October 4, 2007

Instructions To Newcomers

Jedediah M. Grant September 24, 1854
This discourse begins with an interesting statement:
While the sacrament is passing it may be well to speak a few words to the people.
It seems from this, as well as a few other discourses I've read thus far, speakers would continue through the blessing and/or passing of the sacrament. Sacrament meetings were generally held at the Tabernacle and throughout the Church at certain regional meetings. It wasn't until the late 1870s, shortly before Brigham Young died, that "sacrament meeting" became a weekly local ward function. But I digress.
Emigration to Utah was highly advised by the Church, and missionaries would encourage people to "gather" with the Church in the Utah territory. The saints continued to emigrate to Zion in a relatively steady flow through the 1850s, interrupted only a few times- most notably by the Utah War. Handcart emigration didn't begin until 1856, so at the time this sermon was given it addresses saints who gathered via ship and overland ox train companies sometimes consisting of several hundred people. When these companies arrived in Salt Lake they would usually be addressed by President Young or one of the apostles regarding life in the valley, and other general instruction on living with the saints. Jedediah M. Grant took this occasion to inform the saints that the fledgling territory wasn't perfect:

I am aware that some Elders who go forth and preach long and pious sermons, frequently represent Zion as one of the most delightsome places in the world, as if the people in Salt Lake City were so pure and holy that the flame of sanctity would almost singe the hair off a common man's head. Others suppose when they come here, that they are to be fed, clothed, and housed independent of their own exertions. Some of the Elders have told the Saints in England that the first two weeks after they landed here all they would have to do would be to contemplate the beauties of Zion, and be furnished two weeks' provisions.

The imaginations of some Saints have been so exalted by the Elders who preached to them, that they suppose that all our pigs come ready cooked, with knives and forks in them, and are running round squealing to be eaten; that every tray is filled with bread, every manger with potatoes, and every man's wagon with the choice fruits of the earth.

On the contrary, when the Saints from abroad come to Zion, they will find the people so busy that they can scarcely find time to speak to them, and if they have lost some of their friends on the way, the people in Zion have not time even to help them mourn.

When saints arrived they were usually set up in temporary residence with the Salt Lake community where they could get their feet under them for a few weeks, then it was right back into the fire; they would be sent to different settlements and asked to join in the work immediately; those whose journey was paid for by the Perpetual Emigration Fund to start repaying. It must have been quite the effort! It tended to serve as a sort of "sifting," and any who gathered out of convenience, or manifested a large lack of conviction sometimes kept going right through to California. They didn't know Zion isn't just a place; it's a state of mind:

If you Saints who have just arrived here expect a heaven, I will tell you how to get it; if you have brought a small one with you, keep it, and keep adding to it; that is, if you want a heaven, go to and make it. But I will tell you one thing, if you neglect to pray, neglect to watch, neglect to do your duty, and to serve your God for yourselves, you will be apt to become dissatisfied, disheartened, and dispirited, and wish to go back from whence you came.

But the opposite will be the result with those who keep the commandments of God, who watch and pray, who are active in their spirits and in their religion, and work out their salvation with fear and trembling, if you please, or they may work as hard as they please without fearing and trembling, if they have a mind to. Consequently, when you come here, it is essential that you keep the same religion that you embraced before you started to come here.

Saints joining the Zion community weren't to go there for a live of ease and little responsibility; they were to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those needing comfort, perform their temporal labors dedicating themselves to God, and ...this sounds a lot like the baptismal covenant, and the instructions given by Alma to his renegade Church in the wilderness:
And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you? (Mosiah 18:8-10).
Elder Grant cautioned the Saints to be aware not all saints were saints:
But in the midst of this people you will find various stripes of character. The net has been cast into the sea, and, if the parable is true, it has drawn to the shore all kinds of fish, and you must not he alarmed if you find in Zion some curiosities. [see Matt. 13:47.] If I wished to find the best men in the world, I should go to Zion to find them; if I wished to find the biggest devil, I would look in Zion for him, among the people of God; there I can find the greatest scamps. I believe the words of Christ are true, that the net has gathered of every kind of fish; that it has gathered men of every class (Jedediah M. Grant, Journal of Discourses 3:65-70).
Keeping this in mind should prevent us from being alarmed at the actions of other members of the Church; not that it is much of our business to begin with what others do if they are not under our stewardship. Keep in mind the Lord acknowledged the Church; that He was well pleased with it "collectively, and not individually" (see D&C 1:30).
New members, as well as old, would do well to take this counsel the Mormon pioneers received to heart.
Poetess/prophetess Eliza R. Snow wrote some apt verses on the subject, which encourage us to have patience, and to remember we have work to do. It may seem a little "works-heavy," but the sentiment of the words are important in our discipleship, and so nearly echo Elder Grant's words it just may be Eliza was in this meeting before taking up her pen. Of that, however, I have no proof:

Think not, when you gather to Zion, Your troubles and trials are through-- That nothing but comfort and pleasure Are waiting in Zion for you. No, no; 'tis design'd as a furnace; All substance, all textures to try -- To consume all the "wood, hay and stubble," And the gold from the dross purify.

Think not, when you gather to Zion That all will be holy and pure -- That deception, and falsehood are banish'd; And confidence wholly secure. No, no; for the Lord our Redeemer Has said that the tares with the wheat Must grow; until the great day of burning Shall render the harvest complete.

Think not, when you gather to Zion, The Saints here have nothing to do But attend to your personal welfare, And always be comforting you. No, the Saints who are faithful are doing What their hands find to do, with their might; To accomplish the gath'ring of Israel They are toiling by day and by night.

Think not, when you gather to Zion, The prize and the victory won -- Think not that the warfare is ended, Or the work of salvation is done. No, no; for the great Prince of Darkness A tenfold exertion will make' When he sees you approaching the fountain Where the truth you may freely partake.

"Think not, When You Gather to Zion," Hymns (1948), no. 21
This concept was discussed in an earlier post regarding sermons by President Young and Elder Franklin D. Richards. Click here for more.

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