December 6, 2007

Swearing Elders

PART 3 Brigham Young March 23, 1856 Following a parable about being patient and non-judgmental, Brigham makes sure the Saints don't use his words to justify relaxing their efforts to choose the right; especially those who know better:

Many of our boys who play in the streets, and use profane language, know not what they are doing, but there are old men, members of the High Priests' Quorum, and of the High Council, who, when they get into a difficulty in the kanyon and are perplexed, will get angry and swear at, and curse everything around them. I will insure that I can find High Priests who conduct in this manner. But on their way home their feelings become mollified, and they wish to plead with the Lord to forgive them. Could you place yourselves in some of our kanyons, or in some other difficult places, out of sight but within hearing, and hear some of the brethren curse and swear at their cattle and horses, you would not have the least idea that they had ever known anything about "Mormonism," but follow them home and you may find them pleading with the Lord for pardon. There are just such characters in our midst. Do you think they should be cut off from the Church? I think that if the Presidents of Quorums would chastise them it might be beneficial, at any rate it would not hurt them, and if that will not do, disfellowship them, and let them know that they must observe the laws of this kingdom, or eventually be cut off. If you do not wish to disfellowship them, you who are without sin, take such men into the kanyon, where they may bellow and bellow in vain, and give them a good cowhiding, until they will remember, and be ashamed of themselves when they take the name of God in vain, or lie... No unrighteous person, no person who is filthy in their feelings will ever enter into the kingdom of God.
Brigham wanted it to be known, that we should live as best we can. Brigham believed in chastising people; something we likely do less of today in lieu of a more sensitive approach:
I know that the inquiry is often made, “What shall we do with such men?” I say chastise them. I have reprimanded some of the brethren severely, and made them first-rate men; it brought them to their senses. You may chastise them or take any judicious course to bring them to their senses, that they may know whether they wish to be Saints or not.
Temperance should be exercised in their behalf, however. As God told Joseph Smith after the loss of the 116 manuscript pages:
But as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter (D&C 10:37).
The wheat and the tares often grow up together. Brigham lamented those who wouldn't listen to counsel, even some Church leaders:
What a pity it is that men who do not know how to govern themselves in the kingdom of God, do not know enough to observe the counsel of those who do know. A pity it is that men and women of mature age, but who have not got a fair stock of good sense, do not know how to control and apply what they do know. Such persons do not know enough to sit still and hear from others, but they must always be indulging in their own gabble; their tongues are like a flutter wheel in rapid motion, and their chatter flows in a continual stream. We have men here who will come into this stand, and preach you and I perfectly blind, figuratively speaking, and when they are through they do not know themselves from a side of sole leather, with regard to the things of God; they are all gab. What a pity it is!
At this point, Brigham turns the discourse to the subject of eternal matter, philosophy and science. But he returns to the subject at hand; and refers to his parable of the tree again:
Still, do not go to cutting off twigs before they ought to be cut off, but if they prefer it, let them go to California and put their gold and silver into the hands of the devil, for I ask no odds of them, and expect I could buy the whole of them, so far as property is concerned. However, be merciful to them. I say to those men and women who cannot stay here because famine threatens the land, because we are threatened with being distressed, and through fear that we shall all die, just go, won't you? For you are nothing but hindrances.
Brigham talked a lot about chastising and laying righteousness to the line, etc. But in his actions he spoke sermons of mercy. When Brigham was making a second trip from Council Bluffs to the Salt Lake Valley his company crossed paths with a small group of Saints who were headed back east, unsatisfied with the harsh life of the new Territory; they were leaving the Church behind. Brigham clearly disagreed with their actions, even criticized them for it. But before the companies parted ways he pulled the leader of the dissenters aside and provided him with extra meat and provisions- a rare and needed commodity. That is a small example of the paradoxical nature of the President. As he said above: "be merciful to them." Brigham firmly believed they would stay in the Salt Lake Valley until the Lord would direct otherwise. Though they hoped one day to get back to Jackson County, Brigham didn't want the Saints to worry about rumors of US Troops invading, or being driven from their homes again:
You had better stay here and die, if die it is. California is not the gathering place for the Saints; here is the gathering place, and here we will gather and stay until God says, "Go somewhere else." If that is back to Jackson County, do not be scared, for as the Lord lives this people will go back and build a great temple there. Do not be frightened because a few rotten, corrupt scoundrels in our midst cry out, "O, the troops are coming, and that will be the end of 'Mormonism...'"

Don't worry; you can't stop the Mormons:

Should you see little boys playing with pebbles and small sticks, and hear them say, "Get out of the way, we are going to build a great big structure, that we may climb to the sun, and pull it down," their words and conduct would be just as sensible as it is for the world to tell us that "Mormonism" is going to be destroyed. If we do right we need care no more about them than we do about mosquitoes, for this people will surely go back to Jackson County. How soon that may be, or when it may be, I do not care; but that is not now the gathering place this people (JD 3:277-279).


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