guilty of not returning lost items such as axes, gold watches, rings, farm tools and other things. Why, I did not think saints were guilty of such deeds!

"Nor I either. Such crimes are committed by people who gather with the Saints, to try them, to afflict and annoy them, and drive them to their duty. Do you not suppose that it is necessary to have devils mixed up with us, to make Saints of us? We are as yet obliged to have devils in our community, we could not build up the kingdom without them. Many of you know that you cannot get your endowment without the devil's being present; indeed we cannot make rapid progress without the devils. I know that it frightens the righteous sectarian world to think that we have so many devils with us, so many poor, miserable curses. Bless your souls, we could not prosper in the kingdom of God without them...It is essentially necessary to have such characters here."

But I've heard you say that perhaps the Church ought to Lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet, cut off the wicked. Some imply you mean to actually kill the wicked. Critics say "How wicked those Mormons are; they are killing the evil doers who are among them; why I hear that they kill the wicked away up yonder in Utah."[3]
"They do not kill anybody down there, do they?"
Good point. Perhaps the homicide rate was a little higher back east in your time. Still, people become full of wrath in regards to some of the things you say from the pulpit. What do you care for the wrath of man?

"No more than I do for the chickens that run in my dooryard. I am here to teach the ways of the Lord, and lead men to life everlasting, but if they have not a mind to go there, I wish them to keep out of my path.

I want the Elders of Israel to understand that if they are exposed in their stealing, lying, deceiving, wickedness, and covetousness, which is idolatry, they must not fly in a passion about it, for we calculate to expose you, from time to time, as we please, when we can get time to notice you."

Well, that's better than "severing their heads" or something, I suppose. We've covered a lot of topics here; is there anything you'd like to say in closing about the past troubles of the Saints or anything?

"I do not want to think where the 'Mormons' have been, and how they have been treated, but I want to think of matters that will make my heart light, like the roe on the mountains-to reflect that the Lord Almighty has given me my birth on the land where He raised up a Prophet, and revealed the everlasting Gospel through him, and that I had the privilege of hearing it-of knowing and understanding it-of embracing and enjoying it.

I feel like shouting hallejujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up and ordained, and to whom He gave keys and power to build up the kingdom of God on earth and sustain it. These keys are committed to this people, and we have power to continue the work that Joseph commenced, until everything is prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.

This is the business of the Latter-day Saints, and it is all the business we have on hand. When we come to worldly affairs, as they are called, they can be done in stormy weather, if we attend to the kingdom of God in fair weather."

Thanks, Brother Brigham, I appreciate the remarks.
"May God bless you. Amen."[4]
Footnotes: [1] More on "obeying our leaders," and other subjects from this post to come. For a post dealing with following the prophets, see "He That Receiveth You Receiveth me." [2] For more on this, see "Giving and Receiving Criticism." [3] Rumors and accusations regarding the so-called Danites, whom some believed to be a vigilante force bent on murdering apostates, continued after the Saints arrived in Utah in 1847. See "Rumors of Danites practicing blood atonement or vigilante justice in Utah," in the Danites article on wikipedia, for example.

[4] Every word in the interview is taken verbatim from Brigham Young's discourse, JD 3:43-51 Orig. posted 9/28/07

5 comments:

kristen said...

I really enjoyed the perspective of this post...it took a lot of creativity. I'm sure Brigham himself enjoyed it as well.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I seem to be learning a lot of stuff recently about the 3 kingdoms and it is interesting to me how Brigham seemed to encapsulate them where he says, "they wish to be Saints [telestial], and many of them strive to be Saints [terrestrial], and many of them are Saints [celestial]."

Very creative. Good job. -- Maidservant

LifeOnaPlate said...

Interesting catch, ms.

Ardis E. Parshall said...

So many people like to cherry-pick the colorful or -- oh, heavens, inflammatory! -- things Brigham Young said, without reading the context. Putting this sermon in the now more familiar format of an interview probably caused all of us to read more than we might otherwise have done. Very clever!

LifeOnaPlate said...

Thanks, Ardis. I appreciate the work you are doing over at your blog, Keep-A-Pitchin-In. Keep it up!

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